What exactly is a new neighborhood network of mutual support?
Posted by Neighborhood Opportunity Network on April 26, 2009
The community organizers involved in the Neighbors Campaign often stress that in addition to creating links to emergency services, the “door-knocks” should lead to creating long term networks of mutual support in targeted neighborhoods. This begs the question – what does this mean, in real practical terms?
IMPACT has been building such a network in and around the neighborhoods that surround downtown Silver Spring, Takoma Park and the Long Branch area for nearly ten years. We have three concrete examples of this network in action just in the last month:
Voces de Paz – a group of Latino parents active in the IMPACT Silver Spring Network have been meeting weekly since the death of 14 year old Tai Lam last fall on a ride-on bus. It is widely believed that his death was connected to groups of youth who are either in gangs or hang out on the edge of the active gang world in our community. These parents have considered a range of actions including designing programs for Latino families of fifth graders to warn them about gang activity and creating adult/youth teams to serve as friendly, watchful ambassadors in outdoor spaces where teens tend to congregate. Two Fridays ago, these parents organized a dinner and discussion for their teenage children and friends, and included some of the African families in the network facing similar tensions around teen safety. See the picture below. A clear answer or action strategy has not yet emerged, but the level of honest dialogue among two groups in our community who do not communicate well – immigrant parents and immigrant teenagers – is a clear indicator that these network members are on the right path.
New Hampshire Corridor Budget Campaign – for the last six months, a group of residents and youth active in the IMPACT Silver Spring Network have been meeting with other community partners (C-Safe, Weed and Seed) to develop a strategy to advocate for increased County funding in their neighborhood. They are seeking initiatives to increase public safety and programs/facilities for the many youth with no where to go in their large, isolated apartment communities. Last week, at the County Council FY10 Budget Hearings, Serena Locust and a youth representative both testified for the first time ever, asking our elected officials for funding support. It was clear from the captive look on the face of many Council members that they are not used to hearing from residents representing “low income” apartment buildings. We are eager to see what transpires from this moment of action in the IMPACT Network. Congratulations Serena and friends!!
IMPACT Network Talent Show – Members of the network and IMPACT staff finally realized a long time dream this past Thursday night – hosting an old-fashioned community talent show in the basement of First Baptist Church. Nineteen brave people or groups got on stage and sang, danced, read poems, played musical instruments, displayed their art and demonstrated dog tricks. It was informal, fun and welcoming. It also was a chance for 60 or more of the 1,500 people in the IMPACT network to meet newcomers and make new connections. Who knows what new action steps or acts of mutual support will ripple out from this enjoyable night of simple fun?!