Please click each image for details
The Hood is an attempt to record the conditions of the under funded and Under-served communities of South Los Angeles; otherwise known as my home at the time I took these images.
Los Angeles is an interesting place. It reminds me of the fantastical cities from the many Batman Movies: Gotham. It is, in the same way that Gotham is, a city filled with corruption, violence, racism (both systematic and personal), discrimination, and little to no hope among people. This is the home to one of the largest Jailers in the state and houses the second largest school district in the country; but spends 50% of its budget on the police state.
If I had to choose the one thing that Los Angeles is infamous for It would have to be the smart ways of maintaining a system of oppression, being the first when it comes to finding new ways of steeling from the poor, new ways of further killing off Black and Latino people, while keeping all of the dirty business out of the reach of mainstream media.... I suppose because they're very much apart of the $candal.
At the time I began shooting images for The Hood, my first inspiration came from wanting to record and to express visually what I saw as the conditions of my community, a not so beautiful place where many lived by economic force. More than half of all independent business in South Los Angles no longer exist, and on average almost 70% of new small businesses do not last more than 5 years in the area. Almost 25% of the land of South Los Angeles comprises of lots that have been abandoned, or empty for the last 15 years.
Visually our neighborhood looks run-down. One can see, as they are passing by on public transit or by car, a mix of burned buildings, boarded up apartments here and there, and a lot of gated open spaces with weeds as high as three to four feet at times.
When I began this project, my intention never even drifted into the realm of Gentrification, simply because I did not see it visually happening, and did not know what that looked like. What I saw and what I wanted to capture was the breaking down of our community, the continuous closing of stores and community projects, and forcing out of almost everything that can be positive in South Los Angeles juxtaposed to the thriving retail businesses.
I'd always wondered what was it about Walmat, about Ralphs, about CVS, about Mc Donalds, about Berger King, etc. that people were addicted to. I'd see the few small businesses of Leimert Park have a Sunday market, only to pull no more than ten shoppers, meanwhile community members are almost bursting down the doors of Walmart to partake in the annual American made holiday that everyone calls Black Friday or the new Cyber Monday.
It would take me a whole year to realize that these conditions were the beginnings of a take over, the beginnings of a large money making deal to reduce the property value of our neighborhoods, in order for big business and big city institutions to move in and kick us out; otherwise known as Gentrification.
So one might want to know who's in on this deal, because at the quickened rate that independent businesses are closing and/or being relocated by force of Eminent Domain, It is certainly not the businesses that actually generate money for our well being.
In order to fully explain we must go way back in to history to look at the conditions of LAX being Built, to look at the conditions of Otis College of Art and Design being moved to Westchester, and furthermore, to look at the conditions of the continuous development of the parts of Culver City closest to Inglewood, and South Los Angeles. But for the sake of this Introduction to what can be a very long running project to encapsulate the essence of "the hood" as a mode of continuous money making in the name of institutional racism, I will provide a shortened version.
Our communities have been in the conditions in which I grew up in for a long time. For more than my whole life span to be a bit more exact. However there was a point in my lifetime when people began to rise up. In 1991 we all witnessed the horrendous incident where police ended their pursuit of Rodney King with a beating that included 15 officers on one un armed civilian. a year later in 1992 al of Los Angeles rose up and rebelled when the news arrived that not all officers would be charged in the Assault of Rodney King. In 1996 The Bus Riders Union for example wins a Landmark Lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) effectively stopping what would have been for the next 20 years a loophole for the MTA to lead a charge for a citywide gentrification project through the building of a train system and purposely under funding the Bus System. In 1996 The Bus Riders Union stopped MTA's plan literally less than 12 hours before the time that the Bus Fares would have gone up and continued to go up for the next 20 years.
After MTA sought funds from the public in order to give contracts to private developers to build the Blue line and Red Line trains, they planned to pay for their operation funds by raising bus fare over and over for 20 years.
Of the people that suffered and would continue to suffer, had the members of the Bus Riders Union not stopped MTA, were 90% Black and Latino. More than 70% lived under the Poverty Line struggling to just barley make it by.
