Don't Lose the Story

“We want our neighborhood re-developed but we don’t want to lose our neighborhood story.”

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This was a resounding theme of a symposium I was able to attend at IUPUI entitled “Race and Heritage in the Circle City.” During this symposium, three long-time residents of historically black neighborhoods in Indianapolis were part of a panel discussion about urban renewal efforts in their neighborhoods.

The three panelists shared stories of both positive efforts at revitalization and areas of sadness or loss. It was insightful and challenging to hear their stories and it challenged me to pen these lyrics that offer a way forward—a positive voice—for engaging in neighborhood revitalization.

One of the main foci of this song is that of the importance of maintaining a posture of humility when thinking about neighborhood redevelopment. Most importantly, to realize you are entering into a story which has has existed for years—long before new developers and residents were on the scene. We must honor that story, not squelch it.

Also, this song explores the aspects of being a neighbor. Of being in one another’s homes. Of having porch time. Of mingling and caring for each other. As I heard from the panelists, when new folks move in, often there is a loss of connection. Privacy fences are built up and people are rarely seen apart from entering and exiting their garages.

The vibe and feel of this song is gritty yet hopeful which, in my opinion encapsulates the labors involved in neighborhood revitalization.

Andrew Whitaker is participating in a 10-week place-based music songwriting residency at the Harrison Center.