Yesterday was different.
Usually, I am not walking around Hazelwood with a large group of representatives of institutions and organizations. Typically, I am walking to and from the library by myself or with neighborhood friends on our way or returning from an event. Yesterday was a three hour journey on foot to various sites with people from numerous organizations who have been granted the work of constructing a collaborative program. During this site investigation session neighbors inquired about what we were doing. It's not atypical for groups of people to be walking around so residents know something is in the works and inquire.
The first inquiry came from a library patron. I see her regularly and have had a casual conversation with her before. She asked what was up. Then let it be known that she didn't care if it involved a million dollar grant and she didn't care too much about what was going to take place but she did want to pass on advice. Her advice: "to not fuck it up." Fair enough. This is sage wisdom for all endeavors.
About midway through the walk a group of residents hanging out on their porch asked who we were and what we were doing. After giving them a very brief rundown of the project and showing them the map, which I had been using as a makeshift bandaid, one of the men said, "We're disenfranchised." He repeated this several times and I could only think it was a comment on our group. A sarcastic critique of who we represented and our approach.
The last interchange was at the playground adjacent, but fenced off from the new spray park at Burgwin. A man came up to me and introduced himself. We spoke for a bit. He told me about his family connections and offered up insight for our timeline: "Wait for the first shooting to take place," before you do anything here. He told me his given name again and his "nickname" and walked off. The provocative nature of his message and the others seemed pretty clear to me and like many interactions left me questioning my role.
Is it possible to be part of this gaggle of institutions and represent or bring in another viewpoint?