An email sent from Beirut to Bronzeville to me from my daughter arrived today. It was simply the following few lines.
I visited a Palestinian camp on Thursday, and there is a project on rooftop playgrounds they're interested in. Do you have any information on rooftop development? Read about the camp on my blog.
Hope things are going well!
My daughter is a teacher at the American Community School in Beirut, Lebanon. She embarked on this particular two year assignment a couple of weeks ago.
We’re used to her wanderlust. She taught in China and spent several months in Mali but this is the longest jaunt to date. I have to admit I was a little shaken at the thought of my outspoken, headstrong and brilliant daughter heading for the Middle East. It’s a long road from Bronzeville to Beirut and the distance between rights for women here and there is not a gap but a gorge. I was reassured that Beirut is the Paris of the middle east and as my daughter put it, she wasn’t planning any forays into Syria, Egypt or Libya. She did however; participate in a field trip of sorts to a refugee camp for Palestinians in Lebanon. The email to us was spawned by that trip. To fully understand the enormity of the request she made of us to provide info on rooftop construction you might want to read her blog, Bulletz Over Beirut.
Since she was not allowed to photograph the refugee camp, I immediately went in search of images. I am not certain that the photo I have provided here (courtesy of Saturday Mideast Report) is from the same camp but the description of what my daughter visited and this are pretty darned close.
After perusing other sites and looking at dozens of photos I turned to my spouse for an answer. Is there anyway rooftop developments could be used here? My daughter knows how hard we are working here in Bronzeville to green the place up and make the most of the available resources to provide jobs, food and green space but did she think we could work this miracle? It’s tough enough here. Some older buildings are sturdy enough to support the weight for roof top development and others are being built with that in mind but it's still tough to get through the permitting process. From what I could discern there wasn’t even a building with a decent roof to keep the rain out at the refugee camp! My ever so understanding spouse and resident specialist in all things sustainable will contact her for more information but the outlook is bleak.
My daughter alludes to having spent part of her life in the Bronzeville ghetto in her blog. By definition we did live in the ghetto. We moved from South Commons (less well defined as a ghetto) to 35th street on Priaire Avenue. At the time of our pioneering move the area had not claimed gentrification status. Immediately to the north of 35th street, though still considered Bronzeville, had morphed into the "Gap". By the way the moniker has nothing to do with the clothing chain and in fact I'm not sure where the name originated but that is totally off topic. Needless to say south of 35th street was and still is Bronzeville. We were in the ghetto. My daughter was ten years old at the time of our pioneering to Prairie; her brother nine. There was serious culture shock. We bought a turn of the century gray stone known as the Money Pit. The place was a wreck complete with uninvited “guests”. There was no swimming pool, unlike the complex at South Commons. There were vacant lots and once stately homes that had been turned into multiple family slums.
What we went through was nothing compared to the plight of the Palestinian refugees living outside of Beirut. We might have had concerns about the kids playing outdoors (though they did and survived). The children in the refugee camp attempt to
play amidst exposed electrical wires running pirated power to their homes. Electrocution is not uncommon. Of course my daughter asked what she could do to help. That's just one of the ways she makes me proud to have gone through all that labor pain. The answer she received was this. The mothers there in that hovel in Lebanon are like mothers everywhere. They want a decent and safe place for their children to play. They didn’t mention the fact that unemployment is over 50% (they are not allowed to work in Beirut except in menial jobs like housekeeping) or that food was scarce. The children need a place to play.
I thought about this as I reviewed an incident of this past week. A bunch of kids threw rocks at a big window in the new senior building at 53rd street. The senior residents were enjoying a night of bingo and a shared meal. The rock through the window ruined the evening. I couldn’t help but think of Washington Park right across the street with its tennis courts and basketball courts. I wish there was a way to send those rock throwing kids to that far away ghetto, not forever. Mabe they could visit for just a month. Would it change them? Would they notice there is no park or swings? Or would they just be delighted by all the rocks. The problem would be there aren't any windows in those tin huts at which to hurl the stones. In that refugee camp so far away from Bronzeville maybe they would find a real "ghetto" is no place like home. Maybe they would decide to find a way to end ghettos everywhere, for once and for all.