The southern Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff has been proclaimed by no less of an authority on all the news fit to print, The New York Times, as a “hipster enclave.” There’s a boutique hotel with a great bar, a film festival, yoga studios and really good coffee (snapped the photo above at Oddfellows one morning). I found goat cheese and arugula at the supermarket (though don’t despair – there’s still Dr. Pepper and pork rinds). One of my mom’s neighbors almost became Dallas’ first openly gay mayor. The transformation of my ‘hood from the place where “those gross Blacks and Mexicans live” (a quote from a Highland Park teen that appeared in D Magazine back in the ‘80s that I have never forgotten) to the hot spot where folks drive from all over the Metroplex to check out the latest restaurant has my head spinning. The Oak Cliff of my youth (and my mother’s) was not at all “gross,” so that’s not the source of shock. Oak Cliff was a relatively quiet and diverse (compared to the rest of Dallas) neighborhood of middle and working class folks populating modest but well-maintained ranch and craftsman homes among pecan trees and limestone hills. Strip malls, fast food joints, a few nice golf courses and parks, pockets of blight, pockets of privilege and no alcohol (during my last visit, the wine aisle at the Walgreen’s near my mom’s house was almost as startling as the availability of artisanal cuisine). Like many neighborhoods near downtown areas across the country, white flight during the ‘70s and ‘80s had an economic impact on Oak Cliff – even though many white residents chose to stay, merchants and services still abandoned the area. Folks had to drive to the northern part of town to find clean supermarkets and department stores. My parents sent me even farther north – DC, Boston, New York – to pursue my education and my career, and I still haven’t found my way back across the Trinity River to my Oak Cliff ‘hood. But I visit often. Each short gap of time between visits reveals so much change that it challenges my notions of the kind of place that Dallas is or can be. A new mayor ran and won on a promise to “GrowSouth!” I’m thrilled that this place I love is now experiencing some love – and investment in its future. Hopefully it’s a future that won’t shut out the old as it embraces the new. More on this to come.
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