You've probably seen memes floating around about The Bronx. I have two personal favorites. The first is Superman being interviewed saying "I fight crime everywhere, except The Bronx, fuck that!" The second is the scene from The Lion King where Mufasa and Simba are talking about everything the light touches is their kingdom, instead Mufasa says to Simba when he asks "what's that shadow area?" Mufasa says, "That's the Bronx, you must never go there unless you're about that life."
The Bronx has lots of culture, Puerto Ricans especially. PUERTO RICANS LOVE TO SAY THEY'RE BORIQUENA. AND I MEAN WHO CAN BLAME THEM?! I'M PROUD TO BE A BORICUA FROM THE BRONX. They love their island but they make due in the Bronx. There's a lot of representation of the immigration from Puerto Rico to the Bronx. My grandma came to the Bronx from Puerto Rico when she was 15 years old. And without her there would be no me.
The Bronx has been having some gentrification issues. They'd like to change the name of the South Bronx, to "the Piano District." I mean, what the fuck are we in the Hunger Games or something? like come on. Don't tell me you wanna change the name as if we're out here playing piano keys on every corner instead of dominoes during the summer.
Young Adults of The Bronx have dreams. Celebrities like Regis Philbin and Billy Joel were raised here. Former United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, grew up on Kelly Street, which is a couple blocks away from my house. Fashion Designers Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren were born and raised in the Mosholu Parkway area and look where they are now. Most importantly the one who coined the term "Jenny From The Block," Jennifer Lopez. It honestly gives hope to a young Latina like myself that dreams are possible. I want to be able to share my art.
That's my dude Sam in the blue, he owns the store and never fails to call me sunshine. He was cool to let me take his and his cousins picture. He even let me set up a fake hold up of his store with girls in a bejeweled mask and nerf guns for another project. He's definitely about that life.
St. John's Church was built in my neighborhood in 1899. When people refer to The Bronx, they usually refer to the quote "The Bronx is burning" The Bronx used to be filled with burnt down buildings, rampant crime and empty lots, that children like my mother used as playgrounds. These images are to be seen as an observation of my environment and myself. There are plenty of old buildings that still have the original architecture from when they were built. What's funny about them now is they're used as Planet Fitness, a McDonald's or a liquor store. Too many of the Bronx's historical buildings are being torn down instead of restored to help community revenue. I think neighborhoods need to see these abandoned buildings as stages to create a voice for the community.
I've had the opportunity to make my own set of friends that have reintroduced me to my hometown. As a child I didn't have friends around here and I wasn't able to explore on my own. I've gotten a lot of flack for being a Bronx Native that didn't really look like I belonged in the Bronx. I wanted to create these images not just for myself, but to prove that regardless of where I'm from or where you're from that there's something that could be discovered about our places. This is the place that raised me. I fell in love with the rawness and realness of my neighborhood and the people around here. This place isn't perfect but I wanted to show that it isn't inferior.
Under it's tough exterior; the Bronx is beautiful.
Actor Al Pacino, who you'd be surprised to know is from The Bronx said an interesting quote when asked by a journalist about his lack of security, he said "I don't need no bodyguard, I'm from the South Bronx. I can handle it!"
I'm extremely proud to be from the South Bronx. I'm tough, I'm loud, I'm Boricua, and I'm here behind my camera to bring it.
All images © Kasey-Lynn Rodriguez
Words by Kasey-Lynn Rodriguez, edited by Efrem Zelony-Mindell