September 1, 2012
A stillness is here, a reverence. The older woman next door smiles and waves. We’ve become friends, us two, meeting here on bright afternoons, she on her porch, me on mine, both of us staring at our own horizon. People have asked me: What is it like to live there? But what they really mean is, how violent is it? They think this neighborhood is a war zone. But mornings here begin the same way they do in the Back Bay or Southie, with mundane routines that mark daily living. Mothers, with children in tow, rise early to head to work or camp. The dog walkers and their canines make loops around Ronan Park. The early risers line up for grits and eggs at Ashley’s diner. Sundays begin in church. Here, hope and despair exist on the same street. People don’t leave, partly because they love it here, even some who must pass the spot where a loved one has fallen. Families feel disempowered each time someone is killed and nothing gets done about it. They wonder, “What is the use?” Above all, this is a neighborhood full of pride. I’ve met 40-year residents who leave their doors unlocked, whose children live nearby. And there’s history here too. On Barry Street lives the man who was the first masquerade band leader in the Caribbean Carnival. Often, the people who live here learn about shootings the same way everyone else does, on the evening news. They feel safe here. They fit here. They belong. This is and forever will be home.