Are We There Yet?

•November 3, 2019 • Leave a Comment

by: Justina Avent

Hollowed click clacks descending this dreaded underground network. 

Immersed in hot air, sweat beads aggregate on the temples of your foreheads. The painful grips of groceries claim their stake in your palms.

Squeezing through the three-clawed mechanical gate.

Insufficient fare. Aggravated sigh.

The low rumble of the 3 escalates into a swelling symphony of motorized hums, swooshes of wind, and abrupt screeches.

Filing in the cart like packed sardines.

Missed connection. Aggravated sigh.

Morose expressions. Pure exhaustion engulfs droopy eyes. The monotonous lull of the train serves as the soundtrack of your commute.

A day’s worth of bodily aches pulsate down from your neck to your heels. Exasperated exhales.

Are we there yet?

With every stop, the cart of sardines gradually dissipates. Brown and black bodies remain aboard for the long haul.

An open seat. A sigh of relief.

Beggars of all shapes and sizes shuffle through. And so do a stream of unfulfilled requests. 

The train comes to a screeching halt. This is the last stop. This is us.


Squeezing through the three-clawed mechanical gate.

Hollowed click clacks ascending this dreaded underground network. 

Immersed in cold air, sweat beads evaporate from the temples of your foreheads. The painful grips of groceries maintain their stake in your palms.

Pounding the pavements to make your connection.

Insufficient fare. Aggravated sigh.

The low rumble of the B83 escalates into a swelling symphony of motorized hums, swooshes of wind, and abrupt screeches.

Filing in the bus like packed sardines.

Morose expressions. Pure exhaustion engulfs droopy eyes. The monotonous lull of the bus serves as the soundtrack of your commute.

A day’s worth of bodily aches pulsate down from your neck to your heels. Exasperated exhales.

Are we there yet?

With every stop, the bus of sardines gradually dissipates. Brown and black bodies aboard for the long haul.

An open seat. A sigh of relief.

Beggars of all shapes and sizes shuffle through. And so do a stream of unfulfilled requests. 

Nighttime has dawned upon us. 

The bus comes to a screeching halt. This is your stop. A sigh of relief.


Squeezing through the mechanical doors.

Hollowed click clacks descending the dreaded above-ground network.

The painful grips of groceries maintain their stake in your palms.

Pounding the pavements to make your final connection.

Are we there yet?

Morose expressions. Pure exhaustion engulfs droopy eyes. 

A day’s worth of bodily aches pulsate down from your neck to your heels. Exasperated exhales.

Passing by beggars of all shapes and sizes. Leaving behind a stream of unfulfilled requests.

Your front porch in sight. A sigh of relief.

Keys jingling. Doors opening. This is your stop.

Finally, home.

A Few Words About Rockaway, Queens

•November 3, 2019 • Leave a Comment

A Few Words About Rockaway, Queens  (Follow the link above for audio.)

Rockaway sits faraway in New York’s memory and thought
Caught between city, sea and residential plots
The ocean creeps up to its’ door and ditches its effort from time to time
Reminding the residents that it was here first.
Sometimes pleasantly, or with hot revenge
Talk to the locals. Be surprised.  They claim the island.
When others treat it’s subsistence an afterthought
Even when the world follows suit
They’ve learned to pride their existence here
Even though at the end of the day, as Jimi would say
Will the wind ever remember? No
This will be the last.
The wind, whether it’s name was Mary or Sandy, holds truth for Rockaway’s past.
As if it was written in stone.
That these homes all alone would have zero say.
Let’s hope that the sands of Rockaway, the nameless winds, the multiplying kin will eventually touch the shores of Manhattan island, creep up to it’s door and remind all who deny that Rockaway is here without fearScreen Shot 2019-11-03 at 8.52.30 PM

After School

•November 3, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The basketball went over the rusty fence and fell into the next clearing. He ran into the long-neglected plantation and leaned over his hands to pick up the ball; even though his hands were so close to the barren soil, he ignored the sparse withered seedlings in the soil hit by basketball. He happily carried the ball out of the empty and depressed abandoned plantation. In his back, the afterglow of the sunset sprinkled on the slightly decaying wooden name tag -“Spinach – Harlem Grown Educational Urban Garden“.

