SpiritHouse launches Safe in our Streets campaign

By Mya Hunter
Staff Writer
Youth Noise Network

In the months leading to up to what we know will be a wonderful fall 2010 back-to-school event, SpiritHouse Inc. is hosting a series of monthly multi-community events appropriately named Safe in Our Streets, or S.O.S for short.

At the recent S.O.S. event

At the Jan. 22 S.O.S. event at New Horizon Academy of Excellence, students respond to question collages on the walls. (Photos by Nia Wilson)

Our next event is Monday, Feb. 26, from 6-11 p.m. at New Horizon Academy of Excellence at 121 Hunt St.

The goal of the campaign is to inspire a grassroots movement that eradicates intra-communal violence, and create nurturing, safe and abundant communities. The idea is familiar, often touted by city officials or concerned well meaning citizens from across town.

This isn’t your average kumbaya team-building type of event, and it’s not about trying to take back our steadily changing and evolving community, but instead what we hope will be the first step in getting to know and understand our own communities. It is a movement led by everyday teens and community folk who know this one simple truth: You can’t take back what is not fully yours anyway.

Our first S.O.S. event held at New Horizons Academy of Excellence on Jan. 22, was a huge success.We played great games and watched the HBO original film, “Walk Out” about the 1968 Chicano student walkouts in East L.A.. We videotapes segments for our public access TV show and we got to know each other. The evening reminded me of simple good times “back in the day.”

I grew up in a little neighborhood on a dirt road off Fayetteville St. My sister and I were the only kids in a neighborhood full of old folks. It was the kind of environment you might have heard your parents growing up in — where everyone on the street knew each other, made an effort to stay connected, and stay abreast of the major things going on in each others life. Growing up there had it’s up and downs; it wasn’t paradise, but I strongly remember a sense of security and community.

Kids got involved in the S.O.S. event

Kids got involved in the S.O.S. event.

The people next door were more then just people we saw in passing. Our neighbors were like extended family members, in some cases, they actually were, and since my sister and I were the only kids on the street, they treated us like nieces, or grand kids. It made it hard to get away with anything when Mr.George had no problem telling my mother he’d seen me playing where I shouldn’t be playing.

It also made it a time in my life I cherish now. I had a chance to play outside til the streetlights came on, without being made to worry about strangers coming to steal me away. I could play in the neighbors’ yard and not be chastised, I gained elders who taught me important life lessons.
Sadly things like that never seem to last, and neighborhoods change with time.

The once dirt road was paved, houses built and new families moved in. At first nothing much changed, just new faces that were slowly learned and welcomed. The neighborhood was mostly made of older people though, and when developers came inand built new places and new people moved in in just a matter of months, it wasn’t just a matter of walking next door and making yourself known to your neighbors anymore. There were too many new faces and none seemed too eager to introduce themselves or get to know the founding members of their new neighborhood.

I kind of like thinking of it as the end of and era, the sense of community was becoming a distant memory and no one seemed to be making plans to bring it back.

That was years ago and even after moving, I haven’t had that feeling again. The feeling that if my mom wasn’t home yet when I got off the bus, I could go across the street and sit with old Mr. George who liked to tell me riddles and feel safe and content.

It’s that feeling, the one of feeling connected and that sense of belonging that Safe in Our Streets (S.O.S) hopes to reignite in communities. We’ve started small with youth- centered monthly events, because we believe in the brilliance and renewable energy of today’s youth.

As we continue building we hope that everyone, everywhere will find ways to get involved.

If you’d like to know more, check us out at spirithouse-nc.org or call Nia Wilson at 919-358-3707 or email us at spirithousenc@gmail.com

We’ll be waiting to hear from you.