by Jean Sebastien
My neighbor stops me in the street to chat. “Don’t tell me what it is, I can see,” he says. We’re talking about the pus-drenched goatfuck that was the 2016 presidential election. My neighbor is seventy, and the wisdom of his years, a keen sense of pattern recognition, and a taste for the real allow him to cut through spin like Ogami Ittō wielding his battle sword: “Don’t tell me what it is, I can see.” Imma need to hold on to that one.
In 2017 I wore down more sole in the Tre than I did in my first 20 Houston years combined. I’ve been stalking images, preserving them. Sites that stood unchanged for decades won’t be here in another five years, or another two. Taking pictures, documenting the landscape in every major American city, becomes more and more urgent as a rose-colored blight decimates the very communities that built the culture. These communities give shelter to a great many bastards in the name of the Stars and Stripes.
Don’t just look at the condos rising in Third Ward. See them: big slabs of architecture towering over the history closer to ground. Great ships on the veldt, I call them. But that’s the romantic in me, and the romantic can only see inward. I’m trying to see out, feel me? And what is the evidence laid out before us? These buildings, these great blocks of otherness: out of scale, out of style, out of place in this hood. Their martial character is often belied by pastel colors; they are too tall and too uptight to suggest comfort, or ease, or openness. No flourishes to offer beauty, no room to facilitate gatherings, no space to invite community. The lowest windows are often 10 feet off the ground. Plain black bars disinvite the neighbors, and garages are built-in to allow protected transition from vehicle to domicile with zero exposure to the very neighborhood that surrounds this habitation. These are not homes, they are barracks.
The people who live in these buildings—you see some of them around, venturing out with strollers and well-groomed rescues. Some of them seem friendly. Some know even the most obscure Jeru verse by heart. They join civic organizations and show up to the celebrations. They look like neighbors, but they are not. How can they be, when they have chosen the barracks? Conscious or not, when one chooses to live in a fort, one is expecting and inviting battle. One eventually becomes a combatant. What is the battle? Who is the enemy? Don’t tell me what it is, I can see.
I am not crafting a metaphor. I offer no metaphor. I do not speak in metaphor.
Sebastien Boncy is from Haiti lives in Texas makes photographs, eats too much, and loves most of you. Follow Sebastien at http://purpletimespaceswamp.tumblr.com