I was leaving the Gumbo festival in New Orleans, walking through the Treme neighborhood in the 6th ward, when I passed a house where an older man was sitting out front.
He was chilling outside with his radio, blasting old school R&B. He had such a large presence, one that could be felt from across the street where I stood. I walked over and asked if he would mind me taking his photo. He paused for a moment, and said “Do you really want to do this”? At this point I'm nervous, preparing myself for possible rejection. He says, “Well if we're REALLY gonna do this, I’ve got to grab my hat”.
He told me his name was “Spider”.
Spider and I talked for hours. During our conversation. I learned more about himself, and his vast knowledge of the historical Treme neighborhood that he calls home.
“This is Treme, it was created for us to own property and we DID own majority of this land. Treme was built for Black people ”
“Were thinning out, but we still have a lot of elderly Black people in the neighborhood”
“People started getting the property for taxes and that's how we lost [the homes in the community]”
As we continued to converse, Spider opened up and began to let me know more about himself, his family background and early beginnings.
“It was 11 of us, 5 brothers and 6 sisters, I'm the only brother left.”
“I came from a good family. We did good. My grandmother was a slave, my daddy and his brother were all from the Master. I had an uncle that was so white, that they took him and shipped him up North. He became a fireman, but he had to pass for white.”
“I feed people, I cook, I overcook, I feed the homeless”
“Gods been good to me, I’m 71 years old”
Before we left, he left us with a sweet affirmation to repeat to ourselves when we made it back home.
“Y'all go home, look in the mirror and just tell yourself I'M GORGEOUS”