Someone asked once, why are “You people” so angry? “You have to learn to go with the flow and trust others sometimes.”
Those who make that claim are usually immune to the problems we face and they wonder why we are wound up so tightly and always ready to explode.
We’ve been dumped on by so many politicians over the years that many of us are suspicious of everything proposed to help us, especially from people who are not affected.
Two Cases in point. Take a ride across the 18th Street overpass and glance down when it takes you into the air. What is seen is expansive acres of trees in the middle of the city that is not being used. Those who know the story, know that the entire area was once Monroe’s city dump, located in the heart of the city’s largest residential community; the Black community.
For thirty years those who did not live near the dump called all of us who angrily complained about it radicals. They asked why are “you people” so angry?
From the mid-1950’s our community complained because all of the waste of the city was being dumped in our neighborhood. Daily caravans of trash trucks paraded the narrow streets of the Renwick community en route to a sanitary landfill that many have come to call the “city dump.” Disgruntled neighbors stood, weary-eyed, watching as the daily parade swiveled the blacktop streets, and made deposits of trash and garbage in the flies.
There were flies, rats, smoke and the constant presence of soot, ashes, and decay. Our children attended school smelling like the dump because the sour drippings painted the streets and soaked into our clean clothes that hung on lines to dry.
There was sickness and health concerns because the chicken houses were dumping dead chickens above ground on the dump, causing health problems.
When we complained, those in North Monroe said it wasn’t so bad. They said those of us who complained were trouble makers, square pegs that refused to fit in round holes. They said we should try to get along and not complain.
Even when Benny Ausberry and Ray Wright were elected to the city council in the 1980’s the city refused to hear us.
Finally, in frustration, a group of people, no one knows who they were, set the entire dump on fire. There was so much refuge in the area that the fire could not be contained. It took units of both the parish and city fire departments nearly a month to drown the flames.
The dump burned, and then and only then did people understand why we were so angry.
We have seen it so many times. The most recent example is the city school board’s decision to build a beautiful new school in an area that will most likely flood the homes of hundreds of black homeowners once its constructed and we have that super hard rain that seems to come every five years.
None of the school board members who chose to build on the spot will be affected by their decision. With all of the available land in the entire city of Monroe, they struggle to explain why neighbors shouldn’t worry about the impact on their families. They believe they are not being rational when they become angry and protest any way they can.
For nearly thirty years, this newspaper complained about the dump. The officials at the time painted us radical militants who were trying to stir up trouble.
Along with residents, we are still complaining about the insensitivity of the school board’s non-resident members choosing a site that will probably flood rather than look for another. Like the dump issue, those who will not be affected wonder why we are still complaining even as the school is being erected.
Interestingly, the city leaders such as Luther T. “Dick” Harper, told our community that they had studied the issue of the dump and found no other immediate remedy. He said future plans would put the dump on the outskirts of West Ouachita. He berated our complaints.
Today, school board president Bill Willson, mirrors the same line. The district is building a new MLK in an area known for flooding when the five-year hard rains come. He says he has studied the issue for more than 30 hours and concluded that the MLK is the best choice possible.
Of course, he won’t be affected if his study happens to be wrong. Neither will any of those board members who voted to ignore the pleas of the residents. None of them live in the flood zone: B.J. Johnson, Darryl Berry, Rodney McFarland, Brenda Shelling, Vickie Dayton, Jennifer Haneline and Willson.
Hopefully, the high water won’t come soon, but when it does, they will bear the blame for their insensitivity to the plight of our people.
The city could have moved the dump someplace else, but they chose not to.
The city school board could have built the new MLK someplace else in Monroe, but they chose not to.
That is why we are so angry and remain suspicious of all “politicians.”