Walking the Walk

“In order for us to help the city grow, we have to be here to be a part of the city.”


Produced by Rebecca Werner with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. www.storycorps.org

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Transcript for Walking the Walk

Well, by the time we hit the ’70s, we were able to go to Miller, but I remember in the ’60s, we couldn’t go out there.  That, and Glen Park.  You could not go there as a black person.  You couldn’t do it because of the problems that did exist when people did cross those lines.  I think when you crossed over, really 35th Avenue, you ran into problems.  Miller was the same way.  You start hitting Lake Street, and there were problems, but like I said, that really was the late ’60s, really when—after the—after Dr. King got assassinated, after the Democratic Convention and the riots in Chicago, that’s when—and Mayor Hatcher was elected in ’68—I mean, that’s when the polarization really began.  And that’s when people started moving out, and then, when they moved out, blacks started occupying the areas we couldn’t go to, and then we were able to get into those areas.

The block that I was on experienced that white flight early on in my youth, because I know—I don’t remember, because I was too young, but I remember my parents telling me ours was the second black family on the block.  Now, I moved back to Gary in ’87.  I was gone from here for six years, and I saw a change.  On our block, we have more abandoned homes than occupied homes.  You have a few of them that’s still trying to keep their property up, but the property values are down because of everything that’s around it.

None of the homes that I ever grew up in exist.  The one on 25th and Massachusetts—it’s an empty lot.  1088 Tyler, the apartment building—empty lot.  1177 Hanley and 1189—they’re gone.  You come back, and you see where—and I remember bits and pieces of the flight that people talk about.  Naturally, economically it changed—demographically, it changed.  I mean, there are a lot of things that have changed, but the bottom line is, when those businesses left, there went our economy.  There went the city of Gary’s economy, and Gary’s been struggling ever since.  But really, in order for us to help the city grow, we have to be here to be a part of the city.

Right.  And as an educator, I teach at the school, and I see the children, and we have a new principal, and the mission is to get the school back to where it—again, bring it up to its highest potential, and it is definitely moving in that direction.

And that’s where we are.  That’s where we are.  We’re in a position now to—instead of talking the talk, we’re walking the walk.  We want Gary to be great, so we have to be a part of it, to make it great.