“There’s a lot of people here tonight; many more than I’d expect,” said the elderly white gentleman sitting next to me.
The residents of Brightwood had been meeting and listening to plans and promises for years. As time went on the reality of those plans and promises had come slowly and most of the people had a ho-hum attitude when meetings were called. “They just talk, but nothing gets done.”
Tonight was different though – over one hundred people in all the colors that are Brightwood’s: white, brown and black in the basement auditorium of the neighborhood school.
The Brightwood Social Services staff had spent the previous week leafleting, letter writing, and door knocking on every house in Brightwood. And it had all paid off.
“This is our neighbourhood, and it’s time we have a say about what happens here. It’s about time that we get to know each other,” shouted Barbara Rivera, the meeting’s chairwoman, in a manner not unlike her Welfare Rights meetings of past years.
She went on, “Your neighbors have been working on committees, and tonight they’re going to tell you what they’ve been doing.”
As chairwoman of the employment committee, Mrs. Rivera gave a report which detailed how four residents were now working in the recently started Interreligious Housing construction. She pointed out that there would be more residents working in the springtime when the construction force would expand.
Other reports followed. Mrs. Lee Royland and Mrs. Carmen Rivera explained how a new Head Start-Day Care Center has just been opened to teach Spanish pre-schoolers the skills and language abilities they will need for success in kindergarten and first grade.
Mrs. Dorothy Johnson told of the Riverview Modernization Committee’s recent progress and expressed hope that “things should really get going
when we hire the modernization coordinator and a community organizer.”
The crowd listened patiently as each report was tranlated into Spanish so that everyone could understand what was going on. There was an evident enthusiasm and common interest that usually is not present in such a mixed gathering.
John Keane and Roger Brunelle of the Social Services staff explained the primary purpose of the meeting which was to set up a nomination and election procedure for a neighborhood council.
Mr. Keane stressed the importance of community participation in planning what is to happen in the neighborhood. He outlined the purpose of the neighborhood council. “It would be very easy for us to come up with a bunch of programs that would not meet your needs, ” he said. “We must plan with your participation. The partks and playgrounds are going to be in your neighborhood. The school will be for your children; you must have a say about what programs will go on there.”
Mr. Brunelle pointed out that this council would eventually develop into a legal corporation which would decide what the needs of Brightwood are and hire staff and set up programs to meet those needs. He urged that, “you leave with a plan of action tonight.”
When he finished the questions came from all over the room. “How many peope should we have on this council?” “Who should vote?”
The togetherness in the room was never more obvious than when the matter of representation was being discussed. After several proposals were made that a certain number of representatives be from Riverview and a certain number from the rest of Brightwood, Mrs. Rivera, the chaiwoman, said, “I’m sick of this splitting up of Brightwood into Riverview and non-Riverview. You always hear the same thing. If we can’t get into this together right now, then we should all go home now.” The sudden applause that followed was the most beautiful thing I’ve heard in Brightwood.
When all the suggestions had been voted upon, it was decided that the nomination papers of those who wanted to run would have to be signed by five people and returned by February 2. The names, addresses and pictures of the candidates appear in this issue of the VOICE together with a ballot.
Fifteen adult members and four youth members are to be chosen. Each member will have full voting rights. Anyone sixteen and older is eligible to vote.
Brightwood Voice February, 1972 Vol. 4, No.1 p.1 by Simon Mielniczuk