By Vanessa Larkins & Katelyn Lusher
What do we want to be better for the next generation? People who are involved in activism will say that we march for causes that we feel will make life for the people who come after us. In truth, it is likely for that reason that many of the same people who marched for affordable housing and racial equality decades ago are still doing it now. But the real question is, how have we failed to do better for the next generation despite our best efforts? Why do the same people have to keep fighting for the same causes? One Streetvibes archive researcher, Vanessa Larkins noticed some parallels from 15 years ago:
“In an article from Streetvibes’ February 2006 article, the late Jimmy Heath, the Streetvibes editor at the time and long time photography contributor, wrote an article about this called “The Future Suffers.” In it he essentially talks about what we need to do for the future generation and how we can break cycles of violence and division between citizenry and the police/policymakers who are supposedly on our side. He talks about breaking the cycle of school to prison and actually investing in education. He mentions moving away from doing the “same old” things and having the media show more than just ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ He additionally talks about how this affects his neighborhood of Over the Rhine.
When reading this article, I immediately thought of the things that are still happening today and how the future generation that he was talking about is my generation. In 2006, I was just entering high school and I remember being told how Over the Rhine was a dangerous place to be in and to not get caught down there at night. All of these things he talked about trying to prevent in the future, my generation”s future, never actually changed though. The media still adheres to the same values of showing the worst in any given situation. Over the Rhine was taken over by gentrification and rebranded into OTR to signal that this new thin layer of paint was enough to mask all of these things regarding displacement, housing/racial discrimination, and ineffective policy change that led to Over the Rhine being made out to be something that it was not.
Knowing all of this, and living all of this, it is apparent to me that the future that Jimmy Heath was hoping would not happen to my generation, only became worse. Tensions are even higher than before and living in the middle of a pandemic only added more fuel to those flames. So now I have to think, what are we giving to the future generation? Their future is already suffering before it has barely begun. Their future suffers because we seemingly cannot leave this cycle of toxicity and refusal to actually do something about these ‘same old’ issues. Education is still not a priority and with online schooling during the pandemic, it has become less of a priority. School-to-prison cycles still exist to this day with prisons being overcrowded and overlooked during this pandemic. More cops and more violence have been the answers to cries of pain during a time where the color of your skin can negatively impact your life expectancy. Jimmy wanted us to work to break the cycle, but all we did was make it worse.”
While many activists have been pushing for police reform for decades, it has become apparent that reform does not happen like it’s supposed to, if it happens at all. Heath even wrote in his article that “more cops and more punishment won’t address the roots of violence,” and this is especially true when we consider how police violence is so often racially motivated and police leadership poorly disguises its contempt for people of color. The people who gentrify are ostensibly “invested in community” but that community does not necessarily include lower income people who have been living in Over-the-Rhine for decades. Activists are consistently burned out because City Council refuses to listen to them--take the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, for example. For how long do we have to sit in the fire before we realize that it’s burning us?