Five hundred doors knocked in five days ... I'm happy for time change and an extra hour of sleep. Today's neighborhoods (and yesterday's -- Friday's --) were one's of sharp contrasts. We are still in North Hill. There are sections that are full of houses dilapidated to the point of falling down, the stairs are treacherous, the porches covered in crumbling plywood on the verge of collapse threatening to suck a visitor into the dank underbelly of the house, a few windows are boarded up, others are covered with blankets and quilts. Residents of these neighborhoods are working multiple jobs or are totally unemployed. Many are disabled.
But then there are sections that resemble any mid-20th century suburb. Frequently the Catholic Church is a central landmark. McCain signs dominate the spacious green lawns. It was here that a female homeowner, alarmed to see a black woman, her hair in those tiny, unruly dreads, knocking at her door, shouted at me to leave, that she was calling the police, what did I think I was doing... "Canvassing for Obama, ma'am." "I'm calling the police! I'm calling the police!" Apparently she thought it was illegal for a black man to run for president.
I have been to neighborhoods buried among the porno shops on Brittain Road, to tiny one story apartment buildings full of formerly homeless families and sick elders, to streets pockmarked by subprime mortgage vacancies, and to the city's correctional facilities, some of which are clustered in an area under the bridge down the street from my grandma's (of happy memory) old neighborhood. These were pre-release and treatment facilities and a building called the Glenwood St. Jail. At one, the pre-release center, I lingered twenty minutes in resolute intransigence as the guards insisted no one could see any of the men residing there, who were listed on our voter registration sheets, without prior arrangements. I responded that it was their right to understand the issues on the ballot and the views of the candidates and we weren't leaving until they brought the men on the list to us. All the guards and staff were African-American except one. As I stared down the guard stationed at the door, others gathered around Pat asking for voter information. Finally they brought out the one man still in the facility -- he was a McCain supporter (there's a guy who knows his self-interest, eh?).
Pat went to find men in another area that we think is a drug treatment facility. That was easier, the staff friendlier and everyone was interested in early voting procedures. I am happy that Ohio decided to change its voting laws allowing convicts serving time for misdemeanors and all those in pre-release and pre-trial regardless of charges to vote. Otherwise the residents of the Glenwood facilities, a large village of mostly Black men, would join the ranks of the 13% of Black men ,currently and formerly incarcerated, deprived of their right to vote.
And Akron is no longer just black and white. I noticed a growing Vietnamese community five years ago, back when my father was in his final illness -- he wanted chicken feet and dumplings -- and I would shop for him at DiFeo and Sons Poultry. All the staff were Vietnamese with barely a DiFeo in sight. But there are more Latinos and now Burmese immigrants as well. They all have hopes of meaningful participation in our society. I hope we can deliver an election that helps them maintain and strengthen that aspiration.