It was 3:30 in the afternoon on a casual Wednesday. 

Two-hour basketball practicing exhausted his energy: He was starving. Waving goodbye to his friends, he walked down the side street opposite the basketball court and went past the Key Food supermarket. 

“Eww!”

A pungent stench from the garbage at the door made him frown. He quickly reached the crossing of 138th Street and Lenox Avenue. Without hesitation, he made a left turn. On the left side of the street, familiar high-saturation warm tones filled his eyes – the bright yellow of McDonald’s, the orange-red of Popeyes, the ripe brown of Deli, and the dazzling red of the shabby Chinese restaurant. The cool wind in late autumn encountered with the heat from the back kitchens, and he could not help feeling surrounded by a warm current as well as the salty, greasy smell permeating the air.

Decisions were not that hard to make. After a brief struggle between Popeyes and McDonald’s, he chose to go to the latter one. He ordered his all-time favorite chicken sandwich combo, which only cost him $4.98 after tax, and picked a nice corner sit beside the window. Munching on his sandwich, he was overwhelmed by the satisfaction brought by the high-calorie fried chicken. 

“To me again, I’m 34 with two children…..”

He turned his head. At the next table, an African-American lady, whose children were climbing onto the table, trying to dip the French fries in their hands in some ketchup, was talking to an Asian girl. He heard the woman go on,

“It’s all about money. I’m born and raised here, and at this point I’m being pushed out and I don’t know where the hell I’m gonna go.”

Being pushed out by what? Being pushed out from where? He was a little confused. Nevertheless it did not bother him for long. He took a slurp of his coke and finished the rest of his sandwich in a few bites. Some crumbs fell on his dark blue pants.

By Mingkai

E.N.D

•November 3, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Unjust, unassailability, uninhibitedness, and

Unanswered boundaries implemented within a cage system that is constantly transforming.

Neighborhoods expansion on gentrification, wallows deeply into the governmental and legal system.

Watchers at every end, praying on those that were defined and labeled lesser beings before the city itself was even built.

For many confined in this community there is an instilled perception of the process of the…

E.N.D=

Eviction … the grotesque process of eradicating victims that suffer from being exemplified as an issue in need of extermination.

Negotiation … the cluster of legal ramifications navigated by namelessness parties that seek to abduct and negligently pursue constant partisanship and neutrality of property.

Demolishment … of homes that debuts the destruction of residences and has largely demoralized hope and aspirations for destined opportunities for youth and families.

Why Paper Matters?

•November 3, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The man stays at the same corner every day with his small trolley.

Slaps bugs away from his peanuts and stares at suspicious people passing by.

Scoops up, packs and then hands the change.

Actions are repetitive and so does his life.

He pays no tax, but the money he makes barely sustains his life.

Vigilant, afraid, apathetic.

He has no paper, no acquaintance, no family.

 

The woman is pregnant. 

She went to Spain when conceived and then came to the states,

Selling jewelry with an old veteran because it’s formidable for her to start it alone on the street.

She memorizes the price of each item but barely speaks any English.

Floating, tired, insecure.

The coming baby becomes her only hope on this foreign land,

To get paper, to root.

 

Ambivalent when the law states that you do not belong to this country, 

But you’ve spent half of your life struggling here.

Bleak when the temperature drops abruptly. 

I saw Sunset Park became a ghost town in the hot summer,

And the coldness still remains. 

 

Parade, Festival, Marathon, Sunset.

Gentrification, Harassment, Raids, Deportation.

Paper decides the life one lives in Sunset Park.

Why Paper Matters.

When knocking on the door becomes horrifying,

Every siren means a warning and not a single day is ensured,

Paper equals the right to stay,

And a stable life without worrying about being forced to leave the country.

Why Paper Matters?

For those who build this community and make it thrive?

Who never commit a single crime and come here for hopes?

