Words Are Out There

The other day, while trying to cross College Avenue, I collided with a train. Well, not literally. But I collided with the punishment of getting stuck while a train passed through town. And not quickly! It was here that I noticed and actually paid attention to all of the graffiti on the sides of the boxcars. The question occurred to me: what is the purpose of it? Thus this blog idea came into being.

Graffiti. We see it everywhere…

Some see it as art. Others as a defacement of public property. But is it literacy?

My findings of the origins of graffiti were pretty interesting. Graffiti on boxcars and trains has a long, strange, American history. Markings first appeared on trains in the 20th century and were made by the railroad workers (departure and arrival times, weights, content info, etc.). These were messages meant for a specific audience. Soon after that, “hobo markings” started to appear on the sides of trains. What the

In New York City in the 1970s, kids in the Bronx associated with the “nascent hip-hop subculture” started to spray paint the sides of subway cars, turning the city’s transit system into a rolling museum of hip-hop art.

Nowadays, it is common to see gang symbols/markings/numbers/images/signatures on the sides of boxcars.

Graffiti on trains started with a specific purpose, but turned into something completely different.

So what is the purpose of graffiti today?

In my opinion, people just want to be heard!

The “publication” of one’s work on walls in the bathroom, on the sides of boxcar trains,  … is one way to anonymously but ensurably have your voice and your valued words heard (yes, I made up the word ensurably).

What those gang references mean, I have hardly a clue. But the intent is to get those words out into the public or to somebody somewhere in the direction that the train is going.

So there ya go, a little tidbit about boxcars and graffiti. Next time you get stuck behind a train take note of this crazy form of literacy and art. See it as an opportunity to reflect on literacy and what it means to others. If you have any ideas of what graffiti on boxcars means, leave a comment!


About Emma Steward

Coloradoan, yogi, future educator, vegetarian, nature lover, fine wine connoisseur of fine wines (Five truths and lie, or is it two...)

One thought on “Words Are Out There

  1. margotgirerd says:

    Hey Emma!
    I read this post and was like, oh Emma is in my group, I’ll comment on her post when I get home… and guess what happened on my way home from the UCA??? YUP, I got stuck behind a train that seemed like it was taking 30 minutes to cross campus! I definitely saw some Graffiti on the train, and I have to say, I’ve never really thought about why people graffiti. I remember at my school in Sweden there was a big deal because someone had “defaced” a wall on our school and there was a big debate as to whether or not we should allow this kind of artwork, or if we should create another space where people could intentionally do their artwork. I remember that someone mentioned that the reason he likes to graffiti is that it’s a silent act of defiance. All I can say is, I love it when there is something to read on the bathroom walls 😀 I’m always curious as to who put it there first… and speaking of that, this is similar to the todaysmeet that we have in class… I wonder if anyone is curious as to who wrote the first comment about Garcia’s tie… ;D

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