Title: THERE WERE BLACK PEOPLE IN THE PAST: GENTRIFICATION, DISPLACEMENT and THE MAKING OF A FOOD OASIS
Combining stakeholder interviews, ethnographic observations and GIS mapping, I explain the formation of a “food oasis,” a concentration of seven supermarkets within a quarter-mile radius in East Liberty, a poor and working-class Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I show that the creation of the food oasis has produced gentrification and destabilized the local interaction order, displacing local Black residents. In contrast with “food deserts,” neighborhoods without access to food, the conception of a food oasis has received little scholarly attention, despite being a critical aspect of uneven development. Through an analysis grounded in a conjunction between the political economy of the Growth Machine and the dynamics of the local neighborhood Interaction Order, I argue that the food oasis in East Liberty is not only the result of gentrification, rather than a genuine response to neighborhood needs, but that its orientation toward the preferences of customers drawn primarily from more affluent surrounding communities is contributing to further gentrification at the expense of the original neighborhood residents whom it has displaced. Rather than giving poor Black residents better access to food, the new upscale supermarkets actually exclude them and attempts to make the middle-class outsiders who shop there feel safe actually place longtime residents in danger.