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The Low Lifes in The Heights

By Kathy Y. Wilson · May 21st, 2014 · Kathy Y. Wilson
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The thugs and drug dealers in and around Lincoln Heights have long had Lincoln Heights Police in a reverse pat down.

It’s the cops who are up against the wall, spread eagle and seemingly defenseless.

This is a sad and scary state for the first all-black, self-governing community in America north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

For years the lawless have run the Village of Lincoln Heights, birthplace of The Isley Brothers and the girlhood home of Nikki Giovanni, commandeering the streets with deadly gunplay sometimes with the police and sometimes in broad daylight.

What’s strange about Lincoln Heights — all three-quarters of a square mile of it — is that it could be picked up and dropped right down in the Lowcountry of the Carolinas or Georgia and people in Lincoln Heights could then easily be Gullah because The Heights evoke the same isolation, the same Northern-fried ’Bama culture and black country-ness held over from early Southern settlers who bought plots and built things like cars and B-29 bombers while they petitioned to be incorporated on property sold and rented to them by a Chicago-based land company.

Back then, there was no fire and police protection, so maybe that’s why thugs and thieves in The Heights have an outlaw-like relationship with police.

Crime is so treacherous and occurring so close to the school that Princeton City School administrators have placed Lincoln Heights Elementary School on lockdown until school ends June 2, and there’s talk of closing down the school permanently and dispersing the preschool through fifth-grade students and staff to other schools.

This means no more recess and extracurriculars for now.

What else are school officials to do when bullets are zinging through parked school bus windows and people are being shot just blocks form the school?

What would you do if you got a call at work from your child’s school and some administrator on the other end was telling you your kid was shot by a stray bullet that found her while she played on the playground?

Parents and guardians already know about the sometimes airport-caliber security measures schools take — cameras, intercom buzzers, armed school resource officers in the halls and classrooms.

But if you don’t have occasion to get into or out of a modern-day school or the last time you did you merely signed in or out in the office, then Lincoln Heights Elementary School is proof evil lurks about, and it isn’t in the guise of a disturbed student or disgruntled staffer inside the school.

Lincoln Heights is the first time I’ve heard of a school needing protection from its community, the same community that sends the children to the school.

Here are all the things that are disheartening and embarrassing about potentially shutting down an elementary school because of nearby crime.

The ironies abound: In my sanctified imagination, I think the few people in the streets causing all the problems have school-aged children and those children attend Lincoln Heights Elementary and their parents are the ones causing all the heartache, inconvenience and disruption. Then again, responsible folks don’t shoot other people down in the streets, so they’d be better parents than to disrupt their own children’s educations. Right?

Also, this is the legacy of self-governance and of, to a longer-reaching extent, the Emancipation Proclamation and the slaves who died learning to read and write.

Taxation without representation: The Heights have always suffered from being sliced out of the ginormous tax bases of General Electric (Glendale/Sharonville) and Ford Motor Co. (Sharonville). Couple that with the fact the median annual income among the 3,000-plus residents is less than $25,000 for grown men and women and it’s no wonder the police jobs pay so low. Further, The Heights (and Lockland) suffer identity crises stacked up against the wealth, safety and bucolic beauty of Wyoming to the South and Glendale to the North. 

All black = all bad? At the pinnacle of black anger/power in America, the Lincoln Heights Health Center became in 1967 the first community health care center to open in Ohio. Despite this accomplishment, it seems blacks fight for equal footing in America only to fumble it. Still, it’s fair to contextualize black failure with co-conspirators like access to jobs and education and a community built upon the sand dunes of operating for years without building or zoning laws or proper water and sewage and no police or fire protection. Then, like with this column, we wonder how a black community still without its sea legs after all these years could possibly devalue education and human life.

What Would Jesus Do? Years and years ago when the congregants of Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church, under the charismatic leadership of the Rev. Freddie T. Piphus, finished building their new, gleaming sanctuary on Wayne Avenue, they walked from the old building on Byrd Avenue as a symbol of growth and a show of great faith. Soon after, a group of galvanized and concerned church folks called Project Nehemiah took to the streets to witness to the people of The Heights and to stand against street crime. And still the bad guys are winning.

Finally, the cops: At the end of the day — the school day or any other — the police must win out in the protection of our children against the few who’ll terrorize everyone else. The department has long been rumored to be operationally unstable. Chief Ron Twitty resigned in 2010 after he’d been leading without proper state certification for a year. A cop friend in a neighboring jurisdiction years ago didn’t want to pick up extra hours in The Heights. 

Too dangerous, he said.

School officials complain the police don’t tell them soon enough when shootings happen nearby, leaving the school vulnerable to outside violence.

Groups patrol streets and educators lock down a school, but no one can effectively push crime away from schoolchildren but cops.

Chief Conroy Chance, you have your homework.

Turn it in.


CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

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