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  • Melinda Murphy

Neighbors walk to support black man

Shawn Dromgoole is a 29-year-old black man who has lived in the same Nashville neighborhood his entire life.

His family has been in the neighborhood, known as 12 South, for 54 years. But Dromgoole said that since he was a child, he felt an unease in his hometown, acutely aware that few people looked like him.

“Growing up in my neighborhood, I could always feel the eyes, the looks and the cars slowing down as they passed by me,” said Dromgoole, who was recently furloughed from his job at Nordstrom as a logistics processor.

As a young man, Dromgoole watched from his window as the neighborhood gradually gentrified before his eyes: Black families moved out and white families moved in. With each passing year, he felt more and more unwelcome, he said. Those feelings grew in recent weeks when he heard about Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was out jogging in Georgia when he was shot to death, and then George Floyd, a black man killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.

“What happened to these men could easily happen to me,” said Dromgoole. “I became scared to walk past my porch.” There were also frequent postings on Nextdoor, an app that connects neighbors, warning residents to look out for “suspicious black men,” he said. Consumed with fear, Dromgoole took to Facebook and Nextdoor, deciding to finally share his own post.

“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, responses from his community started pouring in. Neighbors, none of whom Dromgoole had ever spoken with, asked if they could join him on a walk.

“Neighbor, after neighbor, after neighbor started reaching out, telling me they wanted to walk with me,” he said.

Last Thursday afternoon, Dromgoole notified his neighbors that he was going for a walk at 6 p.m., and anyone who wanted to join him was welcome.

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