Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Video: Denton neighborhood works to build community
Children singers and businesses are trying to enhance the appeal of the area.
Plagued by a history of drug activity, prostitution, and other crime, residents of the Southeast Denton neighborhood off of East McKinney Street are working to get the community back on its feet.
Grace Samano, owner of La Estrella Mini-Market on East McKinney, said she is determined to do her part to thrust the area into a more positive light.
“I want to set the tone and serve as an inspiration for other businesses to get the community together,” she said.
One of the many ways Samano said she’s tried to bring a sense of community back and restore the neighborhood’s image is by having a local musical group perform outside of her business for patrons and passers-by on Friday nights.
The Superestrellaz, a group of about a dozen neighborhood children, ages 7 to 11, performs covers from the popular traditional Latin American genre, cumbia.
Superestrellaz at La Estrella
Luz Hernandez, the mother of 11-year-old Superestrellaz singer Monica Salazar, said the kids’ involvement in the group is important because it helps keep them out of trouble.
Salazar, also a member of Borman Elementary School’s orchestra, said she agrees with her mother.
“It’s better to play music and move around instead of just sitting around,” she said. “I really like being a part of the group.”
The neighborhood’s economic difficulties are due at least in part to a tumultuous history, said Kevin Roden, Denton city councilman for District One, which includes southeast Denton.
In the early 1900s, the area that is now known as Civic Center Park near Texas Woman’s University was a thriving African-American community filled with several businesses such as grocery stores, funeral homes, and more. The community was called Quakertown for the Quaker abolitionists who helped free slaves during the Civil War.
It was during that time that President C.F. Bralley of TWU, then known as the College of Industrial Arts, felt that having such a strong African-American presence in the area would hinder the efforts of the all-women’s to gain accreditation, Roden said.
Through a huge city drive, Quakertown was considered condemned, and its inhabitants were forced to move to the other side of the railroad tracks no one else was interested in.
As the 20th century progressed into the ’50s, he said, the northern side of McKinney Street began to see an increase in Hispanic population.
“You have two rich, culturally diverse parts of town and East McKinney Street separating them,” he said. “And the number of bail bonds stores, check cashing stations [is] popping up because you’ve got the juvenile detention center and the city and county jails all in the same area.”
Roden said business owners like Samano are doing what the city should be doing, showing the neighborhood the care it deserves.
Samano said she would like to have Hispanic folklore dancers perform outside of her store and to have another musical group perform Saturday nights to bring residents together and to especially get the children involved.
Community involvement is key in making the neighborhood a popular part of city life in Denton, Roden said.
“We’re thinking about making it more walkable and bike-friendly. We also want to get adequate lighting out there for people who want to take a trip that way at night,” Roden said. “First and foremost, we want to foster people who are trying to do good things and allow them to do just that.”
Pegasus News Content partner - North Texas Daily
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