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Andre Lambertson / SABA
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Introduction by Andre Lambertson
Three years ago I began working in earnest on a project photographing juvenile violence. At the time I began this project, I had hoped to shed light on the harsh realities of these haunted children. I was my attempt to make some sense of these wasted lives, to bear witness to their darkness and to honor them.
I thought of my own mother, of her struggles, and the traumatic times she lived through. I thought of her sacrifices. Being adopted, I thought about how my life may have ended up. I was looking for an understanding for the weariness of these mothers. I had hoped my photographs would form an overview of a generation not seen, heard or valued. The light cast was dim, and the few bright moments were invariably overcome by the dark realities of the grim future facing urban youth in this country.
Almost everywhere I traveled I saw
the wasted potential of black children, and the moral conflicts they face.
I photographed in low-income housing projects from Chicago to Bedford-Stuyvesant,
Brooklyn, and I documented the impact of AIDS in communities, and night
after night of candle-light vigils for slain youth. I traveled south to
the tiny, rural town of Lake Providence, Louisiana, and looked into the
faces of the poorest community in America, only to return north, to the
sprawling city of Baltimore, where the same sad, indelible images danced
on its urban concrete streets. I rode with paramedics (Unit #7 in
Baltimore) who were rated first in the nation in call responses, with 30,000.
I, who was never really afraid of the night, now fear the wail of a siren, and wonder as an ambulance's rear lights trail off into the darkness. I still hear that awful wail/moan/shout of a mother who at 3:00am learned of her son's death by seeing his slumped body on the porch of their home as she returned from work. The police officers had cursed and abused the neighbors who came out from their front doors, their eyes gleaming, to see if that was their son or daughter.
There were brighter moments, including the Million Man March, and the endless ritual of parents and children loving each other. At these times I felt like a witness to the revival of the delivery of promise. But, invariably the road would take a hauntingly familiar turn, and I witnessed a mother being fed heroin from her son, or watched a sister dive into her brother's casket.
When I think of the Civil Rights movement, and the people who died for integration, who died for education, who died for voting rights, died for things they couldn't comprehend. Was all that in vain?
Another generation has been claimed and
I don't predict an easement during my lifetime. That is perhaps for the
offspring of the next generation to enjoy. We can no longer eradicate reality.
We are all connected by threads that bind us. This project has not been
an easy one, but I am still an optimist. I still keep looking for more
light. And that light is love.
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