Holding Down the Block

Photo by Derek Liang

I listened to Florence Haraway talk last week about the 25-year history of Harambee Christian Ministries in Northwest Pasadena, just a few blocks from my home.  I’m thankful for Harambee—they mark a watershed in the way crime in Pasadena has been addressed.  Using now-infamous principles of founder John Perkins, who went on to create CCDA, the Christian Community Development Association, their approach to the neighborhood was Relocation, Reconciliation, and Redistribution.

But it wasn’t overnight.  It was over years.  In fact, gang leaders still live nearby, and shootings still happen in the neighborhood, but the ministry of Harambee and others in these neighborhoods makes a difference.

Harambee isn’t a huge impressive building in the neighborhood.  And it isn’t here to be a “success engine.”  Success isn’t necessarily that no one is in jail.  But success is that kids are living past 25.  There’s less daytime crime. And there’s a handful of people in that corner of our city investing in community development day after day.  Flo calls it “holding down the block.”

“Development” is a tricky word to nail down, and sometimes we disagree on what that looks like in Christian subculture.  But I like how Flo described it.  She said, “Development is when I say hi to the kids, their mothers, and I begin to get to know my neighbors.  That’s where community development starts… We think like a village. We want to know how what we do here affects the entire village around us.”

I think that’s a great place to start.