Why is it that you can have manicured lawns and an abundance of city services in one neighborhood, but just yards away it seems like there is a civil war going on, where one neighborhood is peaceful and the other is crime ridden? Community revitalization is needed for some of America’s neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are the ones that most Americans never see, but often hear about through the news media. The forgotten neighborhoods are in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. They go by the names of Compton, Watts, Inglewood, the Bronx. And even closer to my home, Roseland, Cabrini Green, and yes, we have an Englewood in Chicago too. What is most astonishing is that most of these forgotten communities border or are adjacent to prominent, flourishing communities. How can this be? On one side of the indivisible borderline there is hope, prosperity, unemployment, sorrow, despair, and an overall sense of being left out of "the American dream." What causes this great disparity? Is it the people, the government, or both?
It makes you wonder why some adjacent communities do not have the same look and feel of each of its residents having a sense of comfort and stability where they reside, where each has economic stability, good schools, and city services. Simply put, why can’t these communities be the same socially and economically? Is it that one group of citizens is better than another or deserves better resources than another? A neighborhood needs resources for without resources, a neighborhood is without hope. A neighborhood without jobs is a neighborhood without hope. A neighborhood without community investment is a neighborhood without hope. The solution to these problems must come from outside the neighborhood and from within the neighborhood through government and community involvement. If this does not happen, we as a country will lose some of America’s communities.
Let us focus closer to home, taking a look at three neighborhood communities on the South Side of Chicago. They are Beverly Hills, Woodlawn, and the neighborhood I came from, Gresham Auburn, or in other words, the "Valley." Beverly Hills and Auburn Gresham were similar at one time, but now it seems one has grown while the other has declined. Woodlawn, which was similar to both at one time, later declined, but now is a model of community revitalization.
Auburn Gresham sits on the South Side of Chicago. My family moved there in the year of 1967. At that time this was a thriving community. The community had resources. It had an economic base and nation-wide grocery A&P for example, which was filled with the best and the freshest products. The streets were paved and clean. Street lights were replaced when they burned out. The playgrounds and parks were maintained. Overall, this was a growing, thriving, community; a community that was becoming more racially integrated and where people had a sense of pride, jobs, and hope for tomorrow.
However, in the late 1970s this neighborhood began to show a decline. For example, homes that were once filled with families became abandoned as parents began to lose their jobs in industries, such as steel mills, and subsequently lost their homes. The scarcity of jobs inflicted suffering on the family unit, resulting in many single family homes. Stores that once sold quality products began to sell inferior products such as meat and produce; and many liquor stores began to pop up on street corners for miles. Crime began to increase. Playgrounds and parks that were once maintained began to show signs of neglect with broken apparatus, dead landscaping, and sand boxes always filled with debris. The area which once had a sense of security and pride began to unravel. As a result of the neighborhood collapsing, the once stable community began to see the fleeing of white people out of the area, mostly because of fear of crime, resulting from a "changing neighborhood" and fear of decreasing property value. A changing neighborhood...
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