Zaeed Reflection


While I don’t have the longevity of most residents in Humboldt Park, I can relate to the deep disappointment each time a Puerto Rican family is pushed out and replaced by someone who has more wealth. Our neighborhood wasn’t perfect – gang violence, beat-up roads, lack of educational funding – but we were vibrant, and did everything in our power to build this community on the foundation of pride and love for one another.

Gentrification sucks. Straight up. A piece of my childhood is lost each time I see a new condo housing people who don’t look like me. A piece of my childhood is lost each time a boutique that caters to wealthy non-residents opens nearby. I’m afraid that what I knew to be Humboldt Park won’t exist in five years.

Those feelings and concerns helped me write “Humboldt.” I didn’t intend on including it on my EP “Desamor y Jangueo.” But just a week before our presentation at the WEPA Mercado, I found the right words to express what I felt about the gentrification in my home. It was a lot of pressure to put together a song that not only touched on the issues here but on the larger issues that persisted in Puerto Rico regarding the battle around the island’s political status. Similar to my concerns for Humboldt Park, Puerto Rico is experiencing changes due to the growing global economy that seems to benefit everyone except the people of Puerto Rico, and the world needs to be aware of it. From what I hear and see, many parts of our beautiful island are seen as prime locations for new business ventures and tourist attractions that once again do not benefit the actual people of Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans deserve the right to use their voices, just as the people in Humboldt Park do, to decide where they want the future of their homes to be. No politician, group of developers, or business interest groups have any right to take away what rightly belongs to us. And that’s exactly what “Humboldt” touches on.

“Canta mi pueblo y así vamos a ganar, este barrio no es de ellos, y te voy a jurar que si queremos, Humboldt Park y PR siempre estarán.”

My goal in the chorus was to highlight the fact that our voices matter. I know some people feel really tiny when matched up against politicians or huge organizations, but history has proven time and time again that if communities step up together to voice their demands, people take notice and change happens. I don’t expect my three-minute song to change the course of gentrification in Humboldt or the fate of Puerto Rico’s political status, but I hope that it can give people the confidence to believe in the power of their voice.

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