Para Rafael y la vida que sigue

junio 2022

Se han cambiado los nombres y quitado las fotos para la protección. Si quieres ver un album de fotos lindos, mandame un correo – emmayorra ARROBA gmail.com o dejame saber por otro medio.

En ingles aquí

DEDICADO AL GUATEMALTECO MÁS ALTO QUE HE CONOCIDO

No había caído nieve en la ciudad de Nueva York por más de un año hasta que Rafael llegó aquí. El día después de que voló a La Guardia desde el albergue-cárcel para niños en Topeka, Kansas, la materia blanca llenó los cielos durante más de 24 horas, dejando una alfombra brillante de 10 pulgadas solidas en la tierra. Un día antes y le hubieran cancelado el vuelo, clavándolo en las fauces del lobo, pero el universo nos sonrió. Las creaciones de nieve aparecieron en todo el parque y la colina de trineos zumbaba como una colmena. Normalmente, la nieve se derretiría en uno o dos días, dejando charcos de aguanieve gigantes y sucios a su paso, pero esta nieve no solo persistió, sino que siguió creciendo. La nieve caía semanalmente, esplendorosa, convirtiendo los bancos de nieve helada en glaciares en miniatura.

La noche que Rafael vino a nuestra casa, tenía una sonrisa cálida mientras llevábamos un pastel de cumpleaños a la habitación. Su rostro estaba iluminado por el brillo de las velas rosadas. Cumplió 18 años en nuestra sala de estar y todos sonreímos por el milagro.

Monja Blanca por Francois J Berger Photography link

Durante las siguientes tres semanas se instaló en nuestra casa, cantando con música a todo volumen que tocaba con entusiasmo en el parlante de su habitación. “Ponte los auriculares” le dijimos, y lo hizo, pero aun así cantó lo suficientemente alto como para llenar la casa.

Nos enteramos de Rafael por una organización llamada Every Last One[1] que estaba ayudando a encontrar patrocinadores para inmigrantes menores de edad no acompañados. Nuestra asistente social, una ingeniosa mujer guatemalteca llamada Sylvia, se puso en contacto con nosotros mientras estábamos en lo más profundo del invierno de Vermont con mis padres. Era un tiempo dedías cortos, noches espesas, silenciosas, y negras, y abundante nieve. “Cumple 18 años el 31 de eneroy si no lo sacamos antes, ICE aparecerá en su cumpleaños y lo llevará a detención de adultos”.

“Clase regalo de cumpleaños”, comentó mi mamá mientras me observaba convertir archivos PDF en un solo documento coherente mientras la familia abarrotaba el estudio para ver el Cuento de Navidad de los Muppets. La rana Kermit lamentó al pequeño Tiny Timmientras leí las instrucciones del manual del patrocinador emitido por el gobierno para llevarle a Rafael a la corte de inmigración.

Hablamos por primera vez con la madre de Rafael, María, a través de la interpretación de su hija Isabel de su lengua maya, Q’eqchi’, al español el 29 de diciembre de 2020, una de las últimas noches de un año que ninguno de nosotros olvidará jamás. “ Pensamos que era más fácil, se fue con los coyotes, dijeron que era muy fácil. Eran mentiras, dijeron que en 15 días estás allí.” Habían sacado el único crédito disponible para ellos creyendo las promesas de los coyotes que dentro de 15 días él pasaría y comenzaría a trabajar. Languideció durante meses en el albergue-cárcel mientras el interés crecía y tejía eslabones cada vez más apretados alrededor de los pies, muñecas y cuellos de la familia.

Yo acababa de pasar por una crisis de salud que atravesó mi vida como un huracán y por lo cual me habían despedido de mi trabajo. Trabajar en el papeleo de Rafael y construir una relación con Isabel y María me dio algo positivo en que concentrarme cuando más lo necesitaba. Me lancé de todo corazón a la tarea.

Ese enero, Isabel envió una carta de designación oficial autorizando a Carlos y a mí a ser patrocinadores de Rafael que María había fIsabeldo con la huella de su pulgar por no tener las letras. Isabelescribió una carta a mano con letra redonda femenina en tinta azul en papel de cuaderno pidiéndonos que fuéramos los tutores temporales de Rafael y que lo cuidáramos en Nueva York. La carta finalizó con una foto de las cédulas de Isabel y María.

