by Jose Kevo
April 14, 2003
Use Common Sense -- Act accordingly as when visiting any neighborhood or city. Don''''t flash cash or carry it in purses, wallets or pockets easily targeted. Don''''t wear excessive jewelry, and be aware of your surroundings, keeping your guard up to levels which help protect, but don''''t deter from the experience.
Conduct Yourself With Purpose -- Pre-study my Suggested Walking Tour. Know and feel comfortable with your course of action. Indecisiveness as a clueless or lost tourist is not the image you want to portray. If making purchases, carry your packages typically, but firmly in hand.
Blend In -- Dress down for the day if you''''re so inclined. This is also a case where safety in numbers may not apply. Any group of more than three or four people begins to draw attention, commonly referred to as The Great White Herd. On the streets, speak politely if spoken to, but otherwise, go about your business. Consider the element of "shock value" when an individual might do or say something just to get your reaction or distract you. Ignore these tactics and you won''''t be bothered.
Respect -- Think about what your reactions would be if you saw a group of these people walking through where you live, acting all ghetto? This is not a trip to your local mall. Off my recommended path, people can be territorial of turf. Actions or signs of disrespect while you''''re passing could prove confrontational.
Assess Your Comfort Level -- If you feel uncomfortable at any point, keep moving or get out! People can sense levels of fear (anywhere) and often prey upon them. Also use these factors when pulling out cameras/camcorders, which also call attention to yourself. Settle for being here as the experience and memory . . . not easily captured on film.
Differences vs. Similarities -- There''''s always the chance you might see a crime or drug deal, feel intimidated by those who congregate on corners, or pass members of one of the area''''s "wannabe" gangs wearing their colors . . . just as the typical residents of East Harlem encounter them by chance regularly too. The bad minority can sometimes affect, but can never outnumber, the good majority with whom you''''ve more in common than you think. Keep an open mind and I''''ll guarantee you''''ll leave here a changed person.
From journal The ROSE still Grows in Spanish Harlem