Saturday, September 25, 2010

Neighborhood Pride

There's been a rant building on this one. It just exploded yesterday, however. Since I don't like writing more than 1 post a day if I can help it, I decided today would be the day to talk about it.

A few weeks back, I went walking through Harlem with some colleagues from the TV company. People in the neighborhood knew them, they knew people. The camaraderie was great! It made me wish I could experience it for myself. Alas, I don't think it will ever happen.

Let me tell you a secret: I have no community or neighborhood I truly consider my own. NYC generally, sure but my own neighborhood? No. I'm not the person who'll proudly tell you where she hailed. I couldn't get out of my hometown fast enough and anyplace else I lived was a temporary way station. Even the area I live now is for me a temporary way station to someplace better. When I was in school, I never understood the concept of claiming a turf. I'd tell people point blank that they could have my neighborhood since I didn't care about it. Why would I?

I lived in a trailer park filled with peers who couldn't relate to me & who liked my sister better. The kids my age who lived there were troublemakers, the kind who'd never leave since they'd be future teen mothers and juvenile delinquents who'd fathered those babies. Hell, most of the town couldn't relate to me!

I was a smart kid who saw something better for herself--a life outside this trailer park and this claustrophobic town. I say "claustrophobic" because everywhere I went, I'd always see people I knew (not necessarily my friends either). I hated that w/a passion. I love major cities because this doesn't happen so much. You can go places and disappear.

I suppose in some ways, I still don't get the concept of turf. I know what it is intellectually but I don't understand the emotional component of it. I don't know what it feels like to have a community to call home, one you'd give your fortune to.

This story in the NY Daily News trying to guilt Jennifer Lopez into giving money to her Bronx neighborhood and the Catholic school she attended, Holy Family School, struck a nerve. Read for yourself.

First off, I strongly agree that no one should be told what to do with money that they earned on their own. I don't care how rich or how famous you are, you do have the right to spend your money as you see fit. Whether I agree or not is a different story.

Second, I'm not a Jennifer Lopez fan by any means. In fact, I could care less what famous people do unless it's going to directly affect me.

Third, who's to say Jennifer Lopez liked this school??

Maybe she feels the same way about it as I feel about my undergrad or my high school. Maybe people didn't appreciate her there; maybe she wasn't Little Miss Popular or felt like she didn't belong. Maybe they tried to sabotage her or treated her mother badly. Perhaps there are hidden things the press and the general public don't know about. Or maybe she has the same views on Catholicism as my husband, who was raised in that faith: that they are hypocrites who should take the gold in Vatican City to help the poor & act more like the true Christians they claim to be.

If one of my schools harassed me to give them money if I became rich and/or famous, here's what the response would be:

Law school - The $ goes to the legal clinic, where I worked since they help people who aren't eating out of trash cans but can't afford $300 an hour for a lawyer; in short, they help the rest of us & I feel the rest of us fall through the cracks way too often. There aren't enough aid programs there!

High school - Perhaps. I had a better experience than in middle school but I do feel like I didn't get as much recognition as I should have. The best part was having older friends but some of the teachers were jerks. After seeing one go into school one day, my mother famously said that we shouldn't have respect for any teacher who won't carry himself/herself in a manner worthy of that respect.

If they got rid of that sexist gym teacher who tried grading on ability & ruining my chances of getting into NHS, the consideration would definitely go up.

Middle school - Maybe. I was still tormented big time, especially in 7th grade. I remember having an English teacher that year who openly said she felt anyone not part of the AG program shouldn't be in her Honors class. I tested for AG in 6th grade & almost made it there. Other people took the test for it in 2nd grade, when I was in private school & AG didn't exist. Apparently she didn't realize that AG means nothing by the time you get to high school and means even less once you get into college. No one ever cared about it or asked again & I've never been pestered about it since.

Elementary school - My private religious school can suck it since I was tormented to no end there, had to deal with a day care teacher who was a total bitch & they had no black kids there since the principal at the time refused to let them attend. Apparently, Asians were fine since I had an Asian classmate.