Miré profundamente la fotografía en blanco y negro de la cédula de María, tratando de imaginar su vida, las presiones que ha enfrentado, las decisiones que ha tenido que tomar, las cosas que le ha dado alegría. Ella es sólo tres años mayor que yo. Su esposo murió cuando sus 6hijos eran muy pequeños, dejándolos en una pobreza terrible. Uno de sus bebés murió a los seis meses. Ninguno de los niños pudo estudiar más allá del sexto gradepor falta de fondos. Rafael dejó la escuela en el tercer grado. María hablaba un idioma hermoso, en peligro de extinción, repleto de “r”. Caminó por sus días envuelta en la belleza generativa de su cultura.

El día que Rafael salió de la casa tres semanas después de llegar, las ráfagas de nieve volvieron, espesas, silenciosas y dulces.

RAHOK [2]– UN POEMA

Rafael hizo lindos ruidos melodiosos hacia arriba, “¿oooh siiii?” cuando le dijiste algo nuevo

Era de buen carácter, tranquilo

Chistoso y dulce

Jugamos en la nieve: todavía nos hace reír un video en cámara lenta que captura su cuerpo larguirucho deslizando el trineo púrpura sobre la colinita de nieve

Tomó cariño con Pinto, acariciando sus orejas de terciopelo

A Rafael le gusta comer frijol, huevo, pescado, dulces. Es evangelico.

Le gusta el café y el panpor la mañana

pollo con papas

chuchitos

hamburguesas y tacos

nunca he bailado

helado napolitano

jugar, dibujar, pintar

Pasó mucho tiempo en su habitación hablando un idioma de maravillas que no entendíamos

Su compañero chapín lo llevó a la verdadera Nueva York

Llegaron a casa sonrientes y grasientos

Nos enseñaron una foto de los dos

Comiendo papas fritas de McDonalds en medio de Times Square

Convivió con jóvenes de todo el mundo en el albergue-cárcel

Intercambiaba palabras en Q’eqchi’ por hindi, mandarín

Jugó al baloncesto con sudaderas emitidas por el gobierno

Necesitaba una bicicleta con un estante para pizza

Su abuela le dijo que no se fuera

Necesitaba aprender a decir “I want to deliver tacos”

La aldea es de 300 personas escondidas en las montañas verdes sobre un río que se seca y se inunda

Necesitaba que alguien le mostrara cómo cortar rebanadas de pavo extra finas

Antes sacaba sacos de maíz de 180 libras de la milpa, como una hormiga que carga más de su propio peso

Caminando dos horas en cada sentido, trayendo vida de la tierra con sus largos dedos

tenia ganas de estudiar

¿cuáles son tus metas?

ser profesor

el día fatídico que salió a correr y no volvió

él no está en los hospitales de Maimónides ni en Luterano

No hay personas sin identidad en las salas de emergencia

Más de un año después

Un abogado llama con terribles noticias

Se murió trabajando en una planta siderúrgica en Atlanta

Hubiera sido fácil de prevenir,

solo que nadie se tomó la molestia

Una agencia de personal explotadora

No tenía el seguro legalmente requerido

Llevar el cuerpo a Guatemala fue una tortura

Le hicieron un altar en Alta Verapaz con dos rosas blancas

Finalmente fue enterrado

En su tierra

Él se murió, pero su deuda no

aun estan desesperados

No pueden escapar de esa terrible presión

Los eslabones cada vez más apretados

Murió el miércoles santo

13 de abril de 2022

Conmemorando el día en que Judas traicionó a Jesús

Tres noches después en Vermont

le abrimos la puerta al profeta Elías

le servimos vino y pan ázimo

Leemos de las Hagadás que imprimimos

Elías aparece a menudo en los márgenes de la sociedad,

en la pobreza,

oprimido por los poderes sistémicos.

Elías nos juzga por cómo es tratado si la humanidad está lista para el paraíso.

Te miro a la cara Rafael

Y sé que hemos fallado de nuevo

Espero que te vayas al paraíso sin nosotros

Intentaremos alcanzarte pronto

Amanecer en el Canal de Itzapa Guatemala by Francois Joseph Berger link

Por favor apoyar a María y Isabel aquí.


[1]Ahora llamado Each Step Home

[2]amor (palabra q’eqchi’)

Tagged

For Rafael and the Life that Follows

June 2022

Names have been changed and photos removed for protection. If you’d like to see a lovely photo album of Carlos, myself and Rafael, email me – emmayorra AT gmail.com or let me know some other way.

