Sunday, May 24, 2015


Photographs by David Bacon

I was a little boy when we left New York City for Oakland.  My father always said we'd become transcontinental migrants so we could live in a better place to bring up a family. I knew there were other reasons too, even at the time.  He'd been blacklisted and couldn't get work.  Their friends were getting called up before the UnAmerican Activities Committee.  I guess my folks were a little scared, and who wouldn't be.

But I always wondered if I would have turned out different growing up in New York.  Now when I go back I look at the children I see in the street and think -- that could have been me.  I remember going to PS 125, and feeling abandoned when my mother left me there on what must have been my first day.  I remember her bundling me up in a snowsuit later that winter, before we left. 

Kids are kids.  But the ones I see in New York now have a combination of child aspect and adult aspect.  Maybe they grow up fast.  They seem happy enough, but not always.  I see them a lot with questions in their faces, not too sure about this adult world they're faced with.  Then they're funny and aggressive, trying to figure it all out.

Their schools are very urban - right on the street.  Kids seem to live a lot on the street here, from fire drills to ice cream trucks to just walking places with their moms.  These kids are the ones who will inherit this world.  Knowing New Yorkers, the kids here are going to have an outsize voice in saying what that world will be like.

These photographs are for them.

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