While visiting my sister in Florida, I had the opportunity to visit Mother Burks. We met at the Publix and took the bus to her house. Which I was really happy to do…My sister drives everywhere and when I told her I wanted to take the city bus at least once, she screwed up her face as if she never even heard of New York and talked me out of it. It was the same reaction I had in Tennessee with my best friend, Ashley. Only this time, the turn out was much better.
The bus ride was short. There were not too many people on the bus. A guy friend who works for the bus company in Jacksonville, told me later that the bus I took did not show the real side of Jacksonville.
‘If you want to see hood rats, you are riding the wrong bus. No one rides the express bus!’
‘Anthony, I never said I wanted to see hood rats’
He was talking so fast, he never heard me.
“You need to take a bus at the hub which is what I call, Hoodrat Utopia. It’s full with people you would want to meet…Those people take the bus all day and never get off. It’s so hot outside, they use the bus as their cooling station.
I had a customer once, he got on the bus with a huge suitcase. He tried to walk right to the back without paying. When I told him he had to pay $1.50, he stopped right there in the front of the bus and emptied out all of his belongings. Socks and underwear were flying everywhere!
I have $1.50!! He kept saying. And sure enough, he came up with $1.50.
He sat in the back of the bus and began to make a lot of noise. When a customer asked him to be quite, he took out a sock and threw it right at the man’s face!
The hub buses would sure give you a good story!”
Maybe next time, I’ll visit the hub Anthony but this time, the express bus did the job.
After lunch with Mother Burks, my sister came over to pick me up. But, Mother Burks had a surprise for us.
Put your shoes on, I want to show you my thrift shop!
She lead us to a big shed that looked like a barn and opened the wide, wooden doors. The entire transformation was very magical. It showed a transformation of Mother Burks. I always knew her to be wise and intelligent. I found it amazing and encouraging to see her starting her own business, alone. It also showed a great transformation of her living space.
This is very nice Mother. My sister and I stood there for a while taking the view in.
Thanks. The saints down here helped me put it together.
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. People donated a lot of the stuff to me and my son built the racks and helped me hang clothes in the ceiling. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Mine! (My sister had donated a brand new bike)
How much is it going for Mother Burks?
Well, I haven’t really settled on the price.
Lystria, you don’t need a bike.
Yes, I do.
Where you gonna put it?
I have a place!
You don’t even remember how to ride it.
Yes, I do. Watch!
I rode it in the grass with them warning me not to go into the mud.
When I returned, all three of us struggled to place it back in the same spot.
Afterwards, Mother Burks spoke briefly about opening for business soon while I shopped for some skirts.
What I like most about her shop is, of course the items. It’s full of churchy stuff that I know saints would buy. Like the white hat pictured above. That hat was hand-made by someone in the church. You would never find it at a store!
I’ve been going to Crown Trophy for three years now.
Its a trip I enjoy taking (even though I wait till the last minute sometimes).
Every year I would rush to the shop to pick up the spelling bee trophies and while there talk to the owner, Mr. Greg.
When I first went, I was surprised and impressed to see, he was the owner. Like, I said many times before, most of the shops I go to are owned by Spanish employers.
While some may say it does not matter who own the businesses in your town, I found out that the latter is not true. It matters a whole lot.
When a child see majority of his people owning restaurants, day cares, car washes, sign shops, party stores and so many corner stores that the phrase corner store is interchangeably used with bodega, then that child inwardly feels a sense of self pride (without much begin said).
Seeing Mr. Greg own the trophy shop helps me to puts this race thing into perceptive.
When I first met Mr. Greg, he spoke to me about his daughter who is a dancer in California. Like most proud fathers he boasted of her while telling me of her achievements and how the road raising her was not easy at all but she some how made it.
This time, he spoke about his daughter again but the focus was not so much on him as it was on her. His tone was more serious. This time he was not so much raving about her as he was sharing her testimony. I felt like while he was talking, he felt her hurt.
She’s grown now. I’ve watched her transform from Daddy’s little girl into a full grown women. She has matured in every way. She has learned that your hair has to be a certain texture and your skin a certain tone for you to be fully accepted in the industry. While she was growing up, I provided the best way I could for her to be comfortable and go after what she wanted. I couldn’t explain all of that to her. When you are great at your craft and there are 30 other people in the room great at the same craft, how are you going to make them choose you?