En español aquí

A PIECE OF PROSE FOR THE TALLEST GUATEMALAN I’VE EVER MET

Snow had not fallen in New York City for over a year until Rafael came to town. The day after he flew in to La Guardia from the children’s prison-shelter in Topeka, Kansas, white matter filled the skies for over 24 hours, leaving behind a sparkling carpet a solid 10 inches thick.  A day earlier and they would have canceled his flight, pinning him in the jaws of the wolf, but the universe smiled on us. Snow creations popped up throughout the park and the sledding hill was hopping like a beehive.  Normally, the snow would melt within a day or two, leaving giant, dirty slush puddles in its wake, but this snow not only lingered, it continued to grow.  Snow fell weekly, splendorous, growing the icy snowbanks into miniature glaciers. 

The night he came into our home he wore a lopsided smile as we carried a birthday cake into the room, his face lit up by the glow of the pink candles. He turned 18 in our living room, and we all grinned for the miracle of it. 

Monja Blanca by Francois J Berger Photography link

Over the next three weeks, he settled into our home, singing along to loud music he played with gusto on the speaker in his room.  “Put on your headphones”, and he did, but still sang loud enough to fill the house.

We’d learned about Rafael from an organization called Every Last One[1] that was helping find sponsors for unaccompanied minors. Our caseworker, a resourceful Guatemalan woman named Sylvia, contacted us while we were in the deep of Vermont winter with my parents.  It was a time of short days, thick, silent, black nights, and abundant snow.  “He turns 18 on January 31stand if we don’t get him out before then, ICE will show up on his birthday and bring him to adult detention.”

“Quite the happy birthday present” my mom commented as she watched me wrestle PDFs into a single coherent document while the family crammed into the den to watch the Muppet’s Christmas Carol.  Kermit the Frog mourned little Tiny Tim while I read the government-issued sponsor manual’s instructions on bringing him to immigration court.

We first talked to Rafael’s mother María through his sister Isabel’s interpretation from their Mayan language, Q’eqchi’ to Spanish on December 29, 2020, one of the last nights of a year none of us will ever forget. “Pensamos que era más fácil, se fue con los coyotes, dijeron que era muy fácil. Eran mentiras, dijeron que en 15 días estás allí.”  They’d taken out the only credit available to them believing the coyotes promises that within 15 days he’d get through and start working.  He languished for months in the prison-shelter as the interest ballooned and wove ever-tightening links around their feet, wrists, and necks.

I’d just gone through a health crisis that tore through my life like a hurricane and for which I had been fired. Working on Rafael’s paperwork and building a relationship with Isabel and María gave me something positive to focus on when I needed it most.  I threw myself wholeheartedly into the endeavor.

That January, Isabel sent an official designation letter authorizing Carlos and me to be Rafael’s sponsor that María, lacking letters, had signed with her thumbprint. Isabel wrote a letter by hand with a feminine round script in blue ink on notebook paper asking us to be Rafael’s temporary guardians, and care for him in New York. The letter ended with a photo of Isabel and María’s national ID cards.

I gazed deeply at the black and white photograph on María’s ID, trying to imagine her life, the pressures she’s faced, the decisions she’s had to make, the things that have brought her joy. She is only three years older than me.  Her husband died when their 6 kids were quite young, leaving them in terrible poverty.  One of her babies died at six months.  None of the kids were able to study beyond 6th grade for lack of funds. Rafael left school in 3rd grade.  She spoke a beautiful, endangered language, replete with “r’s”.  She walked through her days wrapped in the generative beauty of her culture.

The day he slipped out of the house three weeks after he arrived the flurries came again, thick, silent, and sweet.

RAHOK[2] – A POEM

He made cute upward lilting noises, “oooh siii?” when you told him something new

He was good-natured, easy-going

goofy

We went sledding- a slowed-down video of his lanky frame riding the purple vessel over the snowy bump still makes us laugh

He warmed to Pinto, caressing her velveteen ears

A Rafael le gusta comer frijol, huevo, pescado, dulces. Es evangélico.

He likes coffee and pan in the morning

pollo con papas

chuchitos

hamburgers and tacos

nunca he bailado

Neapolitan ice cream

jugar, dibujar, pintar

He spent a lot of time in his room speaking a marvelous language none of us understood[3]

His fellow chapin[4] took him to the true New York

They came home grinning and greasy

Sporting a photo of the two of them

Eating McDonald’s French fries in the middle of Times Square

He lived with youth from all over the world in the shelter-prison

Traded words in Q’eqchi’ for Hindi, Mandarin

Played basketball in government-issued sweats

He needed a bike with a pizza rack

Su abuela told him not to go

He needed to learn to say “I want to deliver tacos”

The aldea is 300 people tucked into the green mountains above a river that dries up and floods[5]

He needed someone to show him how to cut turkey slices extra thin

He used to carry 180lb bags of corn out from the milpa, like an ant bearing more than its own weight

Walking two hours each way – bringing life from the earth with his long fingers

Tenía ganas de estudiar

what are your goals?

ser profesor[6]

the fateful day he went out for a run and never came back

he’s not at Maimonides or Lutheran[7]. No unknowns.

