Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Does First Really Matter?

A search of the term “Roxbury natives”, in Hollis Catalog, the Harvard University library database, pulls up exactly what you’d expect if you lived in the metro Boston area and paid too much attention to maimstream media: Life Without Parole: Living in Prison Today; In Her Own Words: Women Offenders’ Views on Crime and Victimization: an Anthology; The American Drug Scene, An Anthology; and The Modern Gang Reader.

And I just wanted information about the indigenous populations who lived in Roxbury before the Puritans came. But history is the propaganda of the victor and the Puritans founded Harvard so you can’t really expect them (Harvard, Puritans, history as it’s been written by them) to think beyond the world as they have created it – however in need of transformation that world may be. Roxbury is full of poor black people and so is indelibly linked in the minds of both the elite and the maimstream with prison, gangs, and drugs. Also, drugs, guns and gangs. Unwed mothers with children by various fathers and social welfare cheats are also part of the myth of this particular Other (poor black people) but the former is becoming slightly less anathema and illegal aliens have cornered the latter label.

Mixed in with the books on drugs, prisons, and crime (not poverty, injustice, and hypocrisy – evidence that racism is alive and kickin’) are some on feminism, schools, and the incredibly rich early history of the neighborhood. While Back Bay was still merely a swamp, Roxbury was integral to the early development of the colony as well as the American Revolution.

Indigenous people in Roxbury? I’ll keep looking and let you know what I find.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gentrification in Highland Park

It’s the subtext of many community meetings; the Lexus XL in the room. Sometimes the accusation is direct: “It’s all the new people moving here who are creating parking problems”. Its indirect form usually begins, “Well, in the 20/15/50/10 /60 years I’ve been here, I’ve never/always/sometimes…” But the message is not only about commitment or dedication to a neighborhood, it’s the expression of fear – fear of new things, fear of change, fear of gentrification.

There. I wrote it. But the G-word is rarely, if ever, uttered in meetings and I’m not sure why. It could be out of civility or from an understanding of how volatile a discussion of gentrification could be.
What bothers me is that I, as a relative newcomer to the neighborhood, am probably considered by the Old Guard to be gentry. (pause on my part for belly shaking laughter). The criteria for this assessment? That I’m new, that I’m white, and that I bought here after the era of stunning affordability that a neighborhood this beautiful, historic, diverse, and in such close proximity to downtown provided. Although my house was a good deal, it was no longer a steal.

Steal. Gentry. Gentry steals. They steal history, they steal community, they steal property and and increase property values forcing the folks whose families lived through disinvestment, neglect, arson, and urban blight to move away. This is the fear – some of it based in the reality of dislocation experienced by people when the South End was gentrified.

I am not gentry. I’m proud of my blue collar roots although I’d like to rise above the tedious restraints of its income levels. And I tend to be ultra sensitive to the fears of the Old Guard. Maybe too sensitive.
At one recent meeting, the usually quiet Lexus in the room revved its engine. An Old Guard member insinuated the G-word when she argued that “In the 24 years I’ve lived here…”

A New Guard retort from a very active community member brought her up short. “Does my opinion count less cause I’ve only been here two years?”
Old Guard, New Guard, black, white, rich, poor – there’s really only one Guard: a combined community effort to guard the humanity of the people in the neighborhood with respect for both the wisdom of the people who have been here a long time as well as the energy and insights brought by newcomers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Scoop Your Poop: It's the Law!

Turns out it is a City Ordinance for pet owners to clean up after Fido and Felix - well, Fido, anyway.

From the Animal Control page of Boston's website:

The City of Boston's dog fouling ordinance, section 16-1.10a of the city code, requires dog owners to remove and properly dispose of any feces left by their dogs. This ordinance covers waste left by your dog on sidewalks, streets and parks, and on your neighbor's yards.

When walking your dog, the law necessitates you to be prepared for such occurrences and be equipped with a bag or some other means of feces removal. After it is removed, it is important to dispose of the feces properly, either in a toilet or in a trash container (after being secured in a plastic bag).

These laws are intended to protect the public from potential hazardous health conditions, and prevent environmental pollution caused by dog waste.

A call about feral cats yielded nothing helpful.

Cats and Dogs

From the 'hood email thread:

"First and Final Warning


There are three young men who have been walking a medium size Black German Shepard dog in the early evening on Fort Avenue and Highland Street . One of the young men wears a parka coat, the second had on a white sweat shirt with a baseball ca p, and the third had on a short dark winter jacket. The young man wearing the parka is the one leading the dog and encouraging the dog to do his business in the yards on Fort Avenue . Two homes have already suffered from this prank on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

The behavior has been observed.

This is the first and final warning: please stop your dog from doing his/her business on other people’s property. Thank You!"

From me:

Not sure but I thought it was a city ordinance that dog owners were required to scoop their dog's poop? It's not to be left on the street, curb, or sidewalk either. Or is this just an other of my outlandish dreams of civic activity, responsibility, and harmony?

I'm going to guess that the young men in question aren't on this email list so this particular "first and final warning" may not be very effective.

I've been thinking about a "scoop your dog's poop" sign for the offenders on Juniper and Rockledge. Poop scoopin', or not scoopin' the poop, is not just a problem on Highland Street or Fort Ave.

And since you got me started, what about the people who feed but in no other way care for cats? We've got two veritable feral cat colonies on Thornton and Juniper Terrace. The poor things just keep breeding and breeding and they get NO medical attention. It's unfair to the animals and it's an unpleasant burden to the neighbors who have to deal with pounds of stinky, disgusting cat poop in their beloved gardens.

Peace out.