Community Chains

America, land of the free. This mantra has shaped the global perception of the United States for decades on end. But the “freedom” that the citizens of our nation continue to enjoy was not free at all. In fact, it came at an enormous price; one that cost a countless number of lives and subjected millions of innocent people to a miserable, undeserved existence. Whether you choose to accept it or not, the success of this nation was built on the suffering of others.

Hundreds of years after slavery and the genocide of Native Americans, our nation still prospers at the expense of many. The working class and communities of color are amongst two great bodies of people whose exploitation benefits the higher powers that be. One does not need to check their privilege to come to this conclusion; this is common knowledge shared by rich, poor, black, white, and everyone else on the spectrum.

While our skin color and socioeconomic status defines how the rest of society treats us, there are decisions we make as individuals that also play a tremendous role in how we are perceived. Convicted criminals who’ve served their time and now live out the rest of their days labeled as felons can attest to this fact. No matter where you are positioned in America’s social hierarchy, a dirty record will have a significant impact on your future in one way or another.

Walking through the crowded and lively streets of El Barrio, I am overcome with a sense of excitement. With ideas in mind and camera in hand, I do not feel like a tourist in my own city. Instead, in my own way, I’ve assumed the role of an activist…an anthropologist of some sort, here to study my surroundings and observe the very people I was raised with in a brand new light. As I walk through the streets I see family and friends amongst other familiar faces. I see children laughing, old folks drinking their liquor and playing dominoes, and mothers cradling their sleeping babes. I also see the same usual suspects posted on their corners, in front of stores and apartment buildings, serving their customers while keeping a watchful eye out for any car marked NYPD.

The sights and sounds of East Harlem are nothing new to me. In fact, over the years I’ve grown quite tired of them. The constant yelling and screeching of tires all echo over the faint yet never ending sound of bachata music blasting from apartment windows and car stereos alike. As I walk up 115th street, I recall the wail of the police sirens and the buzz of helicopters the night there was a shooting in Jefferson Park. I can hear the cheers of my teammates as I score the game winning goal in a pick up match that meant absolutely nothing. I reminisce over the sounds of plates and cups being filled with food and juice, and the joyous laughter of my friends and family during the annual Welcome Home cookouts for the brothers, dads, and uncles who have spent time in prison.

I am a free man. I am back in East Harlem. I am not here to play catch up with my cousins or to hang out with old friends. This time, I have a bigger purpose…one that extends beyond my interests. One that that impacts the community at large. One that means more to me than a project for school.

-Iancarlos Reuter

~ by iancarlosgr on February 17, 2019.

5 Responses to “Community Chains”

  1. This post jumped out at me. I would award this most affective because there was a great blend of historical background mixed with the personal. I felt your passion for your topic in reading this. I love how you write that you’re in a familiar place but you’re here for a different purpose and that excites you.

  2. Most Affective: I felt not only the neighborhood as I read this but also the author’s specific attachment to the community. This connection demonstrated a passion that made me believe I was learning about this ecology from a primary source, someone who is of the space they are speaking about.

  3. Most Informative – You were able to shed light on a topic I was not that much aware of, that being the attitude towards convicted criminals . “No matter where you are positioned in America’s social hierarchy, a dirty record will have a significant impact on your future in one way or another.” I hope to learn more from your project.

  4. Your blog post is very descriptive, personal and exciting. You started off with a bigger picture of American’s history, zooming into the visuals of the community and ended with your own personal thoughts and purpose. The way of showing the macro and micro views allow the reader to fully grasp your personality along, your view upon the surrounding and the world. This emphasizes the importance and builds up anticipations on your project. Well done!

  5. Most Affective: This is a great piece that blends both the historical with the personal, and thus creates this kind of intimacy for the reader – we are attached to the story, to the narrative you have created. There is also a sense of grounded-ness to this blog, I feel like I am there beside you as your uncover more about your ecology. In addition, your writing style gives that affective heft, adding to the dramatic quality of the blog.

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