It’s extremely difficult to find someone in Fort Wayne who is more than two degrees separated from anyone else. In a city of over 250,000 people that’s pretty remarkable. I’m sure it’s not entirely true, but like I said, “difficult,” not impossible. It makes the city feel more small town than it is. The lack of public transportation adds to that.
Here’s the thing about Fort Wayne, it’s incredibly isolating. I’ve lived here most of my life. I moved away and came back, because I realized how passionate I am about Fort Wayne, about making it better.
Being in the midwest, Fort Wayne is very stuck in its ways. Being at one time governed largely by members of the KKK, Fort Wayne is very stuck in its ways. Having once passed on an arts campus that could have reshaped the entire city, Fort Wayne is very stuck in its ways. Having once opted to build its interstate around the city rather than through it, Fort Wayne is very stuck in its ways.
Let me preface this by saying, I love the people I have. I love the people who this does not apply to. I love the people I’ve never met who dig in and love this town the best they can. Know that I’m aware of my own fault in the problem and am trying to change.
Fort Wayne has a inclusion problem. I’m sure every city does. Fort Wayne’s feels more prominent, because, as I said, it feels smaller than it is. Fort Wayne is broken, and it does it to itself. People are digging their heels deep into their corners and punching down to people in other corners.
There are people trying. There are people offering art, entertainment, kindness, hope in an attempt to be as inclusive as possible. It’s beautiful. It’s hard.
There are people feigning interest. There are people who call themselves supportive of a movement, when all they do is patronize people they already know and enjoy. That’s not support of a movement. That’s drinking with your pals.
Watching people feign inclusion while they create exclusivity hurts the community at-large. There are people fighting to create spaces designed to be as inclusive as possible, those people continue to be excluded.
I’ve watched people move away because they’ve worked hard to break in, to feel welcome, only to be shut out. It’s gross. We’re doing it. Those of us in the heart of the city excluding people trying to be a part of new things.
Everyone has this idea in their head that there’s only so much attention and money to go around. That’s true. It’s limited. But that limit does not mean you punch others down to get what you want. Work together. We set things up on opposite sides of the street that are exactly alike. Find ways to put it in the middle of the street.
I came back here to try to improve this city I love so much. I don’t have a lot to offer, but I’m trying to impact and better the culture. Many people I know are. The people in control, the taste makers are not concerned about improving the city. They are concerned about making sure it looks like they are concerned about improving the city, which is gross. I’m not asking for credit. I chose a thankless job. I know there are no accolades in that. It makes me sad for the people I see trying. Know that I’m aware of my own fault in the problem and am trying to change. It makes me sad for Fort Wayne.
I get it. Some things are comfortable. Some things are scary. Reaching beyond our current scope, groups is hard. Try. Reach out. Please. Meet someone new. Invite them to things.
I’m not ready to give up. I’m close, but not yet. It feels like a wash. I know it’s not. It feels like it.
If we can, we need to be working together.
I know we can, because I’ve seen it once before.