Elijah in Flight
Summer can’t come quickly enough. The cold winter weather keeps Elijah from meeting the other boys in his new neighborhood. In the meantime Elijah plays big brother to his seven-year-old sister and focuses on school, which appears to be working as his grades continue to show improvement. As this sixth grade future pilot realizes, solid grades will help him excel.
While much has changed in this country for young African American males since the days of the Tuskegee Airmen, too much has stayed the same. As the Tuskegee Airmen returned home in the mid-1940s to 1950s, they reestablished in their respective segregated neighborhoods. These were neighborhoods where African American residents were held at bay from bustling city centers, where public housing expressly for African Americans was sited, where levies were a stone’s throw away and where heavy industrial factories operated and toxins abound. They were places long referred by many as “home” yet proverbially on the other side of the tracks. They were like the segregated neighborhoods of Dallas where predominantly African American and Hispanic blocks were uncoincidentally poor. They were like the segregated neighborhoods of Dallas where the same blocks, thirty-years later, remained isolated with ninety percent (90%) people of color (African American, 60%; Hispanic, 30%) and thirty-two percent (32%) households below poverty.
Over sixty years after the Tuskegee Airmen’s return stateside and well into the new millennium, an overwhelming percentage of African American children remain segregated in some of the highest poverty neighborhoods in Dallas. Neighborhoods such as the one earlier mentioned continues to hosts segregation with ninety percent (88%) people of color (African American, 60%; Hispanic, 28%) and over sixty percent (60.2%) persons at or below poverty according to 2010 Census figures.
For some families with children, housing choice vouchers is a way out of segregation and a means to better resourced neighborhoods free from blight. But too many of these housing searchers find few options outside voucher submarkets, where an overwhelming number of units are leased by voucher holders further concentrating neighborhood poverty. Those who possess voucher subsidies that reflect real-world rental prices and family income, have fared better than others. Of these, housing searchers who also take advantage of housing mobility counseling tend to fare even better.
With the help of housing mobility counseling, small area fair market rents, and a mother who decided to exercise her fair housing choices, Elijah has no recollection of the high poverty Dallas neighborhood that he left when he was a toddler. While making the choice to move to a higher opportunity area, Elijah’s mother left her segregated home where over twenty-four percent (24.8%) of the residents were at or below poverty.
Prompted by growing unmet repair needs, Elijah’s family recently moved from their suburban unit where poverty was four percent (4%) to one where it is just over two percent (2.6%). In both neighborhoods, Elijah and his siblings have been in areas zoned with high performing schools. Both areas’ elementary schools “met standards” in 2014 according to the Texas Education Agency and the zoned high schools both had four-year graduation rates above ninety percent (90%). While Black populations in both of his neighborhoods were below fifteen percent (15%), Elijah’s mother accessed units in a way that mothers of the Tuskegee Airmen could never imagine during the World War II era. Elijah’s mom looks forward to her son playing outside when the weather permits because she knows that, in Elijah’s words, he likes “fun, community and friends”. In the words of Langston Hughes, Elijah too “sing[s] America”.*
From Ruby to Christina
Hopscotching over southern-sector Dallas, TX, Christina’s mother made her way to a northwest Dallas suburb from Arkansas in search of greater opportunity for herself and her family. With a housing choice voucher and support, she found it. Although in a neighborhood where fewer than eight percent of the residents were of her same race, she was pleased.
The search for greater opportunity has been the reason for intrastate, interstate and intercontinental moves for millions. It is what propelled Abon and Lucille Bridges to move their growing family, including their oldest child Ruby, from rural Mississippi to New Orleans. After finding greater employment opportunities, the Bridges focused on better educational opportunities for their children. Their momentous quest and sacrifice resulted in what, not only has been memorialized in Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With” (depicting Ruby escorted by a U.S. Marshall while walking school in 1960), but more importantly desegregation of New Orleans Public Schools.
Like young Ruby, Christina has experienced better resourced schools in integrated settings. Seven-year-old Christina makes friends easily. She approaches other children on the schoolyard without apprehension. Her family’s home ranks high according to diversitydatakids.org measures and is a short one mile from the nearest grocery store and in a neighborhood with just over three percent of persons are at or below poverty. Her neighborhood’s distress level rated zero out of a progressive scale of zero to four as determined by the U.S. Treasury Department’s CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) index. The elementary school met state standards and ninety-eight percent of the nearest high school’s students graduated within four years.
In an age when Americans accept that children of color cannot legally be locked out of predominantly white schools when they are zoned for them, the challenge for voucher holders of color is unlocking housing in high performing school districts and attendance zones. While policy experts and education administrators address the issue of separate and unequal in re-segregated schools where district-wide poverty often exceeds seventy-five percent, mothers like Christina’s unapologetically address their children’s current-day needs by moving to where public resources already flourish. Housing mobility, with the financial and housing search support that comes with it, helps voucher holders find and obtain access.
Negotiating with landlords, encouraging landlords to try participation in the voucher program and providing application fee and security deposit assistance are just some of the ways housing mobility counselors help families. Hosing mobility programs’ advocacy for adequate voucher subsidies, which supplement families’ rental payments, assists families who wish to exercise their fair housing right and do not wish to be steered to high poverty-segregated voucher submarkets. I would like to suggest that if you still don’t own a property yet, just buy my house Spokane.
These ingredients help families like Christina’s. They help get Christina to her schoolyard. Thank you, Ruby Bridges. Discover how to get your house sold fast for top dollar without any fees or commissions. Check us we are buy my house Kansas City.
Though I did not know it then, nor would I come to realize it for many years, what transpired in the fall of 1960 in New Orleans would forever change my life and help shape a nation. When I think back on that time and all that has occurred since, I realize a lot has changed. I also know there is much more to be done. That fateful walk to school began a journey, and we all must work together to continue moving forward. —Ruby Bridges