February 2017 Neighbor Spotlight- Rev. Dr. Tammy Rodman
What is the name of your neighborhood?
Old East Durham, specifically on Ashe Street
How long have you lived in your neighborhood?
I have lived there for over 2 years.
Tell us about your neighborhood.
Despite what I had been told about this neighborhood when I moved here, I found it to be a neighborhood filled with wonderful people. Of course there are some elements of the neighborhood, like any, that are not the best, but overall I have fallen in love with Ashe Street. It is very diverse and there are good people, who want to live a nice, peaceful life. The elderly lady across the street who has been there for 38 years shared she has been praying and was glad to know that I was a praying woman. She believes as I do that with prayer, love and faith darkness can be driven out. There is the Latino man who breeds bulldogs and is working hard and saving to buy his wife her dream home. There are the children who have the desires that any child has to get that summer job, go to school and be the doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, artist that most kids dream of. This is a good neighborhood and with help it can become even better.
What successes have your neighborhood and community had?
The neighborhood is changing aesthetically with more Habitat Houses coming in and there seems to be more concern about the welfare of people in this area. There is less obvious criminal-like activities. I used to hear gunfire regularly but that seems to be decreasing with more police response and initiatives to build relationships with the people of the community. I believe this award is a success. This is not all about me it is about the work that goes on in this community by me, as well as others. This is a confirmation that everyday people are making significant strives for the communities in which they reside. A success is when voices and concerns are being heard and responded to; when funds and resources are being utilized to raise up areas that are suffering; when we reach back and lift others up, then all have the opportunity to prosper. A lot of relationships have been built and support gained for the community, as a whole, just by people coming to see that there is a need for up to 30 or possibly more children who need food and something to do during the summer months. The summer program brought in 42 volunteers of which many had never heard of Ashe Street, except as a crime scene. This is the stuff that builds communities and trust for those who reside there. This is what I call success.
What are some concerns that you still have in your community?
There are still concerns when it comes to elements that cause criminal activities, such as occasional shootings. We also live in a food desert with no grocery stores within walking distance. We don’t have safe walking paths for people without cars and we need more block-related activities for kids. Many parents can’t afford the city programs or the transportation to free programs. We need improvements like full sidewalks built into the budget for areas like this. We don’t need to have to go on the website and vote. Most people on Ashe Street don’t even have a computer in their home. There is a lot of foot traffic and I think people will feel safer, if it looks more accessible. It is not safe for younger children to walk to Holton from here because of walking paths and spots with gang/drug activity. We also need more street lights. There are too many dark spots in Durham as a whole.
There are houses that need work to keep up with the newer homes and for those who are renting, there needs to be some incentive for landlords to fix homes without pricing renters out. Gentrification is an issue that is on the minds of many in the neighborhood. There are some who move in that may not understand the existing culture and how to be safely approachable or how to be change agents through relationship. Every person that is standing on the corner smoking a “blunt” is not a high level criminal that needs police attention.
What advice would you give to other community members?
Reach out to your neighbors to establish relationships. Not everyone has the capacity, but it wasn’t difficult to do the summer feeding program for kids in my house. Look for opportunities to have block parties and just have a conversation with someone. Ask yourself the question of what light have you displayed for the community? Do you come in with the attitude of privilege or an attitude of equity? There are elderly people in the neighborhood who may need someone to see about them or who may have some life lessons to share with you. I realize everyone is not a true follower of Christ or believes in God but there are some basic morals that should resonate with any human being and that is: that we are all in need of love, we are all one race and that is the human race. We are to embrace our differences as well as our similarities and love each other.
I love Alice Walker’s book/Movie, The Color Purple and one of my favorite quotes from this is “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.” Let that resonate with you for a minute. It is everyone’s responsibility to find needs, address issues and be a voice in the community for people without time or energy or the capacity to do so.
Do you have any upcoming opportunities for other people to get involved?
Yes, I am presently working with some other organizations to look at either community or individual gardens. I am also working with the Housing Task force as part of the Mayor’s initiative for the census tract.
I am seeking guidance about reaching out to see if someone else can take up the Summer lunch program on Ashe Street. Due to lack of funding for “Hosanna” house I will not be residing in the community for a time period. I will still be reaching out and I need some people to step up to the plate. If you are a church or organization and you don’t have the gift to engage and live in the community please give to those small ministries that may be doing the work. Just because their names are not flashing in lights doesn’t mean real work isn’t being done. If people in communities need to focus on a roof over their heads, they cannot focus on work in the community. Organizations and churches can help with this through financial support. This helps maintain momentum and growth with activities like summer feeding so they don’t disappear before they can flourish. Each organization and church, if you can do a mission abroad, you can do a mission locally. Ask the question how can you help fund your employees or disciples to improve their neighborhoods? Whatever you are gifted to do find a way to give back to your community or a struggling community. Your time, talent and resources are not given for selfish reasons but to help someone else.