There are so many flash points of knowledge, memory, conflict, change and resistance in the 47713 zip code. As I’ve done in previous projects like this, I interrogated boundaries, blessings and battlegrounds with the goal of learning more about what’s not being said about or by a community, the things that it struggles to face head on because it’s uncomfortable and points to trauma and struggle and injustice. My images reflect all three categories and I encourage you to check them out on Flickr.
There are challenges that neighborhoods in this zip code are facing. I can be nothing but honest about this. I’ve heard many stories from you directly. I’ve seen it with my own eyes as well.
But here’s the thing: There is so much good happening here. A lot of it is taking place quietly under the radar by caring, fiercely dedicated people who are making things happen through sheer will and creativity. They are giving so much of their time and energy but they can do so much more if they had a little help and a little empathy and understanding and a seat at the table where decisions get made. A community is only as good as its “weakest” link. How can Evansville make itself stronger and truly inclusive so that some people don’t suffer in the name of “progress?”
As I wrap up my time here in Evansville, I want to reiterate that the greatest asset this zip code has to offer is its people. Old people, young people. Black people and White people and Latin people and Asian people. Well off people and everyday working people. People with advanced degrees and those who never finished school. Those who use the King’s English and those who make use of dialect and slang. Those who are religious and those who choose not to worship. Those who love cake and those who prefer ice cream. You get my point. All are great and powerful and worthy and have value. No one should be judged before having a chance to prove themselves.
Do you really know your neighbors? What’s holding you back? Here is an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and engage with each other. There are spaces all over the zip code that offer so much potential to make that engagement happen. And you don’t have to wait for so-called leaders to tell you when and how to do that.
Check out the images that have been made over the last week about the community, by the community. And while you’re looking, reflect on what’s next for the zip code and how you can be part of the solution. Celebrate the past, the memories and the good times, but embrace what can be possible – TOGETHER.
Change can only happen when each and everyone of us says yes to the possibilities. The words “no, that can’t be done here” are dream killers. For Evansville – or any American community to change and thrive in a new age, the words “yes we can and should try that new thing” and “yes I see the possibilities” have to be embraced and repeated until they stick. And sometimes those words will be said the loudest by those whom we deem to have the least to lose.
Thank you all for allowing me to spend time here and for trusting me with your stories and experiences. And thank you to the staff of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library for making it possible for me to come here again and complete this body of work.
Tieshka K. Smith is a Philadelphia-based photographer, blogger, community activist, creator of the #RacismIsASickness anti-racism art installation, and producer/host of the #VoicesForRacialHealing podcast. It is her goal as an artist and cultural worker to facilitate dialogue and radical action around a range of socioeconomic issues that impact everyday people living in urban communities.
200 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Evansville, Indiana 47713