by Deric Muhammad
Once President Lyndon Baines Johnson, with Dr. Martin Luther King looking over his shoulder, signed the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 Black people who had a little money couldn’t wait to move from segregated small towns into the big city. It was a privilege and an honor to make the trek from humble shanty towns like Kindleton, Texas to big shot cities like Houston so that we could live down the street from our white “brothers and sisters.”
But, by the time Black folk got moved in they jumped the picket fence to go and meet their new white neighbors, white folk had already moved. “For Sale” signs were everywhere. Real estate companies must’ve made a mint in those days. Soon after, those Black families went back to those small towns and spread the word about the inner city. The new neighborhood was now populated with the same folks from the small town they left. They all may as well have stayed where they were. White folks moved to these rural areas, renamed them “the suburbs” and bought all of the land that we left. Thirty years later in a move to reclaim the inner-cities of America, called “gentrification”, they began to aggressively repurchase urban properties owned by Black people that they lost during the sixties.
Many wondered why, two generations later, the same families that “broke their backs” to get into the inner city were now “breaking their necks” to get out. In the sixties when Blacks got a little money they moved into the city. Now it has become a trending phenomenon to say that you “got out.” Where do we go from here? The move to “gentrify” the inner city was not as easy as they thought it would be. A lot had happened in the decades that had passed since integration. The advent of “crack” cocaine and the violence, turf warfare and human casualty count it brought about turned many inner city neighborhoods into the shanty towns that our families left for a better life in the sixties. By this time we should have learned a valuable lesson. THE NEIGHBORHOOD DOES NOT MAKE THE PEOPLE; IT IS THE PEOPLE THAT MAKE THE NEIGHBORHOOD.
We as a people have to make a conscious decision to stop running from “pillar to post” every other generation and maintain and beautify what is our own. We must stop responding to television commercials about a better life in Sugarland and make the Black community a decent community. The first thing we must do is unite and create a common agenda for the betterment of our neighborhoods. A dirty neighborhood is not a decent neighborhood. If you want others to respect your community it must be clean. You must then become watchmen of education and law enforcement.
You must pack the schools at PTA meetings and demand from elected officials what is necessary to better educate our children. Since we are nearing a 50% dropout rate we must pool our resources to create alternative education opportunities. We must meet with the police chief and advise him how our communities should be policed. We must demand the reassignment of those officers who look to abuse our youth, rather than correct them. Drug treatment facilities are a must. Little league sports teams are a must and after school programs are a must. We must partner with every pastor in the community and make sure that anyone doing business, extracting resources from the community is giving back. However, it all starts with unity. Once you truly unify, you will be amazed at the brilliance that lies dormant in your neighborhood. If we make our own neighborhoods a decent place to live there is no need to move to a nicer neighborhood. The “nicer neighborhood” will have moved to us.
(Follow Deric Muhammad on Twitter @DericMuhammad and visit his website @ http://dericmuhammad.com/)