Austin needs more community gardens

What a fantastic article [Raising chickens, uniting Austin, June 10]. I am so happy to see this happening in Austin. My wife and I have kept chickens in our backyard in Austin for the past two years. We also have been gardening since we moved here in 2005. We have met so many of our neighbors by being out in our yard so often. People stop by and ask questions about the chickens. I invite them into my yard to hand-feed the hens some seeds and give them an egg. This is a great way to meet people who would ordinarily remain strangers, and a quick way to make a new friend. I am located in a section of Austin called “The Island” and we have a long stretch of land on the north side of Railroad Avenue that has been abandoned and not maintained. A neighbor and I are trying to figure out how to turn this into a green space. We have access to huge amounts of compost and have been contemplating how exactly to go about this the proper way. There are lots of people in our neighborhood who walk with their kids in the evening and this stretch could really become a center point of our community. Also, Railroad is the front door to our community and a beautiful garden would sure be better than a trash-strewn abandoned railroad track. I think a community garden would do a lot to bring the community together. Thanks for the great article.

Jeff Panall
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City must let citizens protect themselves and their families

First and foremost, this unconstitutional gun ban in the city of Chicago needs to be reversed, and it will [Streetbeat, May 27]. It is not the law-abiding citizens that are out here committing these crimes. In the last few weeks, two homeowners defended themselves because they had a gun in their home. In my opinion it’s deeper than gun control. We first must deal with dysfunctional characteristics within our communities.

Hassan Tremble
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Black students should be viewed for all their gifts

While African Americans have contributed to their appeal-or lack thereof-to others, each child should be judged individually based on their own merits [Study examines how black boys are treated in school, May 10, 2007]. As a parent of three African American young men who attended a predominately white school district-and as an educator who teaches in that district-I have seen normalized racism at work constantly. Comments have been made to me, although seemingly complimentary regarding my sons’ good behavior but still racists. White students are not expected to represent their whole race, neither should African American students be expected to do so. Because of my race, I have been asked: why students who look like me do what they do. When I tried to explain at one point why one student reacted one way for a white teacher but did not react the same way with me-it was unconceivable that race had any thing to do with it. Educators do expect responsibility for teaching and making a positive difference in the lives of African American students, however, they make sure that the highly-gifted and well-mannered students from two-parent homes are placed in their classrooms. They will take credit for any accolades the students receive for their academic prowess and take any responsibility for educating them. These students, however, would have performed great no matter where they were placed.

R. Blackman
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