Rose waits for her father to pick her up from a babysitter following an after school event in a West Nashville neighborhood, September 2018. An ordinary day by all appearances. But for Rose it is always the potential for destruction as she heads home to her dangerous neighborhood.
Rose is the brightest of the entire school — an extraordinary mind, her McKissack School principal says. She is a beautiful ten-year-old with sophisticated social skills.
And yet she is daily on the eve of destruction.
Whether from gunfire on the street behind her Preston Taylor neighborhood apartment, or at school, or from some family member she doesn’t really know well and is forced to stay with – or a hundred other monsters she writes about in her diary.
If Rose makes it out unharmed it will be a miracle – because in these hard places, “making it out” is the exception.
Here Rose walks with neighborhood friends and Ryan Bult, a local social ministry administrator, in the alley behind her family’s subsidized apartment in the Preston Taylor neighborhood on the corner of Delaware Ave and 40th Ave N, March 2018. This alley is in the heart of what Nashville Metro police call “the jungle” and is a drive-through for illicit drugs, as efficient as a fast food restaurant.
This is also Rose’s playground.
Rose lives with her father, Jimmy, and her older sister by two years, Victoria. Jimmy has fought his own destructive tendencies and is just now emerging on the other side of a life of crime and prison. Though he has made great strides since his release from prison a year prior–the courts have so much faith in Jimmy they gave him full custody of both his daughters, and the halfway house where he first lived after prison has now hired him as their chaplain and counselor–the fact is the odds are against anyone in their situation.
Her father’s success is a matter of discipline, he says. And he tries to pass his discipline on to his daughters: Homework right after school. In the house before dark. No friends in the house without his permission. No friends without his permission. Typical of any caring parent he sometimes over-does things and frustrates his daughters with rules and his strict overseeing of their lives.
But his strict ways are welcome when the danger of the situation is revealed.
Someone tried to pry open the girls’ first-floor bedroom window in the middle of the night recently (their bedroom faces an unlit corridor between apartment buildings). The person quietly cut through the screen and wedged something under the window trying to get in. The girls woke to the sound and got their father who investigated and discovered the cut screen and marks under the window frame. It was terrifying. “People are dangerous,” he told his daughters. “You must be careful.”
Rose said they are looking for a new place to live.