The hard-working residents of neighborhoods severely impacted by the looting of businesses over the past few days came out in a beautiful display of community, strength, and resilience. Armed with cleaning supplies, garbage bags shovels, brooms, and an overwhelming resolve to help heal and rebuild their neighborhoods, they began the hard work of repairing the damage caused by looters.
Community activists, concerned citizens, and more, mostly organized through social media, sharing businesses that needed help and business offering their services. From donating their time, resources, trucks, food, water, and other necessities, organizers were able to disseminate information and resources appropriately.
Whitney Hampton is a managing partner of Hampton Real Estate Investments brokered by Aprogeny Global. She said she was emotionally impacted by watching businesses in her community burn to the ground. “I was feeling overwhelmed, nothing of mine was touched, but I could only imagine what other business owners were feeling. Having little faith in how the government would assist our businesses, I decided to encourage others on Facebook. I wanted people to know that if you had a black-owned business and were negatively impacted by the riots, we would be there to help you.“ She created the Facebook Group “CleanOut and BoardUp2020” and in two days membership grew to over 900 people. Collectively they have boarded up over 20 black businesses and continue to help business owners, senior citizens, and residents impacted by these riots.
They were diverse. Families, sororities, fraternities, residents, both old and young, gathered in the spirit of community. They shared personal stories of growing up in these neighborhoods and raising families in these communities. They shared their heartbreak of seeing it destroyed by many who are not from these neighborhoods. Outsiders were intent on wreaking havoc and chaos. They were unified in one goal and purpose to protect their land, rebuild, and encourage businesses to come back.
Volunteer, Joni Rials said, “it was about unity and how do we rebuild? We are not going to surrender our land. We want stores to come back. This is our community”. Educator and community organizer and creator of Unity Day Chi, Donovan Robinson, spent the day cleaning the Jewels on 75th and Stoney Island. He echoed the sentiment. “It was beautiful. People were coming out with the brooms and dustpans from their own homes to help. It was about their hearts. They wanted to do something. They felt compelled to be here. It’s about bringing us together as a community and empowering us as a community”.
Volunteer, Tennille Power, spoke about how she felt seeing the destruction of grocery stores she was accustomed to shopping at. “When you walk in and see all of the destruction, it’s traumatizing and heartbreaking, but then you start doing the work with people of all backgrounds standing next to you unified in one purpose with no agendas. It was about cleaning it up.”
Community cleanups are happening in several neighborhoods hardest hit by the unrest. Whitney Hampton is overwhelmed with gratitude at the support she has received. “It’s made me emotional at times. The support has been amazing. Lutalo McGee of Ani Real Estate immediately reached out and asked how he could help and got us funds and our feet on the ground. So many have committed themselves to be leaders for this initiative. I have shed tears with business owners whose businesses are beyond repair. We have laughed, smiled, cried, and grunted. It is hard work, but we are full of joy doing it. I feel beyond hopeful that not only will we survive this, but we will thrive. We all have a role to play in shaping our future. This is what unity looks like”.
The coming together in unity by residents of these communities is the truth of who we are. We are hard-working residents who care about our neighborhoods. These are the images mainstream media does not want you to see because it contradicts the narrative they want to create. This is a community in action, and it is happening in neighborhoods all across the city.
The community that rebuilds together heals together.
Danielle Sanders is a lifestyle, music, and entertainment writer. Find her on social media @blkwidowsweb.