Gary: What Happened to The Village?

A casual response to the infamous question of “What Happened to Gary, IN?

I saw a parodied picture of Simba and Mufasa a while back, where Mufasa warned his son to stay away from the ‘shadowy place’ in Northwest Indiana.

Though I wanted to get offended, I could not. Residents who move away and return will notice that there is a dark cloud hovering over the city. You only notice it after you have been in a different place for a while. Some attribute it to the heavy plumes of smoke ascending from the steel mills. I personally believe that dark cloud is a conglomerated team of Gary residents who have passed into eternal life staring down at us wondering how current Gary residents let the city they built go to hell.

I am fed up with the way Gary citizens lie about the city’s current condition.  I want to slap the whole city for the way they blame everyone else for their problems.  I have heard citizens blame everyone from Mayor Hatcher to Ronald Reagan for the city’s decline.  The police are often to blame. Bad economy.  Bad schools.  No jobs.  No wealth.  During these discussions we never really talk about the culprits: Gary Residents.

Humans have the tendency to project the things they do not like on to other people rather than accept they are wrong and change.  This is also the reason why we frequently discuss other people’s problems.  It makes us feel that we are better because we feel their problems are worse.

What is Gary known for?  When I tell people I am from Gary they mention Michael Jackson or the murder rate.  I feel like the only businesses thriving in Gary are churches, chicken shacks, liquor stores, beauty supply stores, and gas stations, and of course, the Mill.

As with all other economically-defunct urban cities, Gary looks like this because you, Gary residents, let it get this way. 

Current and former Gary residents act like the care about the city by asking rhetorical questions we all know the answers to, such as “What happened to Gary?” sparking an accusatory 45-minute social media conversation among people who have no intentions of doing anything beyond talking about the problems and scapegoating the blame.

Everyone is quick to claim Gary, IN but no one wants to support its local businesses.  Gary residents have told themselves that nothing can blossom here so frequently that now it can’t.

When a new club or lounge opens up it’s packed with nightlife until the owners start stealing money out the registers.  If they don’t go down because of funny money the businesses get shut down for violence or the lack of a valid liquor license.

It seems like Gary residents hate Gary, actually. Gary residents complain about how all their Black businesses are owned by Arabs, disregarding the fact that if Gary Residents had supported them in the first place they would have never had to sell. Gary residents are taught to shop outside the city for better products and services.

“Go outside the city if you want fresh food.”

“Gary lawyers don’t know what they are doing in court.”

“Don’t go to Northlake Hospital if you’re sick, because Gary doctors will kill you.”

“Don’t send your children to Gary schools, they won’t learn.”

Gary residents want to get hired rather than work for themselves. Gary residents complain about the City’s lack of job creation because Gary residents have not created enough new companies.

Gary residents complain about how broke they are, acting like the only way to get paid is by punching a clock for someone else’s company. They complain about every policy being established in the city, but won’t attend a public meeting. They also refuse to follow up on what happens at the meetings.

Gary Residents have no idea what laws are being passed. Every few years they will step out to vote for the nearest Democrat running for office so they can feel socially responsible.

Gary residents seek outside leadership as if they do not know how to govern themselves.

Gary residents elect people to make laws about how they should live their lives and then complain about the laws they write. 

Gary residents put the responsibility on voting rather than holding a slot on the ballot. They complain when they don’t like what the administration is doing with their tax dollars.

Still won’t attend a public meeting.

Gary residents have the power to improve their own communities, but accept support from people that live outside of Gary to fix problems within Gary.  They re-elect those politicians who live in Gary, but over the decades have made little difference.  Gary citizens complain about the same politicians that manage to win every election.

Politics cannot change anything within a community that is not willing to change itself.

Gary residents live in these streets every day, yet they need political representatives to do something about crime. 

Do something about jobs. 
Do something about poverty. 
Do something about education.
Do something about the way they choose to live their lives.

A young girl was allegedly raped by three boys from West Side High School a few months ago. Whose fault is it that she was raped?  

The boys?  
The school?  
Police?
Rap music?
Video games?  
Music videos?  
Her own?  
Her parents?  
Their parents?  
God?  
The Devil?

Rape is not new; forcible sex had been used as a weapon against women since at least biblical times.  The question is: Why are Gary’s daughters falling victim to it? Why are they not being protected?

Gary residents blame the music and media for their sexually-charged teens. I remember being in Gary Bennigan’s on a Wednesday night when the DJ did a Parent Roll Call:

“If you got a kid make some noise! Aight, who got two children?
Three?
Four?”

Everybody’s cheering, but who is watching Gary’s babies if their moms are twerkin next to me in the club at 2am? Who is getting them up and ready for school tomorrow morning?

Afterwards Gary residents complain about the thirteen-year-olds pushing strollers down 5th Avenue in the summer.

Conscious Gary residents are the worst, finger-pointing, posting self-righteous comments and Tweets, acting one way on the Internet and another in real life. “Fathers saying “We need to take care of our kids” but they don’t take care of their own.  Mothers saying “We need to teach our girls self-respect” then let a different man live with them each month.

Conscious Gary residents argue with other conscious Gary residents about whose more conscious about Gary’s problems, focusing no attention on solutions. One thing I do know is that if everyone in Gary was doing everything they could, Gary would have progressed by now.  But Gary has not progressed.

Gary residents are so busy blaming people for Gary’s collective failure that each has ignored the real problem and what can be done to fix it.

The people that left Gary say they are from the “Chicagoland area” and don’t want to look back. The people that stay in Gary are mad at the people that left, as if they are working diligently to keep the city thriving in their absence.

