There is a saying in Nashville’s James Cayce Homes: “Get some gone.”
Three simple words that describe the urge, the mission, to move out and start anew, far away from the city’s largest public housing project.
Some do leave. But it’s not easy, especially with the city’s rising cost of rent. “I mean, half of us, we can’t afford to move up out of here. Get some gone,” says Big Man, a Cayce resident since 1999.
But for Tonya Shannon, who grew up in Cayce, no barrier was too great. At the age of 10 she witnessed a fatal shooting. Suddenly, the veneer of her cheerful childhood shattered. “My life just kind of changed after that. I wasn’t a very happy kid after seeing that,” she says. At that moment, Tonya realized her life was different than other children. She lived in public housing, a neighborhood burdened with its own set of struggles.
She became bound and determined to leave Cayce and all of its trappings. “It was just like a cycle,” Shannon says of the mental rut so many suffer while living in public housing. “And I just knew that I didn’t want that.”
So at 18 years old, she got some gone. But Tonya soon realized that getting out and staying gone are two different things, and the latter was more complicated. After all, this was where she grew up, this was home.
And with her mother still at Cayce without any intention of moving, Tonya lives with complicated thoughts about its future and the people she left behind.