sunflowers at the psychiatric ward

Dorothea Dix park is a former psychiatric hospital (treatments included electroshock and body-spirit punitive practices with corroded decaying buildings that offered hospitality to hundreds of patients at a time– commonly this was the only place that patients could call home…

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Dorothea Dix park is a former psychiatric hospital (treatments included electroshock and body-spirit punitive practices with corroded decaying buildings that offered hospitality to hundreds of patients at a time– commonly this was the only place that patients could call home and the only concept of healthcare that residence had ever known of or had access to– many considered themselves grateful and humble to the treatments they received to tame the horrors which they perceived within them). The hospital was formerly a plantation worked by enslaved people stolen from Africa on land that was originally stewarded by Occaneechi-Shakori indigenous people. There are both unmarked and marked graves throughout the acreage. The hospital was conceived by a prison-reformist affluent white Christian woman who believed a controlled educational environment would be more effective in changing people’s disobedient behavior than would “traditional” deprivation and torture…

The buildings still stand for now (though condemned for asbestos and generally bad vibes), alongside a park with a sunflower garden a playground and a restaurant for the wealthy where the urban residents can picnic, buy a beer, or host yoga classes or weddings. There’s a museum with the city planners carefully curated selection of historical memories. The horizon side view from the park is the cityscape of Raleigh which boasts a culture of white southern wealth, patriarchal family values, a proudly monumented legacy of Confederacy, nationalism, a growing tech industry, and a well funded high tech police force that fraternizes its claim to fame with a celebrated fire academy and volunteer citizens patrol (think lots of guns and everything just short of white robes), as well as weekend art markets, cocktail bars, and superfood smoothies. Neighboring the park is the state prison, women’s prison, and a predominantly black neighborhood looking in the face of gentrification. City planning intends to bridge the park with an impending sports stadium and tourist sites that would specifically crowd around the historically black and less wealthy college and working class neighborhoods on the south side of town which would arbitrarily drive up rents and attract a culture of businesses which have no wisdom– connection– or interest with the struggles of people who have been creating and tending to the culture land and way of life for the majority of the cities residents.

I sat in on a public meeting (2019?) gatekept by a $50 reservation fee and located atop the newest and tallest building in the city with a passcode and security check required elevator and big windows overlooking the meat market of land. I wore my best chains asked no questions and took no sip as i sat in the mix scribbling with my pen listening to very unfashionable middle aged white people cheers their champagne stroke eachothers mindless egos and celebrate their unified visions of what could be a “cash-grab” “central park of the south.” Please don’t ask me why i went here as though this vulture-vibe is actually what i wanted to do with my sunny weekend day– clearly i was not okay… sick in the head if you will…

The design of the park was marketed to the local public as a response to mental health crisis. Meanwhile, the homeless shelters across the street have been continually overcapacitied, the womens shelter has since been evicted, and people in poverty are mirthlessly surveilled and deprived of resources until death or incarceration… This is blissfully ignored while attention and decisions are in the hands of the affluently budgeted city planners, college-educated “culture and lifestyle representing the City of Oaks”, and the champagne toasting who are apt to reward themselves with large patches of lifeless grass, sidewalks, boutiques, and breweries.

Fast forward well into the development of this hotbed of incapacitating white supremacy after an eruption of summer’s unrest with state violence and mass grief …

I recorded this video to bid farewell to the hell i called “home” for a time. I adorned in dead goth doll attire– red fishnets little black dress– and carried a dozen red roses to visit the ghosts who taught me to listen to the madness with humor rather than judgement. While living in the area, i became obsessed with this horror site/sight. It’s a very telltale example of southern history and gothicism– the epitome of American truth– the very roots of injustice. When i arrived on this cold evening, i got locked out of my car… So had to sit for sundown while waiting for a roommate to drive all the way from Durham with my spare key. After recording this video, i sat with a cigarette on a picnic bench observing a clearly affluent white family host a kids birthday party. A father in dress clothes was running around with a group of toddlers and kids. They played a game that looked like tag. They called it Jail. He was the cop.

We laughed. I left.

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