Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Much Love to My Street
I have this framed picture I inherited when I got married called " How to Build Community", among the fifty odd ways you can build community, one of them was to organize a block party. That is just what we have done for the last four years. This year, however had a much different feel. A lot of new people have moved onto the block, and some old have returned.
When you are new to a neighborhood, you have to feel out the culture of the block and the unsaid rules and expectations of how you are to live in that community. But, what happens if you return to the neighborhood and all the culture and rules have changed? Do you adapt, or do you live your life the same way you always did before you left? Should you expect everyone to accept you and your way of life? Should you care?Working through these questions can be a struggle.
The block has changed in the last five years, so our newest neighbors have returned and with loud parties late into the night, gun shots, and shady lookin' characters rollin' up at all times.The block club has made it known that these type of things don't fit our culture or expectations for living in our community. Yet, I had a sense that the new rules, said or unsaid, had left our new neighbors feeling alienated and not part of what is going on here on our block.
That sense is what was giving me anxiety about this year's block party. What would it be like if our new neighbors kept to themselves or worse, what if they, feeling all the static they've been getting from the block, just acted wild and messed up the party?
Neither of those two scenerios happened. A block clean-up, bar-b-que arrachera, dominos, bags, scavenger hunts, football, corn hole, and a block potluck opened up the opportunity to connect the new neighbors, some of them who have a history as gangbangers. Some of these guys I would have never talked to based out of fear. There is something about hanging out, talking, and sharing the same experiences that humanizes those that you fear or dislike. I hope it was the same for them.
Like we always do, with those on our block who have a history here, Eric and I asked what this neighborhood was like before we came. One of our new neighbor's friends, who use to live on our block, told us how he used to party at our house, in the nineties; he also pointed out, with pride, all the apartments where he use to live. Then, he showed us where all of his relatives use to live. He followed the conversation with a story about where he wants to get his next tatoo, I asked him why he had a K and an L st. on his forearms. He said they stood for Keystone and LeMoyne, "I've got much love for this block". I realized that my new neighbors are fathers and uncles, like me. They like bar-b-que and eat potato salad, like me. And they love this block and have a vested interest in it, like me. Those common bonds and interests give me hope that understanding, acceptance, and friendship, and true community can happen here on this block
Posted by Bill at 2:08 PM