If you looked like this, would you choose Sepulveda Blvd? No? Why not? How long do you suppose this would be tolerated on Ventura? If she were a white girl from Palmdale who met her pimp on Facebook would the City be quite so….accepting? If your name is Cindy Montanez or Nury Martinez what would you say to her? What do you intend to do about the motel owners, the absentee landlords who take their cut of the trade?
‘Can I get in?’
‘Don’t you want a date?’
‘I’m not looking for sex’
‘I really have to get some money. Can you help me with that?’
‘Not with that.’
‘Don’t you like me?’
‘I like you just fine. But no thanks.’
‘Can I just sit in your car for a little while? I’m tired. We don’t have to do anything. I just kinda need a break.’
This conversation took place in the parking lot of a grocery store. In daylight hours. In a middle class neighborhood. She was the fifth one I saw on my way home, but I didn’t have it in me to photograph her face. In the moment, she was my sister in Christ.
Women ply the trade off of Craigslist or escort services every day with varying degrees of autonomy, but women in the street are…chattel. They are owned. Their owners lurk nearby, without fear of consequence. As long as they stay north of Burbank Blvd, rich, liberal Los Angeles is content to allow African-Americans to live in the year 1861. With mobile phones.
Plying the street trade on a sunny afternoon. Immediately outside this frame is a middle-class neighborhood of nice ranch houses, with tidy yards. Four years ago, these women were not here. Section 8 housing vouchers, SSI, EBT cards…plus vacant apartments = ghetto, in miniature, with all its trappings. The people who own the apartment buildings and cheap motels along Sepulveda extract a nice profit in government remittances, but don’t live in the neighborhood they are despoiling. The police, who are very well remunerated and don’t live in the neighborhood, either, do not push the women off the corners during the daytime hours. The Chief of Police, Charlie Beck, lives in Simi Valley, and has a personal driver whisk him to town each day. For how long, do you think, would a hooker stroll be tolerated on the streets of Simi Valley? How about Brentwood? Sherman Oaks?