Yesterday was the second day of #SDP2k16[Monroe]. Among the other things we did was hear Widmer share his testimony, behind his heart for Monroe, and then basically all of us piled into the back of J-Brew’s truck and took a tour of the entire city of Monroe minus the mansions with Widmer. The following is from my journal.
The little tour of Monroe was amazing. Holy Spirit, illuminate what Brian shared and let it speak to my heart so I won’t forget. So again, there’s kinda, well not really redlining, but a lot of implicit segregation in Monroe with the downtown part dividing the outskirts of town.
Brian talked about the importance of seeing the dignity in all the people. If we notice and call out their dignity and human worth, and act in such a way that allows them to then see their dignity, perhaps they will start finding their worth in things other than perhaps gangs. And they will be able to act in such a way reflecting that, and become the spiritual mothers and fathers. When the mothers find their hope and value, they will share it with their family.
Brian also talked about providing more than just a handout. So when we went to drop Brian’s car at a neighborhood, we passed a few little boys at the corner park. One of the kids told Brian that he remembered him from last year. Wow, that made Brian so happy wow. Anyways, Brian offered to get the kids some candy, and then his friend wanted him to get something else. The first kid quickly butted in, saying that he didn’t want to waste Brian’s money. So Brian later explained that, like many other cities, the white people of Monroe’s social capital is quickly noticed. Like, well, yeah people notice when you have mon-eh. But then he started talking about com-devy (read: community development) things, like how Brian sometimes allows these kids to work/”work” for him in exchange of money, particularly towards their cellphone bill. Like if they get between 3.3-3.8 GPA, he’ll pay half of their cellphone bill or something like that (read: the public school system in Walton County isn’t that great). If they get above a 3.8 GPA, if he has the resources, he’ll pay all of it. So the kid is applying himself and this in particular helps them in the future to be self-sufficient and independent because they’ll have the skills, just like how a local kid named Alex that I met yesterday got hooked up by Brian to get a scholarship to Athens Tech because he wants to be a mechanic.
So generational poverty is huge and evident in Monroe. Long story short, the middle of the city (read: downtown and wealthy) is sandwiched between neighborhoods in poverty because of developers and entrepreneurs investing in cotton in the early 1900s.
The median income is around $27,000 while in Loganville (10 miles out) it’s about $58,000. Monroe is 50/50 (Wikipedia: The racial makeup of the city is 54.69% White, 42.24% African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.36% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.26% from other races, and 1.20% from two or more races. 2.52% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.) while Loganville is 70/30. We saw different houses, and there was this one strip that had many similar, run-down, houses. These houses are also so spiritually dark.
Once again, I am reaffirmed that it is so important to build relationships. Brian had a local upper middle class African American pastor come and tell him that although he has been in the community longer, Brian has made more connections with these people and it feels like he’s always been in the community. Brian’s presence generates trust, but Brian then explained that’s the way to go because (a white guy like him) he needs to generate trust in order to build relationships with these people. So Brian has to continually give himself to the community, even if his car got broken into twice in a week while parked at church (and other shenanigans). While we were driving around, seldom a minute went by without Brian waving to someone in the community.
Also, there is the poor and the rich, but not really a middle ground in Monroe, wow (read: The median income for a household in the city was $27,500, and the median income for a family was $31,568. Males had a median income of $30,717 versus $23,028 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,636 (2008). About 19.8% of families and 22.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.2% of those under age 18 and 17.1% of those age 65 or over.)
We also talked about the school system. The public school system is not that great; I might just talk about it later. We passed by an abandoned elementary school because apparently the school was too small for the students so it moved down the road.
I gotta go but ahhhhhh I am overwhelmed. It is going to be a full summer. Thank you Jesus for being good and present all the time, and especially in Monroe.