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My Hood

Updated on May 27, 2013

The Days before Yesterday

In my hood everything was good, back in the day. Remember walking to school, picking up your friends as you passed their street, turned each corner and finally made your way to the place you’d spend most of your time. And of course if you wanted, home was close enough that you could run there and back for lunch. When the last bell rang, you raced out of the door doing everything in reverse, leaving the place that was your refuge…your play date before play dates were cool, your opportunity for socializing, dreaming and most importantly learning.
We possessed our neighborhoods, walking here and there across major thoroughfares, riding bikes to explore the unknown and make it our own or just sitting on the front porch trading lies that sounded like truth. Without trepidation, we took it all in because our hoods were a safe place. We were protected by neighbors, by other families who knew and watched over us...told on us if need be.

Remember the corner store where your mom would send you to pick up items needed for dinner or where you just stopped to buy penny candy, necklaces made of candy, paydays, big hunks, wine drops, whatever your pleasure. Credit was extended to those who were trying to make ends meet, because poverty wasn’t romantic. And for most, being poor, the romance was reality, even though we didn't understand what being poor meant because parents provided for us rich experiences. On the same corner, there was a streetlight where the guys gathered (if they were old enough, otherwise they were inside waiting til they were old enough) to laugh, tell jokes and play the dozens. They were the protectors, keeping other guys from other places out and advising them to stay away from the neighborhood girls or else. What happened to those good times?
There was love, real love so strong you could get found in it. And even though tongue and teeth fall out, there was a bond of goodwill that is lacking today. Remember looking out for each other, borrowing a cup of sugar, a couple eggs, whatever you needed. It was no big deal, because at any given time, the favor would be reciprocated. You watched T.V. in your neighbor’s home, ate red beans and rice…grits, gravy, sausage and biscuits, did homework, talked on the phone til late..placed prank calls, played in the streets, allowing the cars to pass as they came and went, then you got right back to it,,,having fun. Staying out until the street lights came on.
And what of the church, it was the cornerstone of the neighborhood, serving as a place of worship as well as a place for organizing, strategizing and making and keeping the neighborhood whole. The Pastor was the over shepard, knowing each family intimately and ministering to their needs accordingly. There was business meeting on Monday, choir rehearsal on Tuesday, Wednesday night - bible study, Thursday-Friday-Saturday open for church activities and Sunday well you know all day Sunday you stayed in church for Sunday School, 11:00 o'clock service, afternoon, evening and night service.

Remember Church Teas? Women gathered on Sunday afternoon, bringing home baked goods to share and to eat while solving the community's problems . In addition, teas were used as opprtunities to address womens issues and to provide etiquette lessons for young women, readying them for adult life and to one day take care of families of their own.

In bad times, we bore one another’s burdens, like the good book says following Christ’s teachings. It took a village to raise a child and the same village kept the neighborhood strong and in tact. There was life and all the living and in death, there was giving. Death darkened everyone’s door, but no one went through it alone. Neighbors came and sat with you, reminisced, grieved, wept and helped you to feel better. They brought food for days, their best dishes to share, to feed grievin souls and others who came to pay their respects. This was one way to show love and to say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Anyone could be next.
That was then, now the places and the considerations that made us a community are no more. Generations of tradition have been replaced with individual pursuits of satisfaction.

Where do we go from here...Is it possible to regain the kindness of old when today neighborhoods can be scary places. Children don't play in the streets, they walk in fear of what harm may lie in the next block. We hear of Hadiya Pendleton, Jonylah Watkins and Janay McFarlane, children who have needlessly lost their lives. Neighborhoods have become war zones. How do we get back to yesterday?


Here are my tributes to days gone by. Hope you enjoy them. “Kenwood” and “Different.”

