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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday May 19th 2024

Safeguarding the past to instill identity in the present and inspire the future

MemorialDay-05By Sue Hunter Weir

I started doing research in Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery in the 1990s when the Phillips Neighborhood was having a very tough time of it. We were widely known as “crime-ridden” Phillips,” as though that was our defining characteristic.

I wanted people, not just those who live in Phillips, to be reminded of the fact that we are a community with an interesting and proud past, as well. Although the people who are buried in the cemetery did not all live here, they are representative of the themes that truly do define our neighborhood: immigration and migration, transportation, jobs and affordable housing. In short, they are us, we are them.

I feel an obligation to safeguard our history. There is evidence that children who are grounded in their families”' and communities”' pasts have stronger senses of who they are and where they fit in the grand scheme of things. They do better in school.

 I have no doubt that it works the same way for adults–it is good for our mental health which in turn is good for our physical health.

The argument that I have made, what seems like countless times now, is that history is not a thing. It is an argument based on evidence. It is important that we hold on to our evidence (i.e., by passing it on in words, song, or other media), that we celebrate it, and that we share it. We need to protect our housing stock, our churches, our buildings of all kinds. We need to collect pictures and stories to remind ourselves that we are the result of all that went before and the beginning of what is to come. So….that”'s why I do what I do.

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