By: Nicole Kist
Dear Resident of Phoenix:
I have lived in Phoenix my entire life and never really been down to South Phoenix. I may have driven through it a few times but never stopped to really check it out and learn for myself what was really going on down there. I felt intimidated by the area, how it appeared so different from what I was used to and because of the "stories" I had heard about the dangerous neighborhoods in South Phoenix. I had been hearing about South Phoenix on the news since I was a kid but I all I ever heard was how it had high crime, gangs, drugs, poor neighborhoods, and other characteristics of supposed "bad neighborhoods". I think that is the general stereotypical picture that people get when they think of South Phoenix if they don't really know about it. Well this class allowed me to see the much larger, more truthful picture that South Phoenix is.
I saw and learned many new characteristics of South Phoenix during our six weeks of field research for our anthropology class. The professor gave us several reading on ghetto neighborhoods, gentrification, disinvestment, etc. that we could compare to and base our perceptions of South Phoenix on. I saw similarities between the neighborhoods in the articles and the neighborhoods in South Phoenix. There were fences around many of the buildings, high security precautions in most of the businesses, bricked in windows, abandoned buildings and lots, and very few, if any, major grocery or restaurant chains. Their were low riders, gang members, homeless people, and other sights generally associated with South Phoenix or similar neighborhoods. At first glance everything I had read or heard about these "ghetto" neighborhoods appeared to be somewhat true, but that was at first glance. When I took a closer look I realized, as I think many of my classmates did also, there was so much more that all those people had over looked.
What I think so many people have forgot to mention in their writings and stories are the very things I saw in South Phoenix, they just weren't looking. South Phoenix is rich in culture, diversity, and history. South Phoenix is an old city and has seen much change. Many of the families that live there have been there for decades. There is a large population of Mexican-Americans and other ethnic groups in this area because their families immigrated here. The large collaboration of different ethnicities and cultures makes South Phoenix very unique. There are many family owned and operated businesses in South Phoenix that shows the cultures of all the different families in the area and the pride they have in their city.
Since South Phoenix is an old city, along with that comes older homes, deteriorating buildings, then of course cheaper housing, lower-income families, etc. This is not an uncommon event it happens in neighborhoods all over the country, and with a little help from the government and the citizens it can be turned around. Right now in South Phoenix there is a lot of gentrification, and disinvestment going on. As the city's economy has declined and the neighborhoods have gotten older and more run down the property values go down. There reaches a point in some cities were regardless of the efforts of many of the citizens gentrification occurs. Rents often sky-rocket so the current residents are forced to leave and then big corporations can buy the abandoned property and build nice new homes, or building and turn around and sell them for a small fortune. This may make the area appear nicer but all it really does it kick middle or lower income families out and move upper class families in. This is not a solution.
Although gentrification, criminal activities, drugs, gangs, and other negative events have been increasing in South Phoenix over the past several years I noticed the people of South Phoenix were coming together and acting as a family to preserve their neighborhood and educate their children about crime, drugs, sex, etc. There were several murals on buildings all over town that were delivering powerful messages about pride, abstinence, drugs, and more to the residents of South Phoenix, especially the youth. There were neighborhood watch communities everywhere and more and more people seemed to be looking out for one another. These sort of actions are what neighborhoods need to survive. There are some events that can not be stopped from happening but when they do happen there are solutions that can help to solve the problems and with the help of neighbors and other residents anything is possible!