When I moved I was able to experience different scene. It enabled me to see the contrast between the different ways people live. I only had to dodge potholes in Black neighborhoods. There were healthier fast food options within five minutes of my home. There were only a few chicken shacks, and they were only in Black neighborhoods. The grocery stores had a greater selection of products, but the ones in Black neighborhoods have that familiar Save More meat smell.

It also helped me see that Gary’s problems are not just Gary’s.  Detroit looks similar to Gary. So do certain areas in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.  It seems to me like those residents have the same problem as Gary residents.

A change in environment has nothing to do with a change in attitude. 

The mirror is the hardest thing to check. We hate the mirror because it tells the truth about who we are.

How have you personally contributed to Gary’s demise? Have you personally done anything to fix one of its many social problems?

Gary graduates don’t have jobs because previous Gary residents failed to build companies to employ them.  I was trained to graduate and get a job, not graduate and start a company. This is one of the reasons the city’s economics are weak. My generation was trained to adopt a dependent mentality about the workforce and providing for our families.  We were not taught to capitalize on our talents, skills, and services. Many of us were not taught enterprise, equity, and ownership.

What can you do to fix your community?  The next time you choose to wait on someone else to fix the violence in your community, know that it will continue because you have done nothing to fix it yourself.

Rather than complain about the understaffing of Gary’s Police Department, why don’t you apply to become an officer?  Unless of course you don’t want o protect the city, you just want to complain about the people that do.

Children are impressionable.  How about simply leaving a positive impression on a Gary child?  The Sojourner Truth House on 13th Avenue needs volunteers to help out with donations and daily duties required in maintaining a shelter for battered women and their children.  Their number is (219) 885-2282.

Since you know that there are plenty of single mothers in Gary who have to work to provide for their families, their children will more than likely be home alone sometime throughout the week.  You could do something that would give them a positive focus.  For example, you could start an after-school program focusing on something artsy or craftsy to keep the children positively entertained when they get out of school. 

You could even plant a garden.  Or you could just keep complaining about the problem of broken families and how it negatively affects the children. 

I know you don’t have the time to do any of this, but you do have time to complain.

You will complain about the legislative process in which you choose not to participate.

You will complain about the failing school systems when you cannot take time to teach your own children.

Young men and women are not always taught the value of the womb and that the womb should be protected. Watch how you carry yourself around young women.  They learn how to behave from women they look up to, like their mothers.  Don’t let them look up to a lonely whore. 

If your daughters see you coming home at all hours of the night, or with different men, they will follow suit. Do not punish them for the things they learned from you. 

I understand that you can’t watch them all the time.  You work for someone else’s company, plus you live beyond your means. This causes you to be away from your family for extended hours, day and night. It is what it is, but you now have to work even harder to show your children the good things and how to make the best decisions to improve their own situations.

I learned very quickly that a regular job would not work for me.  There are many ways to make a living that allow you to still be with your family.  Americans like to believe that they value family over everything, but this is not true. American families are quick to send children to day-care and the elderly to nursing homes so that we can go to work.  This behavior has become a widely-accepted norm in American society, because going to work takes priority over maintaining the family structure.

“It’s hard nowadays to raise a family”. 

The family has been around for thousands upon thousands of years.  Slaves had families.  People in war-torn areas have families.  Do not act as if the concept of “raising a family” has become more difficult over time due to your limited understanding of what it means to provide for one.  

Two generations ago the average American family was triple the size it was now and there was only one household income.  Everything cost less back then, but they earned a lot less as well, and that dime stretched a whole lot farther.  Be honest with yourself about what it really takes to raise a family. 

You spend more than you have to get the things you do not need.  The more you are at work to provide for your family you end up neglecting your family.  How can you protect your children if you are always working?  There are people in the world who found a way to work from home.  It is a matter of information, motivation, and choice.

Gary residents must become solution-oriented people.  Gary’s problem is not just Gary’s.  It is duplicated all over the country.  Each problem in Gary has been admittedly a problem for at least thirty years.

But real solutions would require us to admit the truth about the problem: These murders, wars, high gas prices, genetically manipulated fried chicken, poor economy, over-sexed and poorly educated kids are, to a significant extent, your fault and your responsibility. At some point society elected to to become dependent on external resources for food, travel, laws, and education. 

Want Gary’s economy back?  Start a business there. 

It won’t thrive? Too many social problems in the city. 

What can you do to fix those problems? 
Knowing that Gary’s children need to be supervised, will you start a daycare? 

Become a teacher in the Gary school system? 

Will you become a rape counselor? 

Assist at a children’s facility? 

Offer tutoring?

Knowing that there are young women who don’t know their worth, will you help them learn it?  Or will you continue to discuss the negative things that hold the city back?

Everybody claims they know about the Village Polish, but nobody wanted to shop the Village.  Then they complain about having nowhere in Gary to shop for clothes.  The Village represented the final breath of Gary’s economy.  After the descent of downtown Gary, citizens shopped at the Village.  After the Mellick’s, Goldblatt’s, and J.C. Penney went down, the mall was deemed “ghetto” and residents quit going altogether.  They say it takes a village to raise a child.  But Gary no longer has a Village.

Gary residents are waiting for someone to present that one big solution. Each citizen has some desire or skill that, if cultivated, would benefit society as a whole.  After everything you have done, ask yourself what you have really accomplished on your life’s checklist.  Then you’ll see that you haven’t really been living at all.  We are the change we are waiting on.

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