Welcome to My Hood
As I spent the day reflecting on the 30 years I've been alive I thought of two sides to this life I lead. While my adult life has been filled with education, promise and a level of comfort I am reminded that my beginnings weren't as pretty. On this site I have often commented about how humbled I am that God would set me aside for His plan. I have also frequently commented that I'm grateful to my mother who refused to settle and was determined to see her children raised in a different environment.
Last week I was given the opportunity to speak to a group of Christian leaders about my hometown. I shared with them from my experience in both the suburban church world as well as my own personal account of life in the city. During that trip I took time to visit my childhood home. The projects where I lived as a child are coming down. I took some pictures to remember where I came from so today I thought I'd take you on a quick tour.
1109 Rayleigh Way was my childhood home for the bulk of my elementary years. In my attic I have a lease that says my mother paid $60/month for the government housing.
This is "240"- Graceland Park O'Donnell Heights Elementary School. 240 is the school where I learned my fundamentals. It was out of this school that I was accepted into a gifted and talented program.
I came across this sign which to me is symbolic of the mentality that keeps our cities captive. Someone thought this was a good idea. Click to enlarge. Basically the sign is a "Drug Free Zone" sign which is commonplace around areas where children tend to be at play. First of all I thought all of America was a "Drug Free Zone". Drugs are illegal. Secondly this sign actually lists out boundaries. The sign was made to tell the drug dealers and users where their sentence will be increased if they use/distribute drugs in this neighborhood. This is insane to me.
This is just a crew going to work on my old block. If you notice the sign... Rayleigh Way. By the way... Because of living on this block I always had problems with the little "I before E, except after C" rhyme. I grew up on a street that didn't follow that rule!
This is the place where we send our inner city kids to tell them that if they study they can be anything they want to be. This is called a Baltimore City School. The picture below is of the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center opened October 30, 2003. Does anyone else see a problem?
Behind the iron bars is the neighborhood swimming pool. I remember swimming here with a few hundred of my closest friends.
Beyond the grass sits a community center. This place was the center of the neighborhood. The 'Rec center was more than a gym, it was a doctors office, after school program, athletic building, etc. This building also was home to the community marching band. I remember a lot of weekends as a child being awakened by the sound of the marching band coming from blocks away. Playing loud beats and people dancing... it was a trip. Flavor unique to the city for sure.
This picture above is actually of one of the few additions to the neighborhood since I moved away. To the right of the red light you can see a blue box on the light pole. The box is basically a device used to try to help police monitor the area. When there are gun shots these things are supposed to narrow down the vicinity of the shot and begin taking footage. Additionally these boxes are armed with video cameras and are supposedly able to be controlled remotely to scope out drug dealers. As with most things the streets are ahead of the police already. It's a cat and mouse game where the mice are 3 steps ahead.
I got next. These are some of the courts in the neighborhood. I played very little on these courts.
Here is a typical alley. It was interesting driving through as half of the neighborhood has been destroyed by the city. It seems like about half of the people are still hanging on. It was so sad to see so many people living right next to boarded up and bricked up homes.
This is a picture of one of the areas surrounding this community (at the foot of the above pictured school). This neighborhood was built (my understanding) on top of an old trash heap. The neighborhood is centrally located between two city cemeteries which appear to be filled to capacity.
Tell me the story that comes from this neighborhood when a kid walks past a cemetery every day to get to the school above. What do you think he thinks as he walks under the sign that says "drug free zone" and the police box hanging on the street pole? In my 30 years I've seen a lot. One of the sad things I've seen are some of my educated friends make comments about "those people" living in poverty. What is often overlooked is the environment that surrounds a young person. Nature vs. Nurture can get tossed out the window when they are both broken. When every home is a broken home and every door is a closed door you find many youth who grow up acting out on their hurt.
The sad part about my story and my hood is that this is America's story and America's hood. No matter how much we ignore them the cities are there. As a nation we will either ignore them and hope they fix themselves or we will find a way to unite and make them better for future generations of children like me. My story isn't over however. I'd like to be a part of making a difference. How about you?
posted by Tally Wilgis @ Thursday, June 05, 2008
- At 3:46 PM, Jeff Cole said...
I am moving to Baltimore shortly to plant a church. You seem pretty plugged in. Anyone I should look up.
- At 3:56 PM, Tally Wilgis said...
Shoot me an email (contact link on top right) and I'll be glad to chat.