For the majority of my childhood, I lived on “the other side of town.” In neighborhoods regarded as low-income and often considered “bad” or “ghetto.” Places that one wouldn’t ideally live or dream of raising a family.
My days of youth are imbedded in Weed & Seed communities that were filled with streets named after black martyrs. I feel a deep sense of nostalgia when I think about the concrete I sprung up from: memories of busted fire hydrants, 10 cent candy, and making it home before the street lights came on provide me with enough stories to tell my grandchildren and are forever etched in my memory.
Upon coming into adulthood, I moved away from all that was familiar. I traveled to California in pursuit of being a screenwriter, and really, for the first time ever, I was submerged in living among the privileged.
It was a culture shock to see that — at 8 in the AM — dogs were being walked, little ones pushed in strollers, and joggers were in full pursuit of achieving optimum health and toned gluts. Golden haired girls were sitting in the park in auspicious poses; people appeared to be radiantly happy.
All looked well in the world — or at least on the “good side of town” that was now home. The aura felt different in this neck-of-the-woods. And by different I mean devoid of ambulance sirens and noisy public transportation, destitute of littered roadways and urban decay. The eyesores of liquor stores and mechanic shops were minimal; people were in leisure mode at the time of day when the grind was just getting started.
What a difference locality makes.
Years later, I moved home back to Atlanta as my parents were in transition to move further away from the inner city. They opted to stay in a fairly good community with more green space and occasional deer wandering in search of a place to graze.
I was offered a job on the Westside of Atlanta, a place that I’ve called home one time or another in my adolescence. I couldn’t help but to muse over the inner city dwellings that housed me and feel a bout of melancholy. The streets in which I grew up looked very much the same, and in some instances, worse. My people seemed to be in a murkier fog. Despite churches perched on every other corner, I didn’t feel celestial bliss. I didn’t feel the much needed overflow of peace.
The route to work brought tears — seeing is believing, and bearing witness to hardship on a daily basis does a number on the psyche. I admit that I am highly analytical, paying close attention to life’s little intricacies and all. But its small cracks and fractures in foundations and barriers that can cause levees to break; all things matter and are relative when looking at the larger scope and outcome.
There are moments in life when you see things crystal clear, and you choose not to put on the blinders that many hide behind. For me, the void of serenity in a place that I once called home was and is ever-so-apparent and resonated deeply, painfully so.
All things and people have the ability and power to radiate and transfer energy. Largely due to this belief, I feel that much of the disparity, illness, and many of the hardships my people face are due to the environment in which we live in. In the literal sense, roses do not often grow from concrete. Urban communities lack abundant green space, smog fills the horizon, and environmental hazards are all too common. These factors and more infuse their energy into the daily lives of those living within the concrete Serengeti.
If the transference of energy theory holds true — and energy radiates from things, people, and places — then the smorgasbord of liquor stores, pawn shops, and pay day loan establishments found in many urban zip codes around the states must manifest their energy within the psyche and physical being of those in close radius.
Judging merely from appearances, those who live on the better side of town are happy — euphorically so. Shit, I have never seen so many mothers pushing strollers with smiles on their faces than I have while among the well off. And while happiness is neither synonymous with affluence, nor restricted to a certain zip-code, amenities and opportunities, privileged circumstances often are.
There are many “isms” that contribute to the shaping of developed and undeveloped communities across America — this may always be. But what pains me the most is seeing my people impair themselves. When the struggler aids in his or her own plight by sabotaging self and community, it’s a bitter pill to swallow for even the most optimistic revolutionary.
You do not throw shit on your own block; you do not walk by trash on your street when you have a sense of pride. Pride for oneself and pride for the place in which you call home. For the sake of being optimistic, I realize that it may be the sheer lack of knowledge that hinders many from doing the right thing for self and community. But by the same token, I know many people could care less about community improvement and creating good chi.
Yet, these are my people and I am from “the other side of town.” I will always remember playing under the street lights and jumping rope with great fondness. Even when I feel I like community efforts are not creating enough movement and the love that I have for my people and community are not reciprocated, I still firmly believe that we can live together in serenity and create fruitful environments to live in. I don’t know a people who are more deserving of such.
It is evident that a people living without harmony are much as a dream deferred. But change has always resulted in the have-nots rising up and causing movement. Looking out into the world, beholding that life can, if fact, be better. I look forward to the day that the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in every city is cornered by all things beautiful and the living is easy.