Wednesday, April 9, 2008

'Cruising the Divide' in LEO

About two weeks ago I posted a story about 'Cruising the Divide', a theatrical play based on interviews with Louisvillians by the Apprentice Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville about our decade-long debate over cruising on W. Broadway.

In LEO this week, I wrote about the play and its message. Check me out. I'm also pulling double duty as a photographer for the piece, what do you think?

For more info on "Cruising the Divide: From West Broadway to Churchill Downs" go here.

One of the interesting people I interviewed for the piece was University of Kentucky doctoral student Benjamin Brandford, who is writing his dissertation on cruising entitled "From Celebration to Confrontation to Condemnation: The short life of ‘Derby cruising’." Branford, who studies geography at UK, was gracious enough to let me see a summary of his paper. With his permission I wanted to share an excerpt that peels off the layers:

"It is important to recognize the role of the ‘streets’ in both the symbolic significance of Derby cruising and the strongly oppositional stance taken by cruising opponents. In the U.S., the streets have been used traditionally to assert a group’s ‘right’ to the city and/or lay claim symbolically to a specific place or neighborhood within the city.

For African Americans in the largely segregated and stigmatized West End of Louisville, Derby cruising also offered an opportunity for participants to engage communally and promote cultural creativity...

The location of the festivities in the ‘streets’ also played a significant role in framing the opposition. Over the last several decades, the availability of public space in the U.S. has undergone a dramatic decline as municipalities increasingly direct communal activities to within private spaces...

The increasing usage of surveillance, such as security cameras, in public spaces, such as the streets and public parks, has signaled an increased regulation of what types of activities are considered allowable in public, as is demonstrated through the criminalization of homelessness. Because Derby cruising took place in the streets, critics framed the event as one that was ‘uncontrollable’ and ‘lawless’. These sentiments gained traction because of the public location of the festivities, not only in the streets, but in the streets of the stigmatized and racialized West End of Louisville."

Righteous. Lucid.

Branford's a Louisville-raised, Bluegrass public intellectual in the state's flagship university. Why again are we cutting funds for higher education?

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