A Eulogy to What Used to Be

In the summer of 2013, Harrison Center interns formed the Neighborhood Ballad Project to give creative recognition to urban Indianapolis neighborhood figures from the past to the present through the medium of spoken word poetry. One of the founding members, Andrew Christenberry, now revisits the project to shine a light on the changes taking place on Indy's near eastside in an area that has been designated a promise zone. Promise Zone neighborhoods include Spades Park, Windsor Park, Springdale, St. Clair Place, Willard Park, Tear United, North Brookside, Brookside, Rivoli Park, Englewood, Otterbein, Little Flower, Grace Tuxedo, Emerson Heights, Bosart Brown, Martindale Brightwood, and Twin Aire (Southeast). Listen to "A Eulogy to What Used to Be," the true story of a once-thriving part of town that fell upon hard times, but is poised and ready to be remade.

A Eulogy to What Used to Be

The sun was first ours at the break of day. We knew that light that would sing. We heard the song that it played. And we were home.

With our collars, stained blue, and our lunch pails supplied, We’d head off to work from St. Clair to Brookside. Waving to Windsor Park off 10th Street, Seeing Englewood children in mid­summer’s heat.

And we were home. And we were loved.

But as is so often the case, things change. And the warmth that was of our home, for cold was exchanged. We saw the weight of what once was as the uncertainty of what would be. We saw our home fade into time like a ship lost at sea. And we felt forgotten. And we felt tired. And we felt left behind.

A palpable blight, a careless array Of poverty stricken, lost homes in decay With visible hardship, as struggle ensues, It seemed like tomorrow had forgotten its cue.

But our neighbors remained, though wrinkled with gloom, To sow seeds for the future with the hope they would bloom. They embodied our questions. Where we’ve been. What we claim. They embodied our hope. And hope, my dear neighbors, does not put us to shame.

So today the east side will awaken in promise By the sun which we knew and will always know first. But today we aspire to something which was, until this morning, just a dream. A promise has come to remind us our eastern border has not been forgotten.

A promise has come to give a eulogy to what used to be but is no more. A promise has come to sing the song that resounds at the birth of every new and good thing.

Welcome home, Promise Zone. Wake up from the fitful sleep of economic instability. Build yourself up. Thrive in community. Adorn your porches with hospitality, as communal alters to the true And to the good And to the beautiful.

And in all these things, Let your home sing This eulogy to what used to be With the song that promise brings. The day is new. Lovingly lit with a Promise in view.