29-year-old Shawn Dromgoole has spent his entire life in the same gentrified Nashville neighborhood. But, ever since he was a child, he could always sense that there was unease in his hometown, knowing very well that few in the neighborhood looked like him.
Growing up he would watch as more and more black families moved out while white families moved in, making him feel even more unwelcome.
Those feelings only intensified over the past couple months after the senseless deaths of Ahmad Arbery and George Floyd. “What happened to these men could easily happen to me,” said Dromgoole. “I became scared to walk past my porch.”
There were even posts on Nextdoor, an app that connects neighbors, warning residents to look out for “suspicious black men,” he said. Stricken with fear, Shawn posted on Facebook and Nextdoor after deciding to finally speak out.
“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,” he wrote. Unexpectedly, his posts were met with overwhelming support from his local neighbors, none of whom Shawn had ever spoken with.
Neighbor, after neighbor, after neighbor started reaching out asking him if they could join him on a walk. The next day as he set out for his walk he was met by 75 neighbors! The walk really resonated with the community, too.
“It warmed my heart to see the acceptance that Shawn had,” said Meitra Aycock, the neighborhood association president, who also joined the walk. “He could have held a lot of anger in his heart about the way he has historically been treated in our neighborhood. It was very meaningful to see how open he was.”