I write this on the eve of the upcoming Sunset Junction Street Fair, an annual event in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, in which I’ve lived for many years. Historically, this end-of-August weekend event has offered two full days of alternative music, food, rides, arts and crafts, and a visible reflection of what once made Silver Lake a vibrant and colorful neighborhood, including a haven for many gays who don’t identify with West Hollywood (mainstream gay) culture. Admission to the festival has always been on a "suggested donation" basis — an encouraging sign despite the visible and rapid gentrification that has been occurring in this neighborhood, gradually forcing away the same struggling artists and lower income individuals — many of them people-of-color, most of them Latino — who gave Silver Lake its vibrant and colorful presence. This year, the organizers have decided to charge a mandatory cover charge, in what I feel signals a truly sad end of an era. The irony is that the motto behind the festival hasn’t changed and I’m not the first person to feel that it telegraphs a false message. Business is business, yes, but call it what it is. If you’re going to close off the heart of a neighborhood for two days, while the "privileged" engage in fun inside the chain link fences, then this is something far from "community." www.sunsetjunction.org
I wrote this a few days ago, and sent it to many friends. Most fired off letters of disapproval directly to the organizers of the Street Fair, including long time neighborhood residents as well as a former Silver Lake resident who is now a curator at London’s Tate Modern. No one is arguing that gentrification happens but if nothing else, we hope the organizers realize that some people do value the definition and the spirit behind the word "community" and hope to preserve it as such.
Shame on the organizers (and sponsors) of Sunset Junction for
continuing to use the motto: "To live in harmony with our neighbors,"
while charging a mandatory $ 12 – 15 admission fee (to the Sunset Junction Street Fair).
festival’s launch, the Street Fair for many years was a true community
event, open to all, regardless of income, and a noble attempt to bring
harmony between the gentrifying neighbhorhood with the long established
Latino community, including the gangsters who resided there. The gays,
the gangsters, the gay gangsters, the hipsters, and plenty of
stroller-pushing family units let their collective hair down, ate some
grilled corn, got drunk on draft beer, rode carny-staffed rides and
listened to indie bands or danced in one of the several dance areas.
The admission was typically a "suggested donation" usually around $ 5 –
8, yet a donation still. It was the event where you saw friends you’ve
had for over a decade – or met new friends, and their friends. It was
the annual event you didn’t think was really possible – gays &
heteros of all colors, the poor, the monied, junkies, trannies,
12-steppers, lawyers, couples, the waitresses from Millies, singles,
nuns, your ex-boyfriend, your new wife, homegirls making out with
nerds, rock stars, kids, gangsters trying to still flex some muscle,
movie stars, the guy who hung out in front of Cafe Tropical with the
fucked up guitar, people visibly ill from HIV / AIDS, the "Silver Lake
Walker," that guy who was in the movie you just saw at the Vista….They
were all there and you thought, "This is why I’m in Silver Lake."
like this $ 12 – 15 admission fee is an accurate reflection of how
Silver Lake is headed and the organizers of the festival should be
looking for another motto. Something like "To live in harmony ONLY with
our neighbors who can afford it. But definitely not the rest of you.
This is the new Silver Lake. Another ‘hood of exclusion."
I’m sending this to the organizers of Sunset Junction. If anyone feels the same, feel free to write them at:
A resident of Silver Lake for 13 years