Share your life. Change a life.
A big part of Neighbor to Neighbor has always been about building communal spaces. Areas where neighbors can enjoy each other in a safe and authentic environment. We have followed a couple of rules when it comes to creating these spaces:
1. The Community is the Expert: The important starting point in developing a concept for any public space is to identify the talents and assets within our community. In any community there are people who can provide an historical perspective, valuable insights into how the area functions, and an understanding of the critical issues and what is meaningful to people. Tapping this information at the beginning of the process will help to create a sense of community ownership in the project that can be of great benefit to both the project sponsor and the community
2. Learn and Improve by Observing: We can all learn a great deal from others’ successes and failures. By looking at how neighbors are using (or not using) our spaces and finding out what they like and don’t like about them, it is possible to assess what makes them work or not work. Through these observations, it will be clear what kinds of activities are missing and what might be incorporated. And when the spaces are built, continuing to observe them will teach even more about how to evolve and manage them over time.
3. Have a Vision: The vision needs to come from the community. However, essential to a vision for any public space is an idea of what kinds of activities might be happening in the space, a view that the space should be comfortable and have a good image, and that it should be an important place where people want to be. It should instill a sense of pride in the people who live and work in the surrounding area.
Current Communal Spaces
N2N Skate Park
It began with one student: Andrew Fernandes. He was just another 13 year old in the academic afterschool program when he did something that no other student had done before, he brought a skateboard. Each week he would skate before and after mentoring on one of the basketball courts. Soon some of his buddies were coming too. Later, they asked if they could bring and leave their skate rail and started sharing their imagination for the entire basketball court being full of obstacles to skate on. Soon, 3 skaters became 6, and 6 became 12, and 12 became 24 and before we knew it dozens of kids were skating at Neighbor to Neighbor each week. They explained that the police were ticketing them for skating downtown and they needed a place to skate—the closest skate park was way up in North Raleigh.
We had a couple of build days and together, began building the obstacles they dreamed about. We now have over 30 obstacles that can be pulled out or stored in our garage. We have three skate events each year and around 100 skaters a week who not only skate but who are also becoming academic Mentors and Enrichment teachers.
N2N Ivey Basketball Courts
Our youth basketball league, MAD House has been going on for 20 years. Over a thousand youth have participated in the league over that time. Fathers, who were once kids in the league were coming back around and not only getting their kids involved but were starting to ask about an adult basketball league. There were dreams about a league that would be before both the community and men who had once played as a kid. This was also during the time where numerous shootings of unarmed black men were occurring across nation and neighbors were wanting a safe place to talk and grow around the topics of race, justice, policing, and community development.
We started the Ivey League, named after Robert Ivey Jr. whose home looks out on the basketball courts. He has been in the neighborhood for over 70 years and is more a gatekeeper than just a neighbor. This league was created to be 60% men from our neighborhood and 40% men from outside the neighborhood. A league where basketball mattered but brotherhood mattered more. A league where men could be vulnerable and dialogue about difficult topics and issues both personal and societal. We have had 8 seasons of Ivey League and it is one of the most special things we do.
The Community Garden at Neighbor to Neighbor is a communal space for our neighbors to plant, grow, and reap. It is supported by multiple grants, church groups, restaurants, and neighbors. It is an open space for all to come and receive. Sometimes we are tasked with growing kale for a downtown restaurant or some seasons just using it to teach kids in the Gardening Enrichment. It is always open as this space is meant for everyone to get more connected with the ground beneath our feet.