The suburbs: safe havens for those fleeing genuine fear

January 8, 2011


By Carlene Byron

Carlene Byron is a development officer for The Salvation Army in Durham, NC, an experienced journalist, and blogs at “A Hope and a Purpose,” (  And she’s been known to write for us as well.

True confession: I’ve never thought too highly of the suburbs. Until I married, I’d lived almost my entire adult life in cities. Somerville, Massachusetts – a well-worn industrial and immigrant community where I lived in the shadow of a highway overpass and the Schrafts candy factory, and my Italian neighbor across the street had a grape arbor over his driveway and tomatoes and raspberries growing in the front yard. Malden, Massachusetts, a half-dozen stops from Boston’s Chinatown on the MBTA’s Orange Line, its triple deckers and Philadelphia-style two-families becoming the first home purchases for new Chinese immigrant families moving up to their first mortgages. Jamaica Plain, a Boston neighborhood, parts of which were commonly referred to as “Jamaica Spain” at the time because of the high proportion of new immigrants from Guatemala, Ecuador, and other parts of Central America, mixing in along the edges of the bohemian colony that had settled there, and the wealthier folks who lived “Pondside” near the end of Frederick Law Olmsted’s wonderful Emerald Necklace of parks.

Living in a thousand square feet with two friends, sleeping through a fire station siren night after night, hearing many languages around me on the street, being able to bargain with an elderly salesman at the Jeweler’s Exchange, buy fresh flowers or fruit from a street vendor, or stare in amazement at the spangled, closely fitted, brightly colored gowns in the window of a dress shop catering to Hispanic women – all of these things had always been part of my adult life.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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