Op-Ed

Want to see real improvements in Lexington’s East End? Get off the sidelines.

Thomas Tolliver
Thomas Tolliver Photo provided

I attended a productive and informative meeting tonight (May 13) focusing on public safety in Lexington’s East End neighborhood. There were tips on what information is most helpful to the dispatcher when calling 911, how to report a crime anonymously and lots of other worthwhile information. The only thing missing were the residents of the East End.

Mayor Linda Gorton was there, as was Police Chief Lawrence Weathers and a slew of police officers of every rank. Sheriff Kathy Witt was there, as was our council member, a district judge, a state representative and of course the usual handful of neighborhood activists, myself included. Beyond that, actual residents were few in number.

But this letter is not to berate my East End neighbors who did not attend the meeting but rather to encourage them to get off their sofa and get involved in the business of making the East End better, stronger and safer. How, you ask?

Get involved in the William Wells Brown Neighborhood Association. Take part in the plethora of activities and classes at the Charles Young Center or the William Wells Brown Community Center. Join the effort to save and repurpose the Zirl Palmer Pharmacy building at Fifth and Chestnut street. Volunteer at the Lyric Theatre. Or if you’re into history, join one of the groups working to preserve and showcase the neighborhood’s rich equine history, such as Phoenix Rising Lexington and the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden board.

The East End was home to the Kentucky Association, Lexington’s Thoroughbred race track before Keeneland was built. It was home to black jockeys in the 19th century and home to black doctors, educators and civic and business leaders in the 20th century. Each of Lexington’s black police chiefs has roots in the East End. I believe strongly that if residents come to know and appreciate the rich history of the East End, they will feel better about where they live and that, in turn, will make them more apt to call police when they see suspicious activity. That’s the first step to a safer neighborhood.

Let’s accentuate the great things going on in the East End -- new businesses, an artist village where artists will live and work, renewed interest in our history and, best of all, plans for a much needed grocery store. Let’s work to make sure the news media know about and report these positive things, not just the neighborhood murder count. But that will never happen until more residents -- homeowners and renters alike -- get off the sidelines and in the game.

Thomas Tolliver is a 25-year resident of the East End, where he is active on several fronts.

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