"There's the Latino-speaking community, thatsays you don't challenge authority," says Simmons,who is Black. "But American culture upholds andcelebrates parents that come out [to meetings].Because we see that as parental involvement, wedon't acknowledge the minority individual that'shome providing a good meal, putting the child tobed."
But other residents say that reducing racialbarriers has been difficult.
Lois M. Maragioglio moved with her threechildren to Area Four in 1980, when Cambridgeagreed to comply with federal desegregationstandards through school busing.
She preempted the busing plan by sending herdaughter Nancy to the Joseph E. Maynard School,one of Area Four's two public elementary schools.
"When they talked about desegregating theschools, I was in the forefront," saysMaragioglio. "I though it was wonderful to getNancy to meet other kids."
Area Four may become even more diverse as itgrows up. Although the neighborhood is onlyone-third Black, more than half of those under 18are Black. More than a fourth of children in AreaFour are Hispanic, compared with just 19 percentof the total population.
The construction of the three-floor, $2.9million Area Four Youth Center in 1993 has helpedreduce the image problem of youths loitering inthe neighborhood's streets, residents say.
The center's gymnasium, dance studio, computerroom, kitchen, game room and video productioncenter offer a variety of teen classes, rangingfrom college preparation to cooking. The centeralso houses a basketball league and a young men'sand young women's group.
Before the center's opening "there was no whereto go," says George R. Greenidge Jr., the center'sdirector of youth programs. "Families have alwayshad it rough in these communities. A lot offamilies don't have money."
"There's a lot kids there, that play basketballand stuff," agrees Edwin Santiago, 13. Theseventh-grader said he and his friends could onlyplay in lots or around school playgrounds beforethe center opened.
A former settlement house, the Margaret FullerNeighborhood Center, has provided Area Four'sparents with child care for more than 50 years.
The center serves 35 families, and also runs afood pantry which supplies needy residents withvegetables, fruit and canned goods, according toNze, the center's director.
In addition, St. Bartholomew's holds a monthlyfood drive, donating non-perishable items from itsparishioners to the city's Food Pantry Network.
Apathy of Disenfranchisement?