We’re Movin’ on In…?

The other day when I was working on my final paperssss (’cause one ‘s’ just won’t do), the ’70s sitcom, The Jeffersons came on. You know The Jeffersons. It has the catchiest theme song:
We’re movin’ on up!
To the East Side,
To the De-luxe apartment
In the sky-y-y…
We’re movin’ on up!
To the East Side!
We finally got a piece of the pie…”

Then the song breaks it down with that funky rhythm you do your little stomp-clap with. You know the part about fish fryin’ and beans burnin’. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, you can watch the video of the song here. Get ready to not be able to get that song out of your head for the rest of the day (It’s in my head now as I am writing this).

Quickly, for those who don’t know – The Jeffersons, a spin off from another Norman Lear production, All in the Family, is about George and Louise (Weezie) Jefferson, who has made money from George’s seven cleaning stores in New York City (one near you) and now he and his wife have “come up” from being poor in Harlem to now living in this swanky apartment building on – yes – Manhattan’s East Side.

So this episode was when Louise finds out that the entire block that housed her old apartment building in Harlem was being torn down to make room for new buildings (urban renewal at its finest). Louise frantically leaves her East Side apartment to visit her old home. There, she has three different memories of growing up in her room. The first memory a young Louise, who is mad at her mama, is making plans to sell her “diamond doorknobs” so she could be rich and run away from home.

"Diamond Doorknobs"

“Diamond Doorknobs”

In the second memory, she and her cousin are coming home way past curfew from a date and her mama catches her (Bad move, Louise. You know Mama Mills don’t play that). Finally, Louise is getting married and she’s sad about leaving home and saying goodbye to her mother.

As I am half listening (because I practically know all of the good lines by heart) while writing my paperssss, the irony suddenly smacks me in the face because the subject of my paperssss are on – wait for it – self-gentrification. So I stop writing and think a moment. What would have happened if George and Louise had decided instead of leaving Harlem when they were successful with the cleaning stores, to stay in Harlem and be a part of its redevelopment. What would have happened if the Jeffersons were movin’ on in instead of movin’ on up? Would it have been just as entertaining? Believable? Something for us to emulate? Unfortunately, that wasn’t how the George Jefferson character was written. In fact, his whole philosophy was “making it like the white man.” To him that meant living where they lived, buying what they might buy, and making even more money so he’s not awakened by a dream with cockroaches waving and screaming at him, “Welcome back, George!” But that’s another episode… Then the question becomes was The Jeffersons modeled after the mindset of the Black masses? Or was the Black masses following what they saw on sitcoms like The Jeffersons? After all, art imitates life.

So the episode ends with Louise taking her “diamond doorknobs” with her as a memento. My good friend told me that this scene was her favorite. I must confess this is my favorite scene as well. However, for the first time in the fifty-eleven times I have seen this episode, I wished instead of just taking the doorknob, she and George just bought the whole building, diamond doorknob and all, and just rehabilitated it to keep for their progeny. Because sometimes life imitates art. Maybe that would have influenced the rest of us to treasure places where were raised like Harlem, allowing its value to play a part in our decision to not leave it behind for the East side. If George and Louise Jefferson had been written to value what they had left behind, I’m thinking the theme song would have changed slightly:

We’re movin’ on in,
to the Harlem side,
That de-lux Brownstone,
We’ll keep with pride.
We’re movin’ on in,
to where doorknobs bling.
Here’s where we’ll stay
and remain the king…

What do you think?
For the complete The Jeffersons episode, watch here and here

2000 – New in New York

By the time the New York American Planning Association Conference rolled around, I was going strong in Anderson County, South Carolina. I was working with my partner in planning crime and an Alabama A and M Alumni, ‘Mr. C’. Between his Recreation Plan and my Housing Plan, we brought the South Carolina Up Country Planning to a stand still. Working in Anderson was an experience, I particularly remember traversing the hilly land (a serious contrast to the Low Country) to count cow pastures. Yes, cow pastures. It was rural planning at its finest. ‘Mr. C’ did not attend New York, although I had seen him at other conferences. I however, was excited to go. Kevin and I, newly dating, had traveled together flying into Laguardia Airport from Atlanta. I was able to attend the sessions during this conference, which I actually prefer. If asked to recall any of them, I will surely fail in this task so I will stick to the more memorable experiences that occurred in the Big Apple itself.

*I had to go all “Northern New Jersey” on the hotel clerk for refusing to accept my business credit card for the room. It could have all been cleared up with a simple phone call, but she didn’t want to deal with it being that it was nearing time for her to get off from work. I told her to “go home.” She didn’t want to go home because I told her to, so she decided to stay. Well I figured, since she was staying, she could handle my credit card situation. IJS…

*The first bite of food I got to eat was at an authentic New York Style Pizza. My mouth is watering as I am writing this. I might have to get a pizza later.

*Most of my mother’s family lives in New York, so I did get to visit a couple of my cousins and we had dinner at this African Named restaurant in the Village. I do remember dancing with Kevin in the restaurant although there was no dance floor.

*Kevin and I went with his friends to Chinatown. We had a good time. The last I was there, my uncle had taken us to see the chicken who beat everyone at tic, tack, toe (Don’t ask).

*Our group, which included Ms. A and Ms. M visited Malik Yoba’s Restaurant called the Soul Cafe on 42nd Street. I don’t remember the food but it was an excellent place to hang.

*Then there was Joe’s Album release party. I think it was on the East side, if I remember correctly. We saw the singer, Brandy while waiting in line to get in. How come Kevin called her name like he knew her and she turned and waved at him…? There was an incident where some fool decided to get a little grabby, but he got handled.

*We saw Madison Square Garden and the gigantic poster of Alan Houston.

*We’re planners, of course we had to visit one of Olmsted’s greatest creation – Central Park!

*Yankee stadium made the list. So did Times Square, FAO Schwartz, and the Statue of Liberty (from a distance).

*We made several trips to Harlem. We wanted to go to the Schomburg Center, but it was closed :(. We ate at Sylvia’s Restaurant. Excellent food and I’m having another mouth-watering moment. They tried to duplicate the restaurant in Atlanta, but in my opinion, there’s only one. In Uptown. Then there was the ‘oopsie’ on one of our Harlem trips when we took the 1,9 Subway rather than the 2,3. We ended up on an el on the wrong end of 125th and had to go past the Grant Housing Projects on our way to the Apollo Theater. There were some enjoyable performances… and there were performers that were questionable and were subsequently booed off the stage.

New York was indeed a memorable conference. That’s all I remember. Come on planners, fill in those bullets!