Children see entrepreneurs at work


June 25, 1993|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Children who live in the community near Woodland Avenue and Reisterstown Road in Northwest Baltimore often see drug dealers doing business on street corners and in alleys in their neighborhood.

Community activist Michael Johnson gave some of them a chance to see another kind of business -- a car wash, an auto repair shop, a company that makes caps and a corner grocery store.

"These kids for sure don't need to see no more drug dealers making money because they see it every day," Mr. Johnson said yester- day.

"They need to see people for them to aspire to be like."

Mr. Johnson, who runs the Phoenix Resource Center day camp, took 70 campers on a tour of businesses in the Towanda-Grantley community. The children met small-business owners who are an integral part of the neighborhood, like the couple who work hard to keep their small eating place open.

Mr. Johnson hopes the entrepreneurs will serve as role models for the children, ages 5 to 13.

"The people in these businesses are not standing on the corner, they are not worried about the police busting in, and they are not worried about someone coming in shooting everybody up. These are positive people," Mr. Johnson told the children.

"You have to get your car fixed. You have to get your car washed. You might want to buy a hat. These are things that you could do one day, too," he told them.

The community-operated Phoenix Resource Center -- a recreation and multipurpose center -- is located in a two-story brick building in the 3600 block of Woodland Ave.

It is less than two blocks from an area of heavy drug activity, where drug dealers stake out their ground early and are open for business nearly all day.

Last year, the day camp conducted a survival walk through the neighborhood to teach youngsters how to avoid certain people and areas -- like vacant houses that drug addicts use as shooting galleries.

Nine-year-old Tierra Jones said that every day she sees people, such as drug dealers, she has been told to stay away from. But on the tour of the neighborhood businesses she saw something different.

"You see people, especially black people, who have a business that I didn't know about," Tierra said.

Eight-year-old Danny Dixon said he likes to look at the businesses on the tour and dream of his future.

"Sometime when you see business, you go into a dream world," he said. "It all seems so nice to me."

But Danny also said he frequently sees people on street corners who may be drug dealers. He tries to ignore them.

"It's kind of a safe neighborhood, but it could be better," he said.

As the campers toured the businesses yesterday, several young men who camp leaders said are involved in drug trafficking watched.

"You've got drug dealers making money, but you've got actual real businesses making money, too," Mr. Johnson said.

"I want to show everyone that only a small part of the people in the African-American community are doing the wrong things."

Later this summer, Mr. Johnson hopes to arrange a house tour and have the campers meet area homeowners.

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