Black Meccas or Urban Graveyards?

by Kymberly Sheckleford

For four years, I’ve been California dreamin’. I dig the eclectic L.A. vibes; I’m enchanted by the year round seasonable weather coupled with the awe-inspiring palm trees, as well as the big city atmosphere at a preferably slower pace than my hometown of New York City. Unfortunately, since my job search for the past year-and-a-half has yielded unfavorable results, I’ve had to pump the breaks on leaving my birthplace behind for sunny L.A. and open my mind to other desirable cities.

Atlanta and D.C. falls into my contingency relocation options for numerous reasons: Both cities have been newly minted as “Black Meccas,” which means they’re a magnet for upwardly mobile black professionals from all walks of life, the cities’ landscapes are continuously being transformed by surging black entrepreneurship, and each metropolis boasts amazing black history through their HBCUs, artistic expression and individual cultures.

I’m at an impressionable age and time in my life where I’m most certainly more concerned about my career and finding an opportunity that will allow me to establish myself for the path that I’m seeking, and Atlanta and D.C. satisfies my mental checklist for career advancement. But here comes the pause…I’m a single girl (ahem, pause), and the staggering rise of new HIV/AIDS cases, along with the ever increasing media frenzy of the down-low phenomena within these cities’ black communities become variables (albeit not a major deciding factor) to weigh, as I possibly consider making either destination my home sweet home.

As of 2008, the percentage of the District’s residents living with HIV/AIDS exceeded 1%. However, black D.C. residents remain the most severely impacted with 4.7% of the population living with the disease. This means one in every 21 blacks in D.C. has HIV/AIDS. Equally surprisingly, of the 48 U.S. counties with the highest rates for HIV infections, 25 of them are in Georgia, with Atlanta’s primarily large poverty-stricken black population leading the way. These facts are what fueled my hesitation to move, because at some point, I intend on settling down with a black man (yeah I said it) once my career path is a little less shaky, but then the eligibility pool shrinks considerably in light of those numbers.

Maybe pondering this now is a tad bit pre-mature since naturally there’ll always be men and diseases, but on the other hand, how long can these black urban meccas be deemed a beacon of opportunity for us if we still have this swelling hurdle to overcome?

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    You don’t have to worry about D.C. because it no longer will be a black mecca in maybe 10 years. The black population has been declining over recent years and since visiting D.C. I have seen some neighborhoods undergoing gentrification.

    Now, I agree black meccas seem to always be synonymous with some kind of frightening statistic that plagues our communities. I kills me that many black neighborhoods are rife with crime and drugs, but even aside from that there’s just an overall lack of development. In my hood, as soon as the white people starting moving in, business was booming.

    I’d say either don’t mull over the “statistics” that you hear about black men and don’t let it scare you cuz statistics are one thing, real life is another. But you should also broaden and open your mind to dating outside of your race, basically be open to everyone cuz you just never know what great guys you’re excluding in only considering black men.

  • Sindy

    I’m not hating on you for holding out to be with a Black man. As someone who is not so young, my only advice is too not give up too much of yourself. For example, I said that if I were under the age of 35, I was not down with a prospective husband having other kids (outside of a traditional marriage). When I met someone at 29, they were every stereotype of a baby daddy you could think of, right down to owing arrears and blaming the mama for all of his problems.

    As I am also looking to venture out of La-La Land within the next few months, I say just accept it (DL/HIV?AIDS) as it is. There’s no rule that says you have to sleep with someone and you may have a stronger relationship if you wait until marriage/engagement. I’d recommend both of you get tested before intimacy.

    Finally, though it’s not in the media, there are many DL men in L.A. My gay cousin who was out as a small child would try to latch on to professional women as a come-up. Not sure if he got caught or couldn’t play charades anymore but he’s not the only one.

  • Timcampi

    More and more reasons to always GET TESTED TOGETHER for all infections and diseases. Seriously, do NOT dick around with your health over pleasure. I’m pretty sure if people got tested correctly and used proper birth control (I.E condom AND oral/vaccinal/vaginal contraceptive) this would not be happening. If you loved him and he loved you you would care about that sort of thing. My partner and I get tested every six months.

