Today I sit in another abandoned sector of the empire. The Capitol View Library not far off of the D.C. landmark, the Shrimp Boat. Shrimp Boat where nobody really eats, but everybody knows it. It's a street monument and icon at the corner of East Capital Street and Benning Road. The Industrial Bank, read black bank, we used to bank with is just a few blocks away and the Metro station.
I've just found out there are only fifty four black bookstores in the country. I used to own one. Worked hard to build it. Never really recovered from the loss. Obviously, I am not the only one.
Black bookstores have been dying for quite sometime. They die along with people. They die along with parts of the city where black folks used to live.
Has anybody ever eaten shrimp out the shrimp boat? Anybody ever take books out the Capitol View Library?
Yes, and yes, but you know the reality. Somethings are less or more than the name. Shrimp Boat bigger than less than shrimp, Capitol View bigger than less than books. The library in the middle of a rough neighborhood is like a black bookstore in the middle of a mall. Black bookstore bigger than less than books.
When you get around the shrimp boat, you don't be like, Ima stop through Capitol View and pick up the latest Walter Mosley joint.
East Capitol Street is beautiful. Washington D.C. is a well designed city. Coming in from Maryland you can hit one of the hills just after you cross over the D.C. line and see the Capitol building of the United States of America. It's far off in the distance but you can see it. That cool poet, too hip, Thomas Sayers Ellis, has a similar picture on the cover of his book, The Maverick Room, that portrays a scene behind the Capitol. There's a young black man who looks like he has born himself into some form of poverty with the Capitol building looming over his head. Capitol View is a rough neighborhood, in the way a rough neighborhood defies words. Make you think words is a lie. Make you think America has always coexisted with black poverty, enslavement, and drama even in the Capital City. Test your faith.
If you step outside the library to your right there are a set of abandoned buildings being renovated. All the windows are boarded and it looks like it used to be some form of public housing. Up high there are the arches in place rising into the sky with their light colored wood. There's a pile of rubble in front of where the doors will go when they finish, busted up concrete they have yet to remove. Through a break in the buildings you can see some houses behind that have already been renovated. You know them by their fresh paint. It's 2010 and beyond in Washington, D.C. and renovation is the new craze; but its only partial here. No cranes hovering in the sky just a little construction. Across the street the older homes sit small and narrow on the street, their old brick speaking of age.
The library is a cozy little building that seems to breath well. There's a small area of stacks in the back to the right with computers up front and children's books set up on the walls so you can see their covers.
Capitol View is like the black bookstore because it's books in the places where the book people imagine book people are not. Empire like to imagine that its high culture makes people high everywhere it is, and that the cultivation of its knowledge breeds civilization. I'm getting old and I don't buy that. Empire fist and steel, blood and gun, much as its knowledge; but I understand the sentiment. I don't know most of the people from the Capitol View neighborhood, but I know the people who used to patronize our bookstores. We were in the black malls-euphamism for Malls without Victoria's Secrets and a decent cup of coffee. Asian and Arab merchants sat in for corporate America. The many black people kept many people from shopping in the Mall. The folks who did shop there, had to shop there. So I remember early on imagining that certain people didn't buy books or read that much. I confess, the class issue blurred a brother's vision. I forgot, I had grown up there reading and writing all my life.
One should never assume the people of the book are designated by class. A friend told me about a man in the Enoch Pratt library who could read a page in a couple of seconds. He was dressed down in the gear of the homeless. Knowledge and its codes are not confined the universities or the institutions that run the country. It's public access that makes the library so great, but one can run into the myth's contradiction any day. Youngns fighting, calling the police, folks angry, tiny spats, BO, all types of stuff that really don't go with books, go with the library. But the Library system and bookstores are also part of what make America great.
A library is a public service as is a black bookstore. The bookstore is for profit, and your tax dollars go to make the library run. That's the difference, or maybe its not. The library should always be there, as long as there are tax dollars, the other is likely to disappear. Only fifty four left, which means the idea is no longer viable. Folks wanna be like every bookstore, but that's not true. It's black bookstores for reasons connected to black people. If you confused ask your friends how much they read and then how much other stuff they got in their house.
