Do you live in Chester? This question is often laced with indignation. When asked by Chester natives to outsiders, it can feel both defensive and offensive at the same time.
When Chester natives (mostly those who see themselves as leaders) ask this question, it’s a way of saying “you aren’t from here, so you can’t criticize us. You don’t even live here.”
I wonder what that means…? Live here?
- Live here as if to say “your house isn’t in this space?”
- Live here as if to say “you weren’t born here?”
- Live here as if to say “you aren’t in one of our approved cliques?”
Live here. What does it mean to live in Chester?
In my Chester experience of nearly 30 years, I’ve come to see that the question of who actually “lives” in Chester requires a profound and courageous philosophical examination. It begs an answer to another question: who cares?
Everyone will say “I care.”
But what does caring look like in Chester? Is caring revealed through people helping other people to cope and be resilient in the face of their challenges? Or does caring look like helping people develop the courage to totally eliminate the challenges that get handed down from generation to generation in Chester?
So I go back to my first question: Who lives in Chester? Who is alive in Chester?
Is “alive” in Chester expressed simply through the phenomenon of animated bodies walking the streets? Or is alive – living in Chester – about being deeply and fully aware and engaged with the factors that prevent or support the breathing of clean air?
Who lives in Chester?
Who is alive and understands the intergenerational and multi-faceted health crisis?
Who understands and who has the courage to say The City of Chester is a pre-existing condition for all kinds of ills?
Who has the courage to admit that Chester is set up to fall down and is constantly being used by people who say they care?
Who has the courage to say Chester is being used by people who were born in Chester and people who live in Chester and people who are part of approved cliques?
Who has the courage to ask how we could find resources for a new disease in Chester when we couldn’t find resources for so many similar diseases in Chester’s past?
Who has the courage to ask: “are the people of Chester being tested or are they actually being infected – again?”
Who has the courage to invoke the words of Dr. King right here and now in July as the people of Chester are being tested for symptoms that benefit politicians, corporations and even non-profit leaders?
Chester’s sick population has always benefited someone. And people who were born in Chester have helped outsiders take advantage of Chester over and over again.
So who lives in Chester? Who cares about Chester? Who? No one. Because no one actually lives in Chester. People just get used in Chester.
Submitted by Ulysses “Butch” Slaughter who is a writer, film maker and reconciliation strategist. He recently led a successful campaign to have The City of Philadelphia offer an official apology for the Philadelphia MOVE bombing of 1985. He is a veteran of the US Navy, graduate of Chicago’s Quigley Seminary South and graduate of Lincoln University. He is producer and director of the documentary A Chester Story. His book Why Our Children Hate Us: How Black Adults Betray Black Children has been relaunched and is available at whyourchildrenhateus.com Learn more about his work at ulyssesbutchslaughter.com.