When I was in Brazil, I visited Paulina’s church. She introduced me to her girlfriends, taught me a lot of songs in Portuguese and then we hopped in a taxi and went to her favorite acai shop, Primos Acai. It was my first time trying acai and its pretty good! Actually, it is better than ice cream.
On the way to the shop, Paulina kept mentioning how good it was and I just nodded my head. I had nooo idea what she was talking about. A food that’s not yogurt but kinda is….what is that?
Finally I arrived at the little cozy- hole in the wall- shop.
The people there were so friendly. When they found out I was from the Bronx, the cashier called the owner- this is at 10pm- and he showed up with his friends just to welcome me to Brazil!! (Eu senti tango amor!)
The shop was started by the two young men (pictured above), Maurico and Fabricio, in June of 2017. As the name of the business suggest, Primos Acai, they are also cousins.
May I mention that they both are also very brilliant. Fabricio is an architect and Mauricio is a doctor. However, despite their busy schedules, they held on to a dream to start a business together and made it a reality.
What I really enjoy the most about the shop is the location, it sits in the ‘hood’! This wasn’t no uppity neighborhood, everything was chill. Loud music from the boom box, kids playing in the street. It was like home away from home.
While I was there, I met the preacher from the church nearby and his church goers. Service had ended for them and they were walking home. Someone had mentioned to him that I was visiting from NY and he stopped to talk to me… And the young people hanging out were so kind to try their English out with me.
Going there reminding me of how we hang out at the pizza or Chinese shops. Imagine the ‘hood with a dope Acai shop in the middle of it?!
The Bronx is waiting for its Maurico’s and Fabricio’s to rise up and work on their dreams along with their careers.
Thank You to Milena and Paulina for helping me remember my time there….I finally had time to write this Post.
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.