Monday, December 26, 2011

Why not make it pretty?

Because the assignment is the rote Kwanzaa one, doesn't mean it can't be beautiful. Sometimes I just want to have one pretty thing in my day, so I have to make it myself.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cynicism Can Suck It: Day Three

This Park Place house has seen generations of school children rise bleary-eyed from their beds to face the ritual of getting ready for school; on this morning Portia Hyman’s youngest boys Day-Day and Dion start their day in the bedroom of their grandmother, Denise Green, where outfits are picked, hair is brushed, and lotion is slathered on dry arms and legs before the boys bundle up for the short walk to James Monroe Elementary.

When Denise gave birth to Portia, it was this house the young mother came back to. Though for much of Portia’s childhood her grandparents were her primary care givers, her mother has always been a part of her life, in varying orbits. Their lives unfold in close proximity now, as the mother and daughter share the house they both grew up in with a new generation, and Denise takes an active role in raising her grandchildren.

“My mama starts the day,” says Portia, “helping the kids get ready for school. It’s always such a headache. Day-Day’s deciding which sweatshirt to wear, and I’m doing Dion’s hair. Ever since she moved in, she’s been a lot of help with the kids."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cynicism Can Suck It: Day Two

The baby is happy on his back on the bed, with a stream of people ebbing in and out of the room, picking him up, kissing his nose, and lightly squeezing his little stockinged feet between their fingers. In a big family like this one, Daquan is passed from the arms of one sibling to another, each taking on the role of caregiver without complaint. When not with Portia Hyman, he can be found on the porch with his grandmother or up in the girls’ bedroom.

Dion Johnson, 9, steals a moment alone in his mother’s room with his elbows on the bed, his face cradled in his hands. He seems mesmerized by the face of his littlest brother.

“Dion even tries to make Daquan’s bottle,” says Portia. “He’s such a little man.” That children even as young as Dion would take part in raising their younger siblings is commonplace in this large family. “The older ones are always looking out for the younger ones. They help raise their brothers and sisters. We help one another out.”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cynicism Can Suck It: A week for the holidays

It's been a tough year. We've lost some amazing people in our newsroom to layoffs. We've seen storms and fires and today, yes, the end of one war whose effects will persist far into our future. But in the face of all of this, I am still deeply appreciative that I have a job as a newspaper photographer. My work day sometimes involves building relationships with people I never would have met otherwise. I'm never sure how long this dream will last-- that worry follows all of us these days-- but while it does, I'm going to love it.

I haven't been blogging in a while, but for the best reason; I'm in the middle of a story about a family in Park Place, Norfolk with a matriarch who is the same age as I am (31) with 6 children, and a newly adopted baby. The story has at its heart a Cynicism Can Suck It premise, though I'm working to be as thorough as I can be in my reporting, and not make it all about blind optimism.

I'll bring you a new photograph from this series for the rest of the week. It's ongoing, and I'll be working on it as long as I can.

The story: A few years ago, Portia Hyman moved her family back in to the house that she grew up in the Park Place neighborhood of Norfolk, and set about creating a home for her children. Recently, the family welcomed a new member: Daquan Collins who is now nearly five months old and was given up by his mother, a family friend suffering from addiction, right after he was born. He fits seamlessly into this family of six, surrounded by the love and attention of his extended family.

Portia dotes on Daquan. “I’m just showing this young man much love,” she says. “I’m giving him all the attention he needs, and he is just full of joy.

"When he's old enough, he deserves to know. His mother is sick. He'll understand. I'll raise him to be a good man. I took him because I knew he didn't have anybody. He just wants some love, that's all he asks for. His mother hasn't seen him since he was born. I look at him every night and think 'who wouldn’t want to be with him?' But I don’t judge. People take different paths, and I’m proud of the way I live my life. It was meant for me to move here. If I wasn’t here, didn’t have this home, he’d be in the system.

This is my life’s purpose: to raise my kids the right way. It’s not about me anymore. I have to make sure they go the right way.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cynicism Can Suck It: It's been a long time

It's been a while, but that's only because I'm working on a big project that is kind of a grand Cynicism Can Suck It. But here is a new one, from tonight's graduation. I really love graduations. Even though it's raining, and even though it's been a long day, there is something so sweet and pure about the pride we feel when someone we love accomplishes something important.

Brothers and sisters, from left, Marquita Ravenel, Tonagee Ravenel, Brittany Agent and Tonette Washington watched proudly as their mother Germaine Washington walked alongside graduating classmates at Tidewater Community College's 53rd commencement at the Ted Constant Center in Norfolk on Friday, December 16, 2011.