May 11, 2018 11:18:55 AM
When you speak to people who grew up in what is known as the Sandfield Community 40, 50 years ago, the portrait they paint of the historic black community on the city's south side stands in stark contrast to what it has become in recent years.
Today, it is largely neglected, a poor neighborhood with a largely transient population where many residents live in apartments and seem to have little or no connection to the neighborhood's past.
Given that, those who are not familiar with Sandfield's historic roots - it was the largest black neighborhood in the city during the days of segregation - are surprised to hear those who grew up in the neighborhood years ago speak of the community with pride and affection.
In its hey-day, Sandfield was a proud rebuke of a segregated city. Black families lived in homes they bought, shopped at businesses they owned and operated and developed a sense of community that has declined over the years.
Last week, a group of 24 dilapidated row houses that served as a painful reminder of Sandfield's decline, were burned, which in itself may be rich in symbolism.
The burning of the houses on the south side of College Street across from Sandfield Cemetery is the first step in what developer Jabari Edwards hopes will be a new start for the neighborhood he grew up in. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of those old row houses, Edwards plans to build single-family homes on the site as the first step in a Sandfield renaissance.
Much along the lines of what Lincoln called "the mystic chords of memory," Edwards envisions a community as it was in his childhood, a place were families can thrive. The homes are the first step in what figures to be a long journey.
In his vision, Edwards sees a community of home-owners whose presence will encourage shops and restaurants, parks and businesses to again locate in Sandfield.
It is often said that the best communities, the safest and happiest communities, have a sense of shared identity, which creates a dynamic where poverty, crime and hopelessness find no safe space.
As it is with many great ideas, the success of the venture lies in the execution.
We are hopeful that Edwards' vision is embraced by others and that it will be a shared community effort, as it almost certainly will have to be.
The task ahead is daunting and there are no assurances.
But for the first time in a long time, the once-proud Sandfield community has something it hasn't seen in quite some time: Hope.
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