Saturday morning, March 25, 2017, five mindfulness walkers gathered at Romain Park on a wet morning in the shadow of freeway overpasses and strolled the neighborhoods between Belmont and Divisadero in the ‘freeway triangle’ of central Fresno.
Walkers discussed the recent Fresno Bee article on these neighborhoods: High Levels of Lead Found in Children in 93701. Walkers who had lived in these neighborhoods decades earlier reminisced about parks, schools, restaurants, churches, and neighbors. They also talked about the changes to the area. One walker’s husband, a retired police officer, is a coach for the youth boxing club at Romain Community Center. They still recommend Adrian’s on the corner of First and Belmont for the best burritos in town! Walkers described how they had lived here many years and had never walked the catwalk over the freeway.
Walkers were met by Andre and Dani, City of Fresno Parks and Rec, who were setting up for an Early Start carnival – hoping the weather would clear.
Walkers met a friendly gentleman as he pulled up in his car and left shopping bags of food and drinks on a front porch. He was wearing a work uniform and walkers could smell his cologne. He gladly described how he was leaving food for a friend while on his way to work.
Walkers strolled the aisles of Bingo Market, Asian and Mexican American food grocery store on Belmont. Walkers met Jordan and Kambai who were working the early Saturday shift. Walkers were amazed at the brightly colored variety of foods and international products.
Walkers met George who was organizing activities for children at the open playground of Yokomi Elementary School as part of the joint partnership between Fresno Unified and City of Fresno to provide more green space and safe supervised play for children.
At another school, Walkers chatted with another group of students playing inside a fenced and locked school playground. They had climbed the fence, and one more friend was climbing over as Walkers chatted with the children. They were laughing, climbing on the equipment, and shooting hoops.
After hearing beautiful voices singing hymns in Spanish, FMWalkers were welcomed into a small neighborhood church by Carlos, who explained that this is the consecration service prior to sending the congregants out to minister to the neighborhood. Church members were friendly and talked with Walkers about the church. One church member expressed surprise that we would feel safe enough to walk in these neighborhoods. She said she was more afraid of dogs than people.
Walkers shared their observations: people on bicycles – bicycle used for transportation more than exercise – chain linked and rod iron fences, gates and locks, driveways overflowing with cars, people out and about on foot, people carrying groceries, barking dogs, loose dogs, front yard seating areas, big front porches, ornamental architectural reminiscent of the 1950s, alleyways, sagging roofs, bright color blossoms, citrus trees, schools, churches, busy traffic and retail on Belmont. Boarded up houses and stores. One house was ‘boarded up’ with clear plexi-glass, as opposed to plywood.
Sounds: freeway traffic, distant hum of freeway traffic, tires in puddles, people talking, children playing, music from windows, singing of hymns in Spanish from open church doors, birds, shopping cart wheels.
Smells: orange blossoms, lilacs, cigarettes, marijuana, men’s cologne, wet dirt, cut grass, exhaust, food cooking.
“What a change I’ve seen since I walked these roads back in 1960 but it brought back great memories too. Thank you for letting me experience it again.” Olivia
“The mural at First and Belmont is one of 66 documented murals all across Fresno.” Lupe
These are 93701 neighborhoods which have made the news and the top of lists you don’t want to be on: highest concentrated poverty, high levels of lead in children, air particle pollution, blight, etc. They are also the focus of revitalization efforts! This is home to Fresno Unified’s Tehipite Middle School, Yokomi Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, and Lowell Elementary.
Walkers end the walk with the reminder that these are our brothers and sisters in Fresno. All of our lives and futures are tied together.
Post walk: Local CBO, Reading and Beyond, labels this zip code the Family Success Zone and their board member, Francine Farber, published an editorial in the Fresno Bee on March 27, just 2 days after the walk: Reading and Beyond embraces 93701, Fresno’s lead-poisoned ZIP code.
To see the neighborhood church and so much more, visit the Facebook photo album: https://www.facebook.com/pg/fresnomindfulnesswalks/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1929509794002432
Photos also available in Google album: https://goo.gl/photos/V4DC1FKAax2oV7Fc7This entry was posted in Uncategorized