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JACK WEATHERLY: Finding a house, defending a neighborhood, finding a voice

JACK WEATHERLY

JACK WEATHERLY

We covered much of the metro Jackson area in our search for what would become our fifth home around the South (sixth if we count the apartment with access by rickety wooden outside stairs where we first lived).

A white brick, one-story house built in 1963 kept making the cut.

Two conical evergreen shrubs rising five feet above the eaves and an equally tall palm tree on the other end of the front set off a low-walled courtyard with an iron-kettle fountain.

We decided the house has a coastal look. That’s good in our book. Plus, it is not far from downtown, where I work, so we bought it.

Turns out, this is a good neighborhood. Maybe a great neighborhood.

Greatness in this case does not mean mansions, though there are many nice houses with manicured lawns.

It’s the people.

Hellos and exchanges of names and how long have you lived here? That’s what I mean.

They walk and run down the tree-shaded streets of one of the early postwar suburbs — built to accommodate the now-aging baby boom generation — and wave easily, not out of stiff obligation because of mere proximity.

Did I mention we live in Jackson?

We know. We heard all those stories. The infrastructure. The crime. And, well, you know, race.

This neighborhood gets that.

A little security car cruises the streets. Soon there will be cameras at entry streets.

There is a strictly local website where important messages are posted.

Black lab with no collar seen on our street. Could it be yours? Lost a gray cat? Here’s the picture.

And, oh yeah, a stranger tried to kick open a door but the alarm scared him off.

The parade continues.

Speaking of which, we attended the annual Heatherwood Easter Parade and Cookout. Burgers, hotdogs, sides and drinks furnished. Bring a dessert. Children’s parade at 11 a.m. Live music by the Red Hots, a string band.

Four Heatherwood generations were on hand.

(I don’t know if awards were given for parade participants, but a little girl riding a battery-powered two-wheeler and wearing a Hello Kitty helmet, with ears, surely must have been a contender.)

Still, make no mistake, this bunch knows how to go to war.

The Heatherwood Area Homeowners Association (let’s push for 300 members, says a recent email) joined with a half-dozen other northeast Jackson homeowners associations and went to City Hall and persuaded officials to block an effort that the homeowners felt threatened the integrity of the area — and many more around the city.

That last fact — the potential widespread commercialization of thousands of acres set aside for parks, churches, cemeteries, hospitals and schools — got me off the hook.

I didn’t feel, and my editor agreed, that with that scope there was conflict of interest on my part and so I have covered the story in news articles.

Talks between homeowners and the developers had broken down. Seems the developers had dug in their heels, saying that since it was their property they just might go all commercial, including apartments.

Nothing wrong with apartments, but renters are not as committed as homeowners.

The  consensus among the associations was that the developers were now trying a flanking movement by getting the zoning code itself changed rather than continue holding those tiresome rezoning hearings.

A legion of homeowners put on a show of unity at City Hall. Truth, as seen from their perspective, was spoken to power. The developers would later withdraw their original rezoning plan, promising to work with the associations.

One hundred and fifty-two verdant acres in the heart of Zip Code 39211 had been bought for redevelopment after Colonial Country Club closed last year because of dwindling membership.

It’s not hard to guess where the club members had gone. Outside the city. That’s been the trend for more than 40  years all across the city. It is what is called, with more than a little justification, white flight.

Neighborhoods in Zip Code 39211 are racially integrated.

As one association member, a black lady, said at City Hall that “we are a wonderful cross-section of Jackson.”

“I am an anomaly,” one man, who is white, said at the showdown.

He said it with passion and pride.

I think I know what he meant. He and many, many others are in the decidedly racial minority in Jackson.

Whites are 18 percent of the total population, though more than 60 percent of northeast Jackson.

You know the story, or should. Desegregation of schools more than a decade after the Brown v.  Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 was not proceeding as rapidly as the court had wanted.

Subsequent Supreme Court rulings led to busing to other neighborhoods.

It was all about the numbers, the court-ordered assumption being that overall racial numbers should be reflected in each school.

Multi-racial cities would never be the same.

But this is a different era. One in which different voices are speaking, sometimes in unity.

Or as the attorney for those who bought the land where golf was played said: “The developers have heard the neighborhood.”

 

» Contact MBJ staff writer Jack Weatherly at jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com or 601-364-1016.

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