Thursday, December 3, 2009

Keeping on point - organizing in Jackson

Drug dealers in Jackson throw running shoes over power lines to advertise they are located nearby

This week I gave a talk in Jackson, Mississippi where I met some terrific, forward-looking folks. They reminded me of Sarah from last blog. Their energy recharged my batteries, especially the lead organizer, John Dinkins a fellow with the right stuff.

Did crime get solved? Not yet. As the Jackson photos in this blog show, fear and crimes exist there and (as elsewhere) have for many years. They won't vanish overnight - especially with our tired methods so ineffective in the past.

What happened at the meetings? We sat around tables talking crime prevention. I told stories of safety and SafeGrowth in other places. We shared ideas. I heard of previous successes and failures.

One Jackson resident uses humor, but expresses fear

We talked about organizing neighborhoods, how SafeGrowth might work there, and virtual e-networking. We talked about more extensively diagnosing neighborhood crimes and mapping fears. We talked about how to bring in more community and expanding this dialogue.

Is this the answer? Not completely. But shared dialogue is how these things get started.

Read the biography Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary, about Jacobs' early days at community meetings. Those meetings decades ago started an urban revolution that transformed for the better our thinking about urban life.

To me the Jackson meetings felt like that - confusing, exciting, necessary. I saw - yet again - a thirst not easily quenched by retribution, fixing broken windows, nor by extinguishing self-interest crime.

It is quenched by building an authentic sense of community in people's lives along with a healthy neighborhood to support it. That, ultimately, is the point.