Learning From South Phoenix
ASU West/ Spring 2002
Freeze-Frame Exercise January 25, 2002
Hip Hop Hair & Café
Chill ya’ll. Coming at you with the Afrizona Phlava freeze-frame. The deep luminous blue of the Hip Hop Hair & Café makes it hard to miss, on the corner of 7th Street and Roeser in South Phoenix. It’s a kind of close encounters, a mini-mall of the third world kind. Not only can you get under one roof your Fubu gear and some rad jewelry, fried catfish or a Puffy burger, and a cut or a weave, but also as the sign out front says, cultural artifacts, underground music, graphix magic, and of course pagers. Just for starters. Ever-so-cool guys and gals move in and out, friendly to me despite my blonde spikes as I go in to get a coke for a buck and cruise the interior.
Outside again, the deep blue of the salon-café is thrown into startling relief by the luxurious reds worn by an African American guy sitting on a low blue wall. He’s next to a blue pillared carport in the parking lot (a quick visual excavation suggests the café arose like the Phoenix out of the ruins of a gas station). The subtle print of the young man’s dazzling red shirt and cap in matching pattern is offset by gray baggies and yes, red shoes. He seems to be looking for someone, waiting, chilling. Just then, school gets out. It’s three o’clock and kids pour out of South Mountain High, heading west on Roeser past the café. Some kids stop into the shop, engaging in complex handshake rituals upon encountering their counterparts. Others wait at the bus stop across the street, or dash into an un-franchised convenience store there, which also seems to occupy the ruins of another epoch. Not there today is the African American man I saw a couple weeks ago in the corner parking lot, selling bright orange and yellow citrus and fresh greens from his makeshift stand. But the teenagers make up for it. As if on cue they’re accompanied by a soundtrack of an ad hoc mix of competing hip hop music and purposefully set off car alarms. I see more black faces in a moment here than in weeks and weeks in north Phoenix.
How very un-Scottsdale. This corner of South Phoenix is hyper-saturated in vivid, living color, a far cry from the muted palette of tans and hushed tones carefully enforced and monitored by high-minded taste police in the highlands up in the north valley. And so far I’m just talking about the colors of Afrizona—compound this with the Latinazona flare of many South Phoenix barrios, and we’re talking drenched with color. Yeah baby. Peace.
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