Over a year later

A lawyer calls with terrible news

he died working in a steel plant in Atlanta

Easily preventable,

just that nobody bothered

A sketchy staffing agency

No workers comp

Getting the body back to Guatemala was torturous

They made an altar to him in Alta Verapaz with two white roses

He was finally buried

In his earth

He died but his debt did not

They are still desperate

Cannot escape that terrible pressure

The ever-tightening links

He died on miércoles santo

April 13, 2022

Commemorating the day that Judas betrayed Jesus

Three nights later in Vermont

we threw open the door for the prophet Elijah

served him wine and matzah

We read from the printout Haggadahs

Elijah often appears at the margins of society,

in poverty,

at the losing end of systemic power.

Elijah judges from how he is treated whether humanity is ready for paradise.

I look at your face Rafael

And know we have failed again

I hope you go on to paradise without us

We’ll try to catch up soon

Amanecer en el Canal de Itzapa Guatemala by Francois Joseph Berger link

Please support María and Isabel here.


[1] Now called Each Step Home

[2] love (Q’eqchi’ word)

[3] He likes to eat beans, egg, fish, sweets. He’s evangelical.

He likes coffee and bread in the morning

Chicken with potatoes…

I’ve never danced….

Play, draw, paint

[4] Guatemalan

[5] village

[6] He wanted to study

He wanted to be a teacher

[7] hospitals

Tagged

To Thầy

She chided herself for boiling too much water as she picked up the electric teakettle, measuring its weight in hands made expert by the endless barrage of tea that accompanied her days.  you can tell a lot (and very little) by someone’s herbal tea selection, she mused. 

Her own collection included, along with the classic chamomile, mint and lemon ginger, such rarities as a surprisingly satisfying wild dandelion root and bags of a reishi mushroom concoction.  The collection of tins, boxes and bags bulged against the limits of its assigned cupboard and had taken over the awkward cabinet above the fridge as a “reserve tea area”. She enjoys the daily ritual of cleaning her five loose tea infusers and filling the black teapot to the brim with the unsurpassed green tea she buys at a Chinese medicine shop on 8th ave. 

She remembers the lines she learned at the monastery, and the Vietnamese monk who just passed, as he would put it, into a different manifestation

This cup of tea in my two hands

Mindfulness Is held uprightly

My mind and body dwell

In the very here and now

what we do with hurt

Today, 9/11, is a big deal day – in the US, Chile, around the world…

It is the anniversary of an instance of tremendous harm and pain which has sent ever-increasing shock waves of harm and pain rippling out in its wake

It is a reminder of how easy it is for all of us to use our status as “victim” to justify harming others

It is a reminder that we all need to do so much work, regardless of where we are on the political spectrum to learn how to break these cycles.

It is a reminder to me that my neighbors who i disagree with politically have so much good and beauty and heroism inside of them, so much concern for others. I believe that they suffer from ignorance (which is not solely their fault, it has been intentionally built by those who benefit from it). I believe the powerful have manipulated this ignorance to their own ends.

My intention for this mars retrograde is to learn more about transformative justice and to try to bring it more into my mind, my life, and my communities.

For me this intense period kicked off yesterday with a strong desire to publicly call out and shame someone who hurt me, which would have caused a lot of harm.  I am happy that I managed to resist this urge and channel it more productively.  I think we will be facing a lot of these kinds of tests in the coming days.

I think our desires to demonize those who don’t see the world through the same lens that we do is going to be especially strong in this period. I think we will feel justified in wanting to harm those who have been harming us. I’m imagining some of my worst nightmare scenarios of violence around the presidential election – I know for example that if Trump supporters continue to gun down non-Trump supporters, I will strongly feel a desire to hurt those who have caused harm. 

Drawing the line between punishment and accountability is going to be incredibly important.

I want to learn more about this line and push myself to resist the temptation to cause more harm.

It Burns

I am in Vermont, bundled against the 40-degree weather, on the first day of June as my father kindles a fire in the woodstove in the center of this old farmhouse where I was born.  Boxes greasy from last week’s pizza catch quickly, and the black stovepipes tick as they warm while the flames dance orange behind the glass.  

Against the backdrop of unceasing green out my window, my mind is flames. The country is flames.

