People judge a neighborhood by statistics, like how many people had been shot in Dorchester’s Fields Corner last year-- but that’s not what I see. I judge my neighborhood by the way everyday people act.
One day I was headed home. On the way down the street I bumped into a gangster-looking dude. He was probably 28 years old, standing there with a bunch of friends. I tried to pretend nothing happened, but he stopped me.
“Yo,” he said.
He was older, so I had to respect him. I turned back.
“You know you just bumped me?” he said.
“Yeah,” I replied.
He gave me a mean look.
Okay, I thought, what’s next?
He came close to me. “Yo, that’s not respectful. What if I was some crazy dude? I would have laid you flat right there.”
“My fault,” I said.
“No problem,” he replied. “Stay in school. I just got out of prison. You don’t want to go there.”
People think Dorchester’s a bad place, but they don’t know the community. It’s a fun-loving place, even with the violence. People laugh together on the corners. You can ask anyone if you want a basketball game. You don’t even have to know them.
People don’t have much yard space. They unite in the parks. They laugh and play tag. They rap and make jokes. They flirt and enjoy the company. At the park, they don’t have to worry about that hole in the bedroom floor. They can forget the busted appliances that the landlord never fixes and the months of broken promises from the electricians.
Sure, negative things take place in my ’hood, but the community is so much more than that. We still know how to keep smiles on our faces as we struggle from day to day. “Give respect to get respect” is what we say.
At night, the cops flood the block looking to calm tempers and stop fights. At a distance, a crackhead’s cough becomes your lullaby.
In the morning, mom is up sweating a meal that should last till lunch. At the bus stop we socialize. Another day begins.