Crismya’s 2nd birthday celebration at Parkside Commons apartment buildings on Syracuse’s Eastside.
Young lovers gather as summer’s warmth recedes and winter spreads its first blanket of snow. Exquisite baby showers and birthday parties celebrate new life, as vigils and funerals observe its ending. Black bikers, a tight-knit family bound by a love of riding, are a force for change through neighborhood empowerment and community service work. The disappearance of Black bars means the emergence of underground hangouts. People say, “nothing happens in Syracuse.” Sticking around my hometown after graduating from Syracuse University allowed me to draw my own conclusions. What follows is a photo essay of a variety of Syracuse neighborhoods and communities built on friendship and trust.
Syracuse, Central New York’s rust-belt anchor, led the nation with the highest rate of concentrated poverty among Blacks and Hispanics in 2015. The decline of neighborhood shops, supermarkets, and historic residences illustrates the effects of redlining, gentrification, incarceration, and job loss. Destructive policies include the 1960s decision to build an elevated highway, Interstate 81, through the city, decimating the 15th Ward—a then-thriving Black community, now depicted by images of underprivileged neighborhoods torn by crime, poverty, and violence.
Yet these portrayals fail to recognize unquantifiable riches of human caring. When my college classmate, India, vouched for me in her Syracuse neighborhood, she introduced me to a community’s beauty. I discovered a community-gathering place at the B&B Cocktail Lounge, one of the last neighborhood bars on the Southside, where I became the bar photographer. I started hanging with the Black Dynamites Motorcycle Club before being invited to prospect, buy a bike, and officially receive my biker name—“Kodak.” These stories offer a counter-narrative to a one-dimensional portrayal of a once-thriving city now on the margins.
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Josue and Dayana have a baby shower for their son Jansuell at the Chess Club on Syracuse’s South Side.
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Carrie hosts a “sip n slide” party for her 26th birthday.
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Miss Carmen, her son Christopher “Gordo,” and grandson Algenis stay warm inside their Parkside Commons apartment as a March blizzard blasts Syracuse.
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Ellissia, a romantic set on finding love, and her girlfriend Kash , an entrepreneur focused on work, fell in love in spite of their differences. At the time in 2014, living in Maisonet’s mother’s home, they set aside a little money from each paycheck with the goal of getting their own apartment.
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Friends of Arthur “Nunu” Hunter III gather to celebrate his life. Nunu pulled over to service his car on Interstate 90 near Verona, NY. A freight-liner truck drifted off the road and hit the back of his car killing him. He was 26-years-old and leaves behind six children.
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The VIP section on Latin Night at Studio 54.
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Top Guns and Black Dynamites social club members Nice Nasty, Redbone, and Shorty Doowop at the Black Dynamites hangout “The Bottom.”
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The Black Dynamites Motorcycle Club hosts their first annual community day for the kids, offering bouncy houses, burgers and jerk chicken off the grill, photos on motorcycles, and rides.
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The Black Dynamites gather with fellow motorcycle clubs in Rochester's 19th Ward in celebration of "Jedi," a fallen member, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in 2018.
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People travel from across the states for the Soul Train in Utica, NY. The four-hour train ride includes food, a bar, and DJ car.
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“Jon Jon’s” friends and family gather for a burnout in his memory where he was killed a year earlier, in 2015, at Parkside Commons. His murder is still unsolved.
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Oriana at “the hooka spot,” an underground hangout, is one of Syracuse’s best-kept secrets, hosting the some of the best parties in town before shutting down after becoming too popular.
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Heavenlie Angel took her life ten days before her fifteenth birthday on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016. She did not leave a note, but its speculated that she was bullied at school and had an unstable home life.
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Destiny holds a photo of her cousin Heavenlie. The family gathers in remembrance for a suicide awareness event in her honor at the park down the street from the house where she took her life.
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A series of 90-degree days spill into the comfort of night as the high temperatures bake the city of Syracuse. Carla and her son Jaxiel “Che Che” seek relief with an evening swim.
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Oriana enters her apartment at Pioneer Homes—one of the earliest government housing projects in the United States. Located next to Interstate 81, which splits the city with Syracuse University and Upstate Hospital on the hill above.
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India’s god kids sleep over at her house; they will visit their godfather “Green Eyes” the next morning in prison at Cayuga Correctional Facility.
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India, a cancer survivor, releases balloons with her stepdad Lathan for a breast cancer awareness event at the B&B Cocktail Lounge. The B&B, a community stronghold, closed in December 2017 after a 28-year run on Syracuse’s South Side as one of the last remaining bars.
Young lovers gather as summer’s warmth recedes and winter spreads its first blanket of snow. Exquisite baby showers and birthday parties celebrate new life, as vigils and funerals observe its ending. Black bikers, a tight-knit family bound by a love o...