  • QON

    “But here comes the pause…I’m a single girl (ahem, pause), and the staggering rise of new HIV/AIDS cases, along with the ever increasing media frenzy of the down-low phenomena within these cities’ black communities become variables (albeit not a major deciding factor) to weigh, as I possibly consider making either destination my home sweet home.”

    Gag me with a spoon!!!! There is NO DL phenomena just a bunch of insecure and single black women and attention whoring Gay black men throwing the masses of heterosexual black men under the bus.

    Now I am not against IR dating but dont be scared into it by faux stats. You meet someone you like, blah blah blah but I have to wonder why the made up statistics on DL black men concern you more than the real life indifference of non black men toward black women generally.

    BTW, LA is a great town. Before you move back east visit our national parks, our beachess, our coastal towns and the bay area…oh and mexico, as often as possible. You will kick yourself once you move far away from it all.

  • African Mami

    Those numbers are anything but to play with. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this: Poverty breeds HIV/AIDS. There was a report I was watching about Kenya and the staggering new statstics on HIV/AIDS. The demographic affected the most was poor young and unemployed. What really struck me the most, was that in the documentary they were able to successfully link an unusually high sex libido and poverty. This was because the score of those that were interviewed said that sex was (1) cheap (2) they had nothing else, left to do other than sex. Unfortunately they ended up contracting the disease because of not practicing safe sex.

    So in essence what I am saying is that the government needs to look into ways in which it can alleviate the unemployment situation-long term, and not just short term. Secondly, it needs to engage with grassroot level organizations-if any exist in the area as they have more access to the affected and infected to see what initiatives can be implemented to curb the growing infection rates. Otherwise, Atlanta and its surrounding areas might end up being a little Africa. Not a pretty picture at all!

  • Naffy

    “Newly minted” as Black Meccas? Those places have been called Black Meccas for over 20 years now, that is not new. And in ATL at least, that mecca part is slowly declining. As for the HiV rates… I’m a single 41 year old woman who has lived most of her adult life in the ATL/Georgia area and I can tell you if you operate sensibly, you can remain HIV-free and drama-free. Take care with the types of folk you let into your circle, be selective about who you date, get tested regularly and above all else, practice safe sex.

  • B

    “I’m going to go out on a limb and say this: Poverty breeds HIV/AIDS.” That is the plain, honest TRUTH. With poverty comes: lack of education (lack of knowledge of prevention), lack of financial resources (medical insurance to ensure that one gets regular checkups), and sheer lack of hope (and people who have little hope tend to engage in destructive behaviors because they, reasonably so, feel they have nothing to lose). As you said, sex and other “cheap” activities (i.e. crack, meth) are all some of them see as a possible means of leisure and escape (while the middle class and the rich have vacations, money to blow at Sachs, etc.). And have you taken a look at the price of condoms?! They are hella expensive, considering that they are an absolute life necessity. (I see why poor teenagers, who have no money, end up engaging in unprotected sex: they can’t even afford condoms.) I personally think condoms should be readily available at no cost – because having them is literally a life or death matter. But alas, when the demand for something is so high, the price is never low. Now, there are of course clinics where people can pick up free condoms (but these clinics, excluding Planned Parenthood, have become more and more scarce in recent years which is in my opinion a direct attack on the poor). I won’t even start on the price and scarcity of dental dams (oral sex barriers). It’s sad.

  • B

    Anyway, I think the author is missing the point you made: wherever there’s widespread poverty, HIV/AIDS is a problem. Period. In this sense, she should fear the same things in L.A. or anywhere else. Black people (and latinos) are overrepresented among the poverty-stricken in this country, and HIV/AIDS come with poverty. So, if she’s going to restrict herself to black men, she needs to be concerned about HIV/AIDS in general.
    But not only does poverty breed HIV/AIDS.

