i just returned from jail…..a 6 hour bureaucratic nightmare to visit "uptown" (see march 23 post )…yes, "uptown" is in the maximum security section at Rikers Island Correctional Facility here in new york….he committed a parole violation and is paying with 6 months of his 31 year old life….one third of his life has already been spent in "blockdown"…
(see natgeo hip hop video link below)
for the first three months of his incarceration, i had no idea where "uptown" was…i had "lost" him….he usually called me at least twice a week…..i feared the worst…and jail was not the worst i feared….the last time i had seen him he showed up at my loft with four men i had never seen before…never met in the "hood where i had done so much of my work with him and his world…i could tell immediately he was running with the wrong crowd….these guys were different….tougher….a lot tougher…..
usually when "uptown" and "ruckus" and "double r" visited me at home, we ordered out burgers and hung out and looked at pictures etc etc…this time, we made sort of uncomfortable conversation and they left quickly….all of us, marie and luis montolio (my friend from spain) and i felt an ominous discomfort with these new guys….and now we know why "uptown" disappeared….at least, at Rikers Island he is more or less "safe"…
"uptown" will miss the show….the opening of my exhibition on Hip Hop…he is the key to everything i photographed on this project….i wanted him to perform for the opening…it would have been a seminal moment for him…i can just see it, but it is not to be….he will not be released until mid-july , a full month after the show….we had both imagined such a moment where he would get a "break" as the poet and rapper that he is….
"With every difficulty comes ease in this pain afflicting saga
called life sometimes you might find me asking, "why should i bother?"
times is harder, streets is wise, visions broader,
i did years in them penses, tinted lenses, somebody’s father
lower desire struct, conscience stuck
man i done lucked up…
mental abuse beating yourself daily, calling a truce
past time of your ghetto lifestyle, shaking it loose
time to produce, i rather think big and choose
trying to find the truth…
Am i really born to lose???"
From: "The Struggle" by Yushanda Durant (Uptown)
(copyright 2006 Yushanda Durant…..South Bronx , New York)