A Negro take a selfie under the capitol and you be like this is the real America-contrast and everything. Black bookstore got the same contrast- urban tales and nobel prize winners, talk alots and hoteps, dashiki nationalist and zanites, books on juices and books on how to find out which X you came from. It's a beautiful thing, the diversity of black people and our ideas outside of the discussion of the diversity of America. It's a free black space. If you are in it, you gotta deal with how alike and unalike we are at the same time.
Black bookstore gives education internal and external. If you work there you must confront how you don't really know what we into or are capable of. The ideas and the books, the money exchanging hands, and the products contradict most of the stereotypes.
Doc Ben and Cornell West on the same shelf. Terry McMillan next to Walter Mosley. It's a different world than the one you think. With a 1600,000 customers a year you really just doing research on how black folks entertain and think about themselves.
Real deal is the "black book speaks" somebody else's language-well-most of the time. Black Bookstore know the truth. What white folks say and do is important, but in its own way. Other things important. Some of y'all might think differently, but folks who brought the books are in the mix know the free black space. Street life make the payroll, poets complain about whose got the craft, and when the DL comes out or E. Lynn Harris drop a new one, the cash register go kaching. Ain't no real difference, except how you might talk into a microphone or who says you smart. We all the same, but got different approaches to literature, knowledge, and the sound of the black voice when it ripples up off the page. Folks act like its all the same-it is, but it ain't. Try being a publisher or a bookseller-you'll figure it out.
I need 500K and some folk that really believe in Black Books to start the thing again. I know it's close to impossible. Ain't really a lot a money to make, but maybe we could just be a once was museum. Coates got millions, so does Morrison. The MacAurthur Genuis Award get that over five years, and they ain't even gotta flip it-turn a profit. They black book market published by white publishers, but we ain't got but a few black bookstores.
The East Captiol neighborhood of Capitol View was part of the nation's tragedy this summer when a young man was shot at the church across the street. Somebody told me the body was left on the steps of the Church. Almost Michael Brown style, the body laid out there for a couple of hours before they picked it up. Black Lives Matter, but the national protest ain't coming for my man. Wadn't no white man who shot him and people get shot round here all the time. Shot enough to make it less than political; or, if it is political you gotta work the maze of politics like you on Capitol Hill, like you a politician to get some resolution, some law, some justice. Things ain't that simple. You need white folks to make things that simple. It's the same with black bookstores. The loss of them ain't that simple, cuz its too many black folks involved. We are the customers and operators. Shit gets morphed like dough. We all in the same boat. If there's a problem its really our fault. We don't buy enough books. We don't support them. It's the lowest level of the industry besides being a consumer. Very few publishers, very few editors, eye of the needle through white consciousness to prove you viable in the market.
We want the fault line that cracks where white people shake the earth. We want the place where we know the ground is shaking; but in some places the ground shakes so much, all day everyday, we always stumbling. Shit, in certain places everybody thinks we just walk funny.
I take out the poetry books from Capitol View. I study the poets I have been trying to get at. They got Van Jordan, Gary Lilley, Raina Leon, Willie Perdomo, Randall Horton, Terrance Hayes, Jamal May. It's like candy. I pop in, you can get a D.C. library card even if you don't live in the city. I pick one up, and experience the blessings of a libary.
I'm at Christmas Dinner and a dude who work for MPD tells me the murder rate rose this year. He looks at his watch and ask what day is it. Oh, the twenty-fifth, yeah, this year we at 160 plus (I forget the number), last year we were under a hundred. D.C. murder rate rise, folks go back to the late eighties early nineties, thinking about how tight it is out there. Back then D.C. was the murder capitol of the world, not including the Pentagon and federal agencies. I'm talking about citizens. Back then, most people in any city in the country was getting killed on the streets of D.C.
If you read Free Black Space, you know I say the same shit over and over again; like I'm John Coltrane learning how to better play my favorite things. Each time the music stretches out the sync, the timing, the bellow of the notes becomes a little more round. I'm still improvising the day I was born and the days I grew up, and my sojourn as a black bookstore owner.
Here's why Capitol View is so important. It's a library in the hood, which any black bookstore might as well be. It's a place where knowledge works against the bang and clash of hard ass living in places where it seems knowledge don't matter. That's why we got entertainment abundant at the bookstore, so maybe its easier there, cuz folks who trying to escape can pay to escape. It's black skin with knowledge in the backdrop, take it as serious as you like, or act like it ain't nothing. Average negro read books think they special, but you get in an environment where you posed to be studying or everybody reading and studying, you lose some of the whack as connotations associated with reading. You own it in a special way. HBCU's do a similar thing, but out in the mall where folks buying designer stuff and enjoy the theatre of retail empowers one in a different way. It's like a black bookstore let's you actualize the experience of smart, knowledge seeking blacks. You check it out and begin to know what freedom means.
