Photo Essay | Leaving the City Behind, Blacks Find a Life in the South

Thursday, June 23, 2011

(Arun Venugopal/WNYC)

Every major demographic group in New York City grew in the last 10 years except for African Americans, whose numbers dropped by 2 percent. In some parts of the city, the decline was dramatic, with parts of Harlem, Fort Greene and Jamaica, Queens losing 30 to 40 percent of their black population.

Much of the city's black population has moved south, including one group of former New Yorkers who now make their home in what's sometimes called the New South.

Arun Venugopal/WNYC

The greatest number of new residents to Charlotte, North Carolina, come from the New York City area and are disproportionately black and Hispanic. The 2010 Census showed that the African American population in New York City — which dropped by 2 percent — was moving out of historically black neighborhoods in New York and heading South.  

Arun Venugopal/WNYC

It's been seven years since Jeannine Crump (pictured here in front of her home) left New York City for a leafy cul-de-sac in suburban Charlotte. She said she visits the city two or three times a month to see her boyfriend, but prefers the quality of life and opportunities she has in North Carolina: "It's like a different kind of mindset, where now I'm more relaxed and I can walk and hear birds chirping," she said. "Before I was moving too fast to enjoy that."

Arun Venugopal/WNYC

In her living room, Jeannine (far left) is joined by four other ex-New Yorkers: Catherine Jackson and her 14-year-old son Dontae Harris, and Shameca Hines and her daughter Kailah, 16. Catherine and Shameca used to live on the same block in Jamaica, Queens, but moved in part so they could better monitor their children's behavior.

"The odds of him getting into trouble in New York was just crazy," Catherine said of Dontae, "so we knew going someplace we wanted to lower those odds for him. Basically, because it's really hard for a black male in New York City."

Arun Venugopal/WNYC

Carlos Encarnacion, who also moved from New York City, said he struggled to balance his work as a musician with the high cost of city living, but since he moved south he now owns a five-bedroom house on two acres: "We came from the concrete jungle," said Carlos. "Everything was concrete. If you would've showed me a videotape of me living this lifestyle eight years ago, I would say, 'Nah, that's somebody else.'"

Arun Venugopal/WNYC
Shameca Hines, Jeannine Crump and Carlos Encarnacion in Jeannine's kitchen

Shameca Hines was concerned about raising her daughter, Kailah, 16, in New York City and thinks suburban life gives her more control as a parent over her teen daughter's whereabouts:  "Because of the fact that you cannot leave out of the subdivision without a car," she said, "she's forced to stay at home, and that's a good thing because it keeps her out of trouble."

Shameca Hines, Jeannine Crump and Carlos Encarnacion are pictured above in Jeannine's kitchen.

Arun Venugopal/WNYC

Jeannine said her time away from the stress of the city has allowed her time to write and self-publish a book about faith. She attends Freedom Temple Ministries, a church run by her brother, Rev. Herbert Crump Jr, just over the border in Rock Hill, South Carolina: "It's about the church," shes said of her tome, "and it's something I always said I wanted to do in New York but when I came here I actually had the time to do it. And I did it. I wouldn't have been able to say that in New York."

Arun Venugopal/WNYC

Rev. Herbert Crump Jr., Jeannine's brother and the pastor at Freedom Temple Ministries, said blacks who live in the north are "coming back home" to the south because they want a more family-friendly atmosphere, less crime and the chance to own a home: "It's harder to buy a home in New York [than] in the South," he said. "The home I purchased in South Carolina, which is almost 3000-square feet, would be quadruple the price that I paid for it here."

Arun Venugopal/WNYC

Michael DeVaul of the Charlotte YMCA who helps track demographic changes in the area said the city is attracting "white-collar" blacks from across the country in part because of strong banking and healthcare industries: "You can make a difference," he said.

Arun Venugopal/WNYC

Back in New York, Marlene Patrick of Brooklyn is getting her hair re-twisted at De Lux Gallery, a salon in Fort Greene. Patrick, who has a number of friends who've moved south, said she plans to move once her daughter graduates from CUNY next year. She's been researching various options — including North and South Carolina, the Atlanta area, and Alabama. She's grown tired of New York City's crowds, noise and high costs: "This is something I've been plotting at for years," said Patrick. "The quality of life here is not living."

But her stylist, Glenn Etienne, has seen it all before: "I have clients who left New York to Florida, here, there, and they get bored to death," he said. "And they come right back."


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Comments [1]

jake from Brooklyn

K. Bye!

Jun. 26 2011 08:25 PM

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