By Kristen Jeffers
As I sat in the community meeting on the curfew back in July, I and those in attendance expressed many opinions. The main one that concerned me was both young and older people people felt unsafe downtown. I stepped up to the microphone and expressed to people how sad I was that people feel unsafe. I am a downtown resident. I've never felt safer. In fact, my fears are of appearing threatening while walking to and from work and activities.
I believe the real issue with the curfew (and also the noise ordinance to be honest) is trust and mutual respect. If we trusted our youth, or middle-aged, our elderly, our rich, our poor, our black, our white, our powerful, our powerless, our whatever, we could do mighty and positive things. Yet, when something goes wrong, we either resort to picking fights as our youth have done, calling each other names, or enacting laws that are misguided and capable of drawing the wrong kind of attention to our community. I believe the nation is concerned with our story because unfortunately, it mirrors versions of their own.
Most importantly, I want us to focus on becoming a real city and a model city. A real city does not restrict movement. A real city does not shut down the public commons. A real city does not profile or place assumptions or stereotypes on people for the wrong reasons. A real city recognizes that planning is essential to make sure that no one business type, whether it be club or retail, takes up an entire area of a city. A real city provides age appropriate activities for all people. And finally, a real city has real citizens that trust each other enough to not fight either with our fists or with our words, money, and misuse of the media.
I also subscribe to a movement called the new urbanism. It is a return to the notion of the town square or the village, where every neighborhood has stores,jobs, services ,houses of worship and parks within walking distance. In addition, that open space is unrestricted and open to the public at all times. Right now in Greensboro, only a few members of the community can walk to a full service grocery store. Many of those people have the means to drive there, avoiding long walks with heavy bags or long waits in the hot sun for a bus that has far too much ground to cover. In addition, with Center City Park are we not trying to emulate the city commons and have all types of people converging in a place? Why is it a problem that our youth come to Center City Park, even if they are just standing around and talking?
I recently spent time at the Charlotte EpiCenter. It, with the multitude of businesses, local and national, big and small, that make up the uptown of Charlotte, there was no need for the excessive presence of police. Although Charlotte has a citywide teen curfew in effect, it did not appear that it was actually needed to keep the peace. At 11 p.m. that evening, what youth that were there were going into and patronizing businesses. Businesses such as CVS, Five Guys, and Moe’s Southwest Grill were open until late in the night, willingly serving visitors and residents of all stripes. I would love to see some of the businesses that have made their homes out at Jefferson Village or on West Wendover, or even the few lingering at Four Seasons Town Centre, come back to the center of the city and help stabilize our neighborhood. I’d like to see apartments come to Friendly Center.
To conclude, I would love to see more unity across age groups and more trust and understanding period. I want us to start building the town square and reclaiming the streets for positive activities, not fights or for adverse political or economic gain. Let the next time the nation turns its attention to our city to be for positive reasons. And when that happens, I’ll be the first to toot our horn.
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the website The Black Urbanist and Greensboro native.