Jordan Livability Forum – 5/21/09

On Thursday evening, May 21, JACC held the first community forum in a long time (two years?) at St. Anne’s Residence at 26th and Queen.  Vladimir Monroe led the meeting.  The attendance was not huge, but it was a good start.  Attendees included board members Vlad, Anne McCandless, Dave Haddy, Tyrone Jaramillo, Robert Hodson and Keith Reitman.  There were 12-15 residents who also attended.

A round of introductions was done, and then committee members were invited to give brief reports.  Robert Hodson gave a brief statement about the financial status of the organization.

The discussion then turned to what community members wanted to hear or say.  One woman (Catherine? Katherine? Kathleen?) talked about problems in the vicinity of 30th and Thomas, citing guns, gangs and large groups of youth that were frightening the residents.  She asked what could be done.  There were a number of suggestions (call 9-1-1, come to the Public Safety Committee meetings, call Jennifer Waisenan, Jordan’s CCP/SAFE coordinator at the 4th Precinct).  Then Tyronne spoke to her, asking her which house the troublemakers lived at to see if this group was the one he was familiar with.  It was.  He told her of what he had done to try to resolve the problem, including talking with them, callng the police, etc.  There was a discussion about the difficulty of closing down the properties where crime is occurring and whether it could be done if the problem was from a property owned by the troublemakers.  It seems pretty straightforward when it is tenants causing the problem but less clear when it is the homeowners.  Anne McCandless said it could be done but was a little more complicated.  Tyronne spoke again about what was going on and what might be done.  At this point, a resident of St. Anne’s named Bertha interrupted Tyronne and began to chastise the group for talking about putting people out of their homes.  She has been a resident of Jordan for 50+ years and is/was a teacher.  When someone else attempted to speak, she said that unless they had been in the neighborhood as long as she, no one had a right to speak on this issue.  She proceeded to elaborate on the problems, called the people in the room racists, and said alternative solutions could be found.  When Tyronne attempted to speak to her, she told him not to interrupt her, claiming she had not interrupted him.  He responded that she had interrupted him.  She denied this several times until the rest of the attendees told her that she had indeed interrupted him and repeated this message until she heard them.  Vlad allowed her to continue.  She again spoke about troubled times and troubled people and that other solutions could be used.  When she concluded, Tyrone, reacting to her accusation of racism, noted that he had not once mentioned the race of the troublemakers.  He said that he had tried to work with the youth involved, offering them jobs and basically attempting to guide them away from their criminal activities.  It had not succeeded.  When Bertha appeared not to hear what Tyronne said and began again to repeat her earlier comments, Tyronne left the meeting.  A number of the attendees nearly walked out with him.  It was a sad situation.

Vlad suggested that Bertha attend future meetings and the Public Safety Committee and make her suggested solutions known to JACC.  The rest of the meeting went quietly and mostly focused on how often future meetings should be held (monthly seemed to be preferred), and how to notify residents about the meetings.  There were discussions about reviving the barbecues that were done in the summer of 2005.  The next meeting was set for the third Thursday of  July (the 16th) at 6:30 p.m. probably at St. Anne’s.  The meeting adjourned.

Here, I would like to expand a bit on my reactions to what happened in the Catherine-Tyronne-Bertha exchange.  What follows is my opinion based on my experience and my education and training as a counselor/therapist.

I have lived in Jordan for 7 years now (same as Tyronne).  One of the major problems I see was acted out in this meeting. I have seen it many times over the past seven years.  There is a problem with crime in our neighborhood.  There seems to be agreement with that statement.  Youth and gangs and guns and drugs:  It’s all tangled up.  There are many, many good kids, but there are also a lot of kids heading down the wrong path.  When this is discussed, the conversation soon moves to accusations of racism, where white residents are somehow wrong to do whatever they are doing to deal with how the problems affect them.  It’s wrong to call the police.  It’s wrong to label the offenders as criminals.  It’s wrong not to understand the reasons behind the problems and have compassion.  It’s even wrong, sometimes, to mention that there is a problem.

