*note: this blog is an entry from 7-15*
There have been many instances within the news involving violence against police and the brutality they inflict on other black men. This itself has led us back to the topic of race and policing. Our guest speaker of the day, Keeanga-Yamhtta Taylor, had an idea of why or how this specific group was being targeted and it roots back to the time of Jim Crow Laws and the segregated era.
During the early 1900’s, Blacks were trying to move out of the inferior South and into the North. People made it difficult for this to happen because around this time, the government allowed people to do whatever they want with their property, sell it to whoever they want, and fluctuate the prices however they pleased. If people did not want to sell you property because of your race, they were allowed to. Many Blacks were sold overpriced, low quality housing in the North and their landlords would not maintain their homes in a fair or livable condition. Landowners thought of ways on how they could make more money so they removed many of the restrooms and kitchens in homes owned by colored people and transformed them into bedrooms where it could fit more people. 40% of homes did not have indoor plumbing within and made the hygiene of the area plummet. Many families that were overcrowded in these homes were forced to live on the streets because of lack of space. The housing separation allowed for foul stereotypes to flourish and made it seem as if people of color had poor hygiene. Not until 1968, where the Fair Housing Act was implemented, did this stop.
Since no one really cared about what happened in the Black areas, this allowed violence, drug trade, and police brutality to occur. Poor people were always held in suspicion while being on the street. Categories of crimes began to develop in specific to targeting Black people leading to higher arrest rates, violence against them, and a way of degrading their race. They spent days in jail waiting to be convicted for a crime they “committed.” Riots began against Black people led by Whites killing fifty-five of them with the police joining in during the Red Summer. The larger the police force grew, the more unsafe it became for Blacks. Instead of the police protecting the people, they hurt them. It ensured poverty, criminal records, and brutality against them. Even today this is still occurring. So far in the year of 2016, 571 people were killed by the police. Nothing is changing while history continues to repeat.
Returning back to class in the afternoon, we were to embark upon another field trip to a Puerto Rican neighborhood in North Philadelphia called El Barrio. When I got off the train and exited the station, I knew that this wasn’t a well maintained neighborhood. Walking down the streets there was garbage and litter lying around the streets and sidewalks. The streets were quiet and vacant and have not been repaved in a long time. The small number of people you did see, you can tell they were in poverty. There were fire hydrants busted open with water gushing into the air and buildings were worn down and old in need of some remodeling. The area itself reminded me a lot of areas back home like Richmond, East Oakland, San Leandro, and certain parts of Vallejo. There were many corner stores and restaurants open on nearby blocks. Cars parked on the sides of the street were run down or damaged. On occasion there would be some nice brand new car. Children played in the streets on their bikes and scooters while others hung out on the stoops of buildings.
|Community Center in El Barrio|
Ten to fifteen minutes of walking through the neighborhood, we all finally reached our destination. We stopped in front of a building that had beautiful mosaics and paintings along its walls. A man had stepped out, Rafael Damast, and welcomed us graciously inside of the center. There were tables and seats all placed out and around ready for our arrival. Over 50 us there, fit all together in seated in the nicely air conditioned room. Surrounding us were art pieces designed and created by young children from the ages of six to fourteen along with a black empty stage with different background pieces laying in the shadows. Mr. Damast had told us that this center we were in, was home to many children. It was created as a community center for young children to find an outlet or passion and teach their Latin history using the arts. They took classes on photography, painting, performing, etc. and at the end of each day they would perform for their parents in a talent show of what they learned and enjoyed the most. Once he finished speaking, he gathered us outside to take us on a tour of the different murals and culture of their community.
|Rafael Damast Explaining One of the Murals|
The feeling I had exiting the building was not a pleasant one. The heat of the sun had beat me down in the face so hard, I was already in need of a sip of water. No longer protected by the cool air of the air conditioned space, it was a struggle not passing out along the walk through the streets. He explained to us about each mural we had paused at. They all were painted to tell a story of their struggles being accepted coming into Philly and how they came about living there. Many of the people were discriminated against for their Afro-Caribbean culture. They used this negativity and hardships of adapting into a positive reaction by painting these murals around the community. The people shaped their culture into a proud manner and continued this throughout town until it finally felt like home.