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  • Writer's pictureNatalia Madrigal

Gentrification Meets Brown Capitalism in Pilsen: Is It Empowering?

We often hear “Buy local. Buy small. Buy brown.” These catchphrases have become increasingly common in recent years as individuals have begun to consider ways to strengthen Black and Brown communities that are impoverished and working-class. But to discuss the size of a company, or the ethnic or racial identity of its owners rather than the economic or social relationships that characterize it (exploitative vs. cooperative), is a Liberal farce.

A standout store that reminds me of this is Pilsen Vintage. I recently stopped by, since I love any and all affordable vintage and second-hand clothing that I can get my hands on. That said, I was shocked to find that everything in the store was very unaffordable. There’s always the argument that vintage clothing is worth more as it ages, but I’m not an expert on the difference between what belongs in a thrift store vs. a vintage store and that’s not what I’ll be criticizing (though I can’t see what would make an old t-shirt $40). The way I see it, the fact that there is a giant store filled with old/used clothing that is astronomically expensive in a neighborhood where brown families can no longer afford rent (much less a $40 t-shirt) is nonsensical.

Once I examined the whole store, I finally decided on the cheapest pair of sunglasses I could find and a tiny trinket box. When I was checking out, a man who I presume to be the owner steps out from the back of the store. He was an older Hispanic man and he was

If you truly want to empower poor and working-class minority communities, then support BIPOC efforts for real systemic change. Support efforts to develop dual power projects in poor and working-class BIPOC communities during Pilsen’s current gentrification crises.

Some housing and development resources include:

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