My neighbors were sitting out on their porch when I got home yesterday evening. I love the spring. As the weather gets warmer, my neighborhood begins coming alive again in the perfect springtime evening weather.
I went over to ask them to help me think about a photography assignment I had been given to capture pictures about "The Dallas no mayor wants to see." As the four of us stood out on the porch talking--Kendrick (22), Onion (22), Chris (27), and myself--they, of course, came up with some good stuff: the broken up sidewalks in front of the houses, the lack of drainage on our street because the roads have been paved over and over so much it covers all of the drains, the corners where no stop signs exist, the concentration of liquor stores, the grown up alleys that no one can drive through and the fact that we have to set our trash out front instead of in the back of our house, and the way trash is dumped in some fields around us. It was interesting, though. It took all of us a while to start coming up with thoughts. When you live in a neighborhood where those issues exist, it tends to become "normal"...until you start thinking about other neighborhoods and comparing ours to theirs.
As we talked, Chris mused about how it would be nice to change our neighborhood around and have little signs around that say, "East Grand Place." He talked about how other neighborhoods have their graphic design posted around the neighborhood...like Jubilee Park, Swiss Avenue, Highland Park. Why don't we start "East Grand Place?"
We started thinking about what we could do with just us. We don't have the big money or the key people that back some of these other neighborhoods, but wouldn't it be nice if we worked toward addressing the issues of our neighborhood on our own? What if we came together and worked toward figuring out how to change the reality for people like Tim through our efforts to be positive change agents in the community? It would be a complete grass roots effort.
We didn't schedule any neighborhood association meeting or anything like that, but, as Chris said, "This is how big ideas get started...by talking about them." True. We've got to start somewhere.
Chris isn't the only one who has brought that idea up to me. I had a conversation not long ago with Quinton, another 22 year old who grew up in this neighborhood. Without any prompting from me, he brought up the same idea as Chris had...getting all of the people their age together and working toward making a change.
A picture can't capture that. People who never frequent our neighborhood or get to know the people in them will never know that there are a group of 20-30 year old African-American males who are interested in making their community different, but just aren't sure how to do it yet.
I know this can happen. I have hope this will happen. Maybe not today, but I believe the seed is there.
"Revolutions begin when people who are defined as problems achieve the power to redefine the problem." ~John McKnight, The Careless Society