The Landscape of Our History - What You’re Looking for is in Your Backyard

In the early 1940s, my grandparents were part of the Great Northward Migration, where they traveled from rural Mississippi and Georgia, and moved to Columbus, Ohio. My grandfather and uncle moved to Columbus first and found jobs at the Buckeye Steel Casting Company, formerly owned by George Bush Sr., and settled on the city's south side in the Stambaugh-Elwood neighborhood. It contained sixty tract homes, several churches, and a bodega, also known as a "carry-out," built by working-class families who migrated from the deep south. Several relatives and friends, who were also from the deep south, settled in this community wedged between the Columbus metropolitan downtown area and a central industrial area with several factories. My parents built a house on the other side of Columbus's German Village, which also consisted of working-class family single homes and various shops that served the community. 

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, I've always been enchanted with neighborhoods and how everyone "looked out for each other." My mother had my siblings and me on a tight schedule with school, homework, dinner, and the occasional extra time to play outside before dark. My mother enrolled us in YMCA swimming lessons, private music lessons, and art classes at the Columbus College of Art & Design. Even though we had house chores on Saturdays, there was still plenty of daytime for fun-seeking and adventure. My mother would say, "Let's go somewhere." I referred to my mother, sister, brother, and myself as the Fantastic Four, based on the Marvel comics in the late 1960s. My siblings and I piled in the car and called out what seat we wanted: "I got the front seat" or "I got the seat in back of Mommy!" Listening to Ray Charles, Sly and the Family Stone, the Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, and the Supremes with the windows down, our mother would take us to places throughout Columbus, and sometimes beyond the city limits. I think at an early age, I was observing the structure of neighborhoods and how the roads and buildings changed as we drove through different urban landscapes.