It all has reached a boiling point. The knees on the necks, the bullets riddling a body while it lies in her bed, the tasers against black skin, the 10-year-old girl screaming as milk is poured over her face to wash out the pepper spray.  Tamika tells the truth in Minneapolis, “I don’t give a damn if they burn down Target, because Target should be in the streets with us, calling for the justice that our people deserve… We learned violence from you. If you want us to do better, then damn it, you do better.”  Tamika reminds me that we’re all involved; we pay the salary of those who press life from flesh, when all other budget lines are slashed, we uphold these funds as sanctified and untouchable, we turn cheek after cheek until we’re dizzy from looking away.  

As the swallows swoop through the back yard, red bellies flashing, I learn that 800 people have been arrested in New York City. Carlos returned to Brooklyn last night, and while out buying a six-pack, witnessed a Suburban packed with soldiers rolling through our immigrant neighborhood, a machine gun peeking out from the back.  Who is bringing machine guns into Brooklyn at a time like this?

From 10,000 feet, I see our country tracing a trajectory towards decline.  I see our species doing the same.  As people who are alive in this particular moment, I know that our work is to hold each other, to take care of each other, to do what we can, to imagine beyond our wildest dream, and to fight like hell.

So, what to do? Especially for those of us who are white and privileged? I don’t have answers, but I do have some thoughts.

1) Talk about it. Push yourself to talk about it with folks you with whom you wouldn’t normally talk about it. Send an email calling in that aunt – you know the one.  Invite your workplace to hold a discussion on it.  Let go of perfection, know that you’ll do the best you can and learn as you go.  

2) Resource it, and encourage those in your life with resources to do the same. Here’s some orgs I’m supporting.

3) Get involved. This doesn’t have to mean going to a protest if that’s not something you feel comfortable doing. If you’re white, check out Showing Up for Racial Justice and their piece 5 Ways White People Can Take Action in Response to White and State-Sanctioned Violence.  If you’re Jewish, check out Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.  No matter who you are, check out Black Lives Matter chapters. Sign their petition to defund the police (see #4 if this makes you uncomfortable).  Even if you don’t have the capacity to start attending meetings, sign up for their mailing list. Take one step closer.

4) Learn about abolition. A lot of black leaders are in favor of the abolition of the institutions of police and incarceration, and in favor of replacing them with institutions built on restorative justice. This idea is embedded in current calls to defund the police.  It’s a pretty complex and in my opinion, beautiful, set of ideas. Dig in and start to wrap your head around this if its new to you, or go further and learn more about this if it’s not.

5) Take care of yourself. This work is long-term, and you can’t do it if you’re burned out. Give yourself space when you need it. Be easy on yourself.  Go out into the woods and let the green pour down your gullet at least every once in a while. 

Be well,

Love

Emma

The Corona Diaries: May Sun Haikus

168,845 cases, 18,706 deaths (71% confirmed)

Dodging neighbors on

Covid sidewalks like frogger

Single file please

Crossing guards still stand

sentinel before empty

schools. No shepherding.

Meat plants are thought too

essential to close despite

mass covid outbreaks

May Day: we demand

better; (white) counter protests

tote AR-15s

Un-sick friend tested

likely immune! She rumba’ed

past purple lilacs

We bike to Coney

Island, toes in sand, held a

snake on the boardwalk

Learn: How was your day?

Sent ku t’kije jale?

Under cherry trees

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The Corona Diaries – Essential

4/27/20 – 153,204 cases, 16,673 deaths (69% confirmed)

A sign at a deli that reads "Physical Distancing" and has two people separated by an alligator. At the bottom it reads "Keep 1 Alligator" apart.
The scavenger hunt came down to who had the biggest pile of dirty laundry
I emptied our hamper onto the floor and
tried to stack all that is dirty tall
But victory went to Scott’s tower of soiled socks and Pittsburgh tees
in his 5th floor walkup in Chinatown
Even our hand-woven rug of Machiavelli
Couldn’t spare us from 3rd place.
It was a great way to turn 35

Ediberto’s restaurant called
With a fairy godmother offer to transform him into an essential
the chef promised daily temperature checks
but nobody would be wearing masks
as they seared the skirt steak and doused shrimp in adobo sauce
 
nah, he said.
that’s ok, bruja
I’d rather be safe than essential for now
 
At any other point in history
Enslaved hands would have been washing my clothes
And putting food on my table
Nowadays they paint it as free choice and perfect efficiency
But where’s the freedom in looming bills and empty fridges?
 
what does it mean for me to send a black woman
into Costco
at times like these?
Wending amongst the masked
Rolling the dice as she pulls cashews and olive oil from the shelves?
 