There only fifty four left. It's not that common an experience for the forty million.
In ironic fashion, if the bookstore is not in the hood, the less the idea means something, because among all of the things that black people need they need books. Capitol View represents the complexity of our quest for knowledge via the written world among the hard realities of physical existence. Academia, and the prestigious job provides some insulation for the traveler. You get a job, short class load, and access to the university library. If you lucky you get grants and fellowships. You get the best of the empire, if you in that three percent or one percent of blacks who get that. But out in these streets (say it like you wanna) the pursuit of knowledge could be considered letting the body lie dormant while the real work is avoided. Folks make good money talking about the black body black mind, and black people, though they working in an office with nobody black. The idea of black people with knowledge is like a currency; but they can't stand to live at home. They miss the fine tea and coffee; the sleek cafes that line the alleyways were the myths of the empire were first spawned. They got to settle for ciphers with folks with dirt under their nails and black folks dreaming from the big book of freedom. They gotta deal with the simplicity of the folks who don't think too much and that's how they survived. Throw your hands up. The black bookstore and blacks in and out of the library doesn't belong to those myths until the black folks come in with Timbuktu and Ancient Egypt. Then there's debate and the rest.
Black body, black mind, and black people like some colonial natural resource folks put in their books cuz few whites been there, had to live with it. How could you not think you are special with so few of us around? But when you in the library or the black bookstore with almost all black people and we are in the conditions you know as our community and everybody is still seeking knowledge our existence in the now defies the myth. Folks gotta reconcile our intelligence with our environment. Black bookstores are at the core of this. It is an institution that functions like Bimbi (I think) in Malcolm's Autobiography. The dude showed him that knowledge mattered by the way he presented himself. Say what you want, might call you mentally ill-such is the designation for the Negro who think about knowledge when he should have a job. That's what Malcolm was getting at-the way slavery makes all knowledge seem subject to master. Even the cultivation of knowledge has a yoke on its back. Slavery seems to render knowledge useless; but black people cultivating knowledge in the absence of whites even on whim and fancy is extremely inspiring.
Work your body, work. If you write and work for humanity and love the written word you also gotta think about all the other things that you could be doing. You get rejected twenty seven times, like Marlon James, the winner of this year's Booker Prize, the question of your perseverance is not as important as the question of who are you married too, how do you make a living, and how you explain that shit to the people who love you and depend on you. The pursuit of literature and books could suggests a certain set of irresponsibility. Such are the places the black mind is exiled to.
Yeah, we need books like we need water. The statement is abstract and inflated, but metaphorically true. Bring in the hotep folks who are knowledge seekers of the highest order and they will tell you that water is metaphor for life, and so is wisdom. The knowledge from books is the wisdom that quenches the thirst in the mind of the seeker.
Folks seeking knowledge at Capitol View, but they also seeking other things. They are seeking a free black space that is beyond knowledge-real practical ish. Maybe food, maybe wi-fi, maybe a warm place,when its cold, maybe some place outside the bang and clash for young's who might get shot. The empire don't give back much of anything, but it believes in the library.
I always tell my clases that Benjamin Frankliin said the library is the poor man's unviersity. I tell them that the library at our state institution, which links them up with the University of Maryland College Park, is their privelege. I tell them that the world is a tough place to live, and the University they come to is not as capitalized as the one that is just a few miles from our campus. I tell them, they can read and study their way into heaven. It is my religion. I put my money down on black books, on books, and did the do for many years. I was reqarded and punished. It is crazy and difficult, but I done done it. I know the path. Some of it is fucked up, but I still believe in knowledge. I still believe in the cognitive, the words, the path of knowledge, the thing of the book-knowledge architecture, the book like an abandoned house that can always be inahbited by the mind of the seeker-now, later, a hundred, a thousand years later.
The article I read today, suggested there are only fifty four black bookstores left in the country. I be on that facebook stuff, trying to check my own posts and saw that the article had been shared over six thousand times, and had like twenty five-thousand likes. Black folks like the idea of black books though we buy more shoes, more houses, more cars, more health care...face it, it is a luxury on the bottom of the consumer totem pole. But that white man who tell you, you can't read, make you think it is important. Some of us look at the death of bookstores as a sign of our doom.
