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Fighting for Freedom in Our Community

Recently, I attended a rally calling an end to the resurgence of violence in the Pasadena/ Altadena communities. As I listened to council members, clergy, community activist, and mothers of sons who were killed senselessly by gang violence, I realized how desensitized I had become to an ever so continuing problem in inner cities across America. I’m not a native of California, but I am from a city (New Orleans) that is no stranger to being the “Murder Capitol” of the U.S. Even though I’ve only been a member of the Pasadena/ Altadena community for 5 years, I’m truly astounded when I hear about the crimes and gang violence that occurs in a city so affl uent and beautiful. Beauty means nothing. I’ve been to Iraq and it has beautiful Palm trees. But we all know about the terror and war that has stricken that country.

The bigger problem I want to address in this writing is “Freedom.”

Growing up I heard about the days when people left the back door open and kids played in the streets. And I also know those days are just as extinct as dinosaurs. And that’s my biggest problem.

One evening, as I was volunteering at my church’s vacation Bible school, I was asked by one of the teachers to take the elementary to junior high aged kids on a walk in the neighborhood to observe what they saw in their community. And as we walked not even a quarter of a mile I said to the kids ‘lets go down this street it will take us right back to the church’. One of the junior high kids responded, “We can’t go down that street”. I asked what she meant. She proceeded to tell me that we were on a certain gang turf and that it wasn’t safe. I quickly fl ashed back to a time when I was a teenager in the 90’s on my way to visit my sister. I was walking and was planning on taking a shortcut through this little suburb neighborhood located in Gretna, La. I was approached by a police offi cer with a K9 in the back of his car that was barking intensely. The offi cer asked me where I was going and I told him I was going to the adjacent neighborhood. He replied “you can’t walk through here- you have to go around.” Now being a native of what I often call the “Racist South” this was a minor incident. However, in my home city, where I was born and raised, I was not free to travel. I was confi ned and restricted by unspoken rules and expectations. I fi nd that here in Pasadena, things are the same.

No one in a million years would have expected that in 2009 one would be unable to travel where he or she wanted in America. But it’s true. Our kids are not safe to do and enjoy half the things they should be able to enjoy, whether it’s being safe at school or walking home from a football game. And maybe I should take the time to promote fear like the same fear that would motivate a country to wage war on terror. Should we wage war on terror on the streets in our community? I’m sure it would be a fraction of the cost. We need to stand up against violence with love, opportunity and respect. There are more guns or gangs on our streets than opportunity and something must be done. There are more drop outs than graduates in our schools and something must be done. We need more mentors to fi ll in the gaps in all the single parent homes. And this may sound like a daunting task, but let me remind you, so was the abolishment of slavery and the civil rights movement. We successfully managed those issues and we can tame our streets if we recognize the problem for what it is and respond accordingly.

Harlan Redmond
[via email]


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