Not your average door knocking
Posted by sebastianbrown on December 15, 2009
This past Saturday, a group of eight of us got our door knocking faces on as we entered uncharted territory for the Long Branch neighbors Campaign: the Quebec Terrace Apartments. Besides just the venue, several factors made Saturday unlike most door knocking outings. First, half of the group were teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15. Second, all the kids as well as one parent who joined us are residents of the Quebec Terrace neighborhood. Third, as part of an attempt to coordinate our engagement efforts with the Quebec Terrace Public Art Initiative headed by C-Safe, Weed and Seed and Arts on the Block, we tweaked our data recording sheets to reflect some of the art project’s priorities in addition to our own.
While each of these components posed potential challenges, they offered great opportunities as well. For example, it wasn’t uncommon for one of the two young ladies I was door knocking with to personally know the person whose door we were knocking on. With the ice broken, I could step in and together we’d carry on with the conversation. Perhaps most invaluable were the endless stories and reflections on growing up in this community that they shared with us. I learned about where the local gang members hang out and how residents avoid having run-ins with them, the most common places they played with their friends growing up, how the increase police presence has impacted the community for good…etc. To be honest, regardless of how many doors we knocked on, the day was a success just because these great kids had the opportunity to give us an inside look into and feel proud about a place they’ve called home for their entire lives.
Even though it was a headache for all of us involved in the planning process, having a merged door knocking format that was attentive to the priorities of both the Neighbors Campaign and the Arts Initiative paid off in the end. Since we quickly realized that the ultimate goals of the two projects are nearly identical, the only real difference was that instead of a Neighbors Exchange we invited residents to a community art workshop hosted by Arts on the Block. In fact, my door knocking trio alone met several professional house painters who expressed interest in maybe being involved in some kind of neighborhood mural project.
After a great day of knocking, Ray and I, as well as Gretchen and Mary Kendall (both from C-Safe), walked back to our cars and drove home. Every one else walked the half block back to their apartments and re-entered their daily reality of robberies, gang on gang violence and hall-way drug dealing. While door knocking for a couple hours certainly hadn’t made these things disappear, it did empower a group of youth who can sleep easier at night knowing that they are a crucial part of an effort to do something to affect positive change in a place that they’d love to one day see their own children grow up in peace. Thanks to the brave youth of Quebec Terrace for their determination and fearlessness!