MPIPersona Project
ripppah/EyeEm

Matt

Portrait of Matt
Age
34
Race
Black
Hometown
Miami, Florida
Now lives
Miami, Florida
Job Title
Fireman, Bail Bondsman, Student
Income
$70,000
Education
BS (Biology)
Group
Routine Local
Occupation
Protective Service
Industry
Municipal Government
Artifact: Fire Jacket

Artifact: Fire Jacket

My helmet, my jacket, the whole thing, it’s like my shield. I take it with me. It makes me proud. I show this to my family members. I’m the first child out of my family to finish school, and I think I’ve got the best job. I have two other cousins that do it too; they are both firemen, so we’re like a fireman family now.

Frontline realist, who works to live
“I feel like we’re jaded in America; we have blinders on. The last place my wife and I went was London — you don’t feel the racism there. Everyone’s mixed. When we walked down the street, no one was staring at us like we’re crazy.”

Race

I was born in Miami 33 years ago. My parents came from Haiti to Florida in search of a better life. I live in Miami, where everyone is from somewhere else. It’s rare that you see someone who is just plain American here. My wife is Cuban. I tell her all the time, her people get a free pass compared to mine. I’m not going to let my kid act as if he’s only Cuban. I gave him a Haitian name. His name is Gene. “You’re going to be Haitian. I don’t care.” I love being Haitian, it’s the greatest thing.

a parade MaestroBooks/iStock

Work | Race

I ended up working at my station after I applied to about 50 fire departments around the country: North Carolina, Washington DC, everywhere. My friend knew the chief here, so I got in that way. It’s who you know, not what you know. My department’s been around for 100 years and in our force of about 400, there are maybe 10 black guys. But the fire academy is full of black guys. Three of us joined the FD in the same recruiting class. They basically hired us because they were getting in trouble with the city because they weren’t hiring black people. It doesn’t make sense, because 90 percent of people we serve in this city are black. In my department, I guess they aren’t used to seeing successful black people. We knew they were watching us more. They make it seem like they don’t want you, even indirectly. They don’t even give you a chance to get to know them; they just judge you. I’ve been here almost five years, and there’s still certain people that have rank on me that I’ve got to bite my tongue around. I try to stay calm so I don’t look like the angry black man in front of everybody else.

“I like the big things, not little heart attacks and stuff. Sometimes we’ve got to be paramedics too, but I like the car accidents, I like fires, you know? I like shootings, things like that. I guess I’m an adrenaline junkie.”

Work

I love our schedule, I’m not going to lie. One day on, two off: you just can’t beat that! I like the big things, not little heart attacks and stuff. Sometimes we’ve got to be paramedics too, but I like the car accidents, I like fires, you know? I like shootings, things like that. I guess I’m an adrenaline junkie.

Frontline realist, who works to live
“I feel like we’re jaded in America; we have blinders on. The last place my wife and I went was London — you don’t feel the racism there. Everyone’s mixed. When we walked down the street, no one was staring at us like we’re crazy.”
Firefighters stevecoleimages/iStock

Government

Where I work, they have a really big homeless problem. All day long all we do is pick up homeless people and take them to the hospital. Pick them up, take them to the hospital, because they’re drunk or high. They leave and they call again an hour later to pick them up. It’s a stupid cycle. I pay insurance every month out of my paycheck and I know for a fact that these assholes ain’t paying the bills. I know I’m paying for it. If I take my wife to the hospital for a stupid IV bag, they send me a bill for $1,600. I’m like, “What the fuck is this?” This guy goes multiple times in a day, but I’m afraid to go to the doctor because I don’t want a bill.

“I don’t think I play a role in the economy; I just pay my bills. I don’t even think paying bills serves a purpose, to tell you the truth, because I don’t see any difference.”

Economy | Politics

When I think about the economy, all I can think about are the how there are rich people and poor people, and only a tiny number of people in the middle. That’s where I am. I’m lucky; I get paid well. My wife’s in law school and when she’s done, that’ll be a big bump for us. I don’t think I play a role in the economy; I just pay my bills. I don’t even think paying bills serves a purpose, to tell you the truth, because I don’t see any difference. I don’t think voting makes much of a difference, either. I voted for Obama the first time because he’s black — who wouldn’t want a black president?! But I don’t like anybody this time around, so I’m not going to vote. It’ll be a waste of my time. I think local politicians are the worst. They’re corrupt as hell. I think all politicians, mayors, governors, they’re all thieves. I think there’s a bunch of empty promises.

man standing at a podium RonTech2000/iStock

America

The American Dream, I definitely think it’s still alive — but I would say that it’s much more known for immigrants than actual Americans. Look at my parents: my father is a master mechanic for Mercedes-Benz and my mother is a nurse. Both of them make $100,000 a year. They never would have had that opportunity back in Haiti. And now for us, the second generation, we are able to get good jobs. I’m a firefighter. I’m about to finish school to be a Registered Nurse. I just want to be comfortable in the future. I don’t want to be rich. For my kids, I want them to be educated outside of the United States, to get a broader view. Some place like Oxford, where real learning happens, instead of all the people doing drugs and dropping out like they do here.

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