I'm doing something that I've never done before; it's something new.
The lease announces Amherst -- one of the safest cities in America -- as my new locale, but for some reason I'm not elated.
You see, I've never felt unsafe on the East Side with its 100-year-old houses, pockets of crews posted on different corners,unseductive prostitutes and self-secluding Muslim immigrant community.
Can you imagine why I never felt unsafe? The reason is because I saw an African-American community with potential, instead of multiple threats that were detrimental. I know what African-Americans are capable of. I'm one of them. I know what humans are capable of. I'm one of them, too. And I know what Muslims are capable of. I'm one of them also.
I saw an assembly of dedicated Muslims right in the heart of the 'hood, and thought of all the progress that could happen.
I thought of a free health clinic for those unable to afford health care, or for those who were unable for some reason to take the time out to receive a checkup.
How unprecedented would it be to have not one medical doctor, but four doctors living in the 'hood -- a poor community like this? Indeed there are folks who could have benefited from something like that.
I thought of drug rehabilitation programs based on the spiritual cleansing that is assumed to be taking place inside the mosque.
I thought of an anti-prostitution and redignifying program offered to women who see no way out of the degrading circuit of defamation they find themselves locked into.
I thought of a public gym -- in one of the multiple buildings the mosque owns -- to allow kids an opportunity to get off the streets in the summer. In New York City they call it Big Apple Games. I know, because I worked in it for years before I came to this place. This place, which some Muslims dare call a community.
This is not a community. This is a settlement. If this was a community, you would see signs of harmony and multicultural diversity, or at least diversity reflective of the immediate surroundings.
But you see none of that within the walls of that sky-scraping mosque and its fellow properties that seem to strategically surround the African-American community. With this seclusionary mentality, what else can this be but a settlement?
You see, when the first colonists came over from Europe, that is what they did in Virginia -- they settled. They inhabited an area in which they were the minority and set up camp, slowly pushing the natives farther out.
But as a result of not being neighborly with the natives, they were forced to deal with their first winter on their own. The starving time of 1609-1610 saw so-called European neighbors and friends eating each other's dead carcasses. That lack of unity is characteristic of a settlement, not a community.
I'm saddened because of the potential that existed here. So now I leave, thinking of my African-American people seven years after I first moved here, still unassisted, insofar as social, communal and spiritual services are concerned.
And I look back, thinking how 44 years after the "I Have a Dream" speech, it still seems that "the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity" -- right there down the street from Martin Luther King Park.