For the most part, I want to let the letter sent out to many Skid Row residents by General Jeff, who is a long time community activist in these parts speak for itself, but- I have a few thoughts of my own to add.
There is a phrase that I have learned upon coming to live in Skid Row, that I have heard used out in the streets- which seems to apply here.
“Come correct”. Mr. LaHoda, it appears- did not come correct. Urban dictionary states this phrase means, “To come out rightly. To speak or approach someone with respect, and not with undeniable ignorance. To do something the right way the first time to avoid being bitched by another.” I think I first heard this phrase by a gentleman working the door at the VOA Drop In Center on San Julian St. when I was planting a guerrilla garden out front of their facility. Someone was being unruly out in front and the VOA guard was not going to let him in until he straightened up and calmed down. Just those two words (which I had not heard before) “come correct”, seemed to convey so much. Sure enough the man calmed down because he wanted to get inside.
You see, a mural is not JUST a mural when it is in Skid Row. The people of Skid Row- the Community here, still struggle to be recognized as a legitimate community outside this tight-knit neighborhood. Just this past Friday, for example- Councilman Huizar who represents Skid Row and all of downtown now, put out his weekly newsletter reporting the installation of 3 new bus benches for Skid Row- something that has taken leaders who live here 3 YEARS TO ACCOMPLISH! If you have read any of my old blog entries, you will also know how extremely difficult is has been to get even regular trash service in our neighborhood. This has all been a tremendous struggle, not without resistance and taking place against a backdrop of astonishing Civic neglect going back decades.
As a middle-class born and bred Caucasian woman, my experiences do not mirror the vast majority of those in my neighborhood- who are majority African American men. This makes it somewhat precarious for me to write about and want to become more active in my community. I sometimes fear I might be doing more harm that good with things that I write or do. I spend a lot of time thinking about neighborhood improvement and how it can be done in ways that are inclusive rather than exclusionary. Often, I say or do things that local leaders chastise me for because I am not aware of such and such dynamic or appear to be lacking street-wise knowledge. Certainly- none of these waters are easy to navigate, but listening and asking questions seem to go far when there is a crossroads.
Thing is, I think if Mr. LaHoda would have first reached out to our Skid Row Community leaders here and ran this mural by them/us, I am 90% sure we would have welcomed his team into this neighborhood to partnership on a mural right in the heart of our neighborhood. LA Freewalls has resources this community lacks, and the organization and skill to complete the task- we WANT murals here! But, there is a way to go about making the many people of Skid Row, so many who are already disenfranchised feel included and part of something uplifting.
Final thought, did Mr. LaHoda even know that just a few doors down from where he began his mural project @ 5th & San Pedro sits an amazing arts program called LAMP’S Art Project? I’ll bet they would have loved to be included.