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Gentrification: Won't you be my neighbor?
By Romanita Hairston     May 3rd, 2016

As a kid I grew up with a show called Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. It began with a song,

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...


The song carries on talking about the beauty of the neighborhood and Mister Rogers' longing for a neighbor, "you" — whoever you are — to be exact. It ended with a simple question, "Won't you be my neighbor?"

This question of being neighbors is a complicated one in places where gentrification is happening. You have a mix of views that emerge. You have those who feel the neighborhood is being invaded or taken over — forced neighbors. You have those who feel like they're being asked, will you please not be my neighbor — displaced neighbors! You have those who feel unwanted in a community they have chosen to embrace — rejected neighbors. You have those who don't know and don't care — unaware neighbors. All of these types of "neighbors": forced, displaced, rejected, and...

The Power of Youth Voice
By Romanita Hairston     April 26th, 2016
I had the honor in March of being a judge for a middle school oratory competition that was put on by a program run by one of my college classmates. It included students from several schools in the city. It has been a few years since I've been in a middle school or around middle school students. My middle child is in high school, and my youngest is in elementary school.

All of my memories of middle school were far too deeply hidden in my memory banks for me to conjure a personal expectation, and my older two children moved through this season fairly gracefully. So, I was left with a more socially shaped expectation of what the students and their speeches might be like that day. I was in for a wonderful surprise.

You don't have to think about it long to recognize that middle school seems to be deemed the armpit experience of one's educational journey. It is a time with more freedom, because students typically change classes and they have more teachers with whom to interact. It is als...

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