Are you proud of where you live? It’s a question we don’t often consciously ask ourselves.

There are a lot of reasons to have pride of place about Bakersfield ― delicious diversity of restaurants, a downtown with authentic local charm, an entrepreneurial spirit and plenty of business opportunity, kind people, affordability, upward mobility, water in the Kern River running through town, the view of the mountains all around our valley on a clear day, just to name a few.

But it’s easy to have a less-than-perfect view of a place when we’re fed so much negativity. Unfortunately, when you Google “Bakersfield”, you’ll see a lot of negative press. There’s that string of articles in The Guardian about police shootings, a less-than-flattering LATimes cover story about conservative Oildale, and Bakersfield’s “recognition” on disheartening lists like worst air quality, least literate, and lowest educational attainment. We have some of the highest incidences of heart disease; human trafficking is a big problem. Just last week, I stumbled upon an article that listed Bakersfield in the tip-top spot for anti-Hispanic tweets (counting slurs on Twitter against Hispanic and Latino populations). Something to be proud of, no?

But this is only half the story. The reasons to love this place are rarely told.

If the media is constantly telling a dismal story about Bakersfield, residents start feeling discouraged as well. But we can’t just blame it on the press. I find myself shocked by the negativity coming from Bakersfield residents who feel entitled to speak about their home in a demeaning way. If I hear this beautiful place described as the “Armpit of California” or the line that we’re “two hours from everywhere” one more time from a lifelong resident, I might just cry. The loyalty is clearly lacking. We can act like we’re not part of the negative self-talk about our city or we can take control of the narrative.

When residents lack civic pride, they’re overly skeptical about change and growth and lack positive energy about their city’s future. When we’re ashamed about the place we live, it creates a vicious cycle that brings down those around us. But, by contrast, if we feel proud about our city, it creates a positive cycle of change. One can feel the collective optimism in communities where people share a sense of identity, common purpose, and positivity about the future. Civic pride is aspirational. People with pride tend to place high value on self-improvement for oneself and for society.

Not to sound like a motivational speaker, but positivity is powerful. Many mid-sized cities like Bakersfield recognize this and have proactively taken control of the narrative about to improve their city’s image. They’ve instituted marketing campaigns, closely monitor online search results, and engage in search engine optimization. The idea is to the tip the scales with more positive press. Its meaning and importance can sometimes be overlooked, but these cities understand that civic pride is an integral feature of cities. As a symbol of identity, or as an ideal of local government, civic pride is part of what defines and shapes cities and forms an important lens through which they are viewed.

A large-scale marketing campaign and proactive measures on the part of local government and non-profits would help, but reversing the cycle of negativity starts with each of us. Catch the “municipal patriotism” bug, and spread it to those around you.

Studies show that feeling proud and showing pride for one's city is important for the rise of urban entrepreneurialism, the surge of creativity and collaboration that typically happens in city centers. In turn, our local economy will benefit; the more our reputation improves, the more local business will thrive.

When we change our internal narrative, we change the external narrative. We must take control of the story told about our city or it will get twisted, over-simplified and told to us by others that have no experience with the warmth, hospitality and beauty of this place.

Civic pride means different things to different people. It could be as simple as responding to negative comments about Bakersfield on social media, volunteering for a local organization, discouraging litter and graffiti, buying local, helping someone in need, posting a picture of a hike at Windwolves or a walk downtown, maintaining your yard or balcony, or simply standing up for this place in a quiet conversation with friends. You never know who’ll be watching and listening. Be the change, and start a movement of positivity around you.

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Standalone Nuggets:

Hurricane Relief:

Double your giving when you donate through Walmart’s new customer campaign to help with hurricane relief. Walmart is matching customer donations 2:1. This additional $10 million commitment brings Walmart’s total 2017 commitment to hurricane relief and recovery to $30 million. The new customer campaign runs through September 16th.

Old Town Kern Night Walk:

Join Councilmember Andrae Gonzales on Tuesday, September 19th at 7:00 p.m. for a “Night Walk” through Old Town Kern to identify and discuss neighborhood issues. Meet at Baker and 19th streets.

JobFest Holiday Hiring:

The Kern County Department of Human Services 2017 JobFest is working with Kern County retailers to help recruit seasonal workers for the Holiday shopping season.

Outlets at Tejon - Thursday, October 5, 2017, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Valley Plaza Mall - Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

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