Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Neighborhood Watch"

This poem came out of the May 5, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It also fills "The Secure Dwelling Place" square in my 5-1-20 card for the Sumerian Me Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

"The Neighborhood Watch"

There had been
three bad incidents
in as many months,
all in Jamaica Plain.

The first roughed up
poor Dominican kids
walking to school.

The second involved
a pack of guys harassing
the lesbian jogging group.

The third attacked
a man in a wheelchair,
requiring an ambulance.

Dale and Kelly weren't
surprised when a neighbor
knocked on their door, inviting
them to a neighborhood meeting
to decide how to handle this.

So they went to the meeting
to see what they could do.
Will led the discussion.

First people shared stories
of violence or verbal abuse.

There weren't a lot, but
more than people wanted.

Everyone deserved to have
a secure dwelling place.

Kelly had one incident
due to her Deafness,
Dale had one about
her cane, and both
had been scolded for
holding hands in public
on several occasions.

"What are the categories
that we're seeing?" Will said.

"Racism," Juste said
at the same time as
Eryn said, "Sexism."

"Homophobia and
ableism," Dale added.

Kelly signed, The students
were both poor and Dominican,
so we should include classism

"These are all forms of
bigotry," Will observed.

"We know where that
can lead," Rivka said,
rubbing her arms.

Dale had read all about
the Holocaust in a class for
Women's and Queer Studies.

She wasn't about to stand by
and let that happen here.

"So what can we do
about it?" Dale said.

"Shomrim," said Rivka.
"They watch the block
to keep people safe.

Juste groaned at that.
"Neighborhood watches
are racist too," he said.

"Besides, we already have
the Guardian Angels,"
Will pointed out.

"They're dedicated,
though, that's not
the same as teaching
local folks how to watch
for trouble," Rivka said.

"Buddy system," said Eryn.
"We don't need experts,
we can do for each other."

"That's a good idea," Will said.
"I can make a list of volunteers
willing to accompany people."

"I still think we need more of
a neighborhood watch," Rivka said.
"If not Shomrim, something else."

"Well, I know some resources
for doing that," Dale said
as she raised her hand.

"Great, you're in charge,"
Will said, writing it down.

"Wait, how did I end up
in charge?" Dale said.

You have a damn case
of Helium Hand, that's how,

Kelly signed, laughing.

"Who watches the watchers?"
Juste said. "How do we keep
the neighborhood watch from
becoming part of the problem?"

I can do presentations on bigotry,
Kelly signed. I know about sexism,
ableism, and homophobia. Maybe
other folks can cover racism and
classism. Spread the work around

Dale sighed. In for a penny,
in for a pound. "I know about
abuse under color of authority."

"Maybe someone could talk
about peace skills," Juste said.
"Stop trouble before it starts."

Will wrote down those ideas too.

The neighborhood wasn't
perfectly secure yet, but
it was getting there.

* * *


Guardian Angels are mentioned in "Jamaican Angels."

A neighborhood watch can take various forms, such as the Jewish Shomrim (Hebrew: שׁוֹמְרִים, 'watchers', 'guards'). Learn how to start one and read a training manual.

Bigotry such as racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia, can become a serious problem in neighborhood watches. You can start an anti-racist neighborhood watch, reduce classism, stop street harassment against women and queerfolks, and fight ableism.
Tags: activism, community, cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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