A Poem for North Lawndale.

By Resita Cox

‘Old Man Munchie’ sits in one of the North Lawndale lots adopted by Men Making a Difference.

‘Old Man Munchie’ sits in one of the North Lawndale lots adopted by Men Making a Difference.

I was inspired to write this poem after spending more than 10 weeks reporting in North Lawndale on restorative justice efforts in the neighborhood, as part of City Bureau’s Reporting Fellowship program.

Men Making A Difference (MMAD) is an organization in North Lawndale that is trying to “take back the community” by repurposing abandoned lots for community gathering.

The winter’s cold, but we still hang here, hide our pain here
Speak loudly, share memories about the good ole days,
Way back when the sweet sounds of summer still sang throughout,
Like kids playing and Madeas out on porches braiding hair, with no fear,
No care,
Before gunshots replaced the laughter
And fear kept boys from venturing too far from their block.

Robert ‘Rock’ Calhoun is one of the founding members of MMAD.

Robert ‘Rock’ Calhoun is one of the founding members of MMAD.

This be our space, our safe haven, where the only bones that get broken be the dominos Bo-Bo slam down on the table.
Rock yelling, “let’s play another round, keep it going.”
You can hear their laughter from blocks down.
It’s always sunny in the lot, through snow and rain,
Because this be where shared pain, hard times and bad habits seek refuge,
No judgment, just understanding and community,

These bricks line the fences of one of the adopted lots in North Lawndale. The lot is used for a free summer camp for community kids, hosted by MMAD.

These bricks line the fences of one of the adopted lots in North Lawndale. The lot is used for a free summer camp for community kids, hosted by MMAD.

Just brothers with different mothers and shared struggle,
Just kids painting bricks and laying them against fences.
They write their names across top, they’ve never known ownership,
But this, 
this is a place they can be free,
Where Black boys can be Black boys, not men.
Where little Black girls reclaim their innocence,
This where children can be children and
Laugh, and
Run, and
Run, and
Run and not be chased.

Rock still spends a lot of time in the lot, talking to community members who gather there.

Rock still spends a lot of time in the lot, talking to community members who gather there.

This where men can drink they beer, feel the sun kiss their dark skin,
Close their eyes and know peace, they don’t get to do that often.

The lot is often filled with men and women in the community.

The lot is often filled with men and women in the community.

They labeled us Chi-raq,
They say places on the South and West Sides be like war zones,
But they overlooked this oasis,
These small sources of life that give us just enough strength to keep going,
Just enough peace to keep our heads held,
Say: you can call this a war zone, you can say it gets worse every day,
But at least we know our neighbors, who we love like family, who we grew up
With and grow with,
Who we struggle with and cope with,
This be the epitome of community,
And there is value here,
And in you, and

In me.

To learn more about MMAD, check out the full article in Austin Weekly News.


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