    Additionally, patriarchy (and the constant devaluation of women’s bodies, such that some men make it a goal to screw as many women as possible, such some women see themselves through the lens of patriarchy and allow their bodies to be used as cum receptacles) breeds HIV/AIDS. Poverty and patriarchy are inescapable in America. Any adult engaging in sex anywhere in this country is not safe from this epidemic, as a result. She should remember that, and thus make it a point to do as some other commenters said and get tested together before intimacy and periodically throughout any ongoing sexual relationship. Period.

    p.s. There’s this amazing book/study called THE FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING POVERTY, and it totally captures the mindset of the poverty-stricken: live in the present, in the now, for immediate pleasure and gratification because the future isn’t certain. And those are the mindsets that breed problems of obesity and disease and even crime. Those are the mindsets a society creates when it ceaselessly oppresses and drains a community of its financial/educational ability to maintain itself.

  • ed

    “There is NO DL phenomena just a bunch of insecure and single black women and attention whoring Gay black men throwing the masses of heterosexual black men under the bus.”

    Gay black men have not thrown heterosexual black men under the bus. Heterosexual black men (and women) throw gay black men under the bus EVERY single day. Heterosexual black male culture is GAY HATING to an extreme degree. I cannot even begin to count the times I have been called me a f@ggot to my face or behind my back but loud enough for me to hear. But these same heterosexual black men (and women) would get so upset if a white person called any one of them the ‘n’ word.

    @Kymberly Sheckleford
    You didn’t ask for my advice but I would NOT advise a young, single, straight black woman looking for a partner/husband to consider moving to either Atlanta or Washington, DC for the reasons you stated. You said you wanted a black man but please read Ralph Richard Banks new book, “Is Marriage for White People”. It’s a good book, and it might open your eyes to some social realities.

  • B

    @ed: on the gay black men comment…THANK YOU! I’m so tired of seeing blatant anti-gay comments show up in the comment section of this site. I’ve gotten exhausted of even directly responding to them, so I don’t anymore.

    “But these same heterosexual black men (and women) would get so upset if a white person called any one of them the ‘n’ word.” Exactly! (And none of them think they are homophobic or anti-gay because they all have at least one gay friend who supposedly co-signs their viewpoint.) I’m sorry for your experiences though. As a bisexual black woman who admittedly has a certain amount of heterosexual privilege (since I date men and look “straight”), I understand where you are coming from. I feel like these complaints from some heterosexual black people are parallel to those reverse racism and reverse discrimination complaints you hear from white folks. It’s so unoriginal and plain tired.

    But I’ve learned not to bicker with commenters who make anti-gay comments. It’s a waste of time. It’s their opinion, no matter how irrational, and I just leave it at that.

  • alldawg

    cosign

    I couldnt agree more…

  • QON

    @ed

    Im sorry that you have been verbally abused because of your sexual orientation. Lets be real though…when this whole DL phenomena popped up, all I saw were a bunch of gay black men on TV, on the radio and on other media outlets talking about how they were sleeping with the husbands, boyfriends of black women. That they ACTIVELY sought out men who were in relationships with black women. Black women nodded their heads in agreement to explain why there were so many black women contracting STDs instead of talking about their own sexual responsibility. Suddenly any black woman who contracted an STD was faithfully married to a black man who lied about his sexuality. They used the DL phenomena to explain why they couldnt find a black man. Really?

    We kept being told that in your black gay community gay black men werent sleeping with other gay black men but were ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY sleeping with the male partners of black women who are on the DL.

  • B

    @Qon: “They used the DL phenomena to explain why they couldnt find a black man. Really?” You are absolutely RIGHT! That is an excuse these women used, an excuse that allowed them to avoid examining their own choices and behavior. I agree with that entirely.

  • African Mami

    I think the one that thing that irks me the most when HIV/AIDS issues are brought up, is the indirect inferences made on gay black men as if they are the only ones that contract the disease. I do not know what the latest CDC rates are but what I do know is that one’s sexual orientation does not make them more or less susceptible to the disease. Anybody, even the Pope can get it!

  • B

    Agreed. It’s a subtle form of anti-gay prejudice although no one wants to admit it. But every group needs another group to scapegoat for its problems. :( This is an epidemic/pandemic that spares no group: it attacks gay, straight, black, white, poor, middle-class, young, and old, etc. I don’t know why people finger point and refuse to understand that we are all ultimately in this together. We won’t get anywhere close to a solution to this problem until we realize we are all in this together. (But, then, that goes for many of the problems in this world. Sigh.)

