Guest Column: Local resident suffers vandalism of property

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118780633031253.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Backyard swing of Doris Quansah; the fence was not enough to keep out vandals.‘);

I am afraid that this letter will possibly bring more trouble to me. Still, I feel the need to speak out about the problems I have experienced living here in Machesney Park.

My family and I have lived on the corner of Eddington and Tamworth since 1999. We like our little three-bedroom ranch home, and based on first impressions, this neighborhood seems to be a nice, quiet spot in American suburbia. However, because we are of a minority ethnic group, life here on this corner has not been so peaceful for us. I need to say up front that we are not annoying people. We have never had a loud party; we don’t even have parties because we have very few friends here. I have tried to show friendliness by saying hello to people who walk past our house when I am working in the yard. Some people acknowledge my effort to be friendly, and some do not.

I am writing to you, though, because in the past couple of years, it seems that negative gestures directed at us and even vandalism of our property has increased.

I like to garden, usually around dusk, and a couple of summers ago, a car passed by our home, and someone yelled from the car, “Darkies!” This wouldn’t have bothered me so much except that my 15-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son were working with me in the yard, and I am pretty sure that this was the first time that either of them had ever been verbally assailed in this way… unless they had experienced this name calling at school and did not tell me. Yes, they have had several incidents at school in which negative comments were made to them because of their race. Also, on another day when I was working in the yard, someone drove by and yelled, “Aunt Jemima!” at me. I guess because I was wearing a bandanna to keep dust out of my hair.

Then, last summer, sometime during the night, my mailbox, which was mounted on one of those round hollow metal posts, was bent back and forth until the post broke in two. So I went and bought a new mailbox mount. It was one of those wrought iron decorative ones with hollow square posts at each side. I bought two 20-foot re-bars, and my brother helped me concrete the wrought iron mount into the ground. And then he pounded the 20-foot re-bars into the ends of the two wrought iron posts until the re-bars were flush with the top of the posts. We bolted my new mailbox base to the top of this doubly-re-bar enforced wrought iron base. The very next week, someone came and tried their best to get that wrought iron mailbox post out of the ground. They succeeded in tilting it, but that wasn’t enough satisfaction for them, so they ripped the mailbox off the top of the post. After this, I went and bought some “u” bolts and re-attached the battered mailbox to the post and put in more cement at the base. So far this summer, it is still standing, although the mailbox won’t sit straight. It always tilts to one side or the other.

I did call the police on each of these occasions and was told that this mailbox vandalism happens to others as well, but everyone’s mailbox in the cul de sac where I live and for a block (as far as I could see) was unmolested.

Christmas of 2006, I bought a nativity set, one of the large ones for the outdoors. In no time at all, my baby Jesus statue was gone, and right next door to my house, my neighbors’ outdoor nativity set was undisturbed. If the thieves were just in search of an outdoor baby Jesus statue, my neighbors’ would have been a better selection, because their model of the baby Jesus in the manger is elevated at its back for better viewing of the piece from the front. My baby Jesus statue had a flat base, so it sat flat on the ground, and I had found it necessary to make sure that no snow build-up was in front of it so that it could be seen.

June of 2007: Time to lounge in my lovely backyard swing that has a canopy over it to keep the sun off me during the day. I had bought it new for $130 just a year ago. I didn’t get to enjoy it even once this summer. I stepped out into the back yard one day about a month ago and discovered that someone had cut the bottom out of it and slashed the back of it. It is totally a loss because there is now nothing to support the cushions. I was very saddened and wondered, as usual, who are my enemies who strike under the cover of darkness?

Even the policeman recognized me when he came out to take a report. He asked if I was the same lady from whom he had taken a report regarding Christmas decorations and twice-vandalized mailboxes last summer. And, of course, I answered, “Yep, I’m her, and I’m beginning to wonder if these are minor ‘hate crimes.’” He replied that he certainly hoped not.

The most disheartening occurrence of all was the loss of a valuable piece of jewelry (a gift from my mother), which disappeared from my bedroom a couple of summers ago. My home and my back yard were the gathering place for at least six or eight kids on many summer days when my two children were younger. The children congregated in my yard because I wasn’t so concerned about the grass in my back yard.

One child in this area confessed to another that he took the jewelry and that he was going to bring it back, but he lost it. It was the child’s parent’s angry, belligerent response to me via the phone which surprised me. Where I grew up in Mississippi, if a child took something, the parents dealt with it by making the child apologize and return the item, if possible. Then, we all went on as friends again because, after all, it was a childish offense committed by a child. I have never recovered that piece of jewelry. The matter was placed in the hands of the police because of the parent’s very negative attitude toward me, and I have never received any follow-up information from the police.

You might ask: Why don’t we leave this area? Well, first of all, it would not be easy for me right now to buy another home. Also, I am trying to stay here because my 16-year-old, who does have her own little clique of friends, wants to finish high school here. She will be a senior at Harlem High School this fall.

I am lonesome, saddened, and a little afraid here in Machesney Park.

from the Aug. 22-28, 2007, issue

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