How do you change what is wrong? How do you fix what is broken? How do find hope in turmoil? The solution: you tell your story. On September 26, 2013, at the Fresno City Council Meeting, representatives of the Lowell Neighborhood did just that, they told their story. Although the idea spawned from what Councilman Oliver Baines aptly described as a, “ . . . misperception on what is and is not happening in Lowell,” residents Randy White, Ariana Martinez, Barbara Fiske, and Rici Skei told their community’s story, one of transformation, change, and most of all, hope and peace.
White, a 20 year Lowell resident, began by stating that,
The transformational process in the neighborhood has taken hold,
and that advances in what used to be known as the Devil’s Triangle has come from city engagement, but most of all, “ . . . from neighborly commitment, key partnerships, and by the neighbors becoming organized.”
Martinez followed White discussing the two neighborhood associations that reside in the community, one in Spanish and one in English, which may be divided by language, but are united in purpose. She also noted personal stories of residents who have improved their own lives, and by association, the lives of their own family and their neighbors. Whether selling tamales on the street and advancing to a budding catering business or working on beatification projects for the neighborhood, the organization of neighbors is having lasting effects on its residents.
Fiske, the president of the Lowell Neighborhood Association, spoke of community generated projects, collaborations, and improvements that have been aided by the city and various organizations, but that also included “sweat equity” from neighbors that wanted to be involved. She later stated that, “What we do in Lowell, we almost never do alone,” and it is this spirit that has revitalized this forgotten neighborhood.
The City Council workshop ended with 7-year resident, Rici Skei. She told a story of, “the gang fight that didn’t happen,” and the day she witnessed proof of the transformation of her beloved neighborhood. She described the hot summer day that residents came out of their homes to see what all the commotion was about and instead were witness to, “. . . a concentrated does of hope,” as a known gang member chose peace in what would have been a brutal fight. Instead of violence, he stopped and said, “There will be peace in this neighborhood.”
Councilmen Steve Brandeau stated after the presentation that, “It always comes down to dedicated people . . . I can tell by the smiles, the light in your eyes, the passion, that this is going to continue in Lowell.” Their work is not done, it may never be, but their story will continue to end in peace and hope. This is the change that the Lowell Neighborhood presented to the Fresno City Council, this is hope for their community, and an example for their city. This is their story.