By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
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"A lot of the young people I grew up with had moved out to north Phoenix and Chandler and other parts of the Valley," says Hart. "The joke is that they move to Paradise Valley or someplace like that, and then they don't want to come to South Phoenix, either."
South Phoenix had begun to acquire a label that would never be removed: dangerous.
@body:The civil rights movement came to Phoenix through the south end, largely because there were few minorities anywhere else. There were sit-ins and marches and rallies, and Broadway Road served as the unofficial headquarters for most of them.
South Mountain High School in the late 1960s was, because it served every kid who lived anywhere south of the Salt River, a desegregationist's dream.
A war raged on in Vietnam, black fists were raised up across the country and hippies made a fad of being arrested.
"It was peace, love, drugs and power to the people," remembers Hart, who was student-body president then. "We kind of got caught up in the times."
One day, an entire school of pubescent rebels with too many causes burst out of class with the notion of taking something back. They ran to the cafeteria. They threw food. They knocked out windows. They bounced on cars.
And then they started throwing fists.
"It got pretty crazy," Hart remembers. "And then the cops came, and the cameras came."
The event garnered official riot status, with about 150 police officers on the scene. And South Mountain was engraved in the history of Phoenix as a turbulent school. "We were so doggone young, we didn't know what we were doing," Hart says, laughing.
They were doing what young people were doing across America. But the image of rioting would never leave South Phoenix.
In the absence of most everything else, the neighborhood around Broadway began to fill with drugs and the crime that follows. The Keys family used to own a market near 24th Street and Broadway, and they lived in the back. As business waned, they sold out, and the market made a gradual descent into the gutter.
By the time it was closed by the city in 1989, Keys Market was home to the highest drug traffic in the Valley. People were killed there. Closing Keys sent a substantial amount of drug traffic into the neighborhood around it. Then people were killed there, too.
And so was South Phoenix.
@body:Despite a population of about 130,000 people from all walks of life, the largest municipal park in the world (South Mountain), acres of green fields, upscale homes and a country club, South Phoenix has been repeatedly indicted for the sins of a few of its residents.
The community as a whole is no more dangerous than a lot of the rest of Phoenix, many residents feel. Its worst neighborhoods are no worse than bad neighborhoods in other parts of the Valley.
"There's not an African American in South Phoenix who has enough money to bring in that kind of crack," says one community leader. More than half of the cars that cruise Central Avenue on weekend nights--nights that too often end in violence--belong to people who live somewhere else, says the south's city councilmember, Cody Williams.
Technically, South Phoenix takes in part of downtown, including Phoenix's crown jewel, America West Arena. It also includes the Salt River, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, miles of very average neighborhoods, South Mountain and beyond.
But Valley media have for years casually referred to criminal wrongdoing anywhere south of the middle of downtown as "South Phoenix." The boundaries have always been fluid when it comes to bashing South Phoenix.
@body:Geography seems to work against South Phoenix.
When Presley Company Southwest built its megacommunity on the south side of the mountain, it was named Ahwatukee, never to be known as South Phoenix.
The "real" South Phoenix--physically separated from the Valley by the Salt River to the north, South Mountain to the south and 48th Street to the east--has remained out of sight and out of the minds of other Valley residents.
Low-income and heavily industrial neighborhoods along the Salt River stand between South Phoenix and the rest of the world.
The government has repeatedly attempted to penetrate that isolation. But there are those who think South Phoenix would be better off if it had been left alone completely.
After being systematically ignored as a potential site for any real economic development, South Phoenix sold its soul to pay for assistance. The community has played host, for nearly three decades, to an annual poverty derby in which public and private social-service agencies compete for grant money.
Every year, the federal government gives a pot of Community Development Block Grant money to the city. In turn, a committee of appointed citizens decides which of the oodles of proposals from public and private agencies get funded, and for how much.