Children Of The Point

In a dying neighborhood, signs of life abound.

August 29, 1999

News out of the tiny South Baltimore residential outpost in industrial Wagner's Point is often grim. For years, its residents have expressed fear and anger about toxic air, cancer and bureaucratic wrangling. Now, though it's a fate most agreed to, they are watching their neighborhood slowly die as, household by household, they move to safer homes elsewhere.

But even as it fades from view, Wagner's Point is full of life: Kids, seemingly everywhere, laughing, playing, reading, biking, teasing, singing. Doing what kids do, on streets where everyone knows everyone else, where it's OK to make the sidewalk your playground.

"When I started this project," says Algerina Perna, who has been photographing Wagner's Point since spring, "I wasn't sure what to expect. Perhaps desolation or despair, given its history of high cancer rates and explosions at the surrounding chemical companies.

"Instead, I found a community that was very alive and vibrant -- a place that in some respects could be the envy of many places."

Its most obvious problems aside, Wag- ner's Point is no utopia, she adds; despite its isolation, it hasn't escaped the ills of many urban neighborhoods. But she saw an un- deniable Norman Rockwell quality in this close-knit community -- a quality most clearly seen through its children, who, in a dying neighborhood, are proof that life goes on.

For more photographs of the children of Wagner's Point, see The Sun's SunSpot Web site at www.sunspot.net/features/as.

Pub Date: 08/29/99

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