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Summary and Critique of the Book Streets of Hope
In Streets of Hope, Peter Medoff and Holly Sklar write about an impoverished area near Boston, called Dudley. Starting in the 1950's, people began to pull out of Dudley. The crime rate went up, the employment rate went down, and things just kept getting worse. By the time the 1980's came around, a full one-third of the land in Dudley was vacant. People began to use it as a dumping ground for everything from old autos to rotting garbage. The dumping was actually illegal, but no one except the Dudley residents ever complained about it, and no one ever got into trouble over it. Like in so many other impoverished neighborhoods, lawmakers and politicians looked the other way.
The people who live in the Dudley area finally started the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI). The goal of this was to turn Dudley back into a good, safe place to work and play. The neighborhood had to be cleaned up -- not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. A lot of the people who lived in Dudley thought that they couldn't do any better than what they were doing already, but they were wrong, and the DSNI was working to show them that. It was working to give them hope.
Many of the Dudley residents are black, but there are white, Latino, and other nationalities and races living there as well. The people in Dudley are poorer than in the rest of Boston, and the employment rate is still high, but they are working towards bettering themselves and their community. They have summer programs and youth leagues now, and they have built some new houses and buildings. In addition to that, parents no longer have to take their children somewhere else to have something to do. There are the beginnings of things to do right there in the Dudley Street Neighborhood.
About the only thing that hasn't changed is St. Patrick's Church, which has been a fixture in the Dudley Street Neighborhood since it was first dedicated in 1891. It began cautiously opening its doors to the many different kinds of immigrants who arrived in the city before 1950, and has stayed one of the most important parts of the community ever since (Medoff & Sklar, 11). The church is one of the most important parts of the book; not because it is talked about on every page, but because it remained as symbol of what Dudley Street used to be before all of its problems started, and its still there as a symbol of what Dudley Street can be again, when all of the dreams of the inhabitants are finally realized.
Dudley has a lot to offer, despite being the poor section of town. There is a great deal of cultural diversity in Dudley, as well as a lot of people with perseverance and tenacity. They work hard because they have to, but they are starting to see the differences in their community now, and that makes it all worth while. They are trying to better themselves and their community for their children. Half of the children who live in Dudley still live below the poverty line, and over half of the residents are under the age of 18. There is still much poverty and strife.
One of the main points of the book is not how much sorrow and pain these people have, but that they are doing something about it. They are working to make a better future for their children, and they aren't taking 'no' for an answer. This shows that not all poor communities fit the stereotype placed on them for so long. That stereotype basically said that all poor communities are full of black people, and maybe a few white people, who don't care about themselves, their neighborhood, or their children. All they want to do is languish in front of the TV all day and keep having babies so that the welfare checks will be higher.
While there may be people out there like that, the stereotype couldn't be farther from the truth for the residents of Dudley Street. They don't agree with the idea that all poor people are lazy, and laziness is why they are poor. Many people are poor due to other unfortunate circumstances, and some of them are not able to help themselves. The time and money to better oneself is often not there. Dudley Street is showing that people can make a difference in their communities, no matter whether they are poor or not. Anything can be made better if everyone is willing to work at it.
Another good point that the book makes is that not all races and nationalities have problems living together. There are many races and cultures in Dudley Street, and they are all working together to make their community as nice as it can be. It's never going to be as nice as some of the more affluent areas, because the money simply isn't there for the residents to work with, but they are doing all that they can with what they have, and because of them more people have moved into the area, and more businesses have moved in as well. This is helping the morale of the people as well as helping the economy. It brings new friends, more job prospects, and more things to do to keep kids from getting bored and just roaming the streets where they can get into trouble.
According to many who live in Dudley, the point of what they are doing is clear. They are finding a way -- together -- to make their community a better place. The challenge that they have undertaken is huge, but they have not given up. Every year they get closer to their goals, and that progress is what keeps them going.
There were many good points brought up in the book, but the main one seems to be that people shouldn't give up, even if the odds are against them. If one truly believes in something, like the people of Dudley Street believe in cleaning up their community, a way will be found for it to be accomplished, no matter what the odds are. If the people who live on Dudley Street had decided that they couldn't make their dream a reality, then nothing would have ever gotten done to improve the neighborhood. No one from the outside was going to jump in and save them; they had to save themselves. Being able to be brave enough to stand up for what you believe in and save yourself seems to be what the book is all about. The message it conveys is one of hard work and great hope.
Many people have read this book and offered opinions on it. Most seemed to have enjoyed it. One man, John P. Kretzmann, even called it "One of the best known and most powerfully hopeful contemporary stories" (Kretzmann, 1997). He may be right. The story of Dudley Street can also be found in the form of an hour-long video, and if it is as compelling as the book, many people will watch it and understand just what makes the Dudley Street people so powerful.
It's not that the people are so much better than everyone else. As has already been mentioned, they are poor, downtrodden, and upset that the rest of the city has forgotten them except when they need their garbage dumped. Unfortunately, as compelling and hopefully as the story may be, it is not alone. There are many stories out there like Dudley Street. Almost every city, especially the larger cities, has a place like that, where the people are ignored and neglected, the town doesn't care about the run-down condition of the buildings, and the residents are largely left to fend for themselves.
Anyone who lives in a place like that knows what it's like to go hungry at night, what it's like to be laughed at on the street because of the old ratty clothes they wear, what it's like to have to go to the welfare office and ask for money to feed their children. But still, much of society ignores them and figures that they will just go away. They won't. If they are anything like the people on Dudley Street, they will only get stronger.
Currently, there are many places in the country like Dudley Street, but there are other places in the world where almost the whole country is like Dudley Street. Those are the places that really have problems. They are places where the people don't see how they can get out of the impoverished state they are in, and how they can make their lives any better.
Dudley Street is different, not because the community is poor and racially mixed, but because everyone of every race has come together for the common goal of making Dudley Street a…[continue]
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