Monday, August 8, 2016

City Scene - Harlem's Neighborhood Action Paper

Sam's organization, We Care Media Arts, was one of the programs to help the youth of Harlem.  Below is a letter written to Reverend Alanson Haughton in Feb. 1977 to further Sam's cause.

I am the director of WE CARE Neighborhood Action Center which is a community action group in the St. Nicholas Park Urban Renewal area located in central Harlem in the basement of St. Luke's Episcopal Church.  We have been in operation since 1969 with youth programs including bus outings to parks, beaches, cultural institutions, as well as communication workshops and cultural awareness projects.

WE CARE selected communication workshops in Journalism because of all the projects in operation, it had the greatest potential for motivating youth leaders to examine society and express themselves.  Currently, we have one program in operation, CITY SCENE, We Care's neighborhood action newspaper. CITY SCENE is dedicated to diminishing the poverty of information that pollutes our area.  CITY SCENE is published as a training vehicle for high school and college students in the craft of journalism.

Last summer, City Scene published five bi-weekly issues with a distribution of 10,000 copies and sold retail advertising to local merchants.  A readership survey was also conducted throughout Central Harlem.  May I mention at this point that in 19672 Dr. Burton Thomas and the women of the Church of Heavenly Rest gave seed money to start our venture City Scene.  We are in the process of developing a neighborhood ministry for the St. Nicholas Park Urban Renewal Area which will utilize the energies of young people to survey and monitor specific breakdowns of municipal services in the area.  There is a crying need for municipal services due to the fact that St. Nicholas Park was designated for revitalization in 1960.  The plan was abandoned by the NYC Planning Commission due to the city's fiscal crisis.  For an area that was already on its way to physical deterioration, the cessation of the revitalization plan has brought the area to the edge of  disaster.

We are developing the neighborhood ministry as an instrument to call attention to the plight of the area to our city fathers and to the community by gathering facts.  Specific surveys will center around the number of inoperable and broken fire hydrants, dated garbage, gas leakage, running water, and decaying animals in abandoned structures, etc. The young people's findings will be reported in City Scene in its coming issues for distribution to the entire community.

This is a short sketch of what we are trying to do to help the residents who are experiencing hardship due to the trying conditions of their neighborhoods.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Harlem - Life in the 70's in Black America

What was Harlem like in the 60's, 70's, and 80's?  One man who knew very well what it was like is Sam Walton - Harlem youth and community activist.  He grew up in Harlem, eventually became a victim of the streets of Harlem, then pulled himself up to inspire and promote education in Harlem and to its youth.

Sam had begun to promote plans to help the people of Harlem.  He fought the constant battle of keeping youth out of the streets and inspired them to not become a victim of drugs and crime that plagued the streets.  Below is his introduction on how to improve the quality of life for people and how to begin the process of self-elevation.  His plea to Harlem would not fall upon deaf ears.

Harlem, the political heart and social capital of black America is a culturally rich and vital community with strong neighborhood spirit and impulse toward self-help and improvement of the community's chronic physical and social problems that cry out for public attention.  Harlem is a densely populated and economically poor community whose populace is on the whole the beneficiaries of the cumulative  effect of poverty, overcrowded and sub-standard housing, under-employment and unemployment, inadequate education, illness and neglect belying society's failure to cope with basic human and social problems.

There were encouraging signs during the 60's through local, state, and federally funded programs to improve housing, regenerate commerce and industry, develop jobs, enrich education and recreation, and increase public service in the health care field.  Many of these efforts have since eroded due to changes in federal policy and the city's fiscal crisis.  Harlem is showing signs of losing its sense of community.  There is general dissatisfaction with the functioning of the city's municipal services, and a feeling of apathy and hopelessness has begun to permeate the community.  

As a neighborhood agency dedicated for the past eight years to stemming the tide of helplessness and hopelessness, WE CARE proposes to work inside its own community, St. Nicholas Park, as a centralized clearinghouse and neighborhood assistance center for all residents, public and private agencies, and self-help improvement programs in the area.