24TH ST. IS ON FIRE
Written & performed by Constance Castillo, standing center stage, with radio mic overhead. Jorge, wearing the skeleton hoodie, in a dynamic improv variation of Mexican folklorico dancing travels the entire perimeter of the square playing area.
24th street is on fire right now
and I know only the gentrified blocks will be hosed
coffee shops and thrift stores replace families here as rapidly as the flames
but on streets where survivors find refuge
mexicatessans and murals have clung onto the sidewalks
with fingertips digging into the edges of a cliff built by a system waiting for them to fall
candles and flower petals of remembrance are common company for street signs
fire hydrants don’t mark street corners as often as deaths do
blood stains the places where water should have put out the cross fires
that young boys get caught in
lives collapse slowly but
the cops always arrive here before the fire department
the flames spread systematically
gun fire burns down communities
by the time it becomes an epidemic
it’s too late
the tension is burning here
between smoke clouded classrooms and smoke covered prisons
either you can’t see or you can’t be seen
test scores blur ability to see dreams
statistics mark metal bars
blind to screams
and whichever way the children roam
either building looks like home
birthed into a system that builds education without supporting beams
inner city lives are trained to crumble
taught in classrooms made to collapse
this is why,
these streets are too hot to walk on right now
callused souls are still trying to relearn walking when peers are sent crawling for breath
these streets are too hot
and dehydrated voices
collapse with the heat
the world falls apart on these streets
children walk to school in the rubble
where are the heroes?
gun shots every other corner
only silence follows
6 people died on the streets of the Mission in one week
how can Anna Nicole Smith get more news coverage than this?
how can dying polar bears get more attention than a dying community?
this is an endangered neighborhood on the brink of extinction
and somehow society feels more empathy to a spotted owl than a 5 year old saying goodbye to her older brother
why are we not blocking intersections?
why are we not chained to street signs demanding more?
how can trees receive more compassion than memorial service for a sixteen year old boy?
why are we not starving ourselves until these streets are fed?
we stick up for the things without a voice
and ignore the youth screaming
everyone wants to save the rain forest
no one wants to save the children
sons and daughters
replaced with empty school desks
those that rest in peace
are not the only ones keeping silence
someone besides the youth is failing
children play with matches
but houses only burn down when nobody is paying attention
these are the children left behind
a community burning down while society turns it’s back
potential burns to death in the heat of this fire
dreams suffocate breathing in the smoke
there is imagination in these ashes
this is a tragedy
why aren’t the people crying?
6 people died within a 4 block radius
in one week
where are the heroes?
24th Street is on fire right now
hit after hit
there is something in the air besides smoke
nobody is checking the governments mistakes
this is tragedy
there are tears in a mother’s eyes
when they say
a young boy fell