Updated: Jun 26, 2022
Who is She?
That girl, the Baxter neighborhood
The Baxter neighborhood is that girl. But who is "that girl"? Well, it depends on who you ask. To some, she is that girl that one pretends doesn't exist and to avoid like the plague. To others, she is that girl who needs saving because she doesn't have what it takes to save herself. And to others still, she is just that girl. The girl whose streets one lives in as one's life plays out.
She, is what is Good
Understanding the context, Grand Rapids
Multicultural, linguistically and economically diverse.
A creative, tech hub, of young professionals
Full of interesting people
For me, she is that girl that I have enjoyed getting to know. To understand the Baxter neighborhood, you have to examine her in the context of the city of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids is a multicultural, linguistically, and economically diverse city. Full of artists. Full of leaders. Full of interesting people to get to know from every walk of life. A beautiful city with a growing number of young adults between the ages of 24 to 34 and tech start-ups. A city that has ranked on the U.S News and World Report as one of the best places to live.
She, is What is Bad
One of the worst cities economically for African-Americans
In a startling juxtaposition, Grand Rapids also made it on another list for being one of the worst cities economically for African Americans. To gain an understanding of how this could happen and why? One only needs to take a peek under the cultural fabric that shapes what is West Michigan.
She, is the Ugly Truth
Economic inequality be perpetuated through institutionalized racism
Historical lack of investment in the ward with the highest concentration of Black residents.
That would require zooming back into the Baxter neighborhood. Located in the 3rd ward. There you will see a ward that is predominantly Black and has historically been left out of city efforts, and funding to improve community economics.
What is the solution?
Get to know her
Give her a supportive network
Provide her with opportunities
Let her be who she is
Depending on who you ask, you will get different answers about who she is. But to really get to know who she is, you will have to sit down, grab a cup of tea, and talk to her. It doesn't matter what about. A value proposition is often found in mundane conversation and the discovery of mutual interest. So, she is different from you. You are different from her, and yet here you are in her streets. Listen to the stories in the streets and share your own. It is not a competition or a pity party, it's just a conversation. Don't be afraid, and give a damn.
So, that's what I did. I hit the streets of the Baxter neighborhood community and here is what I found.
Her community stakeholders are:
Current (recent and long-time) neighborhood residents
Former neighborhood residents, still active and involved in the neighborhood.
The stakeholders of the Baxter neighborhood have varying levels of investment in the community. Their investments are expressed in different ways. Many of the current residents demonstrate their investments through property upkeep and respecting their neighbors. These residents have a high investment in the community. However, some residents have expressed a lack of investment in the neighborhood due to it being considered "the hood". These neighbors tend to not try to improve the conditions of the neighborhood and may contribute to the "hoodification". Many of the neighborhood leaders are associated with organizations connected to the neighborhood through community services. They are often former residents of the area that are still connected to the community through relationships built with current residents. These leaders have a high investment in the neighborhood. Business owners within the neighborhood boundaries may or may not consider themselves to be associated with the Baxter neighborhood and thus have a low investment. However, many expressed interest in becoming more involved with the community.
Her Community issues are:
Gentrification/need for affordable housing
A disconnect between Business owners and neighborhood residents
Lack of social capital and funds
Black residents and former residents of the community are expressing a fear of gentrification. Gentrification meaning a hostile takeover that impacts the cultural, and economic well-being of the long-time area residents who have historically been predominantly Black. The difference between a hostile takeover and integration is the relationships you build. Affordable housing was listed on the city's participatory budget as one of the most important issues to be addressed.
A disconnect between neighborhood businesses and residents can hinder community cash flow. This can serve to further exacerbate the social-economic inequity that neighborhood residents currently face and foster a lack of investment in the neighborhood and its properties.
Business owners within the community tend to possess the social capital, funds, and knowledge that increases opportunities for economic success. If business owners are not connected to the neighborhood, the neighborhood loses social capital, investment, and knowledge, three vital resources that contribute to the community's economic well-being.
Social and economic disparities have been found to play a key role in community crime. The answer to ending crime cannot be found out of the context in which the crime is happening. By closing the gap between social and economic disparities for neighborhood residents, the community will see crime decrease.
Can a Community Oriented Business Association Stop Gentrification and Curb Crime?
There is only one way to find out. The value proposition of forming a Baxter Business association could be found in providing access to social capital, funds, knowledge, and building relationships between culturally and linguistically diverse community members.
Ready for the education revolution.
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