Sunday, August 23, 2015

Spent much of this afternoon doing something I rarely do ... .

... read back through random posts in this journal, and was soon lost in time.

Such a long and varied life I've lived.  Some of the accounts of the days of struggling toward recovery of our little business were unbelievably difficult and stressful -- and I had forgotten how fearful I was so much of the time, but certainly courageous.  I must have become softer with age, because I'm certain I could not live through such times now.  And this was a period of life that followed 20 years of being an upscale suburban housewife, and a second marriage into the life of a faculty wife on the University of California campus.

South Berkeley during the Seventies was much like Ferguson, Detroit, Chicago,  Baltimore, and other troubled areas in many parts of the country today.  It has now gentrified out of that identity, and the former low-income black residents have been displaced through being priced out of residency by economic forces.  Berkeley has lost its racial diversity over many years.  'Tis the pity, I think.  I'm far more comfortable in Richmond these days, where the diversity is rich, volatile, edgy, cantankerous, and warmly engaging.  I've grown to love Richmond. 

I remembered that when my embattled black businessman husband complained to the police that our store was being broken into about every 3 months, and that we were without adequate police protection in the community.  Since we'd parted, and before, he'd taken to sleeping on a cot in the back of the store with a rifle at his side.  The police explanation was, "... we like to have neighborhoods like this.  When something happens in other parts of town we know where we can most likely pick up the culprit."  They were using our neighborhood as a catchment area.

Of the nine halfway houses for addicts in recovery and returning former prisoners, seven of them were placed in our neighborhood by the City.   The neighborhood was ground zero for the drug trade, and those high risk people were cynically set down in the middle of the "candy store" where they were expected to live where recidivism and relapse into drug abuse would be most likely be inevitable.  Children in such areas are put at risk of their lives as time has clearly shown.  The sound of gunfire now so common had not yet become a problem, though -- over time -- I saw 4 young black boys/men gunned down within 500 yards of our store.  One Saturday afternoon -- with several customers leisurely browsing record albums -- a bullet came through the storefront window from police activity across the street -- whizzed past just over my son, David's, head and settled in the wall!

I've outlived the cynicism that had to be developed in order to withstand the quiet terror that had to be lived with every day, and that so many have had to survive while retaining enough scar tissue to serve as protection from the effects of having to spend our lives as 3/5th of a human being.

... and there were fine and upstanding folks living in that corner of South Berkeley; folks caught up in a dehumanizing system caused by poverty and degradation.  We took care of each other as far it was possible to do so.  My lot was cast with those around me, and we all made the best of it.  Despite all, I look back fondly on those troubled years, and find that I'm still spinning off lessons learned.  That period added a richness and depth to my life that continues to serve as grounding for today's small victories.

In the archives there's a good record of those years -- starting in March-April of 2004.  Use the little white search bar on the left side of the screen above the banner.  You can just check on the dates in the archives list, of course.