Arlene Mejorado

East of Center: Locals In Focus

Wheatpaste Installation, Eastside of San Antonio, TX. 2016.

East Of Center: Locals In Focus is a photo series that highlights African-American residents living on the Eastside of San Antonio, some of the oldest black neighborhoods in Texas. It centers the stories and experiences of residents in various Eastside communities through portrait photography. With the support of Luminaria, this project extends into the streets incorporating wheatpasted images and text on public walls in San Antonio. Through the display of these images and quotes on the streets of the Eastside, the landscape is altered by the hyper-visibility of their profiles and testimonies. This happens in a manner that disrupts the predetermined urban planning of the region by the city and developers.

In 2016, Eastside became the home of a re-branding effort called Eastpoint. The city movement reintroduced old and historic neighborhoods to new residents, developers, and investors. Gentrification is a strong force throughout all major cities across the United States and San Antonio’s Eastside has experienced its rapid changes. This series brings forth black thought and struggle amidst change and new direction for a historically black neighborhood.

"The eastside to me is history for San antonio. It use to be a very prominent area at one time. There were a lot of black-owned businesses, from Snow’s Cleaners to Music & TV World, to Melvin’s Record Shop. Maggie’s Grocery Store catered to the black and latino community here on the eastside." - Michael Calloway

"I grew up in denver heights. I came back to the eastside to cut hair. Being that I grew up here, i felt like it should have just as good of barbers as the north side, or the southside, or the westside. For the people outside looking in, the eastside of san antonio is a goldmine. Its a diamond in the ruff. There are good people that are genuine on the inside and they don’t judge you by the color of your skin. You can walk past a person and they will say “hello”, they will say “have a good day” and that is what needs to be restored on the eastside."  - Michael Calloway

"My business has been very slow. I grew up here on the Eastside. I see new business is coming in on the Eastside and that is why I am sticking to my business to see if it gets better. I am hoping that it will be a benefit to my business that on commerce they are upgrading buildings. It gives me a little bit of hope." - Lilian Stevenson

"I grew up on the eastside of san antonio. There has been a lot happening lately and swiftly. A change is going to come whether those are ready for it or not and regardless of where you stay but when it is an older neighborhood like the eastside, and some of the real older neighborhoods inside the eastside, then that is where the change is hard. All the people left. This was a predominantly black neighborhood. When people got to move out, the change was going to come, and it's here. Change is here. I don't think it is going to go backwards, I don't think it is going to stop. This is the last frontier." - Charles Middleton

"I have lived on the eastside since I was 8 years old. A lot of people have moved to the outskirts, farther out. My taxes went up, they jumped up a lot. When we moved in here all the white people were moving farther out and black people came this way but now they want to move us out of here for renovation. They have tried to buy this house. We are not selling. They said “We are trying to buy everything. We are trying to fix things up and move people in, not push people out but it doesn’t feel that way to me.” - Kathrine Davis

"I grew up in this house. Everybody that lives here has been here for generations. A lot of these houses are going to be remodeled, you are already seeing a different group of people moving in. The property value is going sky high. I am not selling my house. It started like 10 years ago (the plan) when they built the AT&T Center, that was what they were going to do. People that have been here for generations can’t afford to pay the property taxes because they are sky high. I have never in my life seen white people walking their dog until now. They just had a block party here. I have never seen that here." - George 

"I have been living on the eastside for 40 years plus and would have it no other way. I have noticed a lot of changes as far as the neighborhood watch and more police officers now. Roads are getting fixed, they are doing an awesome job. I would like to see more schools built. We got a variety of black and hispanic culture. I like the mlk march. I wish they would bring it back down here by his statue. I love to see our black people get together as one and celebrate. It’s beautiful." - Andrea Reed

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