I have been asking the interns to flex their creativity and practice writing exercises on things that come up for them as we discuss and work on various issues here at the YW. Sara offers this as a creative exercise but I think that it points to many of the ideas that circulate as we discuss the issues of poverty, incarceration and racial justice.
What are houses built from?
I grew up in a small red block house in the Southside off of Valencia Rd and Nogales highway on Corona Rd. The house was built in 1959 with three bedrooms and 1 bathroom. The yard had two large palm trees and a large mesquite tree which my brothers and I loved to climb. There were large rose bushes that my mother and I would pick flowers from to brighten up the house and a sidewalk leading to a chain link fence that I would draw and practice my writing with chalk. The backyard had a large block grill that my father and uncles built as a gift to my mother. The inside was small and modest for the five people who lived there, but there was always something to do. The TV always played Aladdin and Pocahontas on a never ending loop, and there was always fresh hot food. There was life in that house.
So much life that this small block house became a place for others. The neighborhood kids who always visited because they knew it was safe, happy, and there was always something to eat. This small house was built from something more than the block and cement than created its structure. It was built out of wisdom, strength, and compassion. It was made from extreme coupons, food stamps, and WIC checks kept it going. It was built on dinner at 5:00pm with ice cream for dessert, and the best birthday cakes a child could ask for. It was made so that children that entered this house were never cold, hungry, or unsafe. It was made so that the children who entered this house could be creative, be smart, and be happy.
It was a house built from never wondering or worrying where the parent was, the parent was always there. It was not worrying when the next meal would come or if children would be adequately clothed. This house was built on something indescribable. It was a house built on the same limited resources as everyone else in the street, the neighborhood. This house was predetermined to build career criminals, teen parents, and drug addicts based on the kind of people who live there. Yet it built a business and business owners. It built community. It built creative writing and thought. It built public servants dedicated to advocacy. This small house on Corona Rd. situated in a high stress community was built from much more than block and cement.