Meanwhile people drink bleach
Spitting enraged demands for golf and hair cuts
Meanwhile the harm trods down the well worn paths
And immigrants die in their beds
 
Meanwhile Ediberto teaches me the words to stick on spring
Bird (peach)
earth (chotch)
flower (b’eck)
branch (t’ze)
“I love you as a son” comes out “rinse your mouth”
En-jua-ja-taye san(g) n'cual(e)
But I think he gets it anyways

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Los diarios corona: el epicentro del epicentro

4/16/20 – 117,565 casos, 30,903 hospitalizados, 11,477 muertes (65% confirmados)

Notas – uso la letra “x” para escribir de una forma neutra de género, por ejemplo, escribo “algunxs” cuando estoy refiriendo a un grupo de personas en vez de algunos/ algunas. También el castellano es mi segunda idioma – perdón por los errores.

La ciudad de Nueva York tuvo su primer caso confirmado de Covid-19 el lunes 2 de marzo, 2020.  Ese mismo día fue el “día del cabello loco” en la secundaria de Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) en Borough Park, Brooklyn, donde nuestro hijo de crianza, Ediberto, cursa el grado 11 y mi hermana, Sarah, es profesora de inglés.  Aquel día Ediberto cubrió su cabello con su gorra blanca de siempre y fue a la escuela con sus zapatillas deportivas rojas como normalmente lo hace, decidiendo no participar en la actividad escolar.  Diez días después, el 12 de marzo, en el “día de calcetín loco” en que Ediberto tampoco participó, el contagio del virus había alcanzado los 95 casos, y la primera victima mortal. Nuestro alcalde declaró el estado de emergencia, y fue cuando yo empecé a aislarme en casa. Eso fue tres días antes del cierre de las escuelas públicas, y fue cuando la ciudad de San Francisco declaró su cierre de emergencia.

Transcurrieron ocho días y Nueva York declaró su propio cierre de emergencia el domingo 22 de marzo, un día antes del “día de pijama” de FDR (con instrucciones explícitas prohibiendo las blusas cortas y la ropa transparente).  Aunque nadie estaba en la escuela, si lograron celebrar el día de pijama.  Fue el primer día de la escuela remota para los 1.1 millones de estudiantes públicos, y una gran porción de los que sí lograron conectarse asistieron a sus clases en su ropa de dormir. 

Ese primer día, me senté con Ediberto para ayudarle a adaptarse a la nueva realidad “virtual” de sus clases sin ir a la escuela.  Navegamos los códigos erróneos, los correos electrónicos duplicados, los profesores confundidos, y eventualmente logramos conectarnos con todas las clases.  No todxs fueron tan afortunadxs, en algunos de sus clases solo se conectaron apenas el 20% de los estudiantes esa primera semana, mayormente estudiantes inmigrantes.  La ciudad empezó a proveer comida y, supuestamente, aparatos, pero todo fue muy lento.

Esa misma semana nombramos los cuartos de nuestro apartamento en honor al movimiento de liberación afroamericano de Estados Unidos. Nuestra habitación donde hago mis video llamadas es la Sala de Conferencias Martin Luther King Jr. Carlos trabaja en sus contratos en el Espacio de Coworking Malcolm X, y Ediberto se conecta a sus clases en el Salón de Ella Jo Baker, también conocido como nuestro comedor. Los tres nos turnamos preparando las comidas en la Cocina del Programa de Desayuno de las Panteras Negras (gracias a Sarah por ese último).

Esa fue la misma semana que los hospitales empezaron a estar abrumados por los pacientes afectados. El 3/25 llegábamos a casi 17,000 casos y 480 muertos.  Las conferencias de padre y profesor de esa semana fueron canceladas.

En abril llegamos a ser el epicentro del epicentro de la pandemia global más grave en un siglo.  Hoy estamos a más de 117,000 casos, 30,000 hospitalizados, y probablemente 11,000 muertes.  El 33.5% de los muertos son Latinx, y el 27.5% son afroamericanxs – las comunidades de color están sufriendo de manera desproporcionada en esta crisis. Los hospitales son abrumados con pacientes. Los trabajadores esenciales desde las enfermeras y los doctores hasta los cajeros de los supermercados, los conductores del tren, y los trabajadores de los almacenes de Amazon, están arriesgando sus vidas sin la protección adecuada para mantenernos a flote a todxs.  Miles están desempleadxs y sin ingresos, sin seguro médico, y muchxs no pueden recibir ningún apoyo del gobierno.

