At first glance from Admiral Wilson Blvd and S. 17th Street in Camden, N.J., you may notice a shipping container in an abandoned lot tagged in graffiti that warns: “Disstress.” But if you take a closer look at the bright blue letters, you will see that it actually reads, “Don’t Disstress.”
Graffiti art may sometimes be regarded as an act of vandalism, but this particular tag spoke volumes to me. Ironic as it may seem, I don’t think there is any coincidence that this was drawn in one of the most impoverished cities in the U.S.
I think that sometimes people forget that graffiti art is used to convey a political or social statement. The people who do this are typically anonymous. The messages can be controversial, but some are very significant. Whoever did this graffiti art had a profound message to send. That message could have been personal, or it could have been meant for this community.
The city of Camden is still in a state of dysfunction. Last year, for example, Camden’s homicide rate became the highest in its recorded history. Nearly half of the people are living below the poverty line. But there are also constant signs of hope for Camden to recover. Hope might be the only thing its residents have to hold onto.
“Don’t Disstress” is an example of a message of hope for Camden and it can also be an expression of hope for many people living in poverty around the nation.