I’m not sure who took this picture of my mother, though it was probably my father. He was, for a time, interested in photography, especially when he first arrived here in the states. It was taken in the early 1950s in Kalorama Park on Columbia Road in DC.
For a while, up until my older brother Tony was around one year old, they lived close to this park at a building on 18th Street and Kalorama Road. But one day, as my mother explained to Tony years later, one of their neighbors knocked on their door.
“The coloreds are moving in,” he told my Mom. “You have to move.”
My Mom didn’t know what that meant. Apparently this white neighbor of theirs thought Filipinos like us were all right, but didn’t think the same about people he thought of as “colored.”
Of course there were places where we weren’t welcome either, like this place on the Chesapeake Bay called Mayo Beach. In the late 50s or so, when I was a toddler, it was being advertised on TV and radio as being the fun new beach to go to in the DC area. When we got there, though, the guy at the gate took one look at us, shook his head, and said, “No Flips!” Then he made us turn right around.
Tony and I were crying—we just wanted to go to the beach, but they weren’t letting us in. As for my Mom and Dad, all they knew was that the white people made the rules—which was why they left that apartment on 18th and Kalorama.
As my mother explained to Tony, “And the white man said we have to move. So we moved!”
Back then, whether or not you agreed with the white man, you didn’t question him, because that meant trouble and my family didn’t want trouble with anyone. We ended up at another apartment a few blocks away. And, we found another beach to go to on the Chesapeake Bay.
More than half a century later, here in my small town, I keep moving. At a steady pace—not too fast, not too slow—my arms by my sides. And trying, as much as I can, to stay safe, while breaking as many rules as I can along the way