Evans lived her whole life in Blackwell, most of it on 15th Street. She was one of 13 children. “Hull Street was bloomin’ when I was coming up,” she told Style three years ago in an interview about how the neighborhood had changed from the working-class, family community where whites and blacks lived together peacefully. This was in the ’40s and ’50s when the area was called Old Manchester, the days before Hull Street became rundown and largely ignored, and those who could left for the suburbs.
Evans stayed, convinced that Blackwell could bloom again. And she committed herself to helping it happen. She was an active member of the Blackwell Civic Association. She recognized that much work was required that could not be accomplished with only federal funding or Neighborhoods in Bloom or the sprawling presence of First Baptist Church. She fought for a grocery store and a Laundromat because it was what she heard her neighbors say they needed most. Whenever she saw a crime or even suspected one, she called the police. And she kept on the city to tear down houses that harbored the homeless or danger.
“Geraldine kicked drug dealers off the streets,” says her close friend, former City Councilwoman Reva Trammell. And police and the neighborhood respected her for it. Police officers visited Evans and prayed with her before she died, Trammell says.
This spring when roses climb her fence like kids on a jungle gym, when her hedge of azaleas grows thick and pink, and nestles up to her porch where she liked to sit and talk, residents of Blackwell will notice her absence there. But it’s likely they’ll feel her presence for years to come. “I’m a volunteer all around here,” she told Style. “I sweep and keep the streets clean. Through the grace of God, this is my pay, you see — to see Hull Street built up with nice surroundings. So children can have a place to play. It’s coming up, baby, you better believe it. I may be dead and gone — but it’s coming.”
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