Sister Cities Project / Uncomforta(blog)  / What Does a Community Have to Do to Get Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Southeastern San Diego is one of the most underserved communities in San Diego County and unfortunately many people in other areas of the county are barely aware of its existence. This lack of awareness is a major problem, as it perpetuates the many challenges that this community faces on a daily basis. Recently, 8 blocks of Imperial Avenue in Southeastern San Diego and in the 4th District of the County was designated as the Black Arts and Cultural District. The designation presents a huge opportunity for positive change and economic growth, but the designation has gone mostly unrecognized and the potential untapped. 

The designation of Southeastern San Diego as a Black Arts and Cultural District marks a significant milestone for the community, offering a unique opportunity for Black individuals to celebrate their culture through the arts and history. Moreover, this designation carries the potential to drive economic growth in an underserved community.

Arts and culture play a critical role in the development and growth of communities and cities. A designation as an arts and cultural hub can bring numerous economic benefits to a city, making it a more attractive place to live, work, and visit. An arts and culture designation for a community or city can lead to economic growth in the following ways:

1. Attracts tourists and new residents

Designating a community or city as an arts and cultural hub can attract tourists and new residents, increasing the local economy through tourism and real estate. Tourists are drawn to vibrant arts and cultural scenes, providing an opportunity for local businesses to benefit from increased tourism spending. New residents are also attracted to communities with thriving arts and cultural scenes, leading to an increase in the local real estate market.

2. Boosts local businesses

Arts and cultural designations can also boost local businesses by creating a demand for goods and services related to the arts. This demand drives job creation, as well as increased spending in the local economy. For example, local artists and artisans can sell their work in shops and galleries, while local restaurants and cafes can provide food and beverages for events and exhibitions.

3. Supports the arts and cultural sector

Designating a community or city as an arts and cultural hub supports the growth and development of the local arts and cultural sector. This, in turn, attracts more artists and cultural organizations to the area, leading to a positive cycle of growth and development. This can also lead to increased funding for the arts, allowing for further investment in local arts and cultural initiatives.

4. Improves the quality of life

Designating a community or city as an arts and cultural hub can also improve the quality of life for residents. The arts and culture bring people together, providing opportunities for community building and social interaction. This, in turn, can lead to increased civic engagement and a more vibrant and engaged community.

But there are so few Black people in San Diego! 

The long-standing issue of underrepresentation of Black people in America has led to systemic disadvantages for Black communities, including a lack of cultural hubs and support systems in areas with few Black residents. This underscores the importance of establishing and nurturing cultural spaces and support systems for Black individuals in regions with low Black populations. Art in itself conveys the values, beliefs, customs, traditions, and aesthetic expressions of a society through various forms of creative expression, such as visual arts, literature, music, dance, and performance. Can you say Hip Hop? 

By promoting a sense of community and belonging, such initiatives can encourage Black people to remain in the area and attract others, ultimately fostering greater diversity and equity. As we prioritize diversity, it is essential to ensure that all communities, regardless of their racial makeup, have access to cultural hubs and support systems.

The Convoy Asian Cultural District is an excellent example of how an arts and culture designation can contribute to economic development in a community. Over the years, the Convoy District has become a thriving hub for Asian businesses and culture, culminating in the recent designation and a sign being added to the freeway from the state of California that will help further drive visitors to the district. According to a report by the San Diego Association of Governments, the Convoy District generates $1 billion in economic output each year. With the right investments and support, the Black Arts and Cultural District in Southeastern San Diego has the potential to see similar economic growth.

However, it is important to ask the question: do we think there is any correlation between the usual obstacles that the black community historically faces with gaining recognition and equity, and the lack of progress in Southeastern San Diego? It is no secret that the Black community has historically faced many challenges when it comes to recognition and equity. It is a sad reality that systemic racism has hindered the progress of many Black communities across the country. It is possible that this same system of oppression is playing a role in the lack of awareness and support for the Black Arts and Cultural District in Southeastern San Diego.

It is crucial that we recognize and address these obstacles if we hope to see progress in Southeastern San Diego. The Black Arts and Cultural District designation is a step in the right direction, but it is only the beginning. It is up to us as a community to show our support and commitment to the growth and development of Southeastern San Diego.

In conclusion, Southeastern San Diego is one of the most underserved communities in San Diego County, yet it is also one of the most culturally rich. The recent Black Arts and Cultural District in San Diego County designation presents an opportunity for positive change and economic growth. It is our responsibility to recognize the potential of this designation and work towards creating a brighter future for Southeastern San Diego. We must also acknowledge and address the systemic obstacles that have historically hindered progress for Black communities and commit to creating a more equitable and just society.

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