Today we walked 25th Street.
We heard from people who grew up around Church Hill and are now in their 60s and 70s about what was on that corridor.
There was a donut shop. There was a Safeway where young people stood outside with wagons to walk people’s groceries home for them in exchange for 35 cents or a dollar. There was an all day and all night place that only closed on Christmas day. There was a jeweler, a shoe salesman. It was the place of business, uptown, for African Americans because you weren’t sure how you would be treated downtown.
Some people who grew up here still hang around there on 25th Street, because it has always been a gathering place.
What will the 25th Street that emerges over the next 5 years look like? How will it reflect and how will it be different from the 25th Street that our elders remember?
Building is happening so fast right now in the East End.
There were two walks this week. The first went across 25th Street. The houses are coming in fast. Some were brought in on trucks and set up with cranes a couple months ago. They are all inhabited now and other houses are going up quickly all around them and around our partner church Mt. Olivet.
Then we walked over to a community meeting about the new grocery store that will go in next to the roundabout next to Mt. Olivet. The grocery store is going to be a game changer. Development around it and around 25th Street and Nine Mile will happen so fast. How can we be a voice advocating for development that betters the lives of all our people?
We said hello to a couple of young men on a porch down the street on our walk. Sometimes a simple human hello is a ministry unto itself.
How do we support all of our common humanity was our discussion on the walk. There are so many forces out here in the world, out here on the streets, that seek to dehumanize us. It’s hard out here.
Yet we are all human. How can we continue to provide opportunities for us to remind ourselves of that reality?
At the St Stephen’s Episcopal mission luncheon, Damon Jiggetts, the executive director of the PeterPaul Development Center, talked about employment. He talked about creating opportunities that would be here when the current children of PeterPaul are adults. How do we help God shape those opportunties?
Damon gave the example of a few young men from the neighborhood who have desired to start a mentoring and basketball program — how they came forward independently with a similar idea and now the task is supporting them as they make their vision a reality.
How can we continue to support young people, in making their visions a reality? It is more than just a job that we are all seeking, it is a vocation, a sense of purpose in our lives.
Valaryee Mitchell is the new director of the Center for Workforce Innovation.
They provide wrap around services for those seeking employment. They will meet with someone to develop a one-on-one employment plan. Then they offer a variety of trainings — a forklift training, construction safety, CPR, Nurses Aid / Med Tech, Food safety, plumbing, customer service, HVAC, cosmology, and welding. One of the keys is being able to connect people with jobs on the other end.
They also work on soft skills in presenting oneself. Their strength is in being able to spend time with people on these things and walk alongside them. What kind of partnership be possible for us with the Center?
We visited CaritasWorks to learn about their program to do training in soft skills and resumes and interviews to get jobs. Most of the men who participate have gone through the healing place, to work through addictions.
The Works program is 5-weeks and covers a full working day schedule of activities and training. Some of the men who go through the program are from the East End. What opportunities might there be for us to connect with CaritasWorks?
An important insight: knowing how to network, knowing what networking means, is not a given. There are norms and codes for people to live in the streets and survive. There are other norms and codes for people to live in the business world and survive. Those norms and codes, while some are transferable, are not the same. The rules of networking, as well as other skill sets for the business world, must be taught.
On Tuesday, April 19, Cynthia Newbille gave the closing speech at the groundbreaking for a new center for healthy communities sponsored by Bon Secours and CHAT.
At the end of the speech, she spoke about what she learned from her mother while living in Whitcomb Court. Her mother would take the preserves out of the cabinet and go next door to the neighbors houses who would have the bread and the milk. And the three neighbors would share the bread, preserves, and milk to feed their families.
She said that is how she learned about collectivism and partnership.
We had several conversations today as people were out on their porches with the warmer weather. We talked with one couple who lives near the church and is on dialysis. He has been on it for 13 years and she has been on it for 7 years. There are many people in the neighborhood on dialysis. Will having a full grocery store on 25th Street make a difference? Having access to healthier food?
We talked to people mostly inviting them to our food distribution or to worship. I often struggle with our conversation focusing on invitation. Yes, we want people to know that they are welcome with us. But it feels to me that there is more conversation to be had. I like talking with people about their priorities for the neighborhood because it makes the conversation more substantive than an invitation. Sometimes people have thoughts on priorities and sometimes not.
We talked together about the drug game and street hustle. We talked about the web that a person can fall into through fast money and the prison system. We talked about God offering a rope of salvation to each one of us in the midst of all that comes at us each day.
We asked three young men walking from Fairfield Ave what they saw as priorities for the neighborhood.
One said that the young people need more activities and opportunities. When he was growing up there was a summer job program for young people. He does not see the same number of activities and for him, violence is the result.
Another guy talked about a basketball and mentoring program idea he had developed to teach the young people skills while also playing basketball. There are a lot of good ideas like this that people from the neighborhood share regularly. How do we connect them with the resources and support to make these good visions and dreams a reality?