Thursday, November 16, 2006

Don't Fence Me In

Jacobs, in discussing the nature of physical borders in cities, notes, "Often borders are thought of as passive objects, or matter-of-factly just as edges. However, a border exerts an active influence."(257) In Naylor's, "The Women of Brewster Place", a wall had been erected by the city council that separated the buildings of Brewster Place from the propserous street that it was adjacent to. The wall not only served as a physical reminder to the residents of the community that they were "walled-off" from the city, or in other words not considered an integral concern by the city council or its citizens; the wall actually led Brewster Place's residents to believe the sentiment that they were not worthy of the same respect or concern as the citizens of the more economically successful areas of the city, illustarting the power of the influence of such borders.
Jacobs says that the process of phasing a street out from the main-stream of the action in the city is a gradual process, "Consequently, the street that adjoins a border is a terminus of generalized use. If this street, which is the end of the line for people in the area of the ordinary city, also get little or no use from people inside the single-use, border-framing territory, it is bound to be a deadened place, with scant users. This deadness can have further reprecussions."(259) Naylor described the community of Brewster Place as an originally ambitious project. However, as it fell into disrepair, and was consequently separated from the city by a large brick wall, the sentiment of the community changed as well; its own members regarded certain alleys as "trouble-spots", and avoided them rather than confronting them. These alleys, left untouched, became the breeding ground for the "hoodlums" of the area. It took a horrific event, the raping of an innocent woman, then subsequently the death of innocent man, to awaken the people of the community from their lulled succession to the treatment they had been enduring (or perhaps lack of treatment, as they had been effectively ignored by their own city).
The women of Brewster Place had a psuedo-spiritual awakening and literally tore down the wall, brick by brick, with their bare hands. The removal of the physical barrier that had been placed between them and, essentially, the rest of the world (or so I imagined it would feel to anyone who was walled-off like that), was a visible denial of the succlusion they had been placed in, and for many years, simply accepted. What Naylor and Jacobs are saying, as well as what we have frequently discussed in class, is that you cannot ever separate yourself from the city. In the case of the women of Brewster Place, it may take a catastrophic event to make that abundantly clear, but whether it be a significant event, or a gradual occurrence, the city will break through the barrier, because it is inherently connected to its citizens as a living entity, and we are connected to the city,