Summer has always been my favorite time of the year. As a young girl growing up on 70th and Parnell I recall open fire hydrants to beat scorching temperatures and block-wide games of hide and seek. I always felt safe under the constant watch of my great-grand parents and the other elders on my block. As they sat on their porches, elders exchanged the latest news, shared their stories about the past, and added to the sense of community that defined my Englewood experience.
My neighbor, Arthur Bridgeford, is one of those elders. You could always expect to see Mr. Arthur on his front porch during the summer. Sadly, Mr. Arthur was struck in the arm by a stray bullet on July 19, 2011 in a drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of one young man. Upon hearing the news I was stunned. Mr. Arthur was 88 at the time of the shooting. My mind could not help but drift to thoughts of my great-grand parents, who, once upon a time, also enjoyed using their front porch to pass the time on summer days. Shootings are always a tragedy, and it really gives me pause when the victims are elderly, one of the most vulnerable subsets of our population.
Mr. Arthur’s ordeal caused me to think about the precious memories that our elders store. Once they make the transition to ancestors they take all of that knowledge with them. Fortunately, Mr. Arthur survived the shooting, but I realized how much I did not know about his life and all the things he witnessed over many years watching the block. He’sseen countless people come and go, young kids grow into adulthood and the changes that come along over the course of decades in a community.
Earlier this year, Frank Buckles,the last surviving American veteran of World War I, passed away at the age of 110. With his passing, Buckles took his testimony along with him. As young people it is important that we spend some quality time with our elders and hear their stories, ask them questions and add their experience to our collective consciousness. I am inspired whenever I read history, but hearing it from the perspective of the people who lived through it gives it even more meaning. Mr. Arthur and members of his generation have a wealth of knowledge and we have to take advantage of it while we still can. He is intimately familiar with all that Englewood is and the unlimited potential that lies within its residents.
From RAGE member, Amber Walker….