I cannot count the number of times that I have listened to older black women tell me of how things used to be:  Families worked together on a block to see that the children behaved themselves.  One woman told me just after her son was murdered about how her children all grew up knowing that if they did something wrong, they had better tell her before the neighbors did because they would be in more trouble at home if she learned of their misbehavior from a neighbor.  My own upbringing was similar.  My father made it clear that if any of the neighbors told him I had behaved badly, I “wouldn’t sit down for a week!”  There was a time when adults listened to what other adults reported about their children, believed what they were told and took appropriate action with their children.  This is no longer true.

I have been screamed at by an irate parent for daring to tell them their child misbehaved.  Some of you may remember the news story a few years ago when a mother or day care provider asked a 7-year-old boy to be careful and not ride his bicycle so close to two toddlers on the sidewalk. A few hours later, family members of the 7-year-old boy arrived at her house and beat her severely.  This is crazy.  Think about the message this gives to a child:  he or she can do anything they please away from home, and no one can do anything about it.  Their parent will defend them.  This leads to children who have no respect for outside authority, which includes neighbors, teachers, police, bosses.  And this leads to children who get in trouble over and over again because there are no consequences until it is too late, when they finally step over a line that brings hard punishment.  I’ve heard cops talk about how surprised these kids seem to be when they actually go to jail.  They didn’t expect it because there were no consequences before for their bad behavior in society.  These same kids may get severe punishment at home for disobeying their parents, but that does not connect in their minds with their behavior away from home.  Their parents defended them and thereby indicated to the kids that their behavior away from home was okay with the parent!  The sad thing is the damage this does to a child’s self-esteem.  Self-esteem is built by children meeting high expectations set for them by parents and society.  When they are expected to behave respectfully and live up to that, they grow in confidence and self-esteem, because they have found the key to being successful in life.

How do we bring back “the good old days” in Jordan?  How do we get adults to work with each other to help the youth?  The first step has to be to commit to listening to each other, to eliminating the thoughts of racism, to seeing the other adult as just another adult/parent who is trying to do the right thing for our kids.  Children need limits, both at home and out in society.  They must understand that misbehavior won’t be tolerated.  Parents have to take responsibility for their kids’ actions and act accordingly.  We have to see another’s complaint about our children not as a hostile attack but as an attempt to help guide our kids by letting us know they’ve been acting out.  We need to let our children know that they are expected to act respectfully both at home and away from home.  There are standards of behavior that are universal in a civil society.  We all benefit by helping children know what these standards are and then expecting them to live up to them, but the children themselves benefit most of all.

We have to respect each other in order for our children to grow up respecting others and respecting themselves.  This kind of respect was missing for part of the Jordan meeting Thursday night, and it was a sad thing to see.

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5 Responses

  1. Denny W is right – behavior. When the accusations of racism arise we need to firmly state – it’s not about race – it’s about BEHAVIOR – behavior is not a protected class.

    Wouldn’t we be MORE racist is society took the position that a minority race should be permitted and accepted to live a lifestyle of LESS THAN CIVIL AND DECENT behavior?? Like, “oh, it’s acceptable to rob, shoot, steal, swindle, threaten, act disorderly, because they are X-race, that’s just how they are”

    No, sir. We are all humans. We all have the ability of finding human compassion and civility and good citizenship. We must raise the bar and the expectations of all people to live in a world of civility. Everyone deserves it.

    • Let’s explore this further. We do not excuse anyone from being civil, whether they are children, adults, elderly, the same race or a different one, different sexual orientation. Our challenge is to love one another, even though we may abhor someone’s behavior. So if you loved a dear friend and saw that person acting out, what would you do? Do that with everyone and with as much love and compassion as you can.

