The Time is Now.
WARNING: The attached article may be triggering for people of color and reopen old wounds for longtime residents. It is shared here for historical reference.
It’s a terrifying thought. Hampden has a long seated reputation among the black community because of episodes like this from 1988 in the article below (note the date of the article). Hampden is a geographically barricaded neighborhood that white flight could escape to in the 1960s and ignore the social upheaval of civil rights. Landlords bought up row homes to prevent black people from moving in. And today, neighbors complain about and intimidate black students who attend our neighborhood schools because they do what young people do and perceive it as a function of their skin color.
But don’t you dare say “this is an old Hampden issue.”
While our population is changing, Hampden is still an 80% white neighborhood in a city that is 30% white. Gentrification persists the exclusion of people of color in residency and participation in the business community- not to mention our extant reputation. So while we are willing to drive up the housing market and allow development that skyrockets rent for one-bedroom apartments like we’re NYC, (no shade to my hometown, but it’s true) we are no better than those landlords.
If we do not actively demonstrate a different posture, learn our history, the history and stories of black lives, if we do not support black businesses and use our bodies, our time and our energy on their behalf, and if we continue to say All Lives Matter, then we ignore the Jesus who was a brown-skinned man who was cuffed and shackeled, taken on a rough ride, and executed for “proclaiming good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the prisoners, restoring sight to the blind(another way of saying shedding our ignorance), proclaiming freedom for the oppressed, and the year of Jubilee (a term more similar to reparations than any white American is comfortable with).” No amount of Christmas lights, parades, street festivals can hide our truth.
But it’s not about Hampden.
Our participation needs to extend beyond I-83, and Wyman Park. White Hampdenites, white Americans need to be engaged beside our siblings of color in the movement to bring about a just America. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has taught us that our lives depend on one another’s actions even across the globe. The time for social distancing may have come to a swift and confusing end, but the time to lay down our lives for one another is again upon us. You can be critical of the shift from one priority to another or you can seek a reality free of inequity, injustice, and downright evil.
It’s time to do the work of structural change in this country, this city, this neighborhood, and in ourselves. Let us accompany our neighbors of color in their fight for life - life that can be lived free from the fear of what white people are thinking when they see them, if they’re going to be arrested and killed on their way to the mailbox, and if their children will make it to their 10th birthday.
White people are not the saviors of black, brown, native, queer or any other Americans but our lives are wholly dependent on each other. But we are the majority and yield tremendous power and privilege to be shared and wielded on behalf of our fellow citizens. It’s time for Hampden to intentionally and publicly stumble forward alongside our siblings of color. There are many ways we can participate, for every level of capacity and readiness. Let us learn and act together. The time is now.