By Effie Rolfe, Chicago Crusader
Owning A Piece of America. As I looked at “Sag Harbor,” a programming special that aired sometime ago, it was refreshing to see a predominantly African American neighborhood considered as America’s most exclusive and historic African American community. It consists of three areas including Azurest, Sag Harbor Hills, and Ninevah, located on the oceanfront in the middle of the exclusive Hamptons.
According to the television special, many residents called it their ‘piece of paradise’ or ‘piece of the dream.’ Sag Harbor residency represents freedom and not having to compromise. For several generations the residents have been a tight community where their grandfathers, fathers, and childhood friends remained close knit for nearly four generations, enjoying a culture rich in annual family gatherings and neighborhood parties. Ordinary folk to celebrities like Lena Horne, Colin Powell, Langston Hughes, B. Smith and Harry Belafonte’ lived as neighbors and familiar faces.
In 1947, a stretch of privately owned property in Long Island, NY was divided up and made available to African Americans for purchase. African American educators, writers, lawyers, doctors and ordinary folk embraced Sag Harbor due to the rampant institutionalized racism of the time which prevented people of color access to jobs, education and housing.
Today, the racial breakdown is roughly 65% African American, 30% Caucasian and 5% other. Some of the residents also believe that those aspiring to the lifestyle of the Hamptons will cause the historic value of Sag Harbor to change. The first beachfront lots cost $1,000 each and inland lots $500. With interest from other ethnicities, homes that were once valued at $200,000 are now peaking $500,000.
A tremendous concern exists for those who are contemplating selling property to make sure that potential buyers have like minds as the current residents, and also share a sense of community.
Interestingly, watching the program reminded me of growing up in rural Arkansas. Although far away from the oceanfront, the rural environment still provided a rich sense of family and community. It was a time when neighbors knew their neighbors and treated others with dignity, love and respect. An amazing peace, calmness, and youthful innocence permeated the lands.
After listening to a 101 year old medical doctor speak, the overall message is one that benefits most—African Americans will continue to build communities such as Sag Harbor. Instead of dodging bullets, the speaker encourages us to strive to create an environment of strong families where things revolve around loving children, caring and supportive parents, and healthy social events.
Some of the longtime Sag Harbor residents are facing difficulties with the changes in the landscape due to an expanding melting pot. As recently as 2009 the resident population was nearly 100% African American. On the eve of Black history month…the space of Sag Harbor has become similar to what Dr. Martin Luther King dreamed of, “… that one day little Black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”
In fact, that dream is the primary concern of one longtime resident who said she hopes that ‘as Sag Harbor is integrated… the new neighbors will play with their children and continue the oneness of the village.’ Be it Sag Harbor or Stump City…may we all have a renewed sense of building that will strengthen our families and communities, making future generations to come proud of their rich history.
Will you strive to build something the next generations can be proud of…?
© Effie Rolfe is an Author
of “Supersize Your Thinking,” Media Personality and Motivational Speaker. You can contact her on twitter.com/effiedrolfe. Listen to her show daily on
urbanpraiseradio.org. (2015 Stellar Award Winner for Best Internet Radio Station).