  • Nic

    Is this even worth writing about? If the only thing that concerns you about moving to a new city is sexual infection rates, you sound really immature. Quoting numbers is fine and dandy, but those are totally preventable diseases. If you don’t know how to protect yourself, or if you just don’t want to, maybe you should stay at your parents home where you might have a greater “chance” of being safe. The so-called “down-low” guys, is being blown way out of proportion…I don’t believe even the most skilled brother can be 100% committed to a relationship and lead a double life without you knowing in some way or the other. It probably wasn’t a solid relationship to begin with and who’s fault is that….

  • QON

    @B

    “Additionally, patriarchy (and the constant devaluation of women’s bodies, such that some men make it a goal to screw as many women as possible, such some women see themselves through the lens of patriarchy and allow their bodies to be used as cum receptacles) breeds HIV/AIDS.”

    Its because of crap like this that I am sending my children to vocational school so they can learn a trade.

    “Poverty and patriarchy are inescapable in America.”

    What the hell does this mean? Are you typing this from your gender studies department computer lab?

    “Any adult engaging in sex anywhere in this country is not safe from this epidemic, as a result.”

    Keep telling yourself that. This epidemic isnt effecting everyone equally.

  • viaa

    I live in the DC metropolitan area and whoever posted about the gentrification going on in the city is completly right. You will always have the “old money” people of color that live in places like upper North West but DC will soon become very white. All the people of color with money are moving to places like Potomac Maryland or the suburbs of northern Virginia

  • B

    @Qon: E-thugging is never cute. I don’t engage immaturity. Good night.

  • bubgirl

    I also live in the DC area (Silver Spring) and used to live in DC, and she’s right, DC is definitely, definitely becoming whiter by the day. And of course, Asian. Lots of Asians moving in, too, and a lot of them pay cash for their houses. And in the poor sections, Hispanics and Asians.

    Well, if nothing else, crime is down. And now the police come right away if you call them. And the Metro is a lot cleaner, so I guess they’re collecting more taxes because higher-income people are moving in. Nothing stays the same forever, I guess.

  • Baiaforever

    I wouldnt get too happy about either Atlanta or DC. Being a single black women in either of these cities isn’t too appealing. Dating in Atlanta for me was totally dead in terms of dating a black men. Most were already hooked up with other women and living off of them, married or weren’t interested in women. I didn’t meet or see very many single black men but the prospects of dating a white man was good. And the job market was down when I was there back in 2006. All the major companies were picking up and moving elsewhere. Hurricane Katrina didn’t help. I don’t know if its picked up now.

    DC is slightly better for dating but not too much. There are a lot of single black men here but they don’t want to get married and they don’t want children, esp. if they are professional. They are happy being perennial bachelors. The other ones are the thugs with the hit it and quit it mentalities. I don’t even think the job market is all that and the social scene even less.

    I say try Dallas. Lots of fertile ground there. Lots of men of other nationalities that like nice pretty smart black women. The cost of living is low and job conditions are pretty good. I think also living in houston will be worth a try.

  • Baiaforever

    Actually the whites started moving in dc in the early 90′s. They had the money to renovate old dilapidated houses and many poorer black started moving and selling. with the new white and asian yuppies moving in more upscale businesses started moving in. most upper class white people live in the suburbs of Maryland and northern va. the other black residents in dc are either older middle class black people are perennial poor and non ambitious black people content to live in the ghetto, smoke weed hang outside of liquor stores, worry about getting a new multicolored weave and nails done if she is a woman, worry about getting the latest kicks or fly gear if he is a man but not worried about improving their neighborhoods, themselves, or their communities. truly a lot of black people in dc have dropped the ball

  • ed

    “when this whole DL phenomena popped up, all I saw were a bunch of gay black men on TV, on the radio and on other media outlets talking about how they were sleeping with the husbands, boyfriends of black women.”

    The gay black men you saw and heard on TV and radio were apparently revealing their experiences with so-called “heterosexual” men. How exactly was this throwing heterosexual black men under the bus?

    “That they ACTIVELY sought out men who were in relationships with black women.”

