“A Harlem Family”

Over the weekend I began work on a very special photo documentary I have been putting off for months. The inspiration behind this project was none of other than the late Gordon Parks. His work with Life Magazine earned him great recognition for his work. Although I am a fan of all his work it was “A Harlem Family 1967”, that truly sparked my interest. For those who are not familiar I wanted to pay homage to the late Parks who passed in 2006 at the age of 95 by sharing a tiny bit of this powerful photo journal on poverty.

The images and stories below are the most influential to me.

“What I want/What I am/What you force me to be/is what you are.

For I am you, staring back from a mirror of poverty and despair, of revolt and freedom. Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself. You are weary of the long hot summers. I am tired of the long hungered winters. We are not so far apart as it might seem. There is something about both of us that goes deeper than blood or black and white. It is our common search for a better life, a better world.”

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Bessie Fontenelle, 1967

“Each day Bessie seems to sink into deeper despair. She complains about the filth and the falling plaster. “I could clean this place every hour and it would still look the same.” “

It was these words quoted from (Parks) and Bessie Fontenelle the 39 year-old mother of 8 that forced a lump in my throat and chill to run through me.

“The next afternoon when I arrived, Bessie was lying on her bed, groaning in misery. …She managed a painful half-smile. “He gave me a going-over last night. …I just can’t take it no more. It’s too much for anybody to bear.” I asked where Norman, Sr., was. In the hospital, she said. “When he got through kicking me, I got up and poured some sugar and honey into a boiling pan of water and let him have it in his face.” Why the sugar and honey? “To make it stick and burn for a while.”

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To only one day be as great as Gordon Parks….

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