Love Thy Neighbor
Meet Luther Brown
By Hallie Jones
Please allow me to introduce Mr. Luther Brown. Luther lives in the Strothers Apartments, at 18th and Wilson streets in Louisville's West End. The 48-year-old father of three is an impassioned community leader who believes in spreading love, light and goodness in dying communities.
I asked Luther how he became involved in community work. What followed was a wide-ranging conversation, and rather than getting in the way of what he had to say, I'll just let him tell it:
“When I became disabled in 2000, I didn't have anything to do. I was living in Dosker Manor on the 18th floor, and I'd always be looking over at Indiana. One day, I asked myself why I was looking over at Indiana instead of looking down into my own community. So, I enrolled in the Neighborhood Institute, then the Citizen's Police Academy, then the College of Planning and Zoning. From there, it was one thing after another. My involvement increased, my network expanded and I learned how I could do things in my community.
|“Dosker Manor has about 877 units in a three-phase building. I lived in building C on the 18th floor. I was voted in as president of the Resident Council, then noticed there were so many activities directed toward women. I felt that men needed to be a part of the community as well, so we developed a men's group. This was very successful. So, I knew that I could accomplish whatever I put my mind to.
“I moved out of Dosker Manor after four years and joined LCON (Louisville Coalition of Neighborhoods). I moved to the Strothers Apartments, which has 29 units. When I moved in, there were only eight people living here. I helped start the resident council. Two years later, the building had no vacancies.
“Park DuValle is to our west, Park Hill to the east, Parkland to the south and California to the north. None of those neighborhoods claim the area where we live (Dusmenil to the north, Hill to the south, 22nd to the west, and 15th to the east). So, we claimed the area and started the Strothers Association, which is something new and something good.
“We've begun to look at vacant lots, drug trafficking and boarded-up houses. We're working with Metro Council and the police. We've eliminated a significant amount of crime in our neighborhood. We're trying to clean up the streets and move the drug trafficking off our corners, away from the businesses along Dixie Highway. For a long time, if you walked out of a store, you would be approached by people offering you drugs. We still have some shootings that are an eyesore for our neighborhood. We figure if we can get some of these drug activities to decrease, and we add new light to the community, the shootings will start to disappear.”
It was about a year ago that Earon Harper and her 2-year-old daughter, Erica Hughes, were shot a few doors down from where Luther lives. Earon died on the scene, but the baby was saved — because of the heroism of an LMPD officer, who rushed her to the hospital in his police cruiser.
“To honor Erica and Officer (Steven) Kelsey, we want to create a park at the corner of 18th and Wilson in a vacant lot owned by the city,” Luther says. “It would be a mini-park, and it's part of the Strothers Association's vision. This park will show that after a terrible event, this community can bring some goodness about in the aftermath, and that little girl can visualize something positive as she grows up in our community.
That lot has been vacant for years.
“We want to bring about some love, inspiring other residents to get involved. We hope to see no more shootings in the Strothers neighborhood. We've had our share. We'll bring about the vision that this can be a peaceful and safe community.
“Believe it or not, we're all in the same place. We live on the same street, across from each other, in the same community. We're connected and we have to care about one another. We can connect with the surrounding neighborhoods and create a better environment for all of western Louisville. We need to show more love and compassion toward one another.”
Hallie Jones works at the Center for Neighborhoods, a community-based organization that has been training neighborhood leaders in Louisville for more than 20 years (www.centerforneighborhoods.org). Contact her by email, here.