Who is innocent and who to blame?

image41.jpg

 

–Karen

Myself as Outsider, Insider, and Knowledge

•November 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Myself as Outsider

Climbing up the stairs from Utica Ave Station and into broad daylight,

Feeling of tranquility rushes within me.

Brownstones, treeline streets, greenery, friezes,

my eyes gaze at the intricate detailing that surrounds me.

L’Antagoniste, Saraghina Peaches Hot House, Hart’s,

my mouth waters from the ambrosial whiffs filling the air.

Birds chirping, children laughing, swift breezes, music everywhere,

my ears take in the positive and pleasant sounds.

Outsider

Myself as Insider,

Climbing down the stairs from Myrtle Ave Station and into broad daylight,

Feeling of melancholy rushes within me.

Crowdedness, waste, depravation, lines of shopping carts

my eyes catch the negative affects that surrounds me.

Food shelters, garbage, oil, spoiled

my mouth represses the pungent odors.

Moans, grunts, frustration, cries

my ears take in the negative and uncomfortable sounds.

Insider

Myself as Knowledge,

The facade of gentrification opens,

Poverty lies in the exterior

Hunger, inequity, anxiety encompass the environment

Bodegas, fast food, inflation exhibit the culture

But community lies in the interior,

Solidarity, encouragement, hope encompass the environment

Music, food shelters, murals exhibit the culture.

Therein lies the true heart of Bed-Stuy.

Knowledge

Vital Humanity

•November 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

tough

connected

humorous

nostalgic

dependent

active

intertwined

reconciled

strong

familiar

comingupfourflightsofstairsispainfulonpeopleslegs_noelevatorstohelppeople

o                                                                                                                         o

u                     a      human       b                                     3 train                          r

t                      c                       o                             Harlem-148 Street                d

o                     h                       d                             New Lots Avenue                  e

f                      e     resilient      y                                                                        r

keepsmefromgoingwhereIneedtogo_screwedbecauseIcannotpushupthechairbymyself


Screechy loud train leading to noisy sound-polluted Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard leading to quiet and tranquil intersections of 145 Street with Clayton Powell and Malcolm X Boulevard and everything in between.

IMG_0004

It is quiet. The rain had just ended.

Vanessa sits in front of the Fine Fair Supermarket in her wheelchair. Windy day, lots of traffic, broken umbrellas, rushing people, an aftermath of storm-like rain. She is calm, composed, aware of her surroundings. We are in the louder part of the area so we have to talk louder. I am constantly reminded of this fact but her? Her speed of narration, tone of voice, facial expressions, the time she leaves out to think about my question or dive deep into nostalgia — she seems to be completely unaffected.

Can you compare a posture of a living human and hustle and bustle of the living environment? Animate and Inanimate? Subconsciously, she juxtaposes herself against the background, like a stone-carved statue.

She is not apologetic and would never be. She says she is comfortable on the street because she had been homeless for five years before that. She says she is okay with her old rusty wheelchair as opposed to a newer electronic one because it makes her stay active and get some exercise. Access-A-Ride passes by as we speak, something she does not have access to because she is not registered with the NYC government. She takes her time to think about what she would want the government to change the most: fix the elevators. Walking is hard for her but doable so she laughs at others’ confusion and even anger when they see her pushing a wheelchair in front of her.

IMG_0021

145 Street and Vanessa in the background.

She seems to be very connected to other pedestrians. She loves New Yorkers. They always help her when she needs it the most. They jump down when she conquers curb cuts. They stop their cars to help her cross the road. When she was homeless and woke up after Thanksgiving, she could not see the street because she was surrounded by piles of food. New Yorkers are much better than people in New Jersey where she is from.

 

She lights up when she talks about her youth when she worked as a dancer at Times Square. She says she stays positive, stays human despite the struggles of living disabled and in poverty because of her boyfriend. When she was going through her worst, she did not commit suicide out of spite because of her mother who always called her weak.

IMG_0034.jpeg

Oh, she is anything but weak. When I ask her for a picture, she smiles and raises her chin high up, something I find symbolic of her attitude and relationship to the neighborhood she lives in.

Check an interview with Vanessa and other similar-minded residents of Harlem here.

— Sasha