    If some men in relationships with black women were also having sex with men it’s because they WANTED to have sex with men. No one forced those black men in relationships with black women to have sex with gay men.

    “We kept being told that in your black gay community gay black men werent sleeping with other gay black men but were ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY sleeping with the male partners of black women who are on the DL.”

    I don’t know where you got this information. The above statement is NOT true. Many gay black men have relationships with other gay black men. Some gay black men, however, prefer to have relationships with gay white (or other non-black) men.

    @QON
    Men (and women) should be honest with their partners about who they are. But first they have to be honest with themselves. Black men in heterosexual relationships are TOTALLY responsible for themselves and for what they do.

  • damidwif

    100% on this

  • damidwif

    ““Newly minted” as Black Meccas? Those places have been called Black Meccas for over 20 years now, ”

    seriously. such old news. i thought north kak was the place to go now.

  • damidwif

    @ed i support your comments. furthermore, there is extreme homophobia in the black community–this is a fact. knowing this, how do we expect any black man to be honest about his sexuality–especially given the fact that you can sleep with the same gender and not classify yourself as gay or bisexual.

  • Pilot

    I also lived in the DMV (DC, MD, VA) metro area around Washington, DC and like the others here, agree that DC is losing it’s black majority very quickly. You may want to re-think that whole black mecca strategy. That said, I loved living there, and as it became more diverse, I loved it even more. I am no more interested in living in an all-black area than I am interested in living in an all-white area. Or, an all-Asian area or an all-Latin area.

    Don’t know anything about Atlanta, so I won’t comment on that.

    Also, just as an FYI, DC may not qualify regarding your other goal as well. There is a lot of interracial dating going on there, particularly on the MD side there in Bethesda, Silver Spriing, Takoma Park, etc. You see black-white couples of all ages everywhere. I was visiting there again this summer, and it was not just the usual black man with non-black women. Frankly I was quite surprised at how many black woman-white man couples I saw out and about. As I said, couples from late teens to couples in their 50′s.

    So, that level of interracial dating might be an extra impediment in your goal of marrying a black man; just giving you the heads-up.

  • LN

    As someone who moved to Chicago to be in the warm embrace of black people, I would tell the author that I DO NOT recommend moving somewhere just because black people are there.

    There are a few things; First off black people’s migration patterns are ALL OVER THE PLACE right now. When I moved to Chicago 5 years ago it was recognized as a ‘black Harlem’. 5 years later, especially after this awful recession, black people are leaving in DROVES and moving to the South, the suburbs and the East Coast. I’ve had 6 (count ‘em, SIX!) friends who have left for Oklahoma, Connecticut, Miami, Indiana, Dallas and the western suburbs of Chicago. To be fair, black people were leaving even before the recession, but the recession sped things up to an INSANE level.

    On top of that Chicago is being gentrified at a rapid, RAPID rate. I live in a Puerto Rican neighborhood and LITERALLY every day it gets whiter. And the gentrifiers are coming for the [rapidly emptying] black neighborhoods next.

    Secondly, I think you’re right to be suspicious of black men in urban areas. The combination of a large playing field and the myth (reality? at this point I really don’t know…) of the scarcity of good black men leads to all KINDS of game playing in the city. My husband works at a financial company, and he’s befriended quite a few of the black men at the office. At first glance they seem amazing — attractive, educated black men under 30 who make good money. Until you find out that all of them cheat like it’s normal. One of them is engaged to a high-profile Chicago journalist and, my husband tells me, had sex with a woman in his car a few weeks ago 0_o

    I don’t know about the whole down low phenomenon. Honestly I have a feeling its overblown. But I do know that the ‘games-playing phenomenon’ is alive and well.

    All this to say that, if I could do it all over again, I would pick a city based on the following things:-
    1. Whether I had a support system there (close friends/family members). As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized the CRITICAL importance of having a support system. I would never move to a city where I didn’t have at least one solid friend or family member to help me out
    2. Whether I liked the city itself — the neighborhoods, vibe and entertainment
    3. What the crime and police presence/brutality is like. This might sound weird, but after living in Chicago where the COPS are the biggest gang on the streets and corruption is OUT of control, I would NEVER move to another city with a similarly aggressive police presence. Also, I’ve dealt with a lot of petty crime in Chicago — having my bike stolen, my phone stolen, my car rear-ended and the offending driving going underground when it was time to pay. As I get older my tolerance for this kind of bulls**t diminishes greatly.
    and FINALLY
    4. Whether there is a community of black people.

