Daryl McKinney grew up in the Heights. He went to school at Treadwell, played football at Treadwell, then, he was fortunate enough to be able to further his education. Now he is working with the Heights Coalition to uplift the community. He wants the community to fight back against blight, and he wants your Help!
Q. You have been one members of the Heights Coalition most involved in making the Building Neighborhood Capacity Planning process (which was granted to the Heights neighborhood from the Federal Government to help unify and empower residents) run.
What do you think this BNCP process has done in the community? What do you think it has and will accomplish?
It has open doors and offered opportunities for the community that haven’t been available in the past, especially after the neighborhood started to decline. Its breathing new life in to the community in a way. BNCP has made it possible to make people outside the neighborhood aware of the issues and problems the neighborhood faces. So, there are now new resources and partnerships happening. Now there are people working from the eye-view of neighborhood coordinating and focusing efforts on making the neighborhood safe again, and fixing up problems. There are people coming together to empower the neighborhood and its residents, listening to their needs and problems.
There is a sense of urgency, that has come from the BNCP process . Its not someone trying to come in and take things over. It has helped people come together and understand that they can do some things for themselves, and they don’t have to wait. At the same time it has created partnerships that bring in help, that brings in some new folks, that brings people back but working alongside the community and residents in a way that empowers them. There’s a difference between coming in and taking over, and saying, “Hey, I’m here to work with you to strive to make the neighborhood better.”
Q. I heard that you have been putting together a project that aims to do just that, called Blight Squad.
What is the Blight Squad all about?
The squad is going to be run by the neighborhood’s residents. Even though I am helping to put it together as a formal organized thing, there are residents who were already taking the intitative on their own. They have been doing things like cutting the vacant lot next to them, or boarding a window on a vacant building. That is what the meeting last Saturday was about. We are trying to organize those folks who are already doing things and those who want to. We want to let them know they are not alone, and then help them work together.
Q. Who can join the Blight Squad?
We have people from all around the Heights involved. The group is open to anyone who wants to help: from folks who can push a lawnmower and board windows, to those who can help plant flowers, prepare lunch, or even baby sit other resident’s children while they help. We are working to reach out and pull in more people from the inner Heights, but if an older resident has a grandson who lives across town, she can bring him too. We want this to be a full on effort!
Q. What do you want the Squad to accomplish?
I want the group to accomplish what it wants to accomplish! That is the point. We want to bring people together and help them feel and take pride in their neighborhood. [Yes, there are issues here, but the only way to change that is to come together and start fixing them. The group can help make the Heights a neighborhood that residents are proud of because they are fixing the community themselves.] The hope is that we can help empower residents to lead themselves where they want to go.
Daryl will be manning the Blight Squad booth at the Community Blight Fair Tomorrow. If you want to know more swing by and talk with him.