I remember years ago, a girl I met. She was a mess and anyone who had known her would have told you that there was no hope. Whenever anyone asked her what she wanted out of life, she would respond with a sparkle in her eye, ‘My name in lights’. I only met her a couple times at a couple parties when I was younger, but something about her stuck with me. Maybe it was the slightest tinge of hope within a body of utter desperation. That was years ago, and I hadn’t seen her since, but that one thing she said had never left me. I haven’t seen the girl, whose name I might never remember, in years, though a part of me hopes she’s better off than she was back then, I have little optimism. I do see her everywhere I go all over Rochester, in spirit, as I also see Rochester as I’m sure so many had seen her, an utter mess whose only wish is to see its name in lights.
There are a lot of other cities like Rochester across the rust belt from the Twin Cities to Syracuse who have seen their down times. They were promised glitter and gold and wound up with lumps of coal in the end. Cities like these often struggle to find an identity after the dust has settled and they’re ready to move on. For many of these cities, such as Rochester, there is still plenty of hope to see our names in lights, but as time goes by, so does the hope.
When I look at Rochester, I see a past that was once encrusted in all glitter and gold. Great businessmen like George Eastman and James Cunningham lived in great mansions on East Avenue bringing a millionaire glitz not every city had known at the time. Rochester’s name was surely in lights.
Cities like Detroit, the Twin Cities, and Milwaukee have made some dramatic moves to get their names back on the marquee where they belong. Cities once known for a blue collar grittiness have turned to more of a green collar. Though there is quite a way for these cities to go, the people who live within them have taken it upon themselves to find a greener path to success. With organizations like Greening of Detroit, people like Will Allen in Milwaukee, and Garden Aerial in Rochester, Rust Belt cities are working hard to change the public perception of what they are. These are cities who are changing the paradigm. They are showing the world that there is home, maybe not in the methods we found hope in the past, but in a very different way. Green technology, urban gardens and green transportation. People working for the betterment of the community rather than for themselves. We’re seeing a great renewal of green in what was once seen as a lost cause. We’re seeing hope, and maybe one day, we’ll see our name in lights once again. It can happen.