Since the 1940's, St. Albans was one of the few places in New York City in the 20th century where Black people could pursue the American dream of homeownership and running their own business. Located in Southeast Queens, the predominantly African-American and Caribbean-American working and middle-class neighborhood is known by locals for its pride, strength, unity and for housing several Black entertainers and athletes. James Brown, John Coltrane, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, and Jackie Robinson are just a few of the notable people who’ve lived here at some point. The rich history of this community makes me feel fortunate to call it my hometown.
The housing crisis heavily struck St. Albans and transformed the community from being the heart of the American dream for Black Americans to the heart of mortgage fraud. In 2007, Black communities throughout NYC were targeted by banks with predatory loans, nearly seven times more than the White communities affected. The neighbors I expected to stay forever had moved, businesses closed or downsized, and the upkeep of many homes were not at their best. Nearly 10 years later the effects of the housing crisis still exist; however the positive qualities of this community can still be found.
Through portraiture, still life, and landscape, this work celebrates the pride of St. Albans in the midst of economic hardship, preserving the identity of one of New York City’s historically Black communities.