I read an article the other day about rap star Eminem’s sojourn back to his “rough” childhood neighborhood to obtain inspiration and could completely relate. On August 7, 2010, approximately one-hundred or more former residents of the Marcy Housing Project in Brooklyn, New York will convene for a well-organized “family” reunion. The excitement is palpable. The love is appreciated and well received. Many of us have not seen each other in over 25 years until the miracle of Facebook® brought us back together.
The bond of community living that I experienced in the Marcy has never been duplicated again. Not even in my middle-class Florida neighborhood. For some, the projects were the last stop before purchasing a home. For others, it was a safe haven from extreme poverty that housed second and third generations of families in need. Contrary to popular misconceptions, project living had a code of ethics. People knew better than to cross the line.
Within the walls of those tiny two and three bedroom apartments emerged ordinary people who did extraordinary things. My sixth floor neighbor, Noble “Junie” Jackson paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom in Vietnam in 1967. Ditto Robert Whitley in 1968. Captain Vernon Richard of the FDNY, Engine 16, Ladder 7 left us on September 11, 2001 in a blaze at the World Trade Center. My 6th floor neighbor, Wanda Holt is a NYC elementary school principal. My third floor neighbor, Bernice Bradway, is a retired school principal and administrator of Syracuse University. Todd McCullough was an architect and alumnus of Cornell University. The Sherman brothers, Stefon and Lonnie became a dentist and ob-gyn physician. Jeff Lucas is a retired detective from NYPD. The object of my school-girl crush, Randy Hill became an artist who hung out with Andy Warhol at Studio 54 and of course, everyone knows about Sean “Jay-Z” Carter.
From the outside looking in, the Marcy may appear harsh, but from the inside looking out, it was a place where people took care of each other’s children. No one ever went hungry. Neighbors shared limited resources. Injustices were simply not tolerated. We dispelled myths, ignored societal barriers and unharnessed the potential of our human spirits. We are now spread all over the country but our hearts still remains in Brooklyn.
So on days when I am in the midst of a personal storm; when adversity reigns supreme, I recall my days in the Marcy Projects, and become inspired all over again.
Home is where the heart is. Everyone should have one.