On Sunday, November 18, there was a community meeting in Midland Beach, Staten Island, organized by “Occupy Sandy” and other groups working specifically to rebuild that area. I took supplies, clothing and some electronic equipment, and I was anxious to attend the meeting. So while there, I dropped off the clothing donated by my friends Debbie and Lisa from Maryland and helped sort and organize what was there.
Over the last week I noticed a change in the face of the “community” efforts going on around various of the makeshift relief centers that sprang up the day after the hurricane hit the south shore of the island. Hundreds of people poured out that Wednesday and created corners filled with donations from all over. Everyone helped, everyone knew what to do; three weeks later as the NGO’s and government organizations descended upon all the hubs of help, there became people “in control.” To volunteer on any given day, now registration is necessary. Then you have to go through orientation, and be given an “assignment.”
FEMA, Red Cross, and even the Church of Scientology are all milling around Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach and Great Kills. The National Guard, Marines, EMS, NYPD, Firefighters, Sheriffs, and a myriad assortment of other law enforcement “troops” stand by to “protect and serve.” So the face of community relief has altered. There are still hundreds of “civilians” cooking, and doing demolition work. But it’s all under the auspices of FEMA.
FEMA at St. Margaret Mary's
I wanted to attend the meeting on Sunday in the hopes of handing out fliers with demands developed by the Revolution Club, and my proposal to organize the clothing donations. Entering the church of St. Margaret Mary’s the pews were somewhat filled, and the speakers ranged from the priest to the congressman.
When the priest asked every to rise to say the pledge of allegiance, I knew it was all downhill from there. I was the only one sitting. That’s something else that I have noticed over the weeks, more American flags flying everywhere. I wonder why when the first 5 days of this disaster the government was invisible and everyone was furious.
The meeting had a brief question and answer period, but mostly general information given by FEMA, and Small Business Administration. Those who spoke all commended the community for “working together to make this disaster bearable for everyone affected.” The main speaker, Kenny, a retired EMS NYPD officer, actually thanked Occupy Sandy for being there the entire time and organizing everything. I was shocked at that. Here was this guy who probably had nothing nice to say about Occupy when it began, thanking them. The next speaker touted his work for “16 days” in New Orleans, and compared working in Midland beach to his time there. He made the statement “I personally spent 16 days after Hurricane Katrina, and the difference between that and here is the quality of the people…” How disgusting! I wanted to shout “bigot we don’t have Blackwater here shooting at us” at him but figured I would get kicked out immediately.
This Midland Beach Community was the same place that two years ago protested against the local Muslim community’s plans for a mosque on Greely Avenue and Midland Avenue. At local board meetings, residents, backed by the likes of Pamela Geller, called the Muslim community “terrorists” and told them to “go back to their country.” How ironic. Now, these same people had lost everything. Take a look at Midland Avenue, and you will see the damages.
Needless to say, the streets are now filled with construction trucks by the hundreds, contractors, clean up crews, dump trucks, sanitation trucks, FEMA vans, and best of all, convoys of national guard and police vehicles. The island I grew up on is gone. And I don’t know when I will get it back, if ever. The talk is now demolishing over 200 homes along the waterfront, and that is growing everyday. Sewage is running through some streets, and the air quality is questionable.
But god bless america, our government has descended upon us 21 days later to fix things.
It is really so damn frustrating! Today marks 8 days after Hurricane Sandy made Staten Island ground zero of destruction and devastation. Trying to help is like one ant building an ant hill.
I went out to help anywhere I could today, heading over to Slater Avenue, where my daughter was working to dig out a family who had lost everything to the flood of the hurricane. When I got there, she looked pretty dirty, and dumpsters were everywhere up and down the block. This was one of the worst hit areas, and it wasn’t even on the water. It was somewhat out of Zone A, and an area that had many well constructed homes. Up and down the street was nothing but piles of rubble, once representing the lives of people who lived there. Walls gutted, furniture tossed out, children’s toys, just bags and bags of garbage. You could barely drive down the block, let alone around the area.
She came out and told me such a sad story. The family inside lost everything, and they had just had a baby 3 weeks ago. They had lost pretty much everything, and were huddled on the top floor. They basically had nowhere to go, and couldn’t leave because they had to cleanup the mess. Interestingly enough, there is now a “gathering” area on Hylan Boulevard, just above most of the flood zone, where “Occupy Sandy” volunteers had formed a working group where any volunteers who wanted to help, met there in the morning. Once FEMA had cleared a house for help, Occupy folks would deploy workers to that house or others. They had contractor bags, gloves, face masks and cleaning products.
My daughter worked most of the day and said that they were ripping down walls, floors, carpeting and just tossing it into the street. This is back breaking work, and not for everyone. I remember, once again, how when I was in Haiti, I saw the people tending to their own homes, or what was left of them. Digging out family and friends from the rubble. The thought I had then was the same thought I had today “where were the people sent from all over the world to help.” Amazing. Never did I think that in Staten Island, New York, where we pay the highest taxes, have the loudest politicians, would I witness Occupy helping homeowners dig out from their rubble.
