When you’ve known a place your whole life, a place that you take pride in, a place that you’ve found love in, and a place where you’ve found yourself in, what do you do when that place is taken from you?
When the people who comprise that place are people who look like you, or who speak the same language as you, and who hail from that same “otherness” like you, what do you do as, along with that place, they’re taken from you too?
I think about America as a corridor in the great passage of time, not so different from Metro’s Vermont and Santa Monica Red Line Subway station. It’s a place where thousands of people simply pass one another by each day, past the flocks of pigeons nestled above in the station’s arches, and past the heaps of other people laying by the entrances not so far off.
The flocks of pigeons cradled in the station’s altitudes are conditioned to the factors of the environment, that is, they’re used to its conditions, which are often rather unfriendly to their livelihood: Food is scarce, competition for food is abundant, and the winds push people and traffic through their huddled masses day in and day out.
Those humans of us below, whether moving with the traffic or anchored to the sidewalk, are conditioned to the factors of the environment, too: Food and housing are expensive, and the competition for decent work to afford some decent food and housing is likewise competitive. Then, as people push through flocks of pigeons in the race to get to it all, we push through one another too. Over the course of time, this has the effect of insulating us from the environment and one another as a whole.
I think of my own experience in this sequence, in terms of just how many people I’ve walked past over the dozen or so years I’ve stepped foot through Metro’s Vermont and Santa Monica Corridor. That is, past people dealing with mental health disorders, addictions, or no place for shelter at night, and past people dealing with abusive relationships, police violence, or no access to a steady meal each day; I have a feeling that the experience of walking past all of them binds me with millions of other people who make up this nation in the 21st century.
The fact of the matter is that America is not only pushing people away from its borders, but that it’s also pushing us away from its very street corners. In the case of Super Pan, the pueblo is dealing with wealth in this country, and the power wealth holds to shove human beings out of the way instead of using it to help them; a legacy as old as the country itself.
What’s also true is that all around us there are more Super Pan Bakeries at corners we’ve known for lifetimes, as there are more Metro stations that serve as part-time shelters for yet more people with less than us. Not far off, there are also individuals with wealth who simply want to take these spaces for their own benefit, though without so much as considering the very people who could be most harmed by such violent claims to space.
If we are somewhere in between, that is, not enamored by the power of wealth, but also not forced to sleep by the Metro stations at night, then just where do we stand? We pass one another by, to try to be better in some other way, which is for the most part what we have to do. But I don’t believe we always have to do things this way.
I believe there’s still a world to build right through the one we see now, with and alongside one another: a world that has been here before, actually, and that still glimmers through the shadows in moments each day out there; a world which even after everything is still yearning to be brought to life, in Nuestro Pueblo, Los Angeles.
More on Super Pan in the Virgil Village SOON,