Thursday, April 3, 2008


Following our wonderful anniversary celebration, we received the following letter:

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Green,

This letter is your official notification that your Van needs to be removed from constantly being parked on the street.

It must be parked in your driveway when not in use for long periods of time. If it cannot be kept in your driveway then it would need to be kept somewhere out of the development.

If it is not removed from the street within 10 days from date of this letter then I will need to go through the proper process to have it removed at your cost.
I do regret having to send this notice out, but when I receive complaints about things like this I need to take the proper action.

I want to thank you very much For your cooperation in this matter.
I was very angry and upset for several days. I tossed and turned all night and the right words finally came to me in how to respond, so I wrote the following:

Dear Sir:

I am writing in response to your letter dated March 24, 2008 which we received on March 28th demanding that we move our vehicle, a 1990 Ford Passenger Van, from street parking in the community. What I find disturbing is that you felt you had the right to threaten to have the vehicle towed at our expense simply because of a complaint that you received. There has been no due process. There has been no conversation or discussion. There has been no citing of any violation of a city ordinance or law regarding parking on the street. I find it reprehensible that you would feel you have the right to present an ultimatum like this to the only African American family in the neighborhood, where EVERYONE else is allowed to park their second or third vehicles on the street without complaint or discussion.

So, in response to this ultimatum, that you would not dare present to any other family in this neighborhood, I have video taped the neighborhood parking situation clearly showing how others families are parking their vehicles on the street.

The video clips show that one vehicle, regularly parks directly across the street from our driveway and we have never raised the slightest complaint because that neighbor, like us, has a large vehicle and he has no where else to park it. Out of good neighborly spirit and for the sake of getting along, we have never said anything to him or anyone else that does this from time to time, even though it makes it difficult for us to get in and out of our drive way when this happens.

It also seems that whoever made this complaint has given you the impression that our vehicle is some type of derelict abandoned piece of junk that is broken down and is never used. The vehicle in question is our church van that we use to haul our equipment and supplies as well as to provide transportation for those who desire to attend some of our special meetings and activities. You see, I am a bi-vocational pastor. I work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the week, and I work on weekends as a pastor. Through the week we use our personal vehicle to get to work, and on weekends, we use both vehicles for our religious activities.

Where is the law or ordinance that says I cannot park the vehicle on the street, just like everyone else? Where is the ordinance or law that says I must park the vehicle only in the driveway? If you enforce some type of rule on us, I expect to see EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD IN COMPLIANCE WITH THIS RULING AS WELL!

All of this could have been avoided if you had simply placed a phone call or asked a few questions before jumping to conclusions and presenting an ultimatum. Now that you have backed us up into a corner as if though we have no legal rights or without following some type of protocol, you leave us with no other choice but to pursue media awareness or legal action to protect our interest.

We will consider the towing of our vehicle, without due process and without documented violation of any ordinance or law regarding neighborhood parking, a deliberate and vicious act of racism against me and my family and interference with the religious activities of a church by illegally moving the vehicle owned by the pastor. The said action is in lieu of a threatening letter to tow the vehicle based upon a complaint that was not investigated or validated.

I find this to be VERY serious because this means ANY neighbor can make ANY complaint against me or ANY member of my family for ANY REASON and you think you have the right to respond this way. This is a MAJOR issue to a minority family because this was the way we have grown up. White people can make any accusation against us and anybody can act upon that accusation without due process.

Well, this is not the 1950’s and 1960’s. It’s the 21st century. My wife and I have raised three sons and have striven to be model citizens. We have one adult son, and 17 year old twins who are preparing to graduate from Central Dauphin High School.

They have never done drugs. They have never smoked or drank alcohol. They have never been arrested. They don’t have babies outside of marriage. They have not terrorized this or any other neighborhood. They are not in any gangs. In fact, they have assisted us in the ministry in our headquarter church in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as in our assignment here in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My wife and I have worked very hard to try to be role models and good citizens in every community that we have lived in. In spite of losing our home last year, like so many people across the country, due to the increased interest rate on our adjustable rate mortgage, we have held together as a family and done our best to remain productive. That’s how we came to live in this neighborhood.

We are not some uneducated, inner city-ghetto stereotype, Beverly Hillbillies family that has invaded the West Hanover Township. I’ve been a homeowner for ten years in St. Louis, Missouri, situated in a very nice middle class neighborhood. It was considered a historical structure and was so nice that we once hosted the mayor of St. Louis in our home. We moved to Harrisburg and qualified for and moved into a home in Forest Hills, a very nice development in northern Harrisburg. So not only are we appalled at your actions, but we are offended by your assumptions. And yes, assumptions have been made or we would have been granted the dignity and courtesy of a phone call or a letter of inquiry, rather than a threat and an ultimatum.

Aside from this issue, which is rooted in racism in its purest form, this is a matter of setting an example and instruction for our sons. I cannot allow them to see their father bow to this. I raised them to be men of dignity and to respect others. And through this situation, I must show them that they cannot allow anyone to walk over them.

I am a husband and I have been faithful to one woman for the entirety of our 27 years of marriage. I laid down my life for this woman who is my best friend, partner, and mother of my children. In a day and time when African American men are only known for imprisonment, infidelity, and irresponsibility, I have tried to be the best man she could ever hope for. I cannot become anything less in her eyes. I am her protector as well as her partner. I will never allow her to experience one minute where she is ashamed of me and embarrassed by me. That’s why I must take this stand. It’s about what is right. I do this as an African American husband and father who is setting an example for my sons and being a true husband to my wife.

I am genuinely connected with countless people who happen to be white, who are indeed my brothers and sisters. They have stood beside us in good and bad times and would be absolutely shocked and embarrassed to learn of this treatment we are receiving. They are not token friends. They are the kind of people who I am proud to say, when we see each other, we see no barriers of color. So these are not the words of an angry black man waiting to pull out the race card for everything that has gone wrong in his life. I say these things knowing that it might make some of my closest relationships a little uncomfortable, but because they know me personally, they will understand and even support this stand I am taking.

Finally I do this because of our church family. I cannot, in good conscious, tell them to stand up for what is right, if I back down from such issues. I cannot lead them, where I’m not willing to go. I must be a man of integrity. I was watching the Civil Right baseball game this past Saturday and the commentators talked about the fight that African Americans had in the past. Well, this kind of attitude, that you have displayed, has taken me back to a time in which I was a kid and did not always understand all that was going on. I thought that much of this was behind us. I thought wrong.

I do this because I refuse to plant a seed of cowardice and compromise in my sons. This is not about the van. This is about the way you approached us. This is about the way you chose to communicate with us. You don’t have to like us, but we will be respected as human beings, and as citizens of this commonwealth and these United States of America.

Christopher G. Green
One Concerned Husband and Father

I made a PDF of the letter and it emailed it to the Neighborhood Association. I received a phone call shortly afterwards. The gentleman attempted to make some excuses and then suddenly humbled himself and said, " I didn't handle this situation the right way. I apologize."

It all came down to exactly what I stated in the letter. Assumptions had been made. By the time we got off the phone, he was making concessions and saying he hoped we can be friends.

At first I thought I had gone over the top and overreacted, but the response from those who matter, my wife, my children, and our church family, let me know that this was about the pulling down of a stronghold. I was not bluffing, boasting or making idol threats. All I knew was that I could not submit to the spirit of intimidation. That would be like yielding to witchcraft.

Well, I don't know what else to say. I'm just glad to know that we win, we win, we win!