Very Deliberate Where I Lived

“If all of us who received inspiration move, who’s going to inspire the next generation?”

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In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarification questions

  • What drives the mayor crazy?
  • Why does the mayor believe people move away?
  • What brought her back to Gary?
  • What did she mean by “I’ve been very deliberate in where I’ve lived in the city?”
  • What responsibility does the mayor think residents have to a city?
  • What does the mayor believe the cost is of committing to stay in “the inner city?”
  • Why does she “make a life” for herself in Gary? What does that mean to her?

Interpretation questions

  • What kinds of diversity matter to the mayor based on this story?
  • Does a community lose out when it’s not diverse? How?Do neighbors have an obligation to be role models for future generations?
  • How do you evaluate the mayor’s decision to stay? Would you make the same decision?

Implication question

  • When and why do you commit to a community? When do you decide to leave?

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Transcript for Very Deliberate Where I Lived

When you have a community that is not as diverse, then everyone loses, because you don’t have that experience with people who don’t look like you, and you believe that, you know, everything should be a certain way, and that’s ultimately what happened in Gary.

When there was massive white flight which was in the mid to late sixties, early seventies, there were many homes that were abandoned. And really more than that because they didn’t really abandon them—they sold them, but they sold them at a lower rate. And what happened was that there were a lot of folks who were able to purchase homes who could not maintain them. And so, that sort of led to the compromise of the housing stock in the city of Gary.

Green flight did not occur really until I was much older. But I did see that sometimes—and most recently, I had a neighbor down the street from where I lived—she moved to Schererville. She walked away from her house. Got a new mortgage in Schererville, and just walked away from her house. Locked the door. And the impact, and the thing that really kind of drives me crazy, is that, then, because it was a foreclosure, they have this fire sale and say that there’s a house on sale for fifteen thousand dollars which has a direct impact on me and my neighbors’ property values.

Let’s say I want to move to a different area in Gary, or let’s say one of my neighbors wants to retire and move to Florida, or one of our other neighbors. The sale of that distressed property—the sale of that foreclosed property—would serve as a comp, or a comparable for any other appraisal that was done of my house, of the neighbor’s house, of anybody’s house in that area. And so, as a result, it would push down our property values, even though our mortgages were paid up, even though we were doing everything we were supposed to do. And so, things like that really frustrate those of us who are taking care of our property, who are working hard every day, and who have made—really made a life for ourselves and our families in Gary.

The reason that I came back to Gary was that there were so many teachers both in school and Sunday School—so many members of the community who took the time to inspire me. And so, my theory is that if all of us who receive that inspiration move to other communities and decide, ‘Well, Gary is too this,’ or ‘Gary is too that,’ then who’s going to inspire the next generation?

In some instances, I understand why people move. They move because they can. But my position has always been—and I’ve been very deliberate in where I’ve lived in the city—that it was very important for all of us to live together so that children—our neighbors, and other neighbors—could see people who were professional, who were doing important things on their block. And they could have a sense, ‘I can be like them.’ That’s what I had. I lived next door to teachers. I knew that I could be a teacher. I lived across the street from a guy who worked in the post office. I knew that I could work in the post office. I lived next door—across the street from a nurse—from a general contractor. I knew I could all of those things, even though my parents were, you know, they worked and they didn’t necessarily have their own business, they weren’t lawyers or doctors, neither of them had completed college. But because of the neighbors that I lived around, I understood what I could do, and I had a clear sense that the sky was the limit.

You know, there is a clear cost associated with making a decision to live in the inner city with having to explain to your kid why certain things are happening in their community: why they are hearing gunshots, why they are apprehensive about going in at night. We were robbed—my mother, and daughter, and I were robbed in broad daylight in front of the house where I grew up. And that had a traumatic impact on my daughter. But when I weigh it all out, the benefits of living there, and the comfort that I have really does out outweigh the costs.