Kenwood

My knees

Remind me

Time is marching on

Not caring about

Dreams and things

Of my yesterday

They are important to me only

This and every other instant

Continues persistent paths

To a sure end

Unfulfilled wishes do remain

In some form, and are a new norm

To mine the expectation

Of future generations

But not forget

The bridge that brought us over

I am taken back

To good times

Delectable dishes

Across fences at Christmas

An exchange of

Pound and German chocolate cake and sweet potato pie for

Homemade Tamales pork and beef

They were so good

A demonstration of similarities

Against apparent barriers of color

It was real life and real love

That made its way

From family to family

Surname to Surname

And door to door

We were more

Than the four familiar walls

Of seeming regard

That surrounded us

We were hope manifested

In varying hues

And varying encounters

In our community

I remember

Walks home from school

Down Main street

Left turn on Odell and across

The tracks

Caveats were sounded with courtesy

Expressed determination sternly

That we pursue realities

Of noble intent

They sang from the safety

Of front porches

Study hard in school

To thine own self be true

These were daily rules

That shaped our fate

And afforded us

A life of possibility

Across McCullough

Mothers and Fathers didn’t always agree but

They cared for and protected us all

From the dream stealers

These were my folks

They were better than good

Provided shelter for any and every one

When

And if they could

This is my story

My neighborhood

The story

Of Kenwood

Arrie Barnes Porter copyright January 2012


Different

Than when I knew

And loved my neighbors next door

And at the end of the block

You’d find a corner store

On my street

Where I’d buy penny candy

10 for a dime

Those were the times

When if I decided the cost

Was above my means

I’d hide deceit in the pocket

Of my jeans

And Jimmy, Leo or Sam

The China men

Would call my mother and tell on me

After whipping my butt

She’d march me

Back to the

IGA store

To settle my account

And apologize

We’re a proud people

She’d prophesize

We don’t steal, we pay our bills

Do you understand?

And I knew her caveat was as much for them as me

She stood proudly

On yesterday

But today

Things are

Different

Than when I found pleasure in

Youth’s attractive allure

When tomorrows

Were not promised

But I was sure my tomorrows

Held the promise of all

My mind could see

And I saw things differently

Than what America

Saw for me

In those days

When I walked in the morning

To the brown 1 story building

Where people who looked like me

Taught me history

And said

Never forget

What your ancestors

Sacrificed

Some gave their life

So you could be free

To dream...to achieve

This was my duty

When the bell rang

At the end of the day

I traveled home

Unafraid of what lay ahead

Because the community knew

And watched over me

Mothers and others called out to me from open windows

And front doors

As I made my way down Dora St.

To Odell, across the tracks

To safe places

On my way

They chastised me if I failed

To make the grade

That distinguished me and them

From the lies spoken about our abilities

They encouraged me when I did well

I wondered how in the hell they knew

But now understand, they had to

For this was the village that raised me

“I heard how you did in school today

Good for you

Better get on home now and tell your mother

I’ll call her on Saturday to go to the meeting for the Eastern Star”

Dirty ole men in cars

Who waited for an opportunity to prey on me

Never got it

They would not dare do anything but look

And never look too long

Because the village had a vested interest in protecting me

Keeping me safe

In me was their hope

For reconciliation

For equity

But today things are different

When the world watches as

Predators stalk the babies,

Rape the babies

But the world is not outraged

To action

It is numb

With the satisfaction of

Self Interest

And I’m no better for

I am concerned now for my baby

And the babies she will bear

For today, there is

Russia, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan

In addition to the America

That says it has changed

Though its name is the same

And the rage and

Home made violence

Of yesteryear, they say that

Was then

And I should not fear

But how can I believe what they say

When someone in a crowd screamed

Kill him today

And generations wept

At the prospect of no change

No justice, no gain, a constant refrain

The same old song

So if my daughter never hears this poem

She won’t know that I pray

All day long for her well being

Because of the ignorance

That I’m seeing still

Yet in spite of intolerance

And indifference

The future lives and

We shall not be moved

I too say

We are a proud people

Don’t be afraid

Keep your chin up

And trust in God

Yesterday life changed

And today things are

Different

Arrie Barnes Porter copyright November 2008 The Days before Yesterday


The Village

Neighborhood Church

Family History, A Pathway

Comments

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    • apoette profile imageAUTHOR

      Arrie B.Porter 

      5 years ago

      Hello Pamela, thanks so much for your comment. I'm currently working on a neighborhood revitalization project in the inner city. Health is a key component! The project got me thinking about what's missing today and helped me appreciate the community I grew up in even more.

      Thanks again, Arrie

    • Pamela-anne profile image

      Pamela-anne 

      5 years ago from Miller Lake

      What a wonderful hub sharing your story of the neighborhood you grew up in the poems where great as well. Thanks of taking me back to your neighborhood through your descriptive words. It's funny that I am writing a paper today for a university class on the topic of how neighbourhoods influence our Health. Take care and thanks for sharing! I am voting up!

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