Ta-Nehisi Coates is an author who writes about racism. Recently, he bought a $2 million brownstone in Brooklyn's Prospect-Lefferts Garden. But Coates won't be moving in due to safety concerns elicited by unwanted media attention.
Prospect-Lefferts Garden is a quiet neighborhood in the Flatbush area, in one of New York City's boroughs. The area is predominantly African-American and Caribbean-American, but it's experiencing rapid gentrification. The 40-year-old Ta-Nehisi had once lived in Prospect-Lefferts, moved out, and always longed to return. Hefty royalty checks from Between the World and Me, a 2015 memoir published in the form of a series of letters to his teen son, afforded him the opportunity.
Coates is well-known for writing essays for The Atlantic on race relations in America. One of his best-known works is The Case for Reparations, which explains why slavery and Jim Crow housing policies not only affected people who died long ago, but also their descendants who are alive today. He explains why reparations are needed and that they don't have to be financial, but can be a matter of policy. He concluded that this country will never be able to move forward until it fully reckons with its national sin and the damage it caused.
In talks around the nation, he argued that government policies should clearly state that they are a form of reparations. Ta-Nehisi acknowledges that his views are controversial, and because of this, he must be cautious on how much personal information is made public, per the New York Times. Coates has been slow in coming to grips with celebrity.
"You can't really be a black writer in this country, take certain positions, and not think about your personal safety. That's just the history."Coates was astounded at his new-found celebrity after Between the World and Me won the 2015 National Book Award for non-fiction. Other surprises were the great novelist Toni Morrison agreeing to recommend the book and, also, advocating that it be classified as required reading. Another shock was Cornel West's disapproval of Morrison's recommendation. However, to Coates' amazement, the royalty checks allowed him to buy a home in his old neighborhood, according to The Atlantic.
"I was shocked at the royalties. But as soon as I saw them, I knew what I would do with them. I called my old buddy and asked him if anything was available in that neighborhood, in the Prospect-Lefferts Garden which we loved so much. I was thinking of finally being able to take all of our books out of storage. I was thinking of my mother, who would have a space of her own, and could come and stay for as long as she liked. I was thinking of my partner, who was by then my wife, and how much she had given me and made possible."
An old friend helped Ta-Nehisi locate a Prospect-Lefferts home, which he called "The Dream." Both the author and his wife loved it and were happy to be able to move back to their old neighborhood and rejoin the strong community. Although Coates and his wife used a limited-liability corporation to conceal their identities during the transaction, the blogosphere, social media, and the New York Post published information on the new purchase. The latter posted a photo of the home, even including Coates' address.
Ta-Nahesi Coates and his wife chose not to live in the beautiful brownstone on Lincoln Road. In the past, Coates had the experience of a fan showing up at his then-residence. His thoughts are that in the future, a face at the door might not be a friendly one. He said that if something happened to his wife (or vice versa) or their child, neither he nor his wife would be able to forgive themselves.
[Photo via John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation/Wikimedia Commons]