I recently visited Montgomery, Alabama, and I saw death.
I had built an image of Montgomery, one with monuments to its civil rights past, preserved 1960s city scape and people of all ages everywhere. It was a dream.
I had to learn that Montgomery is a dying city. For hours I drove down streets full of broken buildings and red brick. First I discovered an abandoned steel mill, its wooden ceiling collapsed and rotting on the floor. Then there was the industrial wool mill, shearing bags still full of old product. Not even a block further there stood a roofing company whose sun bleached stone still bore its name, still carried its memory.
There were produce warehouses, poultry production sites, apartments, roofing companies and clothing stores, all similarly forgotten. I was silent in the face of over 30 abandoned structures. Nothing was boarded up. Nothing was for sale. No one was coming.
In the heart of downtown there sits a New York style Greek hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The banner marks its place on a street pocked with empty storefronts and foreclosed buildings. Inside, the owner, a native New Yorker who moved to Montgomery three months prior, greeted us by asking what we were doing there. He hadn’t had a single person my age, 19, stop by his eatery. He asked us to come back again and bring our friends.
So far from being a defining battlefield in the modern civil rights movement, census data has a poverty rate of nearly 24 percent. Montgomery was the capital of the south, a hub for crop and metal processing. Now it is lost. It is lost to economic depression.
I so suddenly have become tied to this abandoned city. As Montgomery ripped me from a world of apathy, I want to open America’s eyes to the very real poverty within our borders.
Montgomery is not the only American city that has suffered in silence. It is our duty to start a movement not only for Montgomery, but for economically distressed cities everywhere.
This is a collective movement for all cities that have been forgotten, for cities battling poverty. No one should be abandoned, no one should be lost, especially not our cities.
Help us get the message out. Please post your story of American poverty using #NotInAmerica. Please share, like, comment and post until Montgomery can no longer be ignored and poverty can no longer be forgotten.