But truth is, most bookstores is dying. Amazon is on the rise. Digital technology is on the rise. Books could be like cassettes. I seen one recently in the bottom of the junk drawer. We about to move-that joint gonna get thrown away.
Content in books will never die, but the delivery system is almost gone.
We (black writers, intellectuals, and knowledge guardians) could create something like hip-hop-innovative and new to solve the problems for the country surrounding knowledge language and the pursuit of the humanities; but we don't really dream like that. We don't really solve problems for America outside of ourselves as the problem. It's not all our fault. White folks can't see much else. Most likely they steal any other idea blacks have. Negate it body, body style, then be like I came up with this on my own-when really it was your slaves.
Anyway you see it, the book industry, the content distribution industry is in need of innovation. Amazon is not as much innovation as economies of scale and the quest of the one percent. It's innovative, but the one percent is in on it; and so are we. Of course it works, but there's something else.
Tomorrow is Ujimaa, the Kwanzaa day for cooperative economics. To be truthful, that's hard day for someone who owned a black business. If you never owned one, its got shine-some shit you gonna do. If you done it and lost some shit, its like a symbol of how impractical our ideas are. Everything is everything-razor dude had a good holiday. Not everybody sad; but for me it is like a day I devoted myself to like Christmas. Day I dedicated myself to a principle that black folks ain't really ready for. Better to go spend my paycheck at the mall, than be in the mall providing black literature. I made money, yeah I made money, but it was money held by principle and responsibility. It wasn't the my money freedom of being out in the economy, every man woman for himself-thinking you was living a capitalist dream. It was different. If folks don't believe it, that's cuz that's not what we do. That's some capitalist American dreaming song for the thing we aspire too. I should be at church calling myself a sinner, praying to God, instead of trying to follow some idealistic path related to black people, books, and knowledge.
The blues. Yeah, black bookseller blues. Only fifty four. Only fifty four more.
If I told you I studied selling black books at Harvard admidst the most intelligent capatlized educational white folks in the country, it would be a much better story. You would know that I knew something. You would know that I was smart enough to feed you some knowledge. Even if I had never sold a book I would be credentialed. I would be a sign of knowledge. I would be that intelligent Negro.
Even if you didn't understant what I was saying, you would imagine that somehow they did. How else did I go to Harvard? How else did I get what I got? How else could I be certified?
The fifty four, oh, the fifty four. The last of the few who come from the many. Who believe in knowledge negotiated between the descendants. All their oddities. The Zanites, the urban fiction "hordes", the African Centered magicians, who defy the empire with knowledge and the knowledge they seek. If black is a category, these book sellers make it a category. They make it something worthy of study. They do the work. Their balance sheet and p and l verify what they do.
They leveraging where the averge Negro is too smart to leverage. They don't know what real negroes know. They silly and we benefit from that silliness.
Near the end of the business, things got real communal as the demise became more immenent. My old business partner called a meeting of elders who had no money vested into the business and they somehow became an oversight board. They weighed arguments and attempted to promote justice and reconciliation "between brothers" like magistrates in a country that doesn't exist. Ain't no black nation, but they went for that shit. Me cuz, I was idealistic; my partner cuz he was raised in a Capitol View of the world. Let's be clear, don't nobody really listen to you or your ideas about justice when you don't have much money unless they on holiday or on trying to take something from you. Ain't no believers in most places, or at the least they are pretty scarce. They might believe you can get certification to get the voucher, but that ain't most folks. Kindness is a virtue and a sign of foolishness in a dog eat dog world. We were trying to use collective knowledge to resolve a conflict; but we did not have the laws-How could we? We were underground. We were ideas and concepts pasted to convictions, like those Pilgrims who came to America, but we did not have the warships in the harbour. We had the black book market as our land to conquer. It was such a small piece, a leftover. We had no enemy except ourselves.
