Cover Story

Brightmoor fighters

"Brightmoor fighters" Continued...

Issue: "The new urban frontier," March 9, 2013

Businesses are starting up: A neighbor with woodworking skills employs local teens to make carved and painted wooden signs and wooden benches adorning some of the Farmway’s “50 parks, gardens, and places of interest.” Once neighbors decide what they want to do, plenty of outside groups help with small amounts of money and time. In 2011, volunteers (1,400!) contributed 16,000 or so hours of labor. They helped NBB maintain 125 lots, grow more than 5,000 pounds of produce, employ almost 60 teens, and reach nearly 400 children.  

The NBB 2011 annual report declares, “There is no short cut! Keep at it. You can’t restore instantly what was destroyed over 30 years of decline.” That tortoise-like approach has drawn media and foundation attention. The Marjorie Fisher Foundation funded construction of a Kaboom! orange-and-green playscape designed with input from the community and built by 250 residents and volunteers. Nearby is a fitness course and picnic area. A wooden sign built by local teens announces the Eliza Howell Nature Trail, a wood-chip path built by volunteers that begins at the playground and travels for a mile along the Rouge River. 

A year and a half after installation, the playground still sports no graffiti, one evidence of neighborhood pride and ownership. In a video made on playground construction day, a young black woman said to the camera: “This is our park. … We’re not going to let anyone sit here and mess it up. Because I’m right here. I’m watching.”

As I sat in Schumack’s van admiring the playground, a truck pulled up to the curb a few houses behind us. Schumack watched out of her rearview mirror, “Oh, no, oh, no. Scrappers. We chased them from our street yesterday.” She grabbed her phone and punched in a number. (She has all NBB members’ numbers in her phone.) Then she jammed her van into reverse. 

One of the scrappers sat in the truck and the other disappeared into a vacant house. He reappeared carrying a door. Schumack jumped out of the car: “Put it back. We don’t want scrappers in this neighborhood. … We’re going to start calling the police.” The scrappers insisted they had permission to take the door. They threw insults, but eventually backed down and returned the door. Then they drove off. 

Schumack said, “Every day we chase them away from somewhere. Five times in the last two months. They make messes. … They open houses up, dump over garbage cans. … Once it’s a mess, that’s a signal to other people to come. … You got to be vigilant.”

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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