The neighborhood I grew up in appears desolate and broken. Ten miles from where I live, its at least ten years since I’ve driven down those streets.
I made the long trip back recently for a very specific reason. To participate in a protest for Tamir Rice, the 12-year old boy shot by police outside of Cudell Recreation Center on Cleveland’s westside.
The rec center next to my elementary school, two blocks from my childhood home. The rec center where my friends and I spent countless summers swimming, playing tennis and goofing around by the clock tower.
The protest was attended by people who had traveled by bus from Ferguson, Missouri to stand in solidarity with the Cleveland protestors. I thought if they could ride a bus all night I could at least drive 25 minutes across town.
It was a hard thing to witness in a place so familiar that now no longer belongs to me.
Afterward, on the way home, I drove past my mother’s house, and was struck by how very tiny it was. (Eight people in 900 sq. feet & one bathroom – no kidding.) I was unprepared for the unrelenting poverty.
Used to be lots of homes like my moms with overly groomed miniscule yards, flower beds and American flags flying. Now there is very little evidence of that kind of effort.
Looking the past in the face makes me pay attention to what I’m doing in the present to make a better future. How am I acting in my daily life, what am I contributing in my community, what is in my head and coming out my mouth that reduces racial injustice? Some days probably not so much.
Tomorrow I am participating in a facilitator training for the YWCA “It’s Time To Talk: Forums on Race” series. If they choose to use me as a facilitator I can help myself and other people have safe, meaningful discussions about race. Even if they choose not to use me I call spending six hours in social justice training “checking my head” a good day.
How do you check your head?