south dallas

I took all the warnings and sayings about south Dallas for granted until this evening, when I drove up and down Malcolm X Blvd. I stopped and parked my car outside a grocery store, where a group of young men were hanging around. “Take my pictures!” They each said and posed so their pictures taken. I took their pictures, to be polite and more – to be safe, as I already felt something unusual in them. Soon they lost interest in my cameras and moved towards my car while I went inside the store to ask about the neighborhood.

The owners of the store were all all behind a counter fended by bulletproof glass. I immediately sense the potential danger of this place, but I wanted to know who those young men were and why they were there. All the answers I got was “don’t ask, don’t come with your cameras. I don’t know why, but don’t!” They seemed stunned by my ignorance. (Honestly, I sometimes like this kind of ignorance, which often serves as my protector. “Forgive my ignorance, but…” I’d say, and I’d be pardoned.

Right at this moment, I guess I’d better leave and look for something else. I stepped out into the beautiful sunset and saw that group of young men were tussling “playfully” by my car, two even jumped over it and kicked it “by accident.” I kind of knew that was some kind of “test” for me. If I got angry or upset about that, I could have got into a really bad situation. I made myself ignore what they did, walked towards my car calmly, opened the door, got in, locked it and drove away. I passed the test, I guess.

A few blocks west, I spotted a man in a hat and bright gray suit – in the setting sunlight. He didn’t ask me to take his pictures, so I asked if I could take his pictures. He granted me his permission and gave me his name: Al Richard. He was very ambiguous about where he lived. All he said was he didn’t live there and he was just visiting. Just visiting. He didn’t like to be connected this neighborhood, it seemed.

Marvin Crenshaw, Charles Hillman and Horace Beal, who claimed themselves to be activists, were watching me as I tried to make a photo of Al Richards. They shouted “how are you” at me, when I turned to them, three black men in a red truck. They told me to go home before it got dark and not to take pictures of people particularly when it started to get dark. “They would think you are a cop,” they warned. Another warning. Yet at the same time, Marvin said, most of the people here are good people. “It’s just the media that give the public a bad impression about this place,” Marvin commented. Maybe he was right. Maybe next time, I should hang out with Marvin (who lives in this neighborhood) and see how he interacts with the people in south Dallas and find out the good side of south Dallas.

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