Concerned residents of OTR have become outraged after discovering that four to six hundred thousand dollar condos will be replacing the basketball courts and community gardens in their area. As a result, On May 5th residents met at the Peaslee Neighborhood Center to discuss the Keep Our Courts Campaign.
The developer, North Pointe, about a year ago proposed the idea of building Rothenberg Row, 21 single family homes, across the street from Rosenberg Preparatory Academy. North Pointe plans to develop homes on the 76,000 sq. feet of land there. If the condos are built, residents are concerned that the youth in the community won’t have a place to go.
Alicia Ferguson, a dedicated volunteer in OTR, an educator, and community mentor, is one of the residents who are outraged about the proposed project. She is very passionate about the campaign because of the generational tie. Not only did she grow up in OTR but her grandparents, parents, and children grew up there. She refers to the courts and community garden as a place of solitude for the youth.
“It’s just a place for peace for the kids. When they come home from school it’s one of the places that they know that they can go to get away from what happened that day,” says Ferguson.
She believes that the only way that the OTR community can stop gentrification is by voicing their opinions. She claims that this systematic oppression continues to happen because people remain silent.
“If we keep sitting down in the background, the world will get smaller and smaller and smaller for our kids, she said.
The Peaslee Neighboorhood Center has been a great advocate for providing affordable housing in OTR, and bringing the community together. Music programs, pre-service teacher programs, and caregiver programs, are just a few of the services that they offer. Peaslee also spends a lot of time with the youth to make sure that their voice is heard as well.
One of Peaslee’s youth programs, Agents of Change, recently created their “We Can Go There” video which emphasized the importance of space in OTR for children to gather and socialize. One of their most phenomenal and empowering moments is when the children had attended one of the OTR’s Community Council Meetings. During this particular meeting, students silently bounced basketballs outside to illustrate the importance of keeping their basketball courts.
Jennifer Summers, the executive director at Peaslee, has been working in the OTR community since the 90s by providing public housing and educating children in public schools.
Since becoming the director in 2014, she has seen a lot of positive transformation in OTR. One of the biggest public housing developments that she has watched grow has been in East Clifton.
She believes that if it weren’t for the help of some of the OTR organizations, there wouldn’t have been much progress.
“I consider that a huge testament that places like Peeslee, The Homeless Coalition, OTR Public Housing, and the Contacts Centers are here doing the work all of the time. People’s spirits continue because there is not an option to stop,” said Summers.
Summers believes that the youth are a big component to changing the systematic oppression in the city. She claims that what children say, do, and think matters because they are capable of making a positive change in the world.
“We’re all getting older by the minute and young people need to know that what they do matters in a positive way so that they stay engaged in positive ways in our society,” says Summers.
According to Summers it is the responsibility of the elders in the community to empower the children and give them the confidence so their voices will be heard. She believes that we need to invest the same amount of time that we do into the buildings into the youth of the community.
Peaslee is currently working on the Letter Writing Campaign which allows the community to write letters to the economic development about their concerns that they have with the proposed condo idea. Summer hopes that this campaign will make people of the community feel powerful.
On May 19th The Cathedral Outreach Committee will have hosted another forum about Reducing Poverty in OTR at the Christ Church Cathedral on 318 East Fourth Street. Look for the next issue of Streetvibes to read about the event if you weren’t able to attend.