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Monday, July 2, 2012

What is blight? A Tech Park target's thoughts

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 8:32 AM

NOT SOLD: Rohn Muse is among those whove resisted clearance of his neighborhood for an office building.
  • NOT SOLD: Rohn Muse is among those who've resisted clearance of his neighborhood for an office building.
Dr. Anika Whitfield, a podiatrist who's been among the most outspoken in the central Little Rock neighborhood targeted for demolition to build the taxpayer-financed Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce spec technology park office building, has more to say today, inspired by the demolition of Ray Winder Field for a UAMS parking lot.

Why not look there for Technology Park acreage, she asks.

She also talks about the meaning of blight, inspired by a recent lecturer at the Clinton School, Dr. Mindy Fullilove, a writer and teacher at Columbia University. To those cheering the destruction of residential neighborhoods for an office building, the project is "blight removal." (And we'll worry later where the human element of that blight will rest once they are made home clearance refugees.) Comments Whitfield:

Dr. Fullilove proposes that blighted really means to those who use it, "not mine". In other words, as long as something is not yours and you don't see the value in it, like someone else's home, it is ok (or at least one tries to justify that it is ok) to destroy it, redefine it, and mistreat it because after all it is "blighted" (doesn't belong to me).

That captures the insensitivity with which the powers-that-be view this neighborhood. Just an obstacle to a bit of real estate speculation and corporate welfare.

Joyce Williams, another of those human beings interested in preserving a residential neighborhood, has also distributed a note responding to Whitfield's and commenting on those who decide the fate of neighborhoods.

They wear suits, have great material resources, plan in private and make every effort to present a civilized public face but have proven they are will run their planned agenda at the expense of the community.

Both notes follow in full. Whitfield has received one response from city officials, from City Director Joan Adcock:

Thank you for your email, I agree

FROM ANIKA WHITFIELD

As I looked upon the demolition of what once was Ray Winder Field while passing through my neighborhood Friday evening, on the other side of I-630, I couldn't help but notice the sadness in the moment.

Sadness because an historical place and fabric of my community and our city is being demolished to become a parking lot, pavement with out a picture, connection, or meaningful purpose to the neighbors in a location that once housed activity, community, hope, and amazing possibilities to our neighbors and neighborhood. A parking lot that will serve only the people who come and go in and out to work. A parking lot that will replace history with no regard or apology! It doesn't get much sadder than this unless you drive back over to the other side of I-630 (south).

There you will see the building of a meaningful Children's Library that sits in a neighborhood filled with kids and families who desire to enjoy the comforts of a healthy neighborhood. And, yet there is a lingering sadness because this picture is not so perfect. In fact, it has a scarlet stain that is so illusive that unless you see it, you will miss it and it's potential great harm to this community. It is the stain of the foot prints of a Technology Park that hopes to displace these thriving residents from their homes, this new library and their neighborhood to build a Technology Park on top of their dreams and future.

It is not true that the Forest Hills Neighborhood or the other two neighborhoods (Oak Forest and Fair Park) are blighted, unless one uses the definition I heard while listening to Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Columbia University Professor and writer of "Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It.". Dr. Fullilove proposes that blighted really means to those who use it, "not mine". In other words, as long as something is not yours and you don't see the value in it, like someone else's home, it is ok (or at least one tries to justify that it is ok) to destroy it, redefine it, and mistreat it because after all it is "blighted" (doesn't belong to me).

So, as I drove in front of what use to be Ray Winder Field, once partly owned by the city of Little Rock ow owned by UAMS, I almost considered the demolition project a blighted area in my community. But, wisdom reminded me that more than blighted it is a sad abuse of power and wealth. It is a representation of misuse, abuse, and disregard to people, their history and their community. I felt more like it was rape. Taking something that once belonged to me, my neighbors, and this city and forcefully using it for a selfish purpose against our will. I could hear the cries of anguish as I looked at the piles of the body of Ray Winder Field that now lies broken by the evil hands that raped it of its dignity and meaning for itself and this community.

No, this sadness is a RAPING that I hope to bring to the attention of the authorities that can bring to justice the rapist and the perpetrators that continue to rape communities. Rapist that try to prevent communities to develop and enjoy the economic stability and power as do they. But, as with most rapist, the victims are "blighted" not because of how they look, but because the rapist sees no human or moral value in the victim.

Now, that type of ideology to be what I consider "blighted" because that is certainly not me nor my ideology.

I wonder why a Tech Park that would "serve the community" isn't being built there as a towering presence of hope that springs eternal? There is a way to preserve the history of my neighborhood while arresting that rapist mentality and redeeming itself through an act of humanity and respect for the one it once sought to hurt: Build the Tech Park where Ray Winder Field once sat off of I-630 (instead of a parking lot) honoring the legacy of an American baseball field where playing fairly is celebrated!

Peace and Blessings,
Anika

FROM JOYCE WILLIAMS

Anika,

Thank you for your timely, sensitive message herein. Death and destruction to neighborhoods, families and individuals is what happens when people are seen as disposable and in the way of goals set by those with political power and control of wealth and resources. There is a point of no return when those who have lost their moral compass and have no consicious temporarily rule. Dictators like Assad, mass murderers, Voldermort, and others who couldn't care less about the greater good have lost their way as have those who decided (in private) a long time ago what they were going to do to neighborhoods and families in Little Rock. They wear suits, have great material resources, plan in private and make every effort to present a civilized public face but have proven they are will run their planned agenda at the expense of the community.

Thanks for caring.

Blessings,
Joyce

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