The Bus Riders Union is one of the Prime Examples of People Of Color putting to test the Civil Rights Act, and actually winning back their communities and their civil right to a public transportation system that they could use.
Aside from the many ways the U.S. Government shut down the Civil Rights movement, and killed almost every Black man and Women who even thought that they should be equal to white men and women, In 2001 there was an important case that the Supreme Court ruled on that really showed everyone who the federal Government was; Alexander V Sandoval. Martha Sandoval asked for her written drivers permit test to be given to her in a language that she understood. She was told that the test was only available in English, and that the DMV is not required to translate the test. She sued the DMV, and the Case made it all the way to the Federal Supreme Court where the court at the time ruled that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act had been misinterpreted, and that it did not give individuals private right of action based on disparate Impact.
Had this occurred earlier the Bus Riders Union would not have the right to sue and to stop the Racism that MTA planned to roll out. Many Police Departments that purposely sought out young African Americans and Latinos would not be stopped legally from racial profiling, and essentially if a public institution wanted to do anything that indirectly involved discriminating against a whole race of people they could, and the Federal Government would generously sanction.
All of that to say that as soon as MTA heard news of Alexander V Sandoval, they planned to re-implement their plan as early as they could. When the Bus Riders Union won the lawsuit in 1996 and won a Consent Decree that mandated that MTA had to improve the bus system they'd also been put on court supervision for 10 years. In 2006, when court supervision ended, MTA proposed the first bus fare increase in 10 years, which went into effect in 2007.
Since 2007 MTA has now raised the Bus Fares three times. They've cut more than one million hours of Service from the bus system and counting. They've passed another Tax initiative effectively increasing their yearly budget from 2 billion a year to 6.5 billion dollars a year. In this same time period we've seen an increase in the rate of unemployment in the city, an increase in the budgets of the Los Angeles School Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department. We've seen two emergency rooms close, more than ten schools overturned by the state and then given to charter school companies Many Mental Heath Facilities have lost their funding; Library Hours have been cut tremendously, along with some libraries closed for good. And now we've seen an increase in the publicized killing of Black and Latino people by police.
Since 2007 we've seen an increase, in the running down of our community. To blame it all on MTA would be unfair, but this project seeks to visually express what gentrification looks like. The Hood shows us what the Federal Supreme Court has ruled as ok. In the photographs of my community the effects of Disparate Impact are implied. Almost every image shows a property that was purchased by MTA before the image was taken, or has been purchased by MTA since the day the image was snapped, or is in the future plans. When MTA sells the first of this land to a private developer and they will sell it to a private developer, the process of gentrification will speed up. Our people have been able to afford to live here for a long time, but if there is not a change in our income, or a change in services offered to us, then we will be economically forced to leave when the property tax begins to skyrocket.
The Images included are in limbo between memorial, and documentation. The Images forever capture the state in which our communities were in at that point in time. They also, however, capture the memories of location, and most importantly the memories of social interactions that viewers, including myself have participated in at these locations. No one can take a way the memory of the first and the only time I walked into Earl's Grill on Crenshaw and Exposition, and ordered a Veggie Burger alongside my friends who were in disbelief that I had not been in the restaurant before then. No one can take away the countless memories of my childhood summers when my siblings and I spent most our time in the Hyde Park library participating in the summer youth program. No can take away the summer play time sessions we spent together in Centinala Park, and simply the memories of seeing Black owned (or at least operated) businesses as a regularly part of the community. Countless memories: "Remember when...", "Remember that time when we went to Earls Gill and...", "I remember when..." etc. etc.
These images also seek to document the process of gentrification. Over and over one will see a Metro private property sign, a Closed/ We have moved sign. Over and Over the images of empty lots are included, images of boarded up buildings, burned down buildings, and soon to be added the businesses that replace them, the new train that runs in front of them (built with tax payers dollars, built with money that had previously been spent to run ten or more bus lines, built with money from private developers), and images of the new wealthy and most likely mostly white people that now populate the area.
The Hood Seeks to create conversations where mouths have been duck taped shut in the middle of a large-scale heist. At what point will we become angry enough to act, push back, and begin putting specific demands on our oppressors.