Commentary: 50 years after Fair Housing Act, we still have a long way to go

Commentary: 50 years after Fair Housing Act, we still have a long way to go
March 01
06:00 2018

I grew up in the East Winston section of Winston-Salem.  Our neighborhood was close knit as we knew our neighbors.  In fact, we knew who the neighbors were that stayed three and four streets over from where we lived.  Back in the day, if my mom ran out of flour for the fried chicken, she would go next door or down the street to get some more flour. Adults who lived in the neighborhood would discipline us boys and girls if we got out of line.

During the summer, I would sit on the “block” with my buddies swapping stories until the street lights came on!  Now once the street lights came on, it was time for all kids to vacate the “block” and go home.  The games that we played as children were inexpensive.  While we had fun, education was taken very seriously by all adults.  I don’t ever remember a time when an adult didn’t ask me about how I was doing in school.  I can remember the times when some of my friends and me were given these education talks by the neighbors.  Mind you, many of these education talks were given by men and women without a college education.

As I reflect now, I am not surprised that education was my career choice.  My next-door neighbor, Mrs. Scales, was a high school English teacher at Atkins High School (my high school).  My U.S. History teacher, Mr. Earl lived around the corner from me.   Mr. Earl gave me my first briefcase when I started my teaching career at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. as, you guessed it … a history teacher.

The kids in my neighborhood were a part of the village.  We had elders there who provided us with guidance, instruction and discipline.  We listened to them because they knew more than we knew.   Men and women in East Winston kept us in love until it was time for us to make our own way. 

Many years ago, Sam Cooke sang “A Change is gonna come.”  He was right!  Gosh, at this moment it is a great time to be around.   What young people can do these days is without equal. 

However, in this drive to the top and the quest for success, do we know our neighbor?   Can we as adults go and borrow a cup of flour from our neighbor down the street?    Do our neighbors talk to our children about their educational pursuits?  Maybe my parents and others like them were moving fast, too; however I do know that at a certain time the streets were quiet.  Why?  Because families had dinner together.  Sometimes, we had the same food for consecutive days.  They were called leftovers.  In some circles this is unheard of today as our children want “new food” each day.

I think we have lost some very important aspects of the village and we must get them back.  My neighborhood didn’t have a Neighborhood Watch Program but we trusted one another.  Let’s take some time to slow down.  Let us walk around the neighborhood or make an unannounced visit to our child’s school.  Let us give our children some great growing up memories.  If we become a part of the village, then others will join us.

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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