A Black Man Was Afraid To Walk Alone So His Neighborhood Walked With Him
Shawn Dromgoole launches “We Walk With Shawn” after he felt unsafe walking in his own neighborhood
Shawn Dromgoole is a 29-year-old Black man who grew up in the 12 South neighborhood in Nashville, however, as the neighborhood gentrified over the years and stories like Ahmaud Arbery’s — a Black man who was shot and killed while jogging in Georgia — continue to make headlines, Dromgoole said he no longer felt safe taking a walk in his own neighborhood. He shared his concerns on social media and the community app Nextdoor, when a surprising thing happened — his neighbors said they would walk with him.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Dromgoole says stories like Ahmaud’s made him feel like “what happened to these men could easily happen to me,” especially since he points out that his community app NextDoor (like many Nextdoor pages) was filled with messages warning others of “suspicious black men” in the neighborhood. So Dromgoole took to Facebook and the NextDoor app and shared his story.
“Yesterday I wanted to walk around my neighborhood but the fear of not returning home to my family alive kept me on my front porch. Today I wanted to walk again and I could not make it off the porch,” Dromgoole shared on Facebook on May 27.
His neighbors saw his posts, telling him that they would walk with him in the hopes he would feel safer that way. The next day, he went on an evening stroll with over 50 people, all walking alongside him in solidarity.
“Once upon a time that entire neighborhood was our family,” Dromgoole told CNN of the area where he lives. “Years later property taxes ran our people out of the neighborhood, they moved out and new people moved in and all of a sudden we didn’t belong. We knew none of our neighbors, which is okay unless you’re a Black American.”
After that first community walk, Dromgoole launched “We Walk With Shawn” and hundreds of neighbors turned out to walk with him again. So far he’s taken his community walks to other neighborhoods like Shaker Heights, Ohio, with plans to travel all over the country. While expressing his gratitude for his neighbors who showed up for him, Dromgoole wrote online that he hopes his story and his walks raise awareness about the effects of gentrification on a community and on people of color.
“We want to be clear that these walks aim to raise awareness concerning the effects of gentrification on Black and brown people in urban communities because being a ‘good neighbor’ means understanding how our actions and presence impact the lives of those who surround us and no one should be afraid to walk (or run) alone,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
For people who don’t live near Shawn, but live in an urban community or a gentrified neighborhood and want to bring that energy and allyship to their own town, Dromgoole says that being a better neighbor is as simple as saying Hello.
“Take the risk of getting to know your neighbor,” Dromgoole tells Scary Mommy. “Take the risk of defying the stereotypes that you think you know. Taking that risk and getting to know people is important. Introduce yourself. Get to know your neighbor.”
Shawn already has plans to walk in other cities and states and wants to come to yours, too. You can contact him online or donate to his GoFundMe and help spread Dromgoole’s message of community. Let’s all Walk With Shawn.