New neighborhood, new identity - Justin Boron

It crept in slowly during the night, like a surreptitious fog. By morning, a foul cloud of embarrassment had enriched the air of my

Atlanta neighborhood.

I had taken a cab from Sampson Street the night before when my apartment still belonged to the Inman Park neighborhood. Then, the

morning came. I turned onto Sampson again and found Old Fourth Ward neighborhood signs tacked up everywhere. I've never been more humiliated in my life.

I cowered behind my wheel, unwilling to look passersby in the eye. This was bound to happen sooner or later, I said to myself. My

apartment was conveniently positioned in an ambiguous area between Boulevard and the Norfolk Southern tracks. Just three blocks to the east is Inman Park. But about five blocks the other way is the Old Fourth Ward, home to some not-so-glamorous housing projects.

I felt betrayed by the new signs. Some friends of mine laughed at me from the back seat of the car. I had always told them I lived in Inman Park. The new signs caught me in my naive misunderstanding of borders and boundaries.

They aren't geographic. They are entirely socioeconomic and cultural, I learned.

I made the mistake of assuming my proximity to Inman Park permitted me to attach myself to their bourgeoisie lifestyles. But I had never lived like them.

I was an outcast. So I fled, leaving the city for my family's house in the suburbs. At least I knew where I belonged there.

The new signs made it clear that Inman Park wanted nothing to do with us. This was a purge. Spewed from the mouth of an upper class Intown neighborhood and gulped up by one that has seen better days, I felt jaded. I never realized how much a neighborhood means to one's identity. How would I move on?

A drive down Boulevard, the heart of the Old Fourth Ward, illuminates my bad attitude about the neighborhood. I can't seem get through there without seeing a police officer harassing some unassuming resident. Would the new street signs extend the brutality of the Atlanta Police Department into my neighborhood? I sure hope not.

My neighbors wouldn't stand for it. They know nothing of submission and, before we knew it, there would be a full scale war on my street.

I like being able to sleep through the night in the absence of sirens and helicopter spotlights. These new signs cast a whole new light on the area.

My knee-jerk reaction was to move to another apartment, cut my losses and head for the hills. It would be easy. I had no lease, nothing emotional tying me to this area. A few cardboard boxes and I would be gone, safe from the mean streets of the Old Fourth Ward.

But foolish courage swelled deep in my stomach. Maybe I needed to take a stand, rise up against the tide. I didn't need a fancy name like Inman Park to live. I always looked at my street as a pretty gritty one. This was just confirmation of that.

The name still hasn't grown on me, but I'm looking forward to seeing signs again. It will be a rebirth of an identity.

Justin Boron is the city government reporter for the News Daily. He can be reached at jboron@news-daily.com