      I still like the old suggestion of using this format: “When you say/do xxxxxxxx, I feel yyyyyyyyy.” It’s about each of us taking responsibility for our own feelings and not blaming the other person. It’s the blame that gets us in trouble. If I say, “When you say that, it makes me angry” or “When you do that, I feel you are xxxxxxx,” we are not taking responsibility for our own feelings. Our feelings are based on our beliefs. So we may each react differently to the same act or statement. What I like about dealing with it in this way is that it opens the door to dialogue. If I say something, and the other person says, “When you said that, I felt hurt,” it sparks my curiosity, and I might respond in this way, “I didn’t intend to hurt you. Tell me more about why that hurt.” When we dialogue, we heal and we go deeper in relationships.

  2. Dottie is right . This is a HUGE obstacle for residents of Jordan to overcome, if they have any hopes of making meaningful improvement to the livability in Jordan.

    I believe a “key” issue is that when the trump card – racism is played and unquantifiable statements about “alternative solutions” should be found is uttered, that these things need to be diffused in an unemotional manner.

    There aren’t any alternative solutions. We all know that. It is not the responsibility of the vested homeowners to raise their neighbors’ children, especially when their neighbors are not inclined to participate in a productive manner. For anyone to think otherwise, is an erroneous miscalculation of the actual responsibilities someone has when deciding to live in a neighborhood.

    In this case, those involved discussed ALL of the tools available to them to attempt to bering about a meaningfull improvement in the quality of life for the poor woman that exercised a reasonable issue.

    It truly is a matter of getting priorities straight and an individual living in Jordan SHOULD be able to reasonably expect that they are not burdened with neighbors that have no intention of being a prodctive, contributing member of the neighborhood they live-in.

    Requiring that a neighborhood association first and foremost task themselves with attempting to “cure” all racial inequalitie, prior to being able to reasonably expect that their neighborhood provides them with the basics-safety and livability, is indeed faulty thinking. You shouldn’t need to make excuses for that….

    • Dennis,
      I agree with you that is not the neighbors’ responsibility to raise the children of their neighbors, and yet each of us can do a lot of good when we take the time to help set a child straight. The problem comes when parents don’t believe in anyone else ever chastising their child for misbehavior. Here’s an example that I experienced (a good one!).

      As many of you know, when there were lots of kids on my block, I had up to 12 kids at a time over to make cookies to take home. There were two young boys who didn’t get along. I’ll call them Juan and Mark. They didn’t go to the same school although they were the same age and lived on the same block (I believe this is part of the problem–no sense of “community” when kids don’t get schooled together). On this particular day, they got into a fight, and I asked them both to leave. While Juan was sitting on the floor putting on his shoes, Mark opened the back door to leave and then slammed it all the way open hard in an attempt to hit Juan with the door. It missed Juan, thank goodness, but it pushed the door handle right through the wood of the door it crashed into. I now had a hole in my door, the first damage to my rehabbed house since I’d moved in. I told Mark to leave, and Juan also left. Mark’s sister remained with the group, and I asked her to tell her brother later that I would allow him to make cookies in the future once he apologized. She went to find him, and he came back and apologized. My intent had not been to let him back immediately, so I told him that I accepted the apology, but I needed a little space and he could make cookies next time. He few into a rage, told me he hated me and left. I told his sister the same thing again, that when he apologized, he could come back.

      Later that day, Mark came back, apologized, and we had a long talk. I basically told him this: Part of growing into a man is accepting that other people get angry when you do something that hurts them or their property. The proper way to behave is to apologize and to listen to their anger and hurt and accept it as something you are responsible for. I told Mark that he had a problem with his temper and I was willing to help him with that if he liked. Our conversation ended with a hug, and Mark went home.

      The amazing thing to me was that Mark showed up at my house every day for the next two weeks just to talk and hang out. I think he needed to hear (1) that his behavior was not acceptable but he was, and (2) that someone cared enough to forgive him and help him.

      Mark became a star cookie baker, taking charge whenever new kids showed up, teaching them how to measure different ingredients and teaching them the rules for participating in my house.

      I haven’t seen Mark for a few years, but his sister stopped by recently, and I understand he is turning out to be a fine young man.

      This is the kind of neighborhood involvement I want to see. If we can be loving and understanding and, at the same time, firm in our expectations for kids, they almost always respond positively.

  3. Its all about behavior and respect for others.

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