Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Spray Painted Voice in an Abandoned Place

Posted by Chandra Ward, ATLANTA, GA -- Lack of affordable housing has always been a serious issue for people with very low incomes in the United States. But since the Housing Bust of 2008 the situation has become dire for many households. This is particularly the case on the upper Southwest side of Atlanta, a predominately low income African American area hack-sawed by mortgage fraud, foreclosure, and widespread abandonment. The collateral damage includes both single family homeowners and real estate companies with large apartment complexes. And this couldn't be more pronounced than in a neighborhood off of Joseph E. Boone Ave.  But someone is letting their voice be heard.

This person, whose tag name is Tai, has spray painted messages on abandoned apartment buildings and houses in the area. Tai's message is that no one seems to care.  Indeed, given that this has been allowed to occur, it does seem like no one cares. The city doesn't seem to care, developers don't seem to care -- in fact, perhaps no one but Tai really cares. Ironically, unlike Tai's references to "the projects", the apartments buildings are not former public housing. Rather, they are victims of private market absentee slum lords, all of whom probably walked away with a hefty profit.

It's unclear if Tai is a resident, but it does seems likely.  For one thing, Tai's canvases are similar to those of many youth who feel like mainstream America has marginalized them and silenced their voices. Tai is breaking this silence to bring attention to this forgotten place.  People still reside on the other side of the street, where there is a fully-occupied low-income apartment complex.   These residents, including men and women of all ages, as well as children, must traverse up and down the street passing the abandonment complex, one that is used as an unofficial garbage dump.  I found a stuffed animal in the deserted parking lot.  Perhaps it was left by a child that once lived here. Where is this child now? This question is left unanswered just like the pleas from Tai.


Chandra Ward is the Assistant Editor of Social Shutter and a Doctoral student in the Sociology Department of Georgia State University. She is also a Team Leader on the GSU Urban Health Initiative.  She can be reached at

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