Okay, repeat the CrazyStable catechism. What makes a great blogger? One: a passion; and two, sharing it generously with others. Today, kudos to one of the finest writers and photographers on the blogroll: Bed-Stuy Banana, a young lady who describes herself as "a yellow girl raised in a white suburb shacked up with a white boy (who) had a tan kid in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a primarily black neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York."
A tender observer of such paradoxes, BSB set herself the task of chronicling every street in her storied neighborhood. Her stream of hauntingly beautiful images has introduced me, a fellow Brooklynite, to the heart and soul of a community into which I seldom set foot. Along the way, she has shared much else with candor: her journey to American citizenship, prickly liberalism, financial heartaches, and identity struggles. Mostly, BSB lets her pictures do the talking, but her recent post on having finally walked every one of those Bed-Stuy streets (some 173 miles over 63 weeks) was so good I will share it here. Congratulations, BSB, on a great journey, and I hope it continues, with us in tow:
Have I gotten a greater insight into what makes Bed-Stuy tick? Possibly. I do know that it is a neighbourhood of extremes, rough blocks with deserted buildings and trash and dog crap filled empty lots and a negative vibe that we speed-walked through - although there weren't many of those. Well-maintained blocks with gorgeous architecture and abundant greenery and flowers, mostly in the southern end. The Hassidic area that looks like another era and world - a world it's hard to believe is part of Bed-Stuy. Deserted industrial areas full of both hipster and gang graffiti. Mosques and a thousand and one churches of every shape and size and denomination, from an unmarked unassuming door, to impressive spires and towers that reach to the skies. Fast food restaurants, mom and pop cafes, black owned hipster restaurants, bodegas and Chinese food restaurants with bullet proof glass. Flourishing community gardens. Depressing uninspired clusters of buildings that form the projects. Storefronts with an impressive array of Obama memorabilia, chic boutiques with African art, junk shops, dollar stores. Detailed memorial murals and scribbled graffiti honouring everyone from gang members to children hit by cars.
Groups of tough-looking teenagers giving us dirty looks, laughing pre-schoolers, smiling welcoming working class neighbours, dirty white people on bikes, skinny white hipsters doing laundry, Mexicans in a block long wedding procession with a live band, black hipsters at just opened cafes and restaurants, church ladies selling red velvet cake at fundraisers. Joyful block parties, smoking barbeques in front yards with families spilling out on to the streets, pre-teens throwing eggs and water balloons at cars and bikes, pit bulls and their owners, Chinese people hanging laundry out to dry next to their cars.
It's a colourful, lively, dirty, ugly, beautiful mix - a microcosm of New York City. It's our neighbourhood. It's our home. And now we're going to do it again. Walk every street, take pictures, talk to strangers, make new friends.