On Saturday, June 16th, OUT40 hosted a community block party for the kids within the neighboring vicinity to celebrate the end of the school year — an event that was almost cancelled to my HOA’s delight.
HOA is the Homeowners Association for my neighborhood. Most, if not all, residential communities have them. The HOA’s purpose is to enforce guidelines on the community and its residents to maintain the upkeep of the grounds such as trash removal programs, backyard fence restrictions, playground implementation and operation and the collection of monthly dues from each resident to pay for all of it.
The Board of the HOA that makes decisions on behalf of the community are your next door neighbors. Keep that in mind.
The School’s OUT! Community Block Party was to be held on the neighborhood blacktop on Key Parkway, a central location on 40 where many people can be seen walking or driving by who live in that area. It was going to be a great event of vendors, kid and family friendly activities and loads of food and fun.
That was until HOA threatened to call the police, shut down the event, and have me escorted off the property for failure to obtain approval.
White people love calling the police.
Especially on black people because they know odds are from face value they are deemed faultless and I am enemy. To white people, the police are community servants, ready to serve and alleviate. To us, they are ready for combat and to escalate. The automatic goodwill white residents receive from the police is privilege I’ve never been privy to.
When African Americans interact with police, the expectancy is either arrest, physical harm, or death.
The HOA automatically assumed the police would be on their side — because that’s how things usually work.
The Frederick County Police worked as a mediator between OUT40 and the HOA because for once, they had no say in the matter. It was a civil issue; not a criminal one. But the HOA treated me like a criminal, nevertheless, an intruder of the property with no right to call it home.
I’ve been here for 25 years and I still can’t call it home?
It was no surprise the President of the HOA came frantically knocking on my parents’ door looking for me — my home of 25 years…and many years more to come.
He threatened sanctions against my parents and legal action, a blow back that rattled me temporarily, but made me even more determined to follow through with this event. Sure, I wasn’t going to put my parents in the crossfire and risk their day to day peace of mind with my ventures. But the kids in my community still deserved this. So I relocated the event.
What did come as a surprise? The vilification of me, the event organizer, who was trying to do something good for her community, the west side, a community that has been outcast and overlooked by the rest of the city as poverty-stricken, crime-ridden and systematically inferior.
The HOA President painted me as a careless troublemaker as he informed the police the HOA would be held liable for any child injuries. He whined to the police that I wasn’t even a resident there, only my parents.
Even after notifying them of the change in location, I was repeatedly called and texted. He reached out to my vendors directly, chastising my lack of professionalism and event organizing skills. I was made to look like an uninformed meddler.
And they almost believed him. That is why he used the police as weapon. Because he knew that chances were the police would perceive him as a victim and me as a threat, a stray dog that needed taming.
I found his disingenuous concern extremely (un)timely.
I was 10 or 11 when I scraped the skin off my knee after falling during a game of tag on the smaller, glass ridden blacktop and left the patch of brown skin near the shards of glass. I still have the scar.
I’m not even a resident.
The larger blacktop that was originally a tennis court has been left net-less and desolate for over 10 years. The playground sits, rusted and fragmented, with broken swings and corroded chains, an uninviting deterrent to the children who live there.
This is not about permits.
This is not about permission.
This is about the fear and disgust of brown and black kids that permeates the air of Frederick. The refusal to allow them in their spaces, the assumption that colorful crowds bring crime, and the rejection of progressive steps such as this one.
Growing up on 40, my father didn’t always allow me to go to the Frederick Towne Mall. Why? It wasn’t because of me. It was because of how Frederick would perceive me.
To be denied entry into the only place you’ve ever known as home is a slap in a face — and it happens to us all the time.
Our realities conflict with your public relations.
The fake enlightenment and surface-level inclusion that Frederick loves to uphold for face value is only scheduled when convenient and for newspaper headlines. What happens daily, on the streets, in our neighborhoods, with our police, in boardrooms and conference centers, exposes the inconsistencies.
Frederick rejects true diversity — especially if it threatens interference with the white status quo. Different ideas, perspectives, multifaceted experiences from walks of life that could in turn, expand Frederick to reflect the true melting pot it is are kept underground and shushed to allow the same voices in power.
Every so often we’re reminded of our place here.
They have put us in a box, rewarding us a stifling insignificant space with no room for growth or change or transformation. We are expected to live here, to make do and make a home, granted restricted access to common areas where otherwise we could possibly flourish and evolve, but we are stuck here.
Many have came with high hopes, leaving their flags in the sand of their furthest breakthroughs, and all have left with the exact same sentiment: Frederick will never change. So I’m tossing my two cents in the bucket filled with coins of well wishes from my predecessors, praying I make it farther and be the change we’ve all been fighting for.
I Am Frederick, Too. I belong.
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