By now, most of us have heard the shocking news that Youngstown is the poorest city in the entire country.
According to a study done by the Brookings Institution, nearly half of the people living in Youngstown are living in poverty.
Youngstown is a real riches-to-rags story, huh?
It gets worse.
I woke up Thursday morning to the news that three people had been murdered only a few minutes from my house. Twenty-two people have been murdered in this town so far this year.
I am all about having pride in my hometown; I agree with Young Jeezy in the importance of putting on for my city. But it’s getting harder and harder to see the good in Youngstown.
No matter how bad it gets, though, there always seems to be something unshakable about the citizens of Youngstown. We see our city de-evolving into a grocery list of negative statistics, but we don’t let it take the wind from our sails.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do or where you do it. All that matters is who you did it with, and I think that’s why it is so hard to tarnish that good old Youngstown morale. We all walk the same streets and frequent the same places, and it means something to us that we have made so much out of so little.
I mean, look at our local music scene. Look at how hard some of us try to make Federal Plaza fun on the weekends. How about the wonderful accomplishments of our beloved Youngstown State?
We’ve even had famous Youngstownians like Kelly Pavlik and Bernie Kozar represent us on a national level, even if they later fell from grace.
Call me crazy, but I love Youngstown. I would be nothing but thrilled to raise a family here and send my kids to Youngstown State University.
For outsiders, Youngstown can be defined by its poverty and crime rate. But to those of us who grew up here, work here, go to school here, fell in love here, had a drunken heart-to-heart here and don’t want to leave here, Youngstown is way more than that.
Youngstown, or anywhere for that matter, can only be defined by those who make the most of it and try to grow as a community every single day.
I think living in Youngstown is kind of like being at a lame party with your best friends. If they’re really your friends — the ones you would always pick to spend your time with — then who cares if the party is lame? When you’re 100 years old, you won’t remember the party, but you’ll never forget your friends.
Looking for something about Youngstown to be proud of? Be proud to live in a city full of people who refuse to let the volatility of their home shake the vitality of their spirit.
Writer Nelson Algren once reminisced about Chicago, and it sounds like maybe he shared the same kind of nostalgia:
“Once you’ve become a part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.”
I will be in graduate school in September (I hope.), and I know that my career could very well mean I end up living somewhere else. Let’s face it: You have to go where the money is, and it just isn’t here.
But no matter how bad the poverty rate is, when I come back to Youngstown, I’ll know I’m home.
2 comments Phil Rauscher Wed Nov 30 2011 13:46 I still think of Youngstown as home, when I started at YSU the last though tin my mind was that Id fall totally in love with that place. Now that Ive graduated and moved to a (slightly) “better” city, all I want is to go back to Youngstown. Even people who never lived there but spent a weekend in my haunts loves it. Its truly a place that has to be experienced to be appreciated. Anonymous Tue Nov 22 2011 15:23 I wasn’t born or raised here in Youngstown. In fact, I moved to Ohio only 6 1/2 years ago, and have lived in Youngstown 2 of those years. But I love it here. Despite the crime and violence, it’s a city (town) with spirit and guts. I like the people I’ve met, the school my son goes to, the businesses I frequent, and the fact despite not being a native Youngstownian, I’ve been able to get involved in a neighborhood group, with other important goings-on, to try to improve our town. Because to me, it is my town. True, I’m not a native, but this is now my home, and I want to do everything I can to help revitalize and restore Youngstown to what it once was.