The other school? Again, not much of a bond. The teacher who was my favorite of all time died when I was in middle school. She'd have been proud of me but I don't think anyone else would have cared. I wasn't tormented here & it was a more pleasant experience so points for that.

College (I'm saving the best for last) - Hell no to blanket contributions!! This place harassed me for not having money, tried to sabotage me multiple times (largely for not being born to money) & didn't give my sorority the resources and support it should have gotten as a new chapter. If it weren't for the Dean of Students at the time, I wouldn't have been able to initially apply to law schools. He even asked me about it from time to time once he helped me out. That guy was awesome to me & I haven't forgotten it.

Different things associated w/them? Maybe. If my old sorority chapter members treated me like a founding member & weren't jerks, they'd definitely get considered. Especially if they'd maintained the good things that were there when I was in undergrad. If they became the later day bitchy girl sorority who'd shun someone like me, then forget it.

The museum I worked at would get something in a second since it was a great job, I was appreciated & they had a lot of hassle to deal with. I also have a bias toward funding cultural institutions & like museums in general.

The psychology department would probably see something based on the professors I had who knew their stuff & were good people. My adviser in particular is a great person so I'd certainly have motivation to help this sector of the school.

If my undergrad wanted a blanket contribution, I'd have these demands:

* Get rid of your racist fraternity ASAP
* Stop preaching about diversity and caring about the needs of diverse students & actually DO something. Don't sit on your ass while Jewish students, LGBT students or anyone else feels too scared to walk on their own school's campus. Take real action. Plus, don't make black people feel unwelcome on the campus since they've got every right to feel that way based on what I saw as a student.
* If the founder of Insurection (an adult store in Atlanta) actually went to the school, take donations from him. Enough w/the puritanical nit-picking about where your donations come from!
* Don't be dicks to my sorority or nasty to the Greeks in general if they didn't deserve it
* Have some valid financial aid for ALL & don't assume that no white person is poor

Once that happens, then we'll talk.

Otherwise, don't dare speak to me about "obligation" or "giving back." I owe you nothing if you didn't help me or just hindered my progress.

I definitely don't feel pride in where I live since it seems 80% of the businesses around me are run by incompetents who lie & waste your time. Is it any wonder I just go to Manhattan to deal with most of my day to day tasks?

My experience yesterday just illuminates this: I had to wait over 15 minutes in my local bank in a long, sweaty line while a supervisor had to oversee every single thing the 3 tellers were doing. This was at 3 p.m. Before then, I'd gone to a local pharmacy that usually doesn't have all I need when I have to get a prescription (which is rare but happens when one gets sick & sees a doctor); they'd told me that they had both items before I walked down there from my house 10 minutes away.

After I get home from the nightmare bank experience, that pharmacy calls to say they don't have one of the prescriptions. I say "So you lied to me about having this when I called earlier to ask you." I relayed the whole bank experience & agreed to pick up my prescriptions the next day to avoid having to go back out in the humid weather.

I make it there this morning & head to a different pharmacy near a different train station. This place was a life saver, had a courteous pharmacist & filled the prescriptions quickly (the other place had told me it would be 3 hours). Even though it's a walk, I'm only going there from now on. The pharmacist I spoke to was even shocked that the other one didn't have the medicine I had to get!

A handful of restaurants and food places are good but some are God awful.

So, if I have to go into Manhattan to do things (don't get me started on the local post office) how do you expect me to have ANY sense of neighborhood pride??? I have very little.

Even the bar associations are better in Manhattan. They at least have committees for my area of practice & viable opportunities for me. I wasn't even contacted on creating a new committee in my local one despite saying I'd be interested & giving out my contact information months beforehand. I even had ideas and plans!! It's also a pain for me to get to the headquarters of the one in Queens vs. those I belong to in Manhattan. Gee, this dampens neighborhood pride for me!! Keep talking about how I should be in my local bar association when I don't even have representation or a voice.

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