Nuestros restaurantes favoritos han cerrado, aunque técnicamente podrían estar abiertos para entrega a domicilio. La taquería más famosa de nuestro barrio, Tacos el Bronco, cerró de la noche a la mañana; solo sabemos que su teléfono timbra sin contestar. La tienda vietnamita donde compramos sándwiches Banh-mi está cerrada, junto con el 98% de las empresas en la 8va avenida, el corazón del barrio chino de Brooklyn. Salimos en búsqueda de té verde, pero solo encontramos un muro de verjas retractiles, cada uno con un letrero pegado frente a sus puertas, como un poema triste a la pandemia. Me dolió el alma ver tantas caras vacías.

Pero no todo está mal. Estamos cocinando un montón, comiendo juntxs, viajando menos, como cuando viví en Nicaragua. Como no está trabajando en el restaurante, Ediberto ya tiene tiempo libre en sus fines de semana por primera vez; me está enseñando a hablar su segunda idioma, Mam, y a patear a un balón de futbol tan alto que parece volar. Celebramos pascua judía a distancia; el espíritu de Elijah tuvo muchas sillas donde sentarse.  Hacemos filas en la acera, llevamos máscaras, llevamos comida a vecinxs encerradxs. A las 7pm salgo a aplaudir y gritar con mis vecinos en honor a los trabajadores esenciales. Se siente rico gritar hasta los dientes con boca abierta hacía el cielo. Todo con el aullido constante de las ambulancias al fondo.

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The Corona Diaries: Resources & Recommendations

Sunday 3/29/20 – 32,308 confirmed cases, 678 deaths in NYC

IMG_6034

Updated/ actualizado: 4/4/20

English below

ESPAÑOL

Desafortunadamente este blog está escrito solo en inglés, pero esta sección tiene algunos recursos recomendados en español.

ENGLISH

Today, as the drumbeat of ambulances driving by grows more frequent and the numbers continue to soar, instead of writing about what’s going on in my life, I’d like to share Covid19-related resources & recommendations that I’ve collected and curated. Despite the worsening situation around us, we are all doing well, and, aside from the social distancing, life feels pretty normal.  We work, we walk in the park, we buy groceries, we keep going. Much love and strength to you all. 

HAVE EXTRA TIME ON YOUR HANDS?

Note – everything here has ways of getting involved without leaving your apartment

Mutual Aid/  Organize/ Do something for others

“Mutual aid, as opposed to charity, does not connotate moral superiority of the giver over the receiver. Mutual aid networks can provide goods and services directly in a decentralized manner. They are dependent on core principles of community, education, and human decency.” – South Brooklyn Community Mutual Aid Group. More about the philosophy of mutual aid here.

  • South Brooklyn – South Brooklyn Community Mutual Aid Group – supporting neighbors. One specific need is volunteering for our local senior center. Also Facebook group for Sunset Park Mutual Aid.
  • NYC & General – Organize your building/ block/ neighbors – see link for detailed instructions with visuals. While the form refers to a few NYC-specific things, the instructions for organizing are universal.
  • NYC – Mutual Aid NYC – there are no less than 253 mutual aid groups around the city listed here that are working to support each other at this moment.  They’re focusing on everything from supporting neighbors with needs, doing surveys, redistributing food and metrocards, making cash grants, and beyond. There are lots of things you can volunteer to do with these groups including delivering groceries + meds, serving as a local digital coordinator, helping gather information, connecting to those who could use someone to talk to, and more. To get involved, fill out their volunteer intake form and/or get in touch with one of the local groups directly.
  • NYC – NYC’s official guide on how to volunteer + donate + help
  • National – Volunteer to call tipped workers who have applied for assistance from the One Fair Wage fund
  • NationalSunrise Movement (climate change) is looking for volunteers to text folks

Fun things

CAN YOU DONATE?

If you have enough funds, this is a great time to create a giving plan. Currently, ours is to donate 3% of our net income each month.  Also please consider pledging to donate part or all of your $1200 government payment to undocumented folks, who pay taxes, sustain our economy, yet are excluded from receiving benefits.

NEED RESOURCES?

HAVE KIDS AT HOME?

WANT TO TAKE ACTION?

  • NationalPeople’s Bailout to make sure the government relief actually goes to the people! Learn about it, contact your reps, attend a digital rally Sunday 3/29 @ 3:30pm
    • Also, donate to support grassroots organizing so we can win a People’s Bailout

While these are overwhelming times, it’s important to remember that we are able to make change directly to support each other while also pressuring our leaders to do the right thing. Think about areas of your life where you do have power – can you influence policies at work, in your building, at your schools, in your financial institutions, in your communities to center those most vulnerable in these moments?

