Sunday, February 1, 2009

An Extreme Of What We Are Talking About

Eight miles from downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there is a town, Braddock, which might be called a modern-day ghost town. After the collapse of the steel industry in that area, Braddock lost 90% of its population, 90% of its businesses and 90% of its homes. It had a small number of people who chose to remain there over the years but the town lost it's ability to thrive, to grow. As one resident put it, "it has a feeling of 'it's hopeless,' and sometimes you need to have someone from the outside to help with the recovery."

One such person who stepped into that breach was John Fetterman who is now the Mayor of Braddock, and who is featured in the video: Braddock Rises From The Ashes

For the moment I'd like to only draw attention to two characteristics that jumped out at me while watching the video. The first was the committment of the "outsider," the now mayor, John Fetterman. He branded himself with a "tat" - 15104 - the zip code of Braddock. How about that for a focused and committed statement of "this is where I am now and this is what I am all about." It addresses the key question of how does an "outsider" establish credibility with a group, in a community, especially when the residents (presumably) are reluctant to extend membership or hope or belief easily to anyone who is not one of them.

The second part was the action and the intent of mobilizing hope with the youth of the community. Hope when combined with current and sustained action may perhaps be the pivotal experience in the service of developing resilience.

I will be very curious to see how this community moves forward as they reinvent themselves.

1 comment:

  1. There's an interesting example of outsiders transforming a community near here, at a tiny place called "Forget" (FOR-zhay, after a francophone Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, with the accent anglicized). Don and Shannon Shakotko bought and renovated the old rectory (with lots of help from Shannon's parents, who live with them), started a house-concert series and then moved on to a summer arts festival that involves numerous volunteers from the village and beyond, and now a delightful restaurant. Shannon used to say that the population of Forget was 37 including the dogs, but I'm pretty sure it's been growing since then - several people have moved in from way out in BC just to be a part of it all. Don is the mayor. Large parts of the village land had been given over to paddocks for livestock, but I've heard that it's hard to buy a lot in Forget now - they've been snapped up.