    Finally, the author should keep in mind that as America is becoming increasingly fragmented. I feel like ethnic communities are becoming increasingly fragmented. That’s why online dating has become such a cultural phenomenon. So, move to where you want to, and look for a boo online. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

  • Reality Check

    ” I intend on settling down with a black man (yeah I said it) ”

    I LOL’d at this . . . =)

  • Natasha

    Yep, I live in Chevy Chase outside of DC and this is a swirling hotspot. A lot of white guys checking for a smart, funny, attractive sista here. It’s the best-kept secret on the East Coast.

  • Whatever

    I was watching an episode of Noah’s Arc from a few years ago (on Logo). They stated that 46% of black gay males (that have been tested) are HIV positive. This is definitely a major concern among the black gay community. However, DC and Atlanta have thriving communities of OPENLY gay black males so I doubt any DL activity would be an issue with the author.

  • Whatever

    This is the second post discussing finding a man in Atlanta… Give it up. The ratio of men to women is not in your favor. You’re more likely to date a man that has 3 other women than a DL brother. The even bigger issue is that Atlanta has a sh*tty economy. It is important to research everything about city before moving there not just how easy it is to find a man or the number of HIV positive men.

  • KJ

    Most black females are pathological man-haters. All their problems are caused by men, even their black sons they “raised” with no black man “present”. It is as clear as day

  • Dierdra

    Girl, think hard about staying in California! I just moved out of Atlanta almost two years ago, and that was the best move I ever made in my whole life! In Atlanta there are a lot of black women chasing after a very small number of worthy black men, and there is no reason for any of these men to settle down, because they can get all the sex they want with no commitment required, so that’s what they do. Even the average-looking ones have plenty of sisters to pick from.

    DON’T MOVE THERE! Run, don’t walk, in the other direction from Atlanta.

  • Dierdra

    KJ, I disagree with your statement that most of us sisters are man-haters, but let me say this: If it were true, we have good reason, considering the men around us, and what they do to us on a daily basis.

    But, hey, I’m not hatin’ on y’all – there is a ocean of men in the world, and we don’t have to keep throwing our line into this little pond of American black men. It’s cool, bro. You go on with your bad self. Strut on down the street and keep it moving.

  • Christina Gabrielle

    I’m currently taking an HIV/ AIDS class at my college and I think African Mami and B are the wisest ladies commenting on this post. “Poverty does breed HIV/AIDS.” We even learned that in my class.

    And B, I think everything you said was correct about America and so on. Some people are just asleep and are afraid of the truth.

    Peace,

    Christina Gabrielle

  • SoOverDC

    STDs of all kinds are rampant in DC, but like any major city that will be an issue. As a native Washingtonian, DC is no longer “Chocolate City”. Gentrification has taken place all over this small city and blacks have been priced out of the city into Maryland. Even parts of the city whites wouldn’t dare go through at night are being redeveloped and gentrified.

    While DC does have a larger black professional population than most other cities, PLEASE don’t think black men here are interested in settling down. They come here for two things: 1) high paying jobs/ career opportunity 2) the plethora of educated, successful black women. Every guy I’ve met who has come here from other parts of the country don’t know what to do with themselves living in a city full of black women and it shows. They know they’re hot commodities in a city with the female to male ration something like 10:1, committment is the LAST thing they’re looking for. They have absolutely NO incentive to settle down, when they can have their pick. If they do decide to settle down, they push it off until they’re almost 40 or even older. Of the men I know who are married, not a single one of them is faithful. They get married KNOWING they have no intentions on being faithful- and it doesn’t matter how gorgeous the woman is, how financially successful, how educated…fidelity is just a word to these men. Man sharing has become some sort of open secret…WELCOME TO DC! DC is for the perpetually single, period.

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