Letter from Southside: A Tale of Two Cities
As a boy, Dragon Ball Z was the epitome of what art was to me. Growing up in South East D.C., that’s all I knew. Me and my friends would talk about what happened last episode and discuss whether or not Goku would charge the Spirit Bomb on time and save the universe; things were simpler back then. Growing up on the South Side there wasn’t any art. In schools, art wasn’t a class you took. It was something you did during social studies and literature. The arts weren’t encouraged. The arts where un-emphasized and un-important, if you couldn’t sing a song or run fast and jump high the only thing you could do was sit down and shut up. I couldn’t do either of those things so I started drawing. A doodle here, a sketch there, before I knew I had a book filled with copies of my favorite super heroes and villains. My teachers knew I could draw but they weren’t like, “Hey, you should look up this guy named Basquait” or “You need to look at Keith Harings work”. They always said, “That’s nice” and gave me a pat on the head like I was puppy or something.
In my neighborhood, there wasn’t much art aside from teenage messages of angst on bus seats and mailboxes. There were no grand murals or masterful graffiti pieces as seen in New York. There were just small or “quaint” homes and weather worn or “aged” buildings. Seeing art in the Anacostia of my youth was about as likely as seeing a police officer patrolling on foot. It never happened.
Times have changed. All things change if you give it enough time. The question is, is it a change for the better. Every day since I went to middle school in N.E. to get away from the schools in S.E., I had to go the Anacostia station, a bus station on top of a train station. From there, I would catch the train to school. Again, I went to the station every-single-day. Day in and day out, it was a routine. Then one day BOOM—there’s a mosaic around the top of the station. I’m like, “What the hell is this?” Apparently it was a part of some sort of beautification project around D.C. Little did I know it was just a sign of things to come.
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