The Cream Will Rise
Take a ride through the East side. Drive down Martin Luther King Dr. Walk down Dorie St and Morningview. Pass through S Rio Grande. Go visit Fourwinds Dr. What is there to see? What is there to hear? What is there to feel? Do these streets have houses or are there vacant lots? Do these places reflect a promising future or a periled past?
There is no doubt the “crack epidemic” of the 1980’s and 1990’s had a tremendous impact of communities of color. Dahleen Glanton writes in her 2017 Chicago Tribune article “Race, Crack Epidemic, and the Effect on today’s Opioid Crisis,” that “families were torn apart at that time… lives were cut short and a wealth of potential was lost on a generation of African-American youths… Hundreds of thousands of African-Americans across the country ended up with prison records because of minor drug violations — a legacy that continues to contribute to the decay of poor, urban communities.”
More than thirty years after crack cocaine moved into San Antonio, the mark it has made on the community is undeniable. As members of the community continue to discuss revitalizing the East side, saying everything from one saying, “bulldoze it and rebuild everything,” to another saying, “keep the community,” the consensus is something must be done.
Whether one grew up in Wheatley Courts or currently lives in East Meadows; Whether one hung out in the East Terrace or drives by Springview; Whether one believes the days of the “crack epidemic” have moved on and moved out or whether one believes the days have never left. The District 2 City Council elections are more than just about a person wining votes and renting an office for two years with an option for renewal. It’s about preserving a legacy in preparation of a new destiny.
What matters right now is that an opportunity to transform the community loved by so many has presented itself. An opportunity for those who rep the Wheatley Courts and East Terrace then and now can have a say in how their community will be remembered. It’s about holding those accountable for making sure the San Antonio East side is place of promise and not peril.
A rather tall order but an order no less that has been a long time coming.
Saturday night, the elections culminated in a runoff between former city councilman Keith Toney and newcomer Jada Andrews-Sullivan. The runoff will take place on June 8th. Both candidates will continue to speak from their platforms, ranging from economic development to fighting gentrification, but if any one of them is going to successfully transform the East side, it will take more than a political agenda.
It will take the community reclaiming not only these places but the memories that preside and reside here. Understanding that what has transpired yesterday still holds true today and will help build a better tomorrow. Recognizing that community development goes beyond sidewalks and zip codes.
As the runoff draws near, take one more trip through the East side. Sit on the sidewalks. Walk the streets. Look at the houses, the lots, the buildings, and the people. Listen to the stories of disillusionment, despair, and determination.
From there, the cream will rise to the top and the East side will remain.