One Memory Can Negate A Lifetime Of Beliefs


    My “Freeze-Frame” memory is not of the happy-go-lucky sort.  First of all as we sat in the car our driver Corey decided that we should step outside to get a better look at our surroundings.  Cindy was afraid to leave the vehicle but I guess we were all a bit apprehensive.
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    Looking straight ahead in the distance I could see South Mountain as the green and bright desert yellow shined against the white fluffy, cotton-like clouds floating in a crystal blue sky.  Moving in closer began to see the new housing developments with their bright yellow signs announcing that this community would be “gated”, and segregated from all that is wrong in the world.
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    Still as my eyes focused on what was in the distance, a full size red Ford truck flew down the street at 40 miles an hour and before my eyes, the real world quickly came into sharp focus.  As the truck turned the corner a small dirty mutt chased it as if to say, “This is my street, get out, I am the noise maker around here!”  Soon the kids filled the street, some on bikes, and a few played catch with a football.  On the sidewalk little girls watched, giggled and whispered in each other’s ears.  To my surprise the kids stared back at us with wondering eyes, no question we were outsiders.  I looked down at the street and saw that it was littered with a medical facemask and trash.  Broken bottles, forks, spoons oil stains and the like.  This was the legendary South Mountain, the place you did not dare go to even during the day because of all the gangs and the crime.  This was the projects, but these were peoples homes too.  The buildings were pale white with the paint chipping off, parts were covered with ages of dirt and in need of massive repair.  The swamp coolers were located on the ground, next to the front doors, and at the time they were being used to dry wet clothes in the sun.  There was graffiti on the walls of these homes.  The ground itself was covered in dirt and weeds, no grass would ever grow here.  
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    The roofs of there homes were falling apart and yet in the midst of this entire despair were the children.  They didn’t care about their surroundings, they didn’t mind the speeding truck.  The children just wanted to play football, ride their bikes and sit and giggle on the sidewalk because as one child explained, it was early release day from school and when you’re a kid, playing is what you do.

This essay was written by James A. Velasquez on 3/10/2002.