Yoga teacher inspires Englewood residents to improve community - KMSP-TV

Yoga teacher inspires Englewood residents to improve community

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

There are entire neighborhoods where old folks are afraid to come out of their homes, young people hang out at their own risk and strangers don't dare drive through. These are places that have our city at a Tipping Point between hope and despair.

“We’re somewhat locked behind our doors, for the most part, because of some of the things that are happening within the neighborhood,” said Englewood resident Ora Bradley.

Bradley has lived on the same block in Englewood for more than 40 years. She wants the same things we all do.

“We want to come outside, we want to walk the streets, we want to feel safe in our community,” said Bradley.

The divide between the older residents and the younger ones is a wedge driven by fear. A number of older folks believe the majority of young people are gang members, which is simply not the case.

FOX 32’s Robin Robinson asked Englewood resident Juelez, “Do you understand, though, their fear?”

“I mean yes, I understand cause there's a lot happening out here. I definitely understand their fear but, for this block right here, we are safe,” Juelez responded.

Now there's a new neighbor on the block, who wants to bring them all together.

Robbin Carroll of ‘I Grow Chicago’ plans to turn a vacant lot into a community garden, and a broken down home is already being rehabbed into a neighborhood peace house.

“I’m doing yoga, mindfulness, meditation; gardens do the same thing, right? Again, it's how do we connect community and how do we connect to ourselves,” said Carroll

A yoga teacher whose program grew to five schools in Englewood, Carroll decided she had to do more. With local partners and a big sponsor, she bought the abandoned house.

“And we've found a contractor who will hire everybody on the block, and work with all the boys and teach, and work with Harper High for the community service hours,” added Carroll. “I will say that sometimes people say to me, ‘I have never trusted a white person and I trust you.’”

Carroll does stand out in Englewood. Apparently, she's also stood the test of the teens on the block.

FOX 32 asked Juelez if she has heard of anyone who’s opposed the project.

“Not right here, they not gonna be opposed, cause everybody right here is going to be willing to help this project, and that's my word,” said Juelez.

As well-mannered and agreeable as the boys from the block were who spoke with FOX 32, we were also warned not to point our cameras at certain parts of the block because some guys were "working."

Therefore, it’s going to take a lot more than yoga classes, a community garden or a nice outdoor dinner to really grow a new culture in Englewood.

To help encourage that new culture, 'I Grow Chicago' invited everybody to dine outside the work in progress and put their ideas 'on the table.'

“Accountability, we all have a part to play, we all have a role to play in this community," said one man.

“You can stop kids if you see they're doing wrong, don't keep passing by saying look at those kids. They need your help,” said teacher and neighbor Tenia Russell.

So far, the community appears to be on board, especially those who've been trying for years to cultivate something good.

“Every time I come around here, they tell me, 'When is the house gonna get done? We want to help. When are we going to cut the grass? When are we going to hang the drywall? When we gonna put up the house?'” said Andreas Brown of ‘I Grow Chicago.’

“I want to create a regular flower garden and have the vacant lot yard for the children to play in to kinda keep them off the street,” said Englewood resident Gwendolyn Johnson.

“Everyone tells us, 'We've got your back', I’m banking they have our back,” added Carroll.

For more information, visit I Grow Chicago's website.

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