Introduction  »  Olive Pierce » Cambridge High School  (9 Slides)     [Page 1 of 1]  


Cambridge, Massachusetts has only one high school. My children attended it, as did my six grandchildren. For ten years, I taught photography there. With all its imperfections, the school is dear to us because of its astonishing diversity. Children of Harvard professors, young people from the housing projects, kids from every corner of the globe all make their way through the school in relative tranquility and derive from it the best education that they can.

I had been teaching for a couple of years when it occurred to me to record in pictures the character of the school. For five years, I haunted the places where the students hung out. The result was No Easy Roses, published in 1986.

Senior Prom, 1982
Body builders, 1984
Welding class, 1983
Dance class, 1983
Track Meet, 1983
I been in Special Needs all my life, practically. I came a long way. I can probably read now at a sixth grade level. I used to read the book backwards.

In the regular school, there are some that are supportive, and some that don't even care. It's all right as long as the kids don't go around teasing and saying, 'How come you can't read?' You shouldn't put nobody down for what they are.

I'm going to make an education 'cause nowadays you need a high school diploma to even sweep a floor. Life out there is rough. It's no easy roses. But it don't make no difference. You just go out there and try.

Ella Powe
My parents died within one year of each other just before the revolution in Nicaragua. It was a terrible shock. I became partially bald. They took me to a psychologist and as I began to talk to her, my hair grew back. It was a miracle.

After my parents died, I went to live with my aunt and uncle. At that time fighting was beginning in the mountains and the countryside. My cousin Patricia was fighting with the Sandinistas, and we found her dead in the doorway. It was not uncommon to find bodies in the morning.

All these things happened in the past, and if I remember them what good does it do? I have to say, 'Let's go ahead. Let's go forward.'

Laura Madrigal
I really ain't been in trouble in my life. I got six older brothers that have been through court and jail. I ain't saying I'm an angel, but I don't do nothing major. I've had six good examples of what not to do. My mother, I try to give her a break. I don't go out and start fights -- well, sometimes I do -- but I just like getting high and mellowing out with my girlfriend, you know.

Every Cambridge cop knows me. 'That's an Owens. He's trouble.' But I don't want no record. I'd like to come out of school and do construction, heavy machinery, bulldozing -- shit like that.

Fred Owens
It's good to be black 'cause you can be a token and get your foot in the door. But when you really think about it, you don't want to be a charity. To me being black is like -- it's hard to put -- like sometimes you get in the bus and there'll be a white bus driver, and instead of putting in your full fare you put in half.

Sometimes when I go in the classroom, I feel I'm being looked at as a hood. I'm loud and boisterous. I'll come late, a lollipop in my mouth, no homework. Then I don't get a good grade and I'm upset. When I grew up, being smart was not the 'in' thing, and that sort of stuck to me.

Once there was six of us -- all black. It was quarter to four in the morning. We was in this car, and these two white cops saw us and started chasing us. We swung on a side street and lost them, but I was just thinking, why were they chasing us? We weren't speeding or nothing.

Mark Agard
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All photographs are copyright Olive Pierce.