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  • Writer's pictureJohn Thomas

The Voices of Swift

Shared narratives of Northeast Neighborhood Residents concerning the Swift Factory Redevelopment Project.

Our first interview was taken in Keney Park on a sunny day that saw the return of the elders at Waverly Field. Cars lined up and people socially distanced and laughed hard through their masks in what has become an annual ritual marking the coming of Summer.

Charles Davis, bounced from car to car eliciting laughter and elbow bumps from friends until he reached me sitting on my motorcycle. "How is that Swift Factory Project going?," he asked. I gave him a quick update and began to ask him how he felt about Swift. His concerns were more about the neighborhood youth. "I like to see the negative turned into a positive. Change is good if it is made for the right reason. I am hoping this factory can bring a sanctuary where youth can turn––some kind of destination. There is no Guidance out here for these kids," Davis said, citing his experiences growing up poor in North Hartford. "I grew up on Martin Street. We were Blacks and Latinos making our way, adapting to what was going on around us. We didn't have much of anything, but Mama made sure we got something to eat and if nothing else, we were clean. I remember using a wash board in the tub to clean my jeans," Davis reminisced.

He added, "When we grew up we had activities. We could go to night gym. Barbour Street School, Waverly, and Wish were all open to keep us busy. Now it’s only Parker,". Davis said these places provided sanctuary when home itself might not have been a safe place to be, where mom and dad might be arguing or there may be no food in the house. He continued, saying we can blame this neighborhood's problems on the drug trade, but drugs have always been around. The real problem is that we have kids raising kids. "They wanna be more of friends to their kids than parents. There are no boundaries established. Kids today don’t come home for days. If there is nothing there for them to do, of course they are going to sell drugs, get high, and clan up to create families where they can eat,". Charles has lived in North Hartford all 52 years of his life enduring what he called the "daily mounting pressures of survival,". He said of Swift's past. "When I grew up it was a factory where I never saw Black people working. We never knew what they were making in there, We were on the outside with no way to look in." Now, he sees something different. "I see what y’all are doing at Swift is a positive thing. You can actually see into the factory. And, it's not surrounded by barbed wire. Parker and Swift are the only positive things left in the neighborhood." Well, neighborhood youth have always been a priority at Swift. And, we have Community First School coming to campus! That's a great start in engaging our youth to Swift Opportunities!

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