Start from scratch
#86: On the refrain of a loveless place, ft. photos of a neighborhood beside a prison
“When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back.”
There is a prison on Broad Street. As the Parish prison, it is the people’s prison. It is boxed into a poor and dilapidated neighborhood, in which there is no forgiveness, no suspicion, no mercy, no love. As sure as the sunset, this loveless world edges into cookie-cutter condos and a hipster motel.
Crossing Broad is Tulane Ave, home to our court and tying a brutal bow of justice on the medley of builds behind it. Parallel to Tulane, I-10 watches the backside and ball courts of our big bad human cage – road rage in earshot. And on the far side of it all is Norman C. Francis Parkway, which still locals know as Jeff Davis. Six lanes and one neutral-ground removed, a Goodwill.
Much like I’m drawn to cemeteries, I am drawn to this neighborhood by the prison. It is the darker motifs that move me to the more encompassing themes of growth and change. Worlds that challenge us, and perhaps make us a little uncomfortable, are doorways to enlightenment.
Walking through these streets, I feel the crushing weight of the bordering thoroughfares and I wonder if there might be a better place for a jail. There is not: it is equally unnatural in the desert and equally inhumane on an island. Its barbed coarseness brushes up against our selves and the land, breaching the flesh of beauty anywhere.
Now is as good a time as any to re-think everything. Because to punish and protect, we only perpetuated the original harms of our people. It is quite evident in walking through this neighborhood that we did not fully think through what system may wholly heal — compassion was never part of the ordeal. We did not think of the end, and so we scratched the surface. Like barbed-wire breaching.
As the sun fell further to the dirt, my lens kept steady on the skyline. The viewfinder transcends itself in these moments. Warmer than the fiery glow laid upon the land — a quiet refrain echoed in my mind:
Start from scratch,
scratch the surface.
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Introducing a first around here — guest recommendations! This week from my great friend, newsletter fanatic and cinephile, Nick Arnold.
Minding the Gap 🎥
NA: This is a doc I’ve seen several times and it’s phenomenal.
Compiling over 12 years of footage shot in his hometown of Rockford, IL, in ‘Minding the Gap’ Bing Liu searches for correlations between his skateboarder friends' turbulent upbringings and the complexities of modern-day masculinity.
NA: I haven’t even watched it yet but I cried during the trailer so I know I’ll lose it in the movie.
Fox Rich is a fighter. The entrepreneur, abolitionist and mother of six boys has spent the last two decades campaigning for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who is serving a 60-year sentence for a robbery they both committed in the early 90s in a moment of desperation. Combining the video diaries Fox has recorded for Rob over the years with intimate glimpses of her present-day life, director Garrett Bradley paints a mesmerizing portrait of the resilience and radical love necessary to prevail over the endless separations of the country’s prison-industrial complex.
Your writing has really developed. I’ve always enjoyed it but this reminded me in many ways about the detail I love in Mary Oliver’s writing. The simplicity of the scene but ornately decorated in description. Great photos as always too.
You're right. Justice systems do not heal. They were never meant for that. I did some enlightening reading about it (https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/anthony-j-nocella-ii-mark-seis-and-jeff-shantz-classic-writings-in-anarchist-criminology) that I would highly recommend.