The Bronx has long been seen as a symbol of America’s failings. For many people here, ‘making it’ means escaping the crime and poverty of their borough. But some have refused to flee. This episode shines a light on the hold-outs and the dreamers, people who’ve committed their lives to keeping chaos at bay in the Bronx.
In photos of the South Bronx from the 1970s and 80s, you just see empty lots, rubble, and abandoned buildings. It looks uninhabitable, but a whole generation grew up as fires raged around them. In this segment we see the Bronx burning through the eyes of Vivian Vasquez, who was just a kid back then. And we hear the story of one woman’s ingenious plot to defend the buildings on her block as the fires got closer and closer.
Bronx tenant Jacqueline Rodriquez goes on a quest to track down her missing landlord, and unravels a recession-era tale of Bronx abandonment. Then, we meet Jahlove Serrano, 24: model, dancer, activist. Jahlove is determined to reach out to teenagers in the Bronx, to give them the information he wishes he’d had when he contracted HIV at age 15. But first, he has to find a way to cope with his own diagnosis.
Phil Black is one of those hardworking New Yorkers with a double life: Bronx public school teacher by day and Ghanaian hip-hop producer by night. As he pulls Ghanaian teenagers out of street life and into “hip-life”, he finds himself at the forefront of a new international music scene. Then, we listen in on the secret lives of sanitation workers as they wind their way through the Bronx, picking up your garbage. Finally, we find out that the most fun people to hang out with in the Bronx are actually… Franciscan friars?