Let me show you my neighborhood.
Colorful front doors mark the houses on Camp Street. The buildings are pushed up against sidewalks made uneven by cracks and tufts of grass. Blistering heat and humidity attribute to the ambiance of a neighborhood napping lazily in the midday sun, but residents are accustomed to Louisville’s sticky summers. After all, many have lived here in Shelby Park for generations. My roommates and I, though, are only here for a season—so don’t be surprised if you hear us commenting on the heat as we trudge to the park, which the neighborhood surrounds, to play Frisbee or take our friend’s dog for a walk.
Louisville is a notoriously segregated city; in Shelby Park, though, we celebrate diversity. As of 2019, the racial makeup was 40% white, 51% African American and 9% other races. Many families are low-income. It’s easy to meet people here since residents sit on front porches or hang out in the park. And the basketball court! If the rest of the neighborhood is asleep in the sun, the community’s collective energy culminates on the court. To see real activity, that’s where to go.
Colorful murals and graffiti embellish all corners of the neighborhood—on the sides of bakeries, shipping containers, and retaining walls. Artists turn the streets into an urban art museum and personify our community’s creativity. “Let’s do something better.”; “Building something better.” The messages scrawl across buildings, mere feet above the scattered trash that litters the sidewalks.
The broken-down and broken-in buildings are complemented by houses undergoing renovation; painter’s tape, siding frames covered by loose sheets and the hum of saws are abundant in Shelby Park. Gentrification is a term applied extremely loosely to the neighborhood—though property values are increasing in some cases, Shelby Park may just be undergoing the same sort of “fixing up” enjoyed by Germantown, which is a shout away from Shelby Park. These neighborhoods were once thriving, but suffered due to “white flight” and disinvestment. Now, it seems, we are witnessing resuscitation. New Direction Housing Corporation, a nonprofit, reduced the number of abandoned houses and empty lots from 300 to 125. Most resold as low-income housing to allow affordability for longtime neighbors.
Interns fellowship with residents at the neighborhood’s businesses: Six Forks Burger Co. is a black-owned, family-owned burger joint in Shelby Park. Logan Market hosts vendors selling fresh food, bubble tea and coffee amidst inclusive entertainment. YesterNook is a consignment store peddling furniture and decor. And if you don’t think fedoras are cool, I must assume you’ve never seen one the likes of which my friends found at the Fat Rabbit. Fat Rabbit Thrift & Vintage offers exactly what you’d expect—clothes, vinyl, furniture and knickknacks housed in an eclectic atmosphere.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the section of Ormsby Avenue that smells like—how do I say this politely?—cat pee. No one really knows why ammoniacal air assaults passersby’s noses, but it adds a certain (stinky) charm to the area.
Shelby Park needs more Love Thy Neighborhood interns to l0ve and serve its neighborhood—through intentional community, meaningful conversations and general appreciation of its character. It may not be glitzy, but it is loved.
Sojourn Church Midtown is the church where we attend worship and serve alongside community members. Midtown’s architecture nods to traditional Catholic cathedrals, but the contemporary touch of God is on display through the art on the walls. Little Flock, House of Ruth and Bates Memorial are other houses of worship in the neighborhood.
Shelby Park needs more Love Thy Neighborhood interns to love and serve its neighborhood—through intentional community, meaningful conversations and appreciation of its character. It may not be glitzy, but it is loved. And after all, isn’t a neighborhood changed for the better with every well-intending resident who moves in?