Some of my best childhood memories took place in the front porch of our home on Congress Street– listening to echoes of concerts at the Allentown Fairgrounds, gossiping with friends in our pajamas during sleepover parties, drinking sun spoiled milk on a lazy summer day. When I moved back to the Lehigh Valley in 2004, I noticed a deterioration in our community’s front porch culture. I attended an NAACP dinner downtown soon after relocating back home. When driving home through the summer streets that evening, I noticed vacant porches. Most people had become afraid to be outside at night.
In my current home, I rarely sit on the front porch for two reasons. The first is relatively benign; as an adult juggling multiple responsibilities, it can be difficult to find the time for such leisure. The second is more malignant: my mother and I have been harassed by one of our neighbors and we no longer feel physically or emotionally safe on our porch and in our yard. For the past several years, I too have felt trapped in my home. I no longer enjoy gardening or outside home maintenance as I feel somewhat threatened whenever I am outside my home. I usually do these chores during dinner time when I am likely to be unbothered. We quickly walk from the car to the house whenever this neighbor is out and about – and he usually is. Perhaps we are too hypersensitive, but we sometimes feel like prisoners in our own homes.
In the past, I have enjoyed walking through my neighborhood – often with Cookie in his cat stroller—when the weather is pleasant. This summer, I did not walk very often due to the crime in my neighborhood and my perhaps somewhat irrational fear of my next door neighbor. The day after Thanksgiving, the weather was just lovely and I decided to take a walk. At quarter to six that afternoon, a man was shot and killed about two blocks from my house. In the middle of that night, more mysterious activity unfolded just in front of my house.
I feel disconnected and detached from my community in many ways. I am not from Easton and have never felt as though I belong here. I feel great animosity from my neighbors. I feel unsafe and insecure. Like those front porches in Allentown during the summer of 2004, I feel vacant. I long for a sense of home and a feeling of community.