As a South Side resident, I often wonder what will happen to my community.
I grew up in South Terrace and many years later, as an adult, I purchased my first home on the South Side. As a first-time homebuyer, I found affordability and stability in this community.
This dream is slowly slipping away for many people as housing costs continue to rise. This neighborhood I call home is changing in a way that impacts the lives of many of my neighbors.
Like a silent breeze rolling through the streets, the winds of change have impacted the physical appearance of the community. New buildings are encroaching inch by inch into the lives of everyday residents.
I have existed on the fringes of society as a high school dropout, a teenage mom, and a single mother who lived in public housing and who received welfare benefits to help provide for my children while I worked toward completing my education.
Today, I am a college graduate, a graduate student, a homeowner and the executive director of YWCA Bethlehem.
I know I am where I am today because of my family and the collective power of the community. I know when we work together and approach a situation with the collective power of unity, the opportunity for change can become a reality.
This community is home to some of the most amazing people I know: leaders who put their community first and use their voice to shed light on the challenges that those most vulnerable among us face. People like Rachel Leon, city councilwoman; Anna Smith, director of the Community Action Development Corporation; Andy Po, owner of Homebase Skateshop; and Winston Alozie, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Bethlehem.
These folks have dedicated their time to advocating for the community and creating spaces so that we can all have a sense of belonging.
I admire those who serve, and that’s what I see in the real stakeholders of the South Side. When people come together and use their collective power to impact change, they create a movement.
I have been fortunate enough to witness a movement of leaders who work towards a collective goal of unity and preserving the essence of the South Side.
As a resident, I show up in spaces to support the work of these leaders. I advocate for my community because I have skin in the game, and I follow the lead of those who continue to do the work.
After the day is done, I come home to the South Side when others are leaving.
My roots run deep in this community. Unbeknownst to me, I purchased a home on the street where my mother lived the year I was born. My grandfather was a founder of the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society. My neighbor across the street grew up with my family. People know my family.
Every day, I come home. This community is my home, my neighbors are my friends and family. These streets hold the collective memories of those who came before us.
Moving back to the South Side allowed me to reconnect with my roots and find a deeper sense of community.
My fear is that this neighborhood, which was once affordable for so many people with limited resources, will soon be out of reach for many.
As a community advocate and resident of the South Side, I am trying to figure out how to collaborate with the real stakeholders and residents of this community — the people who come home at night to lay their heads down in the South Side, the people who might be forced out of a place they’ve always called home.
I hope others will have the opportunities that I have had. I hope we can continue to return home and recognize the faces and spaces that make South Side special.