And here is the secret. The Negros on that hard core nationalism/cultural nationalism know not to make white folks into enemy-if they do the message is clear, "you will be crushed", but they good human beings-they don't believe in crushing other black folks. They know enough to be scared of white folks. They know the tactics of the white enemy are doomed from the start. That is why they go so far back in the past, like white folks, to find their Greece, which is the foundation of society. But Greece is a position for conviction. Not really the answer, but the idea of an answer. It's two kids pulling out light sabers and fighting. What are the rules of the illusion. In the real world Greece is fed to the populace via education. The money, the assets, and the rest are based on the empire getting it in. The idea of an answer is more like worship-the transcendental myth of white culture-I agree to see that the emperor has clothes on. In real time, you are liable to be punished if you don't go with the lie. Black folks pursuing knowledge know this. That is why supposedly smart white folks are notorious for telling a Negro, "This is the way it is for black folks." The sheer intimacy of the brutality led folks like John Henri Clarke, Malcolm X, and a jazz musician I recently talked to pursue a knowledge system that didn't allow for such acts. Not simply a fight against them to prove them wrong, but to create a system that did not allow such oversight.
My good old African Centered folks believing in mending and some higher spirituality, which is good, as long as there is a not real. In our bookstore we poured some libations, and they got involved. In retropsect, I know why some folks hate on the African Centered folks. I am in the mix, holding the line, balanced between white folks (creditors-vendors), my property on the line, loosing money everyday in record amounts, thinking about whether I am spirituality right in relationship to some set of ideas that relate to African American people's consciousness via access to books. I think I am apostle high on the gospel, loosing money. It is the terrible story. And though homies try to remember Egypt and centuries of oppression they will tell you in a minute to get over a couple of hundred thousand dollars you lost. Man up shorty. You gotta move on. Move on now!
In some respects those ideals are both the reason I lost and made money. We are not sophisticated to call our struggle, activism, or pursuit of ideals that benefit our community religious. I read that years ago in the work of Molefi Kete Asante, and it is one of the reasons I still admire the man. "Everyone's religion is the deification of their nationalism." Let the smart Negros come in and debate; but I know this-they won't be starting any bookstores. We are down to fifty four of them. The fifty four bookstores. Numbers could be off, but every body knows they're not many more. The fifty four bookstores.
That's fifty four bookstores for forty million black folks. During our time, the percentage was like 85 percent of sales to the chains(strangely in sync with The Five Percent Nation's view of the population according to knowledge), which meant that most people who brought black books brought them from the major chains. One can't be hard on black people in such matters. We are the descendants of the formerly enslaved and lack capital, infrastructure, and business know how to sell most things to ourselves. Strange again, the fact that we could sell books is a sign of how invaluable we are. Invaluable enough to not be dramatically contested by other folks, like sneakers, like cars, like hair products, like make-up.
We did about four million in sales. With six locations, we were technically the biggest, though some other stores who might do more than us or have more square footage. We were the most aggressive in terms of buildouts and mixing with the corporate environment. Our stores were the poor man's Cadillac, which dramatically decreased our chances of ever owning a real one. The black book market is simply not the place to consider making big money off of black folks. There's something pitiful and disgusting about it. We want something as a banner of our intelligence and quest towards knowledge, but the economics don't seem to work. Better to be a hip-hop star who talk about black books, than actually engage in that business.
Folks might act like that's an oversatement, but its the market-the place where hype contributes to riches regardless of what people really know. It is arguable what black people really know-is that books don't matter. Ain't nobody buying enough of them to suggest they really do. It's just that some of the smart black folks, who be reading books, are so powerful, can't nobody really contest their bat sign in the sky. You like books when you got everything else besides books. There's some folks who are different; but for the most parts books are luxury. They like cruise ships and summer vacations near the sea.
Capitol View baby. Would you believe in books if you were there? And if you did, who would you look like? Maybe you'd look like the homeless folks. Shit may not be practical in certain situations.
I say it's better to talk about Grey Goose and my own personal favorite Knob Creek.
To get to Capitol View I drive past the paths I took to Landover Mall when I lived in Capitol Heights just up the street from Capitol View on East Capitol Street. I could walk to the old home place from where I am. I brought the property for 80K in a year when the market was still garbaged. Self-employed, I couldn't qualify for a loan, so I had to retreat to the rough neighborhood to qualify. We put ten percent down and got a mortgage from the owner, refinanced years later. I dumped money into the house, unlike most folks on the street, and kept it up fine. When we moved in 2001, we rented it out. Never really made money renting, but it held the mortgage. It was fifteen years, so in 2003 or 4 we dumped another forty-five K in it, it was part of our retirement plan. But when the business went down, it was attached to an SBA loan we got. The house was foreclosed on why we were still floating. We had taken the risk.
