Malik Dodson is a high school senior at Park Slope Collegiate Secondary School. Last year Malik participated in an Urban Memory Project and is a guest blogger for UMP this Fall.
Park Slope Collegiate’s Class of 2016 have Brooklyn History as their social studies class. Throughout this class, they will touch on several topics such as what the title conveys: Brooklyn History, as well as their interpretation of the identity of New York, New York’s future, and so on. My peer, Holly Cocco and I are both alumni of this course despite also being of the Class of 2016, and as such will lend our experience in the form of student teachers. Part of our own agenda is to contribute to the Urban Memory Project in the form of weekly or biweekly blog posts. Mine will take the form of not exactly arbitrary, but indefinitely reflective posts, providing a more personal insight on the learning of PSC’s Class O’ 2016.
As one of their first assignments, Park Slope Collegiate’s Brooklyn History Class was tasked with identifying their own personal New York, thanks to the insight of the author Colson Whitehead. Whitehead is a Harvard alumni who was born and raised in New York, and is a novelist also based in in the city whose work has reflected on the state of NYC and its relevance to the New York he remembers. As such he has earned himself a spot in the curriculum of the Brooklyn History Class, where students read his essays and reflect on their own New York, and to begin with they had to identify the key aspects of their commute to places like school, work, a friend’s house, or home. This assignment made me wonder: Do my peers ever really notice what makes their New York so personal, so invasive of their, dare I say it, “ice-breaker space”
(™Breaker please don’t sue)? Do they ever notice that couple standing at the corner every morning prepping their children for today’s events? Do they ever look back at the homeless man panhandling with his cordial “Good Morning, Have a Nice Day!”s? Do they notice their scenery changing as chic condos with irrational corridor placement show up? I’m serious about that last one. Apparently, staircases that are outside are in. I can only salute their residents when the winter comes.
My uncle always told me that the most important thing about being a scientist is his ability to observe, so following his model, observe I did. I’ve watched this new building on my block which I only remember as an empty lot become a stylish solar-powered condo. Every time I walked past the condo a sign that is hung in front has counted down how many units were available for purchase. I’ve watched it count down from about three, to where it now stands still at one left for purchase. I await to see the new dapper faces of rosy cheeked men and women as I come to have my own intuitions about them from what I will see. I await to see the same man nod at me everytime he walks his Chow Chow down the block, with his shiny rolex and stylish capris. I may be wrong about this stylish new building’s future tenants, however I can only imagine a building as modern and “chic” as this one can only have occupants of the same caliber.
As I leave off this introductory piece, I’d like to ask you to think about, as you commute, what has changed? Do you notice the people around you? Do you notice Ms. I jog with my cute black lab, or do you smile at Mr. Possibly Single Father Waving My Children Off For The Day, or at The Little Boy Who Leaves At Exactly 7:12 For School? There are so many people I see everyday and I have never bothered to wonder if they’re truly people rather than just set pieces to my city. Next time I order a turkey and swiss at the deli, I will ask the cashier who I see almost daily his name, instead of calling him what almost all NY deli workers are called, “Pop.”