Lately, I’ve been so afflicted by the current state of the world and the blatant injustices taking place in black and low-income communities. Some days I numbly pass through confiding to myself that it’s not my job to change the world. Other days are so much harder when I’m driving down Lowery or Boone looking at a living community waste away due to poverty and lack of attention. I cringe seeing the signs of new developments; thinking why should I be mad about progress?
But I know why. Because why does progress mean replacement? Why does revitalization mean the complete removal of the very people that created this “urban” community? Why are we once again for sale? For that reason, I chose to have my son’s birthday party at my neighborhood playground, Vine City Park. Passionately and yet naively I pushed the idea that our community is just as good as those others. It’s times like this when I step into spaces thinking pridefully “I know what this place needs, I know what’s going on here” and then I’m slapped in the face with realities I can’t even stomach.
Five kids changed everything. After the gunshots and two patrolling officers sped by, the kids’ ages 5-12 approached us asking what we were up to. We told them it was Noah’s birthday and each of them dug into their pocket and handed Noah a $1 bill, asking nothing in exchange. They helped us clear the litter from the party area and showed off their parkour skills. Parkour?! We couldn’t even believe they knew what that was and that they were beasting at it! (We had to admit to our own biases about these kids). It was clear to see that the kids just wanted (and needed) some attention. To say the least, we invited the kids to hang out with us for the party. They met all of our friends (an array of black professionals, athletes, entrepreneurs, college students, moms, and dads) and I can honestly proclaim that we learned just as much as they did that day. I just couldn’t stop thinking that this truly is a living, breathing community that simply needs a little rehabilitation and love. These are kids and these kids need us. They need direction, they need positive guidance, they need attention.
I see a future for the Historic Communities of Vine City, English Avenue, Washington Park, Bankhead, West End and more. Not one where the old is replaced with new clean-cut buildings and dog-walking, stroller-pushing women who clutch their bags when young black boys approach them. No. The future of our communities should be a blend of the old and the new. Hand-picked individuals that are just as much concerned with rehabilitation as they are with “revitalization.” Individuals that won’t run the other way when they see a group of black kids, but those that will join that group and teach and be taught themselves. So I’m deciding at least for today and at least while I can that I’m going to be an agent for change in my community.
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