Among the large, towering buildings in Little Senegal lies a tiny cell phone store. The store is so narrow that no more than two people can stand side by side. A tall, shy man (who declined to give his name) stands behind the counter, waiting for prospective customers to enter. The store sells android phones, iPhones, and many different phone accessories. He was born in Ghana and immigrated to the United States “a long time ago.” He lives in the Bronx and goes to Little Senegal to work in a cell phone shop, like many others who work in the area.
The man has seen Little Senegal and the rest of Harlem dramatically change over time. The increased cost of living in Little Senegal has led to gentrification in the neighborhood. Many of the immigrants and locals of the area have needed to move to cheaper areas in New York City such as the Bronx. The man said that locals who still live in the area do not only come from Senegal, but also from several other West African countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. He mentions Senegalese-style restaurants are still prominent throughout the neighborhood, with Asian and fast-food restaurants scattered throughout the area as well. Business, according to the man, is slower than it used to be. This could presumably be because of the neighborhood’s emerging demographic that is not interested in the areas traditional stores, changing the once bustling cultural center into an area that is slowly losing its identity.
Harlem Food CT
People of many different nationalities frequent the Harlem Food CT on 116th Street, the main street what was once a thriving Little Senegal. The street itself is fairly quiet for a double-lane, two way street in Manhattan. The store is next to a hair braiding store, of which there are many that line the block. A female Mexican employee at the restaurant, who declined to give her name, smiles as she thinks about how “mixed” everything in is the store. “All the food is halal,” she says, “and the owners are Muslim, but the chef is Jamaican and all of the food and people are mixed.” Even when pressed about which nationality is most represented in the clientele, she maintains that the customers are from everywhere: “They are from everywhere. They speak Arabic, French, Spanish, all mixed like I say.”
Although she lives in Brooklyn and commutes to Central Harlem everyday, she notices certain trends in the neighborhood. The woman sees that most of the people on the street and who frequent Harlem Food CT are men. Why this is the case, she does not know. It is particularly interesting because one would assume that women would come to the restaurant on their way to or from getting their hair done. Another phenomenon that she mentions is that “people are moving because of the [high] rent” which, in part, is what causing it to be “not so loud on the street.”
*Google Maps, Street View Images