It must be because I’ve been out of town for the past few weeks, but it didn’t even occur to me, when I posted last night about this new epidemic of youth violence we’re experiencing in Ypsilanti, to look at it through the lens of our relationship with Ann Arbor. While I noted in my post that maybe now, with young people dying in the streets of Ypsilanti, we might be more inclined to fight for increased school funding, an economy that holds more promise for our younger citizens, and a more robust safety net for our at-risk teens, it didn’t even cross my mind to mention that all of this could be achieved if only our wealthy neighbors to the west would recognize that they share some responsibility for what is happening here, and make a greater effort to rectify the inequalities that have arisen in part as a result of their policies. It was their policies that made ours the eighth most economically segregated region in the United States. By systematically reducing affordable housing, pushing their most needy citizens to Ypsilanti, and, at the same time, opening their doors to Ypsilanti students, thereby defunding our schools, they have made it incredibly difficult for us get on the kind of firm financial footing that would allow us to invest in our next generation in a significant way… Thankfully, I was reminded of this by someone calling himself Steve P, who left the following comment in response to yesterday’s post.
Seems like yet another stark illustration of the disparity of our regional supports and resources for our area youth looking like an uneven see saw: with all the weight on the westside of the village (Neutral Zone, Ozone House, A2 Parks and Rec and Ed…) with virtually nothing on the eastside of the village (W. Willow, Southside, Macarthur Blvd, Parkridge etc. etc.). Does Ypsi even have a viable Boys and Girls Club anymore? (I know the old site is up for auction and has been closed for many years…). It seems like well-placed community activists like the excellent Derrick Jackson at WCSO and the folks at Corner Health are working double triple time in Ypsi… and fighting a lonely fight, while the progressives in Ann Arbor flitter around afternoons on bankers hours with drum sequencers, theremins and fine art graffiti classes at Neutral Zone and the AADL. If there’s ever an example of economic disparity in our region, these issues with youth bring them to fore with, to quote the old Kozol line, “savage inequality”.
Now is the time. As Mary Jo Callan, director of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, told us here not too long ago, “We must take collective action. Now..” It’s time to address these issues regionally, across our various jurisdictions. We’re all connected, and we need to finally acknowledge that fact and act accordingly.
[above: The site of Ypsilanti’s shuttered Boys and Girls Club at 220 North Park Street.]