For thirteen years I lived in my grandmother’s humble home in St. Albans, Queens of New York City. St. Albans, a Black middle-class community, was one of the few neighborhoods in the five boroughs where Black people could pursue homeownership. In the 1930’s pockets of the community enforced racially restrictive covenants to keep homeownership exclusive to White Americans, by 1948 the United States Supreme Court ruled these agreements unenforceable. Today, St. Albans is locally known for housing several notable Black figures. James Brown, John Coltrane, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis and many others once called this community home.
Prior to the great recession of 2008, I moved from my grandmother’s home to an apartment with my mother and sister just outside of the neighborhood. Due to multiple circumstances, we’d soon move to a shelter in the Bronx. By 2008, and out of a restrictive shelter system, the housing crisis would begin to heavily affect St. Albans and other predominantly Black neighborhoods in Queens. The shift in my quality of life as a youth and the housing crisis would motivate me to document this historically rich and underrepresented community, which still exemplifies the best of middle-class life in America.
A decade after the crisis, St. Albans maintained the highest rate of Black homeowners in the borough of Queens and the second highest in New York City. “St. Albans’ Greatest: They All Lived Here” is the title of a local mural highlighting the notable Black musicians and athletes who once lived here. “St. Albans’ Greatest” celebrates the nuances of homeownership through everyday Black experiences.