Landover Mall was the version of the Capitol Heights neighborhood in commercial real estate. My favorite characters are a host of folks who are the beauty of the unrefined in the eyes of the empire. First is Mr. Curtis Davis, who each day asked me about a good book and talked about the stock market. He worked for Lorton prison for years and drove an old beat up truck that had been in an accident. He never repaired it. The door cranked every time he opened it, and it looked like it had been smacked by the hand of God. He was missing a couple of teeth, smoked Pall Malls all day and used to walk my four year old son through the mall holding his hand. He had to bend down a bit to make it work, which hurts your back if you know. That little boy just graduated from college a week or two ago and is off to his first corporate job. He is a boy's boy, man's man type of kid. He kicks it with dudes in a way that says he loves the energy and wisdom black men have to offer him. I cannot separate that from Mr. Davis.
But there's also Caster who was on the edge of mental illness. The Post- "Caster and The Scar", gets at the oddity of his beauty. And Amos who rolled around in his electronic wheelchair back then, cuz he was rich, and "Grandma" who could be spotted with a Karibu T-Shirt on over what looked like a house dress, and a hundred plastic bags bunched into one plastic bag held in her hand, almost hobbling through the mall.
And there's the time, I saw a man lift up a white prostitute's skirt in the mall to inspect her, or the time I saw a man walk through the mall with a butcher knife talking about who he was going to kill. Landover Mall was the hood, hoody bookstore, but we sold black books there and people brought from us. It was always our most profitable store. Until the mall closed down, we consistently did about 360K to 400K out of of a 400 square foot location. We were aggressive and sold everything we could fit into the store in terms of books, and our customers loved it.
The location defied economics. It defied the trajectories of the empire's map of intelligence. It was all that and then some.
So Capitol View is like Landover. My wife works here now. Our marriage began on Kwanzaa twenty four years ago. Kujichagulia for those in the know. Self determination. Sekou comes on my music in the car saying "Nia, imani, Kujichagulia>" He's funky and got accent so you know there's some wisdom in the way he say it.
Before we were married, I followed her towards the rougher parts of town. In the early days, it was 14th and Belmont at a non-profit where I worked late nights and saw dem drug boys post up and hustle crack all night long through a plexiglass door where I worked security. The whoop whoop was always on the street, and the violence of them towards others, and them towards the police, and the police towards them seemed constant. Belmont was right down the street from Clifton Terrace in a D.C. that now seems gone. The closest to that grit is the finely tuned corporate venture Busboys and Poets a couple of blocks down on 14th and V, which reminds us of finely tuned activism.
Capitol View is library but also half social services. The books are important, but people stop in for the free wi-fi I am writing to you off of now. In the morning sometimes when I drop her off, I can see people crouched into the window at the front of the library, like they are peering for a book they really want to check out, but its just the wifi that makes them lean into the brick building. There are lunches, ac when its hot, and then heat when its cold. People flocking to the library to gain access to knowledge, but also the other things the library has, the other things things they need.
We done a couple a readings. Me and my students, me and my folks. Not to long ago, I ran into my man Sub-Z-who used to work for Karibu. He was running a workshop with young people through the non-profit Words, Beats, and Life, started by a former Karibu employee. Sub-Z now rolls with his punk band, Thaybelou, but is also a martial arts practioner in addition to being an MC who has performed with the likes of Steve Coleman and Omar Sosa. Seeing him at Capitol View we chatted up martial arts, black poetry and mic control, and the shape and nature of the struggle, lonely sage path. It was all about knowledge, path, and doing what we began years ago. It was a couple of days after the shooting, so the idea of our children, their minds, the protection of their bodies, was in the mix with the books, the workshops, the martial arts, and all that.
It was Free Black Space from a ghettoized sector of the empire. Strange we should meet there and find our paths the same.
I had forgetten the name of the Church were the young man was killed, and so I walked out the door just a few minutes ago, to see the name. My wife told me he had been killed on the steps. I began walking up the street until I could see the steps. First my eyes caught the statue of the Virgin Mary. It is so white, it strikes the surrondings with the beauty that white has in relationship to light. It is the pure white stone that says something about religion in the eyes of the empire. And above it, I could make out the words St. Luke's Church almost like a billboard without neon. Just steps from Capitol View.