My family and I moved to Hollander Ridge around 1976. I had three sisters and one brother. Hollander Ridge was beautiful! The grass was green, basketball courts were large, and the swimming pools were 3 to 8 feet deep-they even had a baby pool. There were a couple of unfinished tennis courts that I had the least bit of desire to use; I was a 11 year old Black girl living below the poverty level-tennis was not part of my sports heritage.
In the summer time, sports consumed us. We competed with other communities-always coming in 1st or 2nd place- that’s my recollection. Oh, the swimming pools were off the chain. I went swimming 90% of the time in the summer. Although I had a medium skin tone, after spending most of the summer swimming, I became a beautiful dark chocolate.
Our young Black young men were so athletic. Boy could they run and hit a ball. I wasn’t that bad myself-I hit that ball like a boy.
The people in the recreation center genuinely cared about us-you could tell they did. We had a central place to play, All Day! We even had a marching band.
We lived the life that children are supposed to live. Carefree of any stress. Our mind was not supposed to have room for the devil to play in-the sports and the activities at the recreation center took up all the space in there.
I don’t remember when, but way before 1992, the unthinkable happened. Our safe place abruptly ended-the recreation center closed! I was confused to why the recreation center closed, I didn’t know it was closing. But the eerie feeling I had inside my stomach made me worry about the end result of this decision-it was going to be catastrophic.
Mark Reutter wrote a great article confirming what I thought, called Closing rec centers and slashing youth programs were root causes of riot, councilman asset
In that article, Bill Henry, City Council, Baltimore, Maryland (Democrat) said, “in 1991, “we spent $37 million on the Department of Recreation and Parks, and we spent $165 million on the Police Department. A quarter of a century later, we have almost doubled the overall city government budget, we have almost tripled the police department’s budget, and we spend less today on recreation [centers] than we spent [then].”
The mayor agreed on the stupid idea to close our recreation centers and all of the activities we so graciously appreciated. What the hell! That’s like closing churches and telling the church goers to pray at home. Hell, Satan hit the jackpot! He had room to play all day long with cotton candy to eat and a blank canvas to create what ever his evilness desired.
Instead of round white baseballs and softballs flying across the field into a leather glove, beautiful happy bodies swimming in the pool and foot steps that were striding for success, jumping on the recreation center floors, there were frighted black bodies dropping on the ground after metal bullets pierced their bodies; The environment no longer consisted of fun peaceful days and constructive thoughts, it was consumed by restless nights and destructive behavior.
If a positive is not replaced with a positive immediately after its departure, the waiting negative will soon take its place; Our young Black men no longer competed for trophies; The devil is very convincing in his playing field-he made since out of making fast money from selling drugs.
The drug addicts traveled from afar to buy drugs in Hollander Ridge. To keep up the facade of a squeaky clean neighborhood was essential to them-they had families and jobs to protect.
Our young Black men, on the other hand, who’s destiny was promising because it was backed by athletic skills, self beliefs , and the confidence of a king, lives was shattered. The possibility of a squeaky clean neighborhood with a beautiful family was not their concern yet. They were only concerned about the tools they were given by the mayor to be inquisitive and creative. It was working until the mayor decided that the cost to keep the rec open was not in the budget; What ever happened to pay now or pay later? Oh, so that’s why the police budget is higher.
The shield that covered and protected the children living in Hollander Ridge was removed; now the concerns of adult life can pierced their young body and soul.
Now I understand that eerie feeling I felt in my stomach the day I found out the recreation centers were closing. I witnessed a murder.
Please don’t miss understand, the recreation centers are not the only thing that can build character-family plays an important role also. However, intellectual and physical growth will be stunted if your only life lessons came from the comfort of your home. Most people know this, especially people who have the power to make the decision to change it, or so I thought.