Can you believe it?
Rockford and the year of 2013 has been represented by citizens in the cultural movement to be a year of progress through the arts: music, spoken word, vivid paintings and pictures, local clothing lines, video production. And yet we still suffer from the negative media attention we receive via infamous magazines because of statistics, a term that segregates the good from the bad by providing a number above or below a perceived threshold.
Nine used to be our ‘magic number’, a number that symbolized our obedience to unemployment and reminded us of our high crime rates, property taxes, and low income communities left in poverty. Decades of decline has labeled us an assassin of American character, a non-growing city with no more space to shrink. The American Dream still sleeps in Rockford…what will it take for us to wake up?
Or is it the media that still sleeps? Some dreams have been made reality in Rockford, Illinois. Leaders from the community have stepped up to embrace change and cause a turnaround for the city. Ample opportunity exists, but one reason why Rockford now sits close to the top of Forbes Magazine’s Most Miserable Cities list is because not enough citizens are stepping up to embrace our positive movements and evoke change themselves. The type of citizen who complains, but never takes part in a movement.
Yes, I am talking to you. You sit at home and complain constantly about how you have nothing to do. Or how you can’t walk outside because you’re afraid of getting robbed. You post Facebook statuses that smear mud on the face of your hometown and tweet your little ‘Rockford sucks’ update to your followers. You don’t commit to change, you prevent it. You don’t inspire people; you hold them back by your silence. You weigh yourself stagnant by not getting involved with people in the community who bring changes to the environment, to government, to business, to culture, to communities. No, you hide behind your computer and promote Rockford as a slum town full of scum and dusty building windows.
You stray from making a difference in the community’s life due to your inherent ability as a human to willfully ignore an emerging problem. Chores are left accumulated, dust is left collected, and momma is no longer proud to have you as her child. Collect your belongings, and get the F#@% out!
There isn’t enough room in this shrinking town for the both of us: the movement embracers vs. the movement crashers. Lately I have seen many of you, not at public events or out in the open, but through quirky comments online about your hometown, the city that you may or may not have grown up in but still decide to reside in or around with your own witty, humorous opinion of your lame Rockford experiences.
We aren’t perfect. Hell, some of the things I experienced growing up on the west side of Rockford purposely instilled in me visions of hopelessness and gray goals. Not until my later teenage years did the color begin to fill up the black and white picture of Rockford I held in my wallet. I, too, once had dreams of leaving Rockford and prospering elsewhere. But no, I can’t do that, that would be too easy. Anyone can just pick their sh*t up and go somewhere else. Where I come from, we don’t do things the easy way. Corners don’t get cut, time doesn’t get wasted, and lives don’t go unlived.
But just like it takes a real man to raise his children from birth to adulthood, it takes a real leader to raise his own city from ashes to a prosperous, community involved, culturally evolved, business-oriented place to live and grow. A real community leader doesn’t leave his community for a better one because it will be easier.
Would a parent leave their child for a more intelligent one?
I must say, it is a shame to see some of, and I dare say it, my own friends take part in the #Rockford #bash-a-thon. It’s a shame because all of you are leaders in your own rights, and all of you hold the key to all of your dreams. But wake up, this isn’t a dream. We need work. We need a better standard of living. We need people. We need YOU, the ones reading this who have not yet contributed to their community through ideas and offerings of intelligent decisions, as well as creating opportunities for youth and economic development. We cannot wait for these things to be handed to us by the government, local, state level, or federal. We need everyone to pitch in: tax-payers, welfare recipients, naysayers, yea-sayers, police officers, immigrants, entrepreneurs, students, fathers, mothers, blacks, whites, sisters and brothers, Latino and Asian, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, the Green Party, block parties, neighborhood groups, local businesses, non-profit organizations, local government, comedians, poets, leaders, you, and me.
Basically, Forbes Magazine is telling us that in order to get off their list, we need to create jobs. We need to lower property taxes. We need to better educate our children to be book smart, as well as street smart.
The American Dream is slowly being re-awakened within the Rockford community.
But most of you don’t know it.
I have written my own words, utilized my own resources, witnessed mind-intense artwork, felt non-verbal words, read touching stories, engaged leaders, listened to poetry, viewed inspiring videos, lived in poverty, gone hungry at night, broken the law, rejected friendships, influenced negative decisions, loved, and hated. I’ve empathized and sympathized, legitimized and revitalized. I’ve experienced Rockford, Illinois, just like the rest of you. Rockford isn’t just about crime and poverty. We’re about togetherness, holding all citizens accountable for our progress, promoting growth through positive features and forms of art, and creating opportunities for each other.
And last but not least…I’ve survived the 3rd most miserable city in the United States of America.
“Sometimes a flower is best left without water, for it may soon evolve, and then learn to feed on the dryness of the ocean.” – Unknown
Categories: Community & Events