Failing Salcido

by William Skink

Later today, it’s been pointed out on social media, mostly white people will attend Missoula’s Day of the Dead event. I know that triggers and micro aggressions and cultural landmines exist everywhere these days, but damn it, Missoula’s writhing, drum pounding DotD parade procession is one of the last Missoula things of beauty my cynicism hasn’t blotted out yet, so thank you Dan Brooks for writing this piece that anyone wanting to stay angry at this cultural theft probably won’t read.

I love that my kids get to experience this every year. Day of the Dead has helped my wife and I talk to our kids about death, especially after putting our dogs down a few years ago. I love that they can see all these people coming out to honor and remember people who have died.

I finished my second short documentary piece and posted it to Youtube a few days ago. It’s called Failing Salcido, and it’s about the Poverello Center’s attempt to provide a daytime space for chronically homeless people who can’t or won’t abstain from abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

The Center was named after Forrest Clay Salcido, a homeless man beaten to death by two high school kids on the California Street bridge 9 years ago. In the video I explain why I think the center failed, and I try to do so as reasonably as possible (except at the end) because this failure is important to understand for those still fighting to close the gaps in services that persist and persist.

Before getting to the video, there is a sequence with a backstory that needs to be told. At precisely 6:03 I cut to a shot of a brick-enclosed space. This is the backend of The Ox, a dive bar located at the corner of Pine and Higgins. The audio is me reading the conclusion of this UM Kaiman op-ed making the case for why we shouldn’t let people freeze to death on the streets.

At that point, the shot flips and you see a face. The man with the sad eyes, Joey, did freeze to death in Montana, but it was on the streets of Butte. Before freezing to death, Joey was involved in the beatdown death of Johnny Belmarez.

When the picture of Joey flips back to the scene of the crime, I pan left, and you can see the building where City Council meets every Monday and Wednesday. The reason this sequence is important is because the night Johnny Belmarez was killed–April 12th, 2010–on the other side of the street, Missoula was busy celebrating the passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT rights.

How is that for juxtaposition?

Not everyone has someone remembering and celebrating their life once they die. Johnny was beaten to death as Missoula celebrated equality, then Joey froze to death a few years later, after being acquitted and getting his life back.

And Forrest Clay Salcido? Who remembers him? And who remembers the space opened in his name?

Hopefully, with this video, more than just those of us involved will remember what happened, what we tried, and why it failed.

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About William Skink

I'm a poet and political cynic living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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