I never thought I’d experience the likes of Rancho Grande in Monticello, a Deep South hamlet named for Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia manor (gleefully pronounced with a soft “c”) and about as cosmopolitan as a Baptist men’s prayer circle.
Hunting season swept through my hometown with the crisp northern winds that sent leaves and trash dancing down King Street, near the Old Spanish Trail. In late fall, the town’s annual hunters’ gathering—Buck Fever—packed the county fairgrounds with guns and taxidermy and families wearing matching camouflage outfits, scents of damp hay and manure and hot funnel cakes swirling together in the cool dry air. It seemed like everyone in Seguin went to Buck Fever, and even though we weren’t real hunters, my family went, too.
The lounge’s changes reflect those of Trenton, which has been hit by deindustrialization, white flight, falling property values, a cratering tax base, budget cuts, and a drop in educational resources. There is probably a recovery formula for the rest of the city somewhere in the tiny fragment of an integrated, prospering populace that materializes for the Candlelight Saturday Sabbath with its transubstantiation of mouthpiece, breath, drum skin, string, and inner ear stereocilia into camaraderie.
A kind of connective tissue linked my country’s most African city with an African moment that seemed stunningly American. The pallbearers danced, the band played, the mourners walked and swayed alongside while men and women pressed yet more naira bills on the sweat of our bodies—a symbol of respect and goodwill.
I wake from a dream in which I am back at military training, among the classrooms and the clash of Claymores, the hot wake of wind from the report of rifles. Booted feet echo through the hallways, and forced voices call cadence while the light bends in the shockwave of bombs.
“They were brothers in music,” Ursula Covay said. “They wrote together, hung out together, traveled together, fought together, loved together, and made deals together.” That’s the word most of the children of the Soul Clan use today to describe their fathers’ bond. Brothers.
She watched the Kitler closely, but it mostly slept, waking only when she played the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” while making her morning coffee. When Sting got to the part about sending out an SOS, it lifted its furry head, twitched its ears, and stared plaintively, ready to help.
Amid the chorus of opinions and think pieces, the loudest, most eloquent voice was Mayor Landrieu’s, immortalized in a speech he delivered on May 19, 2017. The remarks were meant to unify the city after a divisive period, but they were also meant to explain, from start to finish, the position he had taken from the beginning. “There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it,” he said.
Photographs from the Summer 2017 issue by Johanne Rahaman with an introduction by Sarah Stacke.
Built in the early 1940s, Blodgett Homes is a 654-unit public housing complex. According to Cherlise, who was born in 1982, the community there used to operate like a family-minded village. But a downward spiral began in 1960 when Interstate 95 was built—with the government’s full understanding of the disruption it would cause—on the complex’s doorstep, provoking many families to move.
A short story from the Summer 2017 issue.
It was said about the blind woman who ran the concession stand in the lobby of the county courthouse that she could tell by touch the difference between a one- and a five-dollar bill. Judges, lawyers, felons, and their long-suffering kin spoke of her so-called sixth sense. She was aware of the rumor, which she attributed to ignorance.