The Washington Park Neighborhood
Recollections of Washington Park by Ever Clinton. Participant. 2016 BLC field school
Now, this neighborhood was not that different from the neighborhoods I grew up in. We still lived in the ghetto; loud music oozed from speakers, busted up houses rotted in the distance and random stray cats owned the turf, but the ambiance and community relationship was completely foreign. I used to play with every child in almost every neighborhood we lived in. Even though parents were busy, they knew every child and his or her parents by name and house. When the power went out on the block, we offered candles to those who didn't have a light until the city came to fix the issue. Love, respect, and trust circulated; this feeling wasn't present in the Washington Park Area. Neighbors didn't speak to each other and I didn't know them. I realized we lived around a much older crowd. If someone was in our back yard, the older couple across the street alarmed us. Maybe the difference was the fact that there were only a few children, but it could also have been that my nieces and nephews and I were growing up and becoming more aware of our surroundings.
In the ghetto, seeing boarded up houses was usual, but you would have to know what foreclosure and evictions looked like in order to spot them in the Washington Park Area. Though I've never seen it on my block, bordering neighborhoods showed plenty of signs. Sometimes you'd see items pushed out to the curb; not the "I'm throwing these away" items. But furniture, pictures, and lives.
There were three important spaces in my life –– my house, Washington Park, and the Washington Park Library. My house was important because it sheltered my family. I never grew attached to a single physical space because we moved frequently, but I always attached myself to how I felt within those spaces. My house held my home and my family. Washington Park was important because my family and I always went there to play. Yes, we were already adults and young adults, but we knew how to have fun, especially with our younger nieces and nephews. There were swings and slides, basketball courts and bike paths, the Annual 4th of July celebration and the community pool. We could also feed ducks while community members fished or canoed. Washington Park Library was important to me because that's where I went to do my homework. I was not able to do it at home where it was too loud and hard to focus. I'd stay at the library all day during weekends because my honors classes at Messmer Catholic High School, work, volunteering, sports, and other extracurricular activities demanded a lot of time and dedication.
The Washington Park Area has potential to be a sustainable community. A sustainable community is where residents can live, work, play, and learn. Homes are cared for by the homeowner or renter. There are local jobs to support high property taxes that go back to the community in the form of resources, such as up-to-date health clinics, entertainment, and shopping. Children are be able to go to nearby parks that are not too far from their homes. Unfortunately, the walk to the park is still dangerous in this neighborhood. In a sustainable community, there are libraries around so that people have access to knowledge on who they are and what they can accomplish. Learning is something I enjoy doing; I am always the student.