Sunday’s editorial urges readers not to forget about the Booker T. Washington neighborhood now that Issac Bailey’s series on the area has come to an end:
The stories of the Booker T. Washington neighborhood brought to light this week by Issac Bailey have been heartbreaking. And encouraging. And frustrating. And inspiring.
For many of us, it was likely the first time we had the chance to learn the stories behind the names of murder victims who appear in the newspaper all too often.
We saw the last sneakers that Tony Hemingway wore in 2005, now spattered with blood and kept by his mother. We met John, a crack dealer who wants to leave the drug life but doesn’t see another path for his life. And most of all we heard from the distraught mothers, who saw their sons and daughters die early, senseless deaths.
It was a powerful series of stories, one that showed us a side of life often hidden from public view. But it would be a shame if we let it stop there, if we just said, “Boy, that was some good reporting; sure hope that neighborhood does better. What’s for dinner tonight?”
What can you do to help the Booker T. Washington neighborhood? The first, and easiest action, is to simply recognize that it’s there. Hundreds or thousands of people, residents and tourists alike, pass it by every day without paying the neighborhood – between 10th and 21st Avenues North and Carver and Washington Streets in the heart of Myrtle Beach – any attention whatsoever.
Beyond simple recognition, the area needs two things above all: education and mentoring. The community has already begun a number of efforts aimed at both of these goals, including work by the Rev. Tim McCray, local activist Bennie Swans and other area pastors and citizens. The Boys & Girls Club is at work in the area to model good choices for children, as is A Father’s Place, which works with fathers on rebuilding connections to their children. Another community service project focused on training and community development is being started by Krystal Dotson, a friend of 2006 murder victim Jamilah Hytower. All of these efforts merit our support.
If we want to end the cycle of violence and bolster the work of hope begun by grieving mothers and dedicated community leaders, John and other drug dealers need to be able to see another path. Students ending their school years must be able to see a promising future of happiness and success that doesn’t require crime or blind luck.
Some of the most powerful institutions in our community are within walking distance of Booker T., and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and City Hall could do much to open new possibilities for the neighborhood’s youth, by reaching out to the community with invitations to participate in decisions, perhaps creating new internship opportunities for deserving residents, or even just visiting Booker T. from time to time instead of driving past on the way to other parts of the Strand.
We don’t wish to be simplistic or trite, or to minimize the issues of this community, but there is still much to be said for the words written in 1901 by Booker T. Washington, from whom the neighborhood takes its name:
“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
We sincerely wish the best for all those in Booker T., many of whom love the area and are doing well, and some of whom are struggling to keep their head above water. Bailey’s reporting this week shined a light on those struggles. It’s now up to us to make sure that light does not go out.