Gary Indiana is by far one of the worst cities in the United States of America. Jobs are scarce; the roads are riddled with crater sized potholes with abandoned houses and houses that should be abandoned littering the landscape. Public schools have all but shut down, leaving only a handful of places for children to get an education without relying on charter schools which have also started to close. Businesses have trouble maintaining their wares as crime is nothing more than a common occurrence on the harsh streets, and what makes matters worst is that gangs have plagued the city for as long as I can remember.
I spent the first thirteen years of my life in that city, and my heart aches every time I go back to it, but I haven’t given up hope. If you live in Indiana, specifically the northwest part, then you know exactly how harsh that city can be, but for all you out there with no idea of what Gary is, then prepare yourselves for some education.
Gary was one of the big steel mill cities that was very popular once upon a time ago. A great paying job at the mill brought people from all over for a chance of the sweet American dream. Gary had its own strip downtown, filled with popular stores, swinging clubs, bars, movie theaters, you name it Gary had it or you could find it close by. Yea it was also the home of deceased King of Pop Michael Jackson, but it was more than just a once proud home of a superstar, it was a loving community with a lot to offer both young and old.
But that was all before my time. In my time it was a city with more than a fair share of problems. Gangs’ running the streets at night, thieves stealing bikes from front yards, and it was considered sheer stupidity to every leave your door unlocked when you weren’t near the house. I remember not being able to leave my block, that’s right one city block, no going to the next street over or anything, without my parents because of the danger it possessed.
You’d hear stories of shootings taken place over petty disturbances, drive-bys happening in broad day light, people being car jacked and killed by local youths, just a real bad time. Yet for all that ugliness, for all that pain it was still my home, and there were some people willing to do something to help. There were city leagues for baseball, basketball, and football, things to keep kids off the streets and into something fun and safe. I honestly think that were it not for my parents putting me in these programs that I’d be insanely different from whom I am today.
But now I don’t see such things happening to keep kids safe. I’ve seen far too many minors from the juvenile center come into the hospital for a visit. Witnessed far too many brothers in chains from the jail or prison get sent to me for aches and pains, there have been fair too many people being escorted by the police into the rooms because of the mistakes that have been made. And with each one comes the smug talk from some of the people working there. They don’t understand, how could they? I know my people aren’t bad, but merely lost and in need of guidance.
What Gary needs is a mayor that won’t steal from the city to line his/her own pockets, a leader that won’t just try to scrub away the youngsters he/she claims is filth without trying to help better them. People in Gary aren’t all bad, some hold out, doing their best to lead by example, but they are far and few in between. I believe that a change is needed, the likes of which not seen since the days of Dr.King. I believe, that if we can help these gang members and ner-do-wells see the error of their ways then we can start to heal my childhood home. That if we can support our few local stores, that if we can stop killing ourselves over pointless territory and false ideals, that we can bring back culture to my once fair city.
But I can’t do it alone, it takes a community, and really that’s what it’s all about. Trusting your neighbors, doing more than just ‘get mine’, because if you’re only worried about ‘getting yours’ under any means necessary then you crush us all under your greed. We have to realize that these gangs only turn brother against brother, much like the civil war. That if we all untied to bring about a better tomorrow, today, then we won’t have to look back at yesterday with shame. I won’t have to defend myself to the people who question how I could have survived there.
I believe this goes past race and gender, or even location. I believe, that if we all just spoke up, that we’d find we have more in common than you think.