Happy Monday, my friends! Last week we discussed place and home in terms of the land on which we live. This week I want to turn to thinking about our habitats or what planners and designers call the built environment. In some places we can easily recognize the histories of buildings in our communities including our own homes. For example, my apartment is located in a Victorian house which very clearly was built as a single-family home before being converted into three small apartments. Other buildings or neighborhoods take a bit more research. No matter the history, the research, or the journey we took to get to the present day, any habitat, any built environment is ultimately populated with real humans who have to figure out ways to live to live near each. In fact, we even have to create ways to live with each other.
One of the historic neighborhoods in Columbus, OH, is the King-Lincoln Bronzeville District. Originally known as Bronzeville by its own community, it was founded during the 1800s by freed and escaped slaves seeking greater opportunity in the North. It grew even more during the Great Migration. For more than a hundred years, Bronzeville was a self-sustaining community with hospitals, businesses, and a thriving arts and music scene fueled as much by racist redlining practices as by opposition to racism and the cultivation and promotion of Black excellence. However, when Interstate 71 was built in 1962, the highway was constructed on top of the western part of the district initiating its decline into an area known for high unemployment and high crime (the designers of the highway managed to bypass majority white neighborhoods). Bronzeville is only one example out of far too many in the United States of a prosperous racial, ethnic, or cultural neighborhood interfered with and allowed to crumble before being revived later with a different cultural population.
How do we navigate the internal and external struggles which have and continue to impact our communities? One possible solution, called bioregionalism, comes from environmental justice. “Bioregionalism encourages people to learn about the history of the places in which we live in order to understand how best to live there in ways that do not compromise the fundamental character of the habitat.” If we hope to understand our place and ourselves in that place, we need to know the history of the place and what traditions and quirks give it the unique character which are places have in way or shape. Often when we learn those traditions and histories we find connections to our own stories which ground us even further in a place and connect us to the people around us.
What do you know about the city or town you call home? What houses, buildings, or other structures would you like to learn more about?
Let us pray: God, you help us live with our neighbors and you urge us into relationship not just for their sake, but for our sake. You know that we are more fully human when we are in relationship with others. Help us to learn about our places so that we can learn about each other. Help us learn about each other so that we can build the beloved community, your true kin-dom here on earth. Bless our efforts, dear God. Amen.
Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.