To You, Oh Wild Richmond

Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird
For this week’s photo challenge, get up early and explore the morning light.

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On my way to work, I saw two wild turkeys crossing the road. As usual, I was running late, but I had to stop. I had to take note and witness these unexpected visitors to my pocket of average, unspectacular neighborhood. It was a sight to watch these turkeys strut across the road. And owned it they did!

I live in a suburban pocket within a larger urban section of Richmond. And Richmond has a reputation for wildness, but not the wildness people speak of with a twinkle in their eye. The wildness that, depending on the context, is associated with partying or being a free spirit or being a place of nature.

Richmond’s wildness, unfortunately, in the public discourse is synonymous with crime, poverty and poor education. The more provocative, headline crimes of black on black or poor on poor, but also the down-low, more insidious crime of uneven power dynamics of corporate laissez faire against average citizens and non-citizens who work to create a home for themselves and their families.

I remember growing up in LA and playing with the younger, the one closest to my age, of our next door neighbor’s granddaughters who visited in the summer. They lived in, “you know, that place, Richmond.” I had no idea where the heck that was, but my parents’ intonation was unmistakable. You could feel the cloud within Richmond and knew that there was nothing rich, nothing enviable about it. I felt sorry for the girls, but more glad for myself that I didn’t live in that place.

Looking back, here’s the thing: the girls did not seem poor, poorly cared for, or poorly educated. In fact, the eldest granddaughter competed in cheerleading competitions which can easily burn a hole in one’s pocket. My neighbors, the parents of my daughter’s classmates, the shopkeepers of the various carnicerias and clerks and passersby I encounter may not have a lot of money, but they aren’t poor or poorly cared for either. And the students in my daughter’s classroom may not yet be fluent speakers, but there are artists and comedians and free spirits who you can already see are beating their own drum, singing their own tune, living according to their own script. There is nothing poor in any of this.

These turkeys are more than the birds upon our tables come November. Richmond is more than a city of poverty and crime. It is a hard place, true, but a place where beauty struts. A destination for wild birds to visit from time to time.

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