Share the parade

Published 10:41 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There was once a time when many of the newly annexed residents of Nansemond County refused to identify themselves as citizens of Suffolk. Ask them where they lived, even after the 1978 merger of the two municipalities, and they would proudly and stubbornly answer, “Nansemond County.”

Those folks are a dwindling lot these days, but a new rivalry seems to have taken root, this time between residents of what is widely known (but rarely defined) as North Suffolk and downtown, or “Suffolk proper,” in the parlance of some old-timers.

Too often in recent years, Downtown Suffolk and North Suffolk have been at odds over the future of the city, the use of its assets and the ability to influence decisions in City Hall. Frustration over a proposal by City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn to move the traditional Christmas parade from downtown to the Harbourview area is just the latest example of the power struggle in action.

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Moving the parade, though, could be a good first step toward reconciliation and closing the chapter on Suffolk’s nonviolent version of the Hatfields and the McCoys. By acknowledging the economic and cultural importance of the area that is responsible for the majority of the city’s growth in population and revenue, city officials could help the many new residents of North Suffolk feel they’re a part of this city, rather than just a suburb of one of its neighbors.

Taking things a step further, it could be even more helpful if the two sides of the city shared such events as the Christmas parade, perhaps trading them off from year to year. Such a solution would ensure that nobody felt ignored for long, and it would encourage people from both sides to visit their counterparts and discover all of the surprising things about this large, diverse city.

Suffolk’s prosperity will be greatest when the city’s efforts aren’t divided, when people finally lose their “us vs. them” mentality and realize that focusing on commonalities is far healthier for the city than pressing on with divisiveness.

Perhaps a parade celebrating the season that marks the reconciliation of God and man is an appropriate place to start.