This letter was written by a friend of mine. He posted it on our neighborhood message board yesterday. It is a sad commentary about the illusion of community present in one of Chapel Hill's older neighborhoods. Sad, sad indeed.
Dear Lake Forest neighbors,
My name is Allen Buansi. I am 21 years old. I'm 5-11, weigh around 190 pounds and I am a black man. More often than not, you may see me in the neighborhood on a bicycle and wearing a backpack. I've lived in Chapel Hill for about 10 years and have lived in the Lake Forest neighborhood for much of that time. I attend Dartmouth College, and I head back up to school on September 14. I work at the local YMCA. I am in Chapel Hill for the summer, and I am an assistant football coach for East Chapel Hill High School, the school from which I graduated.
You may see me on the corner of Tadley Drive and Ridgecrest during the day or at night talking on a cell-phone to my girlfriend who lives in Texas. Or you may see me there talking on a cell-phone with my mother who lives in Richmond, Virginia and is a Ph.D student at UNC. You may even see me on a cell-phone talking to one of my best friends, Andres, who also lives in Texas. You may see me there on my bike because I have just ridden back from football practice at the high school. The reason why I am on that corner in the first place? I do not get a good signal back at the house, which is in Avalon Court, a block down from Tadley Drive. And so the only places I get a good signal at are at the corners of Avalon Court and
Ridgecrest Drive and of Ridgecrest Drive and Tadley Drive.
I had made my way back home from practice late Monday night. I hadn't talked with Andres in a couple of months, and he's rarely available during the day. So I called him and talked with him for about a half-hour on the corner of Avalon Court and Ridgecrest Drive. After being bitten by many mosquitoes, I moved down one block to Tadley Drive, a road that I have gone down and up since the first week of July on my way to and from football practice. At that time I was talking to my girlfriend who had just arrived home from a month spent in the Honduras. About an hour into our conversation, a police car rolled up and stopped in front of me. The officer emerged from the car and proceeded to ask me many, many questions about what I was doing there, about where I was from, where I lived, where I worked, etc. I had to give him two forms of identification at which
point a second police car rolled up and stopped behind me, as if to cut off some imaginary escape route. The police officer emerged from that car and stood beside me as the other officer returned to his car to verify my identification.
A neighbor had called the police department saying that there was a suspicious man standing on the corner. "There have been robbers in the area, and we came check out the situation," one of the officers said to me. "I see," I say. "So can I not talk here on my cell-phone? I get a pretty bad signal back at the house."
The officer then recommended that I go down half a mile to the parking lot of Whole Foods to talk on my cell-phone. He recommended that I leave the neighborhood in which I live and have stayed for the past 10 years, so I could talk on the phone to my loved ones. "Otherwise if we get more calls, we're going to keep coming down here."
One of my biggest shocks in this whole ordeal was that the neighbor who had called did not approach me him- or herself to ask me what I was up to. To rely on the police rather than confronting me, your fellow resident and your fellow neighbor, whom you have seen many times ride up and down the street is very disappointing and shameful, to say the least.
The next time anyone sees me and is wondering about who I am, I highly encourage you to come up to me and to talk with me, even at night when I am on my phone. I'm a very nice person. I'm very generous, sensitive and understanding. I can talk about anything, from politics to sports. I promise you that a conversation with me won't disappoint.
I just wanted to make you all aware of my presence here in the neighborhood and to let you know that I plan to be out on the corner most nights because that's the only time of day that I can reach my girlfriend and my mother on the phone. Again, to make sure that you recognize me, but my name is Allen Buansi. I am 21 years old. I'm 5-11, weigh around 190 pounds and I am a black man.
I can understand the Chapel Hill police coming out to investigate a citizen's concern. The "suggestion" that Allan walk half a mile to make his phone call from a more public place, however, "suggests" the need for some serious remedial training for the officers involved.