Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

What’s Up with the Hanging Sneakers?

I had always assumed that they were gang-related.

True or not, the images of sneakers hanging from telephone wires in the neighborhood conjured images of gang territory. In this report from the BBC’s excellent Close-Up Series, filmmaker Ramon Goni seeks the answer. His interviewees have a variety of explanations for the shoes, ranging from memorializing a favorite pair of Chucks to gang violence to modern art pieces. The Murky Fringe offers a first-person explanation.

You can’t help but wonder if this earnest reporter is revealing his naivete–who’s going to admit the real meaning of the shoes, even if they do understand their true purpose? I imagine the reaction of the locals: What’s this reporter–from a news agency outside the Bronx–up to, asking all these questions?

Or, maybe the sneakers dangling from wires across the city aren’t related to gangs at all. Maybe they’re stretched across the sky by kids who want to simply say: We were here. This is our neighborhood. This is ours.

No matter their original design, the shoe couples–tied together by laces, light as air–are things of beauty.

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Filed under: art, culture, new york, , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses

  1. Guy says:

    Hard to watch this without being reminded of the political engineering “Good Ole Shoe” in Wag the Dog. Would have enjoyed a nod to it by the host, given its heavy-handed but comical satire of our Righteous Invasion of Grenada and Saint Reagan’s flag-waving war-mongering (and of course, Clinton’s signature infidelity).

  2. Ramon Goni says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I indeed was showing my naivete -on purpose- regarding this local ‘tradition’ in neighborhoods like Brooklyn and the Bronx.

    I guess it is my role to observe this kind of phenomena as an outsider describing what they represent for the people who live in the places where I report from.

    Very interesting the link to The Murky Fringe too. I wish I had done my research working in collaboration with people like you. My quest trying to find ‘authoritative’ people to talk about it took me several days and trips to Brooklyn and the Bronx (former gang members and locals working out in Bushwick park in the morning never showed up the day of the interviews)

    Thank you for watching and taking your time to comment on it!
    Ramon

  3. Ramon Goni says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I indeed was showing my naivete -on purpose- regarding this local ‘tradition’ in NY neighborhoods like Brooklyn and the Bronx.

    I guess it is my role to observe this kind of phenomena as an outsider, describing what it represents for the people who live in places where I report from.

    Very interesting the link to The Murky Fringe too. I wish I had done my research working in collaboration with people like you. My quest trying to find ‘authoritative’ voices to talk about it took me several days and trips to Brooklyn and the Bronx (former gang members and locals working out in Bushwick park in the morning never showed up the day of the interviews)

    Thank you for watching and taking your time to write this!
    Ramon

  4. rsiasoco says:

    Hi Ramon,

    I thought that your report was well-done, and hope that you did not take it as a personal criticism. I know that it’s hard work getting to the heart of a story, and your time researching this subject shows.

    In my post, I was more interested in questioning my own thoughts and preconceptions about the phenomenon of hanging shoes. I was wondering aloud about how open folks who committed this act of public defiance would be in talking to any journalist or outsider. What I may not have communicated in my original post was the larger question of mistrust in urban neighborhoods, like where I live.

    Keep on tackling the tough issues–I commend you and your work in seeking the truth.

    Ricco

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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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