Learning From South Phoenix

Letter to Public

To Whom it May Concern:

This past spring, my urban studies class spent six weeks exploring South Phoenix. On our first day there, my group saw something that caught our attention. It was an old warehouse guarded by a high chain link fence. Half of it was dilapidated, yet there was something curious about it. Two cars were parked in front. We asked ourselves, “What are they doing there?” During the ensuing weeks, we produced a new theory as to what the warehouse was each time we drove past it—each theory growing more extreme. It was a product manufacturer! It was a place for people to hang out! It was somebody’s house! It was a center for dealing drugs! It was the center of a crime circle!

On the last day of class, we decided that we just had to find out which theory was correct. We walked to the back of the building to find old industrial remains and a burnt portion of the building. Finding no evidence as to what the cars were doing there, we walked to the front. After climbing under a fence, I was able to finally look through the front window. Resting in the front of the building was piles of boxes, a freshly made bed, and clothes laid out on a chair. This was somebody’s home. We finally solved the mystery, though it raised a whole new set of questions.

This experience of “the warehouse mystery” is very similar to my experience studying South Phoenix as a whole. South Phoenix has had a bad reputation for years. When we first began our class, I was expecting to study mostly ghettos and slums. However, we found that though there are poor areas, there are also very nice areas. More and more people are moving into the new neighborhoods that are being built. I found myself asking, “What are they doing there?” As the class continued, I explored and observed neighborhoods, parks, restaurants, businesses, and a diverse gathering of people—the question still lingering in my mind. By the last day of class, I had come to a conclusion. More and more people are coming there because it is a wonderful place to live! I would even consider moving there myself!

South Phoenix is bordered to the south by the South Mountains and bordered to the north by Central Phoenix. There are a variety of flavorful and authentic restaurants. Large chain stores and small “mom and pop” stores coexist with one another (at least for now). A variety of housing is available depending on one’s tastes. And the cultural diversity adds fascinating character. There are many changes occurring within the community and there are still negative aspects (such as industrial parks). Yet overall, it is a very enjoyable place to be. However, I am left with even more questions now than when I began. One mystery has led to many more.

From my experience studying South Phoenix, I learned a valuable lesson. That lesson is to look and see what is really there. I can either continue to base my opinions on misleading assumptions, or I can explore and see what the truth really is. If I open my eyes to what is around me, I am likely to discover treasures that were always there.


Rachel Gregoire

Return to My Home Page   Contact: rachel.gregoire@asu.edu