“Felipe’s Bodyshop”

& Awareness billboard

 Freeze Frame/Narrative  by Cassandra Thielen
                                         February 7, 2003

It was 5:45 a.m. Friday, February 7, 2003. I had to get up and get ready if I wanted to make it to the field site on time. I completed the bare necessities and was on my way by 6:45 a.m. I expected bumper to bumper traffic for at least half of the way. To my amazement, it was a steady flow of cars all the way to the 19th Avenue and Durango exit on the I-17 South. It was 7:15 a.m. and I had 45 minutes to travel a mere 3 miles. As I exited the freeway I noticed a large amount of graffiti on a stand alone building at the end of a street full of stereotypical “South Phoenix” style homes. I decided to get another look at this building. I made my way around the neighborhood and ended up on the Southwest corner of Pima and 23rd Avenue. What would have been barely visible one hour prior, due to the lack of streetlights and sunlight, was “Felipe’s Bodyshop.” This name rang a bell as I sat and stared at the different colors and styles of graffiti. It was then that I remembered that I used to do tax preparation for this establishment. All that I knew of this company was in the form of check stubs, receipts and documents. I had never met Felipe, or anyone else who might have worked there when I worked at E&B Accounting in North Phoenix.

What was unusual about this building was that instead of trying to discourage and eliminate the spray-paint artistic abilities of neighborhood kids, it was displayed with vibrancy along all sides of the shop.

The graffiti was used as a means of advertisement. I wondered if he had paid the artists for their work. I wondered if Felipe didn’t do it himself. Also, I wondered if he had noticed a substantial increase in business due to his advertisement display. Or perhaps, his main form of advertisement was by word of mouth. Either way, this business presented an appropriate cultural approach and understanding to the surrounding environment. 
By then it was only 7:30 a.m. and there was hardly anyone there to observe or have observe me. So, I decided to exit my vehicle and take close up pictures of the front of the store along with the long wall alongside 23rd Avenue. As I stood alongside this building, I could hear dogs barking and roosters crowing along with the heavy traffic on the freeway next to me. I observed the words up close and assumed that this type of display would not prove to be prosperous in my neighborhood located in North Phoenix. As I thought about it, I couldn’t recall any building that stood alone disconnected from some sort of mini mall strip. Assuming that most businesses rent or lease their office space and have rules and regulations on just about everything (much like homeowners associations do for residential neighborhoods), little shops like this virtually wouldn’t stand a chance. Regardless of the appearance and location, from what I learned at the tax firm, this little shop had sustained at least 8 years of steady business. Through years of exposure and growing up multicultural, I have learned to appreciate variety and found Felipe’s Auto body to be an extraordinary successful business strategy.
I continued along to the field site and noticed a billboard just South of the Salt River on 19th Avenue that had a clear and straightforward message. It read, “Is this how you see Women?” with a worn in punching bag hanging next to the words. Immediately I wondered if I had ever noticed domestic violence awareness billboards in North Phoenix. I guess people, especially the media, assume that domestic abuse only happens in poor run down neighborhoods. But when you peel away the layers of abuse, all forms of this behavior fail to discriminate against race, socioeconomic status level, or gender. Then I wondered if messages like those even had any deterrence factor at all.

By then, it was almost 8:00 a.m. and I fixated on the day ahead of me. I was excited for the planned activity. I seemingly easily put all other thoughts aside and mentally prepared for Habitat for Humanity.  And thank goodness for Habitat for Humanity because when it comes to "Affordable Housing" these are the people who do it best (click on the link below to see more about this in the February 14 fieldwork analysis). 



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