By Zerline Hughes
It wasn’t my effort to make the NotTheseTwo blog a rant about the lack of community services in my city – and particularly my community – BUT, there is, in fact, a distinct connection between keeping kids from falling in the at-risk category and the services and activities they have access to.
So, I’ll continue with today’s rant … er, I mean blog, but I’ll try to keep it short.
While walking to the Kenilworth-Parkside track this past weekend to jog-walk-sprint my meager mile, I noticed a vast parkland – much different than before. No swings. No slide (or sliding board as they say here in D.C.). No jungle gym. Not even the 1970s looking dinosaur climbing animals.
So I went to my trusty community listserv and asked what had happened. The answer was brief: there was an email that the playground equipment would be taken away. The answer: there was no date or promise on when and whether they’d be replaced. I don’t know who “they” were, and I don’t know who “they” consulted.
But hey, it all makes sense, right? Especially since DC Public Schools goes on summer break in three weeks and our kids will need a place to play during out-of-school time. Especially because there’s been a spike in crime in our Ward over the last two months and our kids need a safe, alternative space to hang out and be a kid. Especially since the closed Kenilworth Elementary School playground was just knocked down as it undergoes renovation to be turned into our community’s Department of Parks and Recreation center after ours was knocked down six years ago with promises to replace it by 2012, then 2014 now 2017 … (I’ve got major issues with this rec center!)
So because no thought nor strategy, nor alternate plan, nor consultation was made, my children – all children of Kenilworth, Eastland Gardens, Paradise and Mayfair Mansions – have no place to hang out, enjoy themselves and get some recreation in. Mind you, These Two don’t have a lot of time to just hang out with their full schedule of extra curricular activities and summer camps BUT when we do have down time, I guess we won’t be going across the street to the local park.
And what about our toddlers, five year olds and those setting up picnic grounds at the park this summer? What are our youth to do for fun? Yeah, we have a track and tennis courts and a newly graffitied racquet ball wall. But c’mon … kids wanna’ be kids!
Just like I didn’t see the email about “them” taking away the equipment, maybe there’s a lost email that explains that a new and improved playground will be set up before the end of June. Heck, I’ll even take mid July. But for some reason … I don’t think that’s the case.
We get mad when our kids take to the streets, hang in our alleys/backyards, loiter on our corners, metro stations and storefronts. Too often, we call the police on our kids which starts a whole laundry list of problems (arrests, jail time, mental health challenges as a result of incarceration, time away from family, school retention, inability to attend college or work as a result of an incarceration record, recidivating into the adult criminal justice system, and so on).
Why don’t we all support and demand our city services be in touch with the folks that actually live in the city. Why don’t we start putting our kids first versus thinking, if we take out basketball courts and play equipment, we’ll have less noise, less trash and less outsiders coming into our cherished, quiet neighborhood.
This, of course, is about more than just missing playground equipment. But maybe, just maybe we can start here. I’m at wits end about how much we devalue our youth and their childhood – or is it only our Black youth?