To add more love to Kensington, we can change the landscape

We can try harder, work smarter, never give up, and care about ourselves first

Katerina Lydon poses for a portrait in the gallery at Taller Puertorriqueño on February 12, 2019. Taller is displaying “The Complicit Eye,” a solo exhibit of paintings by local artist Kukuli Velarde, through March 16. (Photo by Jillian Bauer-Reese)

Twenty-six years ago, my now husband and I moved into a big, unheated loft at Front and Norris Streets. The place was about 3,000 square feet and so large that we put a swing in the middle of our living space, between the kitchen and my painting studio. Today, I work at Taller Puertorriqueño at 5th and Huntingdon Streets, about a mile from where we lived.

Back then, we made the most of our space. I worked on 10-by-20-foot paintings while my husband played guitar and wrote songs. At night, we slept in the bathroom where there was a small heater, and we lived, laughed, and froze together for a few wonderful years. The freedom was incredible.

After living there for a summer, fall, and winter season, we found out we were going to have a baby. We worried that we wouldn’t know how to be parents and that our lives would change too much, but we decided to give unconditional love a try.

On May 13, 1993, we became parents, and we never regretted our decision to take on life together, our little boy in tow. Our 27th anniversary will be on February 28, and we now have four amazing sons.

Today, we look back fondly on our days living in the big loft in Kensington as some of the last wonderful moments of our youth, as we moved on to the trials, tribulations, and the treasures of adulthood.

When I reflect on my past and present in Kensington, first as a resident, and now as an employee at Taller and member of the art community here, I see love as actions and feelings — some tangible and intangible.

Whenever I can, I shower love on my work friends, family, and my dog Bo — my newest baby. Bo is one year old now and weighs 95 lbs, but when he came to live with us during last year’s Clear the Shelters pet adoption event, he could almost fit in my hand. Bo snuggles with me and kisses me in the morning and when I come home. He makes me feel loved when the world or even my family sometimes doesn’t.

Around the neighborhood, I watch people spread love by caring for each other, respecting rules, taking care of their homes, sharing their food, and giving random hugs.

People are spreading love everywhere in Kensington, but under the Emerald Street Bridge and around Front and Allegheny are parts of Kensington that need more love. The people there are so desperate, addicted, and struck with misfortune. It would be wonderful if people wanted to give them love and if they could accept that love.

To add more love to Kensington, we can change the landscape. We can try harder, work smarter, never give up, and care about ourselves first, so that we can be strong and be able to show love for the greatest amount of people.

I love Kensington so much and am so grateful that I can call it my community that I wrote a valentine to Kensington, or “Kenzo” as sometimes people call it, below:

A Valentine to Kensington

Oh Kenzo,
Your wind is harsher, not so many trees.
Your streets are littered, not so many trashcans.
Your murals are bright, not so many museums.
Your life is hard, not so many options.
Your paths are worn, many have walked.
Your stories are riveting, many have lived.
Your truth is harsh, many have died.
Your poetry is deep, many have loved.
Oh, Kenzo.
I love you so.


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Editor: Claire Wolters / Story Designer: Jillian Bauer-Reese / Translator: Kristine Aponte

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