This neighborhood contrasts greatly to the quiet suburban neighborhood that I grew up in. It was a different time of course, but it was also a very different place. I remember feeling a sense of safety and of ownership in the community. I remember as children we were able to spend much of our free time together outside and unsupervised. This allowed us to really get to know where we lived and also feel as if we were an integral part of it.
There was an area behind the house that was the property of the public school nearby. It was a baseball field, and beyond it was an area we called "The Woods". There was a stream surrounded by trees and brush. We loved to explore this place, and observe the wildlife and plant life that was there. I remember, when I was eight years old I went out one morning to the back yard of my home. There I saw large machinery parked at the edge of "The Woods" and making a terrible noise. It appeared that the trees were being cut down, and cleared away. I was devastated and outraged. Because I felt ownership and importance in this place, I immediately informed my mother that I need to write a letter. I sat down and earnestly wrote a letter to the President of the United States and explained the situation pleading with him to stop the destroying of "the Woods".
Unfortunately, this attempt to save this place that was so special to me was not successful. I received a letter from an official in government that the letter had been forwarded to apologizing for the ruination, but explaining the necessity of change and progress within our society. Although I had not persevered as I had hoped, I continued to have a strong sense of ownership and activism when it came to the fate of my community. This was largely because these sensibilities were instilled in me at a very young age. It also was because I knew the area that I lived in, felt pride in it, and felt that it was mine to take care of. The Hill, where my students live, is a very different neighborhood. It is an area where poverty and crime have been prominent for decades. There are few green areas and few community meeting areas. My students often tell me they spend most of their time indoors, and are not safe to be outside unsupervised. I don't believe that this type of atmosphere often instills a sense of ownership in the members in the community. It can, in fact breed apathy. Unfortunately, the current climate in their neighborhood is one that has been characteristic of countless inner city communities in the United States in the last four decades.