Shorthand

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Photo credit: Neon Tommy

With all the certainty of a woman clutching her purse and crossing to the other side of the street, an officer in a helicopter sized up a man far below: “That looks like a bad dude.”

The officer had little information on which to base this judgment. Below him, a man walked with his hands in the air. He was not suspected of any crime. His vehicle had stalled in the middle of the road.

But he was large. He was male. He was black. That was all the officer needed to know.

Terence Crutcher lived his life in a body that our country has deemed a threat. And because of our entrenched biases, his life was cut short. Continue reading

The Waters That Remain

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A broken Lord’s Prayer plate, passed down from my grandmother to my father and found amid the rubble left behind in the floods that hit South Louisiana in August.

This post represents another detour from my blog’s traditional topic of race, but I appreciate the outlet this venue has provided as my family has grappled with an unprecedented flood that destroyed the first floor of our home in South Louisiana and left tens of thousands of families with even more destruction and loss than my family. I have also deeply appreciated hearing from so many who were touched by my family’s story and shared it with others, donated to support flood relief throughout the Baton Rouge area, or even made their own trips to Louisiana to assist in cleanup efforts. 

On the morning that I arrived in Denham Springs to help my family after devastating floods engulfed South Louisiana, I examined my brother’s photography equipment. I pulled lens after lens from an old black steamer trunk and evaluated each for whether the muck was caked on too thick, the residue had begun to rust the equipment, or water was still trapped inside. Those few that could possibly be salvaged, I cleaned, rinsed in fresh water, gently toweled off, and then packed away in Ziplocs filled with Louisiana rice, hoping the rice and a few passing weeks might work together to extract the remaining moisture.

One telephoto lens, the longest by far, was heavy with the water that remained inside. This was not just any water. Floodwater of the sort that devastated my hometown in August is a vicious combination of muddy river water, raw sewage, oil and petroleum, and runoff from other chemicals. It is foul. It is ugly. It sticks, and it stinks.

Inside of my brother’s camera lens, it looked like someone had dumped a full cup of clumpy, poorly-mixed Ovaltine behind the glass and then sealed the lens. I twisted the lens every way I could think of, flipped it and shook it in every possible direction, but not a drop of the muddy water leaked out. I wondered how this water had wormed its way into the lens to begin with, what minuscule opening the flood had found that I could not. Continue reading