My grandparents moved to Denver in 1950, during the Great Migration of African-American Southerners to Western and Northern states. They fled for safety and opportunity. They worked extremely hard; my grandfather was a mechanic at the Firestone off 19th and Broadway for several years after serving in World War II. My grandmother worked in the dietary department at the former St. Luke’s Hospital and retired in 1987.
They purchased their first home on 28th and Gilpin where the Fuller Dog Park now exists. They raised my mother and my five aunts and uncles there until they were able to purchase a bigger home on the corner of 29th and Birch. The family home was two stories and had five bedrooms and two bathrooms. Since the home was on the corner, we had three yards to barbecue and play in, a rock garden surrounded by beautiful flowers that, of course, we couldn’t touch. My grandmother won an award a couple of summers for the beautiful yard that she and my uncles cared for.
In the early '90s, when the home next door went up for sale, my grandparents helped my mother purchase the home. “We didn’t know what kind of people would have moved in, so we got it,” my grandmother would later tell me.
Three generations of my family were blessed to be able to roam and play in the streets of Park Hill. Three generations of us were blessed to be able to ride our bikes to grab a drink and a bag of chips or candy from Paradise Corner Store on 28th and Colorado Boulevard or the little market on 28th and Fairfax. Three generations of us remember the skating rink, Safeway, laundromat and small corner store, and the summer carnivals that took place in the parking lot of the shopette off 33rd and Dahlia. Depending on what our parents or grandparents were doing that day, we could get a sack lunch from Mutdears. Denver Health’s Park Hill clinic and a school are now housed there.
Three generations of us remember and survived the 1993 summer of violence in Denver. We studied at Stedman and Smiley, and when high school came around, most of us northeast Denver teens either went to GW, East or Manual. We represented different mascots and teams. However, after the school day was complete, we all went home to Park Hill, Eastside or Five Points. We remember the village that consisted of our friends, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors that we had on every corner that we took on our bikes, skates and heels. I’m a late-aged millennial, so those are just the memories I have. So many before me remember not only Park Hill in its glory, but also the glory of the Eastside and Five Points.
We don’t expect Albus Brooks, Chris Herndon and Robin Kniech to understand the strong emotions we longtime residents of northeast Denver are feeling as a result of gentrification, displacement and discomfort in our former neighborhoods because, after all, they’re from California and Wisconsin. However, Mayor Hancock, we absolutely expect you to understand our emotions, because you’re from here. You went to school with some of our parents. Your parents attended the same church a lot of our elders did. The fact that you were from “the 'hood” was one of the things you sold us longtime residents in 2011. You “understood our needs.”
I was priced out of Park Hill in the last two years and now live in southeast Denver. My grandparents' home was feloniously sold and flipped for a little under or a little over $500k. While not under the same circumstances, several neighborhood and childhood friends have similar stories as to why they can no longer afford to raise their children in the village of warmth and love that we were blessed to have.
The development of Five Points and the entire east side of the 28th block of Fairfax was done without the input of us longterm residents. How many of us will be able to afford the complexes that are being built in A&A’s former home? Mr. Mayor, you’re from the neighborhood, so I don’t doubt you understand our needs. However, at this point I firmly believe that you don’t care.
I rooted for you, sir. We all did. But you, Brooks and Herndon chose to line your pockets and pad your resumes over looking out for your peoples' best interests, and that is no longer accepted, nor will it be forgiven.
Tamara Greathouse-Pruitt, a third-generation (former) Park Hill resident.
Westword occasionally publishes essays and op eds on Colorado issues. If you have one that you think would work well here, send it to email@example.com.
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