Progressive Voices: The City of Searching

"City" courtesy of

“City” courtesy of

We’ve received so many submissions for Afro-Asian solidarity month and we wanted to share some of the best art that our Progressive Pupil family has to offer. This week we have an essay, “City of Searching,” by Tony Robles.

I find myself in a city of searching.  I didn’t just get here, didn’t arrive by car, plane, or boat; or by the lure of a tech job.  Nor did I get here by accident.  My family has a long history in the city.  My great grandfather was a San Franciscan fireman, my grandfather, a Muni driver.  My father’s people ran the streets of Fillmore for decades, starting in the 1930’s, part of a Filipino community in a black neighborhood where the Filipinos, blacks and Japanese ran together.  I have family that was part of the African American journey that weaved its way through the Sierra Mountains.  But I find myself in my city, searching.  The faces of the past are gone, by way of eviction and with them their stories.   I search the streets for a face, a face that knows me, a face that sees me, not only in the present but a face with eyes that look into my face and say, with unsaid words: I remember you.  Didn’t you go to George Washington High School?  Didn’t you hang out in such and such a place?  Eyes that connect dots written in a face, each dot a memory, a song triggering other memories that are like being submerged in cool water.  It is beautiful to experience the spontaneous beauty of memories that come out of hibernation and see light and breathe; and when you come across someone whose face you know in a city that no longer knows you or acknowledges you, it’s one of those rare moments when life is once again lived.

I search for an unevicted face, an unbeaten face, a face unriddled by unsolvable riddles—a face that just is.  I walk down the block from my job.  In the skyline invading my eyes is the twitter headquarters where any number of bluebirds are perched.  I hear no music.  I keep walking and suddenly I hear music.  I follow the sound.  It’s James Brown, then it’s George Benson, then it’s the Dramatics, and Marvin Gaye.  I must be close to heaven, I think to myself.  I walk and walk and I get to the music.  It is coming from the garbage room of an apartment complex where the smell of rotten vegetables mingles with scraps of this and that in heaps of discarded and forgotten matter that no longer matters, heading for a place that is out of sight, out of mind.

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