Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Welcome to Harlem

So I was going to look at an apartment in Harlem and when I got a block away, suddently cop cars were everywhere, sirens blaring - un undercover taxi police car had it's light blazing in the windshield and screeched around a corner going the wrong way down a one way street to get to the scene faster - and two guys on the corner go, "Man, that was fast, there was a shooting like just two minutes ago and half the precinct is here already!" Then ambulances, and I get on my cell phone to call the apartment I'm going to to see if they think I can still walk down the block, then an ambulance pulls right up to me, "Hey, did you call 911"?..."no"..."okay someone on this corner did"...then they told me someone had been shot...on the street I was going to.

So, I went and saw the apartment and took it. Welcome to the new neighborhood!

Here's the funny thing...this is so stereotypical of what people would expect of Harlem, yet most New Yorkers reading this post would be surprised, because this doesn't happen as much as it used to. New York is still the safest large city in America...but of all the city, this is still an area where there is crime because the people here are poor and don't have hope for a better life.

In a way a white guy moving here so he can learn more about racial reconciliation and practice social justice by simply living amongst the oppressed and listening is a bit of a paradox, because at the same time there is a lot of resentment about gentrification - all the white people moving into the neighborhood because the rent is cheap - and displacing families in the process. So it's not like I'm going to be greeted with joy by the neighbors...the tension between the races divided is hard to relax, it comes from both sides and is complicated by many confusions and mixed messages and inabilities to see and hear the other. I'm going to live here and work with a local church plant here (non-white leadership and almost totally non-white members) just trying to learn and listen. Maybe some listening will help to better hear and see the other.

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