"The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off."

Gloria Steinem

Friday, September 20, 2013

Community Voices

A Blog Recommendation:
A few posts ago I recommended two websites and a specific post from another site.  I now add another site to my “recommended reading” list.

Elena Santangelo, a lifelong resident of Norristown and a prolific author, publishes the blog Norristown Diary, in which she make incisive comments about her home town, what’s wrong, and what is needed to make it right.  She pays attention to what’s happening, does her homework, and is a passionate voice for Norristown.  I have carried a link to Norristown Diary on my blog site for some time (if you are viewing this on a Patch site, you won’t see it), and long ago meant to mention her work.  I highly recommend it.  Check it out, frequently.

A Growing Facebook Alliance
The Internet has been put to work for many causes.  It is capable of uniting people by enabling communication among those of like mind, regardless of the distance or obstacles between them.  One of the most exciting developments is its use by individuals and organizations that are dedicated to reviving their local communities.  For too long these people have struggled in isolation, their numbers and their passion largely negated by the combination of political and business interests that possess local power.  They too often buy into the belief—spread by those very same interests—that their cause is theirs alone, and that “outsiders” cannot contribute and are not welcome.
That is simply not so; such an attitude is merely a parochial view of one’s existence that seems to be a component of the human condition.  There is nothing so special about any community that a properly-informed outsider cannot grasp, and those who are properly informed grasp the fact that the afflictions of America’s urban areas are shared.  Those who share a common affliction have many reasons to band together, the best being that it increases their power.
There should be a network of websites and blogs that focus on individual urban communities, each with an awareness of each other.  A specific geographic area could be the nucleus of such a network, but there is no reason that the alliance of groups could not eventually spread across state boundaries.  The local area networks should, in turn, be aware and supportive of similar groups, regardless of how far away they might be. 

Facebook is an ideal location for such a movement to take root, and it looks like that is beginning to happen.  Major kudos here to Golden Cockroach from Pottstown, a primer mover in this effort.  They have begun to use Facebook to both promote improvement of their own community and to network with those from other communities.  I have recommended their website before, and now want to make people aware of their Facebook page also.  They take direct aim at the real causes of decay in Pottstown.  They mince no words, take no prisoners and accept no excuses.  Like them, join them and make people aware of them.

Another Facebook page that deserves major kudos:  Tenant Association of Allentown

This Facebook page also takes aim at the same causes of decay, the ones that exist in far too many urban areas.  Allentown is a city, not a borough, and much larger than the urban communities between it and Philadelphia.  Still, the problems of cities tend to be the problems of boroughs, writ large.  The people behind the Tenant Association are trying to organize the powerless victims of urban blight and expose the legal travesties of slumlords.  They also pull no punches, and do not cower when attacked.  They fight back, with the truth.  Like them, join them and make people aware of them.

What I like most about both these sites/pages is that they focus on the true culprits for the condition of our boroughs: slumlords and the municipal officials and administrators who allow them to avoid the law and profit by doing so.  It’s long past time we stopped talking about “the people who live in places like that,” and focus on the people who own places like that.  When you are looking for the real causes of events, always follow the money.  (Spoiler Alert:  I will have more to say on this subject in future posts)

As evidence that distance in this day of the Internet means nothing, let me also recommend Liberty of Bellevue, Pa., which operates both a website and a Facebook page.  Bellevue may lie west of Pittsburgh, but it is a borough on a river that dates from the mid-1800s.  Does that sound familiar, residents of boroughs along the Schuylkill?  Check it out; you might have more in common than you think.  You can find both its website and Facebook page in my “Links” section.

I’m Less Certain About This One:
I recently discovered a Facebook page entitled “Morethanthecurb–Conshy Voice.”  It is locally oriented, seeking posts about Conshohocken.  I was pleased to see it, Liked it and attempted to post on it asking Conshohocken residents to help me understand what is happening to their town.  Unfortunately, my posts were deleted immediately.
I’m going to recommend it anyway.  There is need for discussion about Conshohocken, where much is happening.  That’s why I previously recommended and still link to Conshy.org, and why I now recommend this page.  Concern about speeders on Fayette Street is a good start toward community awareness, and contributors can build on that, without taking away anything from the page’s purpose.  It’s new, and appears so far to be largely a solo effort.  When I last checked, it had only two Facebook friends and I was one of them.  You may not see anything from me on it, but I will continue to view it and learn from it.  You could too.

These websites and Facebook pages promise to be the beginning of a supportive inter-community network, an alliance of many determined to advance the common cause of all.  If any of you know of other such Facebook pages or websites, tell me about them, and I will help to spread the word.

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