Let’s address some of the negative perceptions people have of Kenmore.
I’ve heard the terms “hillbilly” and “white trash” thrown around. I’ve heard complaints about unkempt front yards debasing the neighborhood’s appearance. Some think the young kids have no Kenmore pride, that they just want to get the hell out. Some associate Kenmore with the current heroin epidemic, regarding it as a drug haven. When I first started hanging around the Boulevard, my dad warned me to lock the car doors and watch my back when walking after sunset. Many outsiders think it’s an all-around rough neighborhood.
“Kenmore has had a bad rap for years,” says Kenmore Historical Society trustee Richard Jolly.
Some claim this bad rap stems from a motorcycle gang that once cruised the Boulevard and kept residents living in fear during the ’60s, or the ‘80s; there’s still some unsettled local myth surrounding the gang.
Regardless, there’s some truth to Kenmore’s perceived drug problem. “Drugs are the biggest problem Kenmore is facing,” says Amy Deem, founder of Stop the Violence, End the Silence, an organization with goals to end gun violence and drug abuse among the Akron youth. The group is based out of Kenmore, where Deem lives.
“I’ve watched bodies get carried out of houses on my street,” Deem says.
Deem’s cousin died of a heroin overdose in her home when she was away one day. Several drug dealers have lived on her block, and the neighbors start to wonder now when somebody new moves in.
I’ve been told similar anecdotes. To use the bathroom in the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Kenmore branch, an employee or police officer must buzz you in; this rule is in place, an officer told me, because of the “high number” of overdoses that have occurred in the bathroom.
Will Sheppard, a friend of mine from Kenmore, explained to me that fentanyl, a super-potent opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, has become popular in the neighborhood. His friend’s mother, a Kenmore resident, died from an overdose.
“She mixed heroin with fentanyl,” says Sheppard. “They found her in her bathtub.”
Stop the Violence, End the Silence
Although they’ve held only five or six events since starting the group in 2013, Stop the Violence, End the Silence has been well received by the neighborhood.
“People are always coming up and asking where they can buy T-shirts, or if there’s anything they can do to help,” says Deem.
Their first event, a vigil for 17-year-old Tyler Anderson, a good friend of Deem’s nephew, was held in Shadyside Park and brought together 150 people. Anderson was shot in the head, pushed out of a car, and left lying on the 2300 block of 21st St. SW, just behind Kenmore Boulevard.
Anderson’s death prompted Deem and others to form the group and combat gun violence. They eventually decided to address Akron’s drug problem as well. The group has held walks and open mic events where residents can speak on these issues.
“We just want kids to know that you don’t have to be a drug dealer, and you don’t always have to carry a gun on your hip, because it’s not going to save you,” says Deem.
The members of Stop the Violence, End the Silence were invited to an awards dinner given by the DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance) for their work in the community. Deem has received a letter from former state representative Greta Johnson commending the group’s efforts. Their message has not gone unnoticed outside the neighborhood.
Deem’s take on people’s negative perceptions of Kenmore: “Kenmore is not as bad as people say. I think we should bring out the positive attributes of Kenmore, because we have really good kids here, and all the negativity is not good for them. They don’t need that.”
For info, visit the group’s Facebook page.
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