Everyone brings with them their own presuppositions about a new environment. The City of Lynn is no different. When one hears the phrase, “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin” confidence in personal safety is not the first idea to enter the mind. That said, as we enter the Centerboard Headquarters, it is difficult to ignore the feeling of safety and calm that emanates from the walls.
We walk into the office in which we would be interviewing Dalene Basden to see her sitting behind a desk as if ready to run her household from a comfy armchair. Dalene is a Family Support Specialist, who has supported and mentored countless parents over the years. Prior to our meeting, she had been described to us as a real ‘spitfire’ and community member, and this description is proved accurate right off the bat as, when asked to describe her family, she responds first with a haughty chuckle and then proceeds to explain that while she does indeed have three biological children, all of the young ones in her neighborhood are her children. “Most kids call me ‘Nani’ and my husband is ‘Big Steve’”, she explains, pointing out that though her neighborhood is filled with a large variety of people, her door is never locked to the curious and friendly children.
How is this whole oneness of a neighborhood so achievable with such diversity? Not to say that different cultures cannot get along, but simply that different traditions may not always lend themselves to social harmony with one another. Dalene would simply scoff at this question. “My community is my culture,” she says, an idea that pervades her life as a mantra of sorts as both her way of living and her dream for Lynn one day. “I live, work, play, pray, and shop in my community…I work 24/7.”
She explains that the city is a big place, full of all sorts of people. The trick is finding a way of knitting together the close-knit communities throughout. Lynn is growing at a fantastic rate and the city is changing just as quickly. And with this change, Dalene advocates for the idea that “It’s all about the kids.” Here is where Dalene really starts to come alive. The passion in her eyes only grows as she starts listing off how she would work toward a day when “Lynn” would be synonymous with harmony and family. “If I had a million dollars, she says, “I’d open a gym.” Anything to keep the youth easily involved in their communities and anything to keep the parents involved with their kids, because if anything fills Dalene Basden with pride and happiness, it is seeing her children succeed and make lives for themselves. When asked what her proudest moment was, she chuckles at the thought of reducing it to a single moment. “I’ve had a lot of great moments, she says. “I have a family.”
From talking with Dalene, it is clear that she is grateful for her life in Lynn, boasting proudly that all three of her biological children were real Lynners. She is proud of her culture. She is proud of her family. She is proud of her children. She is proud of the work she’s been able to do. She is proud of her city. As we leave Centerboard, we are struck by how fitting a place Centerboard was to meet Dalene Basden as both are bastions of safety and reconstruction, and are reminded of Dalene’s words: “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin? I don’t buy that at all.”
Will Foritier, a student at Gordon College, wrote this article as part of “A Day in the Life” project led by The Centerboard, located in Lynn Massachusetts. It is reprinted here with their permission. Please visit their facebook page here.