Kansas City is an interesting place for many reasons and one is how the city is "sectioned" off by the state line (Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas); directionally (North side, East side, etc., ) by area (suburbs, urban core, mid-town...) and by neighborhood (Blue Hills, Rosedale, Brookside...) Each area has its own distinctive feel, energy, flow and reputation. And each neighborhood has its own strengths, weaknesses, successes and challenges.
I work in and for a neighborhood that's a contradiction of realities. Despite it being one of the poorest in the city, it is a neighborhood rich in spirit and commitment. The population of almost 8,000 residents is 96% African-American with the average income around $23,000. More than 30% of the residents are without a car and most do not have a computer. At one time, this community was locally ranked number one in crime --- violent crime --- with drug houses on almost every block. Today, there have been over 700 drug houses closed and the residents are taking their neighborhood back one block at a time.
I was hired to be an advocate for the neighborhood in the area of healthy living, (sometimes, I shake my head and chuckle at the irony) and I am funded through a grant from a large, well-known national foundation. My initiative is to address the childhood obesity issues by way of environmental, barrier and policy change. So I tend to use words like "sustainability" a lot.
I'm seeking long-term, long-lasting solutions (sustainability) in the area food inequality (residents not being offered the same opportunities and access for good, healthy food). Because the residents live in an area where the nearest grocery store is over a mile away (a food desert), I am working with the neighbors on ways for them to grow their own food (community gardens, urban agriculture and residential gardening). I'm exploring how to increase park usage so that the kids in the neighborhood feel safe enough to go out and play. I look for opportunities to work on changing policy, be that at a local, state or Federal level. (My trip to D.C. will be at the end of March). I work each day to help elevate the level of equality in an area where hope is sometimes ignored and unseen.
I'm just one person trying to make a difference. That's it.