Much love and strength to all

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The Corona Diaries: Oh right, limits

3/21/20 – 5683 confirmed cases in NYC

The pear trees on 43rd st are blossoming with fat white buds. I can see them out of most of our windows, strung up with popcorn garlands.  They follow on the heels of the purple crocuses already going by, the yellow forsythia by the swingsets, and the daffodils bobbing their yellow and white heads.  Next will be the candy-colored tulips by the rec center and the sweet pink cotton-candy apple blossoms on the hill by the Finnish coops on 41st St.  Then will come the redbuds on the way to the 9th Ave D station, but since I don’t take the train anymore, I’ll have to go out of my way to see them.  I wonder what the city will be like by the time the roses blossom in May. I wonder if Ediberto will be back at work by the time the juneberries come out, and my neighbors and I bring plastic tupperware to fill with fruit to put in our pancakes.  Will the public pool open this year, when the honey locusts are dropping their long seed pods in the summer?

I officially hit my limit today and broke down and cried for the first time since the pandemic began.

The mayor said that we’d be at 1000 cases this week- we’re already over 5000. And those don’t include people like my friend from the dog park, the same one who was laid off, who I’ll call Matt.  I found him by the flagpole walking his dog Cedar early this morning. He kept his distance while telling me that he and his wife had it, that the fever was a bitch and hurt like hell, and that he could imagine how it could kill you if you were older.  He’d tried to get a test but, of course, couldn’t; there aren’t enough to even identify the sick, only those who require hospitalization.  He spoke with a doctor who diagnosed him based on his symptoms and told him to ride it out at home if he could, and not to leave the house, but a dog can’t walk himself, can he?

This was a week of grocery store lines.  On Wednesday, Ediberto and I walked an hour and fifteen minutes to the Park Slope Food Coop to get provisions for our elderly neighbors who I’ll call Daniel and Nora. While it certainly wasn’t the most convenient option, we wanted to encourage them to stay in by going to the store with the products they were familiar with.  A long, spread-out line stretched out along the sidewalk, and Ediberto and I did team-building games (Rubber Chicken, for those of you who know it) to stay warm as we waited an hour and a half to get in.  The coop was limiting the number of people who could shop at once to try to encourage social distancing, but we found that it was basically impossible to maintain a 6-foot radius from others in the narrow aisles.  They were also clearly working hard to try to keep the floor stocked, but many shelves were virtually empty.  We got the last box of Nora’s favorite gluten-free penne, but had zero luck with the rice cakes.

Today, after talking to Matt, I ducked into our local Latinx grocery store on what I imagined to be the quick errand of buying him a cucumber, so he could make salad.  Cucumbers were in abundance, as were beer and cookies, but many sections of the store appeared to be have been ransacked, the few remaining items thoroughly pawed through and discarded. All but the most expensive cuts of beef remained in the meat section, and only the bizarre little-used teas sat on the hot beverage shelf.  The line was long and tight all the way to the back of the store; no attempt at social distancing here. I positioned myself six feet from the shopper in front of me and used my cart to create space behind me wondering for the 1000th time if we should get out of here and ride it all out in Vermont as my immuno-compromised mother begs me to do every time we speak. The radio played a public service annoucement in Spanish, “el heroe del coronavirus eres tu”. 

I cried this morning because I was overwhelmed.  Somehow, magically, I thought sheltering in place would mean I’d have all of this free time out of nowhere, time with which I could join a movement, create mutual aid networks, serve my community, check in with my friends and family, support my clients in crisis, organize my building, be a great writer, an awesome parent, and a kickass wife.  I got caught up in the wave and found myself drowning; 87 unread text messages, an overwhelming email inbox, clients pulling me in different directions, back to back to back calls, a wildly galloping to-do list, and no space for the spontaneous walk in the park just proposed by my sister.  I began to flake out and cancel and choke on the rising sense of panic in my throat.  In the span of one wild week, I’d gone from totally excited to completely burnt out – a new record for me!  So today I’m remembering that I have limits. Hard limits. And that when I push past them, I break, I cry, I even land in the psych ward.

My friend Rachel reminded me recently that nobody can do it all and to remember there will always be more to do.  It is not just my fight; it is not just my work.  I can prioritize myself and balance my time.

So tonight I said fuck it to my plans, and kicked a ball around with Ediberto and Carlos in the park as the sunset turned the clouds gold through the bare March branches on this early day of spring. Having eaten a late lunch, I sent Ediberto to his room early to watch the horror film Chucky with a plate full of cookies for dinner. Fuck it.  Nora’s piano coming up through the floor accompanies the murmur of my keyboard, and the two-year-old next door makes happy noises through the wall. I feel cozy on the couch and calmer than I have all week.

Love and strength to you all

Emma

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