Funny thing about listening. You can actually hear people talk.
That’s what happened on August 18 at Passport Project. Neighbors talked and neighbors listened. I can’t say that everything was pleasant. Many of us are frustrated with some aspect of the Buckeye neighborhood. Some of us were on the verge of tears when faced with the juxtaposition of perception and reality and all of us were confused by the seemingly sudden downfall of our neighborhood after the real estate crisis of 2008.
There was a lot shared at the table. We decorated paper flowers, ate apples and hummus, and shared a glass of wine (or two). The other thing you have to be prepared to do is be aware of your own biases and allow for internal exploration on a gamut of issues. You have to ask, “are my own feelings about this subject valid?”
There are a lot of takeaways (and some questions) from this experience. Here are mine:
- How do we encourage engagement and participation? Sometimes it feels as if there are only about seven of us doing the work of organizing, activating, and maintaining the identity of the community. How do we increase this number and build a sustainable legacy?
- Space is limited. Not physical space, though. The Buckeye retail corridor has seen an amazing rise in vacancy rates in less than 10 years. (Something like 17% prior to 2008 to close to 50% seven years later.) There is a disjointed network of programming by leaders who don’t want to let go of control.
- Another dollar store is soon to be erected where the old KFC stood at the corner of Buckeye and East 130th. Nobody at the meeting thought we needed another dollar store. I can name all of the dollar stores that serve the residents of the neighborhood. Yes, we acknowledge that towards that end of the corridor the options are limited but all studies point to the fact that dollar stores don’t save you money, they are just more accessible. Plus Buckeye still has a general store as well as Bloom Brothers, a locally owned hardware store on E. 116th. Instead, how about building local retail through a merchants' association?
- Vitalization (Note the missing “re”) hinges on some very tricky relationships. Where and what kind of improvements need to take shape to build the CDC/resident relationship?
- The neighborhood is RICH with under or misused resources. We have everything we need to have a great and sustainable neighborhood. Top of that list: awesome residents.
- The intersection of perception and reality is complicated. We know that things like crime are generally isolated events, but as someone who’s had her home robbed several times, my confidence is not as intact as previously about the future for my neighborhood. The tough part is this is becoming an all too common sentiment among my neighbors.
- We’ve got a real problem with crime and safety. But we also need better, community-defined relations between residents and police. If we get rid of the “Drug Boys” and replace them with police, isn’t that one gang replacing another?
We didn’t solve anything. All too often there is an expectation of resolution and definitive broad sweeping, equalizing action. The real world doesn’t operate this way. The real world requires a busy mom or dad to invest time, money, and energy for a possible positive outcome. We don’t have five years to wait for the possible.
We can do, and should constantly demand, better. Yes, yes I know. “That gets old and the few get weary, and there is no point; it hasn’t made a change before now,” and so on and so forth.
I just think demanding and doing better should never be something that should be left to someone else to do on my behalf. I suspect that people know what would make the community better. This would also mean that they collectively have some idea that "better" doesn’t happen in silos.
Remember, Buckeye is rich. We the residents are a community of barons. It’s time we exert our power.
Dawn Arrington will lead another resident-driven dialogue about Buckeye on Thursday, August 27 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Passport Project, 12801 Buckeye Road. All are welcome.