When he was done talking about his daughter, I thought how beautiful it is when parents talk about their children! And if you are a good listener, you can tell that the conversations shifts as the parent and the child grows. The tone and diction the parents use changes as life changes for them.
I walked into E. Massey’s Barber shop because I needed change for the bus and met some of the finest brothers with the cutest accents. Todd, Mike, Holiday and the customer, Lonney.
It was inspiring to see that they were all African American men because in New York where I am from, the barber shops are usually owned by latino brothers.
I never have a reason to walk into barber shops and tend to think it’s more of a man’s world, so I really did try to avoid going into Massey’s but the Trophy shop next door did not have change.
When I entered, I felt kind of self-conscience because I was the only female in there but they made me feel like I was welcomed. I can see why some New Yorkers glorify this southern mentality.
Hi, do you have change for 5 dollars?
Yes, I do.
And after that, change for a dollar? I need change for the bus.
Oh, I don’t have change for a dollar but if you use the vending machine, you can get change.
You a photographer?
Yes. Can I take your photo?
Sure, I don’t care.
Do y’all care?
I didn’t talk much because listening to them was a joy. The way all their words kind of slurred into each other, yet was separate, was fascinating. As they kept talking one of them asked:
You need a car?
No, I just want to take the bus.
You don’t drive?
Where you from?
Oh, that’s where I’m from!…
I started taking photos of them. Then one of them took out their phone and begin to photograph me. In all my years of taking photos of people, this never happened, so it caught me off guard. It made me smile.
When I was leaving one of them, Mike, walked me out the door and made sure I was going in the right direction.
When you are traveling, the longer you stay away from home, the more you begin to get used to where you are staying. It is usually in the beginning of your stay, while your brain is still making the adjustments, that you learn the most (about the people and the place) with great eagerness.
I went to three fairs while in Argentina and before each fair Dr. Anderson encouraged us to talk to the merchants and try to bargain with them- not shake them down- but make fair bargains with them.
I made great bargains at all the fairs but it was at the Plaza Francia Fair I was able to not only buy two shawls at a great price but to connect with the sales lady and learn the meaning of the indigenous people’s flag.
Each square and each color means something within the universe and more importantly, the meanings also have a lot to do with the women’s body. This is what I picked up:
the white square means the women
the yellow square means the children
the orange square means the youth
the red square means the men
the purple square means the knowledge of the Elderly people
the blue square means the knowledge of the cosmos or universe
and the green square is the earth
The 7 colors represents the 7 days and in total there are 49 squares. 4+9= 13. The 13 represents the 13 months of the year of the original people. They don’t / didn’t have 12 months. It’s 13 months because each month has 28 days like the cycle of the women. There are also 13 bones in the column and 1+3 = 4 which stands for north, south, east and west.
The flag also stands for the elements of life: fire, water, air and the earth. The top of the flag stands for the head, the two sides stands for the hands and bottom for the feet. In the original language, feet and earth meant the same thing.
The center of the flag stands for the connection of the earth to the unborn babies and the harmony of the earth and 4 elements.
I think I may have missed something in translation so I made a video of her teaching me and posted it on youtube.
Of course while I was in Argentina, I wanted to buy at least one hat. I found a small hat shop in San Telmo.
The name of the shop was La Fundamental and in the words of the apprentice who sold me my hat (the one I am wearing in the photo) it is a meaning close to the English meaning for the same word, but it’s also “funda”(cover)+”mental”(mind, from the mind) so the pun is “the cover of your mind”, because we sell hats lol.
I was in love with the shop the moment I walked it. It had a lot of hats of all shapes, colors and sizes and I could see that more were being made. I not only liked the shop because of it’s merchandise but also because of the employees.
The young lady that is smiling with me name is Mon. She was so sweet and I felt we were friends for a long time.
She told me the owner of the shop was not there and she is an apprentice, learning how to make and mend hats from the owner.
When I emailed Mon and asked her if she remembered me, she replied ecstatically: Of course I remember you! You took one of my first creations to New York, a city that I love and that has given me friends and family. I hope to go back there soon.
Of course when I travel back, I’ll make my way down to that fancy hat shop.