I went home to change and head back, wary of using the precious gasoline in my car. On my way I stopped at Calgary Church, where I noticed they just opened their doors for donations. I had more items I wanted to donate in my trunk, so I stopped to drop them off. Next thing I knew I was helping Pastor John, Kelly, Peggy, Austin and Pat fill up small boxes that they got from the post office (priority mail boxes) with items like socks, shampoo, food and toothbrushes. The boxes were brought to people in the neighborhood who also had been living a shell of a home. As we sat there sorting through donations, 2 FEMA representatives showed up to ask questions. The Pastor told them what types of goods he had collected, and that a huge truck from Walmart, in Ohio, who had a “one for one” drive (a customer buys one item and Walmart donates the same item to Hurricane Sandy relief) had shown up that afternoon. The FEMA representatives had clipboards and ID’s around their necks, stayed a few minutes and left wishing us luck. Everyone sorting on the ground shook their heads in dismay. The conversation turned to discussing the LACK of help from any of the so-called disaster relief agencies. We were left to do it on our own.
FEMA Asking Questions
I spent the rest of the afternoon, until it got too dark to operate, handing out supplies to people who came there. A young woman with 2 small children, lost her home, and came for food, warm clothing and shoes for her kids. Another family came by for the same things, including socks. They all looked like scared refugees. Everyone who came in for donations kept apologizing for being so “needy.” I noticed that they were almost afraid to touch the items left there for people like them to take. I had to keep prompting them saying it was there for them, and it was donated for them. The entire church sanctuary was filled with bags, boxes and containers with amazing things. Each pew had at least 5 boxes high of what people needed, yet one woman told me “she didn’t want to disturb the boxes but she needed some clothing.”
No one really knows how to accept charity in this type of situation. I even saw this sometimes in Haiti. It was like they were stealing things from the church. Even though there were mounds of items for the taking, those in need merely picked through them. We were talking about how eventually everthing had to be given away because there was just no room, espcially, as the Pastor said, for Sunday services. Kelly, one of the women I was packing boxes with, said she lost her entire house. She lived down the street from the church, and the family all lived together. The house was 3 stories high, and the water went over the top. It was gone, and she came to help to take her mind off of what had just happened.
In the meantime, not more than 2 blocks away, a contingent of soldiers stood in the parking lot of K-Mart, chatting, eating and just standing around with their vehicles. As I drove down the street, just before it got completely dark, I spotted them. Here we were, in need of their help sorting, and carting packages around the neighborhood, but no help was forthcoming. Now I had been to 3 completely devastated areas in Staten Island today, and didn’t see any soldiers or red cross for that matter helping out. But I saw them standing around at K-Mart. Very strange indeed. What they need to be doing is helping people dig out their flooded homes. Oh, but I guess they might get their pretty uniforms dirty. Stay tuned.
Five days after Hurricane Sandy, and little relief from government agencies, the people in Staten Island came out with a thunderous rage and unmatched relief effort. The “zombies” I had seen on Tuesday, the first day of the aftermath where people were stunned, were gone. Humans replaced them oddly enough.
I decided to get out into the communities hardest hit to offer any assistance I could. No gasoline in my own car, I had to borrow my husband’s, who fortunately had a full tank. I cooked some spaghetti, after all it is Staten Island, and headed to a hard hit beach area in Oakwood, below Hylan Boulevard. On Guyon Avenue there was an oasis of help. Dozens of people had created a makeshift central distribution center of supplies for those who had lost everything. Facebook, Twitter and the website www.statenisland.recovers.org had called people out to bring whatever they could to help.
It really was an unbelievable site, something I had seen in Haiti 2 years ago after the major earthquake killed hundreds of thousands, and left millions stranded. Surrounded by rubble and debris from homes that were flooded or crushed by trees that were once stately and magnificent, this haven had people from the community supplied with whatever they needed while they were recuperating emotionally and physically from the storm. Hot food, and cleaning supplies, as well as blankets and socks were in demand. People walked for blocks to get what they could and carried it back to their dark homes. Those of us who could, travelled through the streets delivering supplies. Some of us were able to load up our vehicles and make trips to other parts of hard hit Staten Island communities.
The last time I witnessed anything like this was in Haiti, where I was watching Haitians, who lost entire families because of the earthquake, dig themselves out, set up makeshift tarp tent cities while the UN and US personnel deployed there along with hundreds of NGO’s like the Red Cross, stand by and watch for the most part. Those of us who were not affiliated with any organizational entity did the most work on the ground in Haiti. The US military guarded the embassy in full body armor holding guns with arms folded.
Except here in Staten Island, there were no onlookers. There were no governmental agencies anywhere I could see. In fact people at the relief site were all talking about how there was such a lack of government help, or Red Cross trucks. Many felt abandoned, but most decided that the “talking political pundits” they had heard promising relief, were full of crap. The base camp of FEMA and first responders was only a few blocks away from this Guyon Avenue relief site, but those attached to either the National Guard, or FEMA were standing behind the massive fences of the beach area, with their huge generators, tents and trucks.
I decided to leave my hot food there, along with other trays, and load up my car to deploy with relief to other areas. I met Lynne, who decided to go with me and help. We took skids of water, blankets, cleaning supplies, snacks and hygiene items. We decided to head to Cedargrove Avenue, which we were told needed what we had. The traffic was unimaginable. As we inched down Hylan Boulevard in that direction, it was a complete chaotic madhouse. I’m not sure how people were driving around since gas was nowhere to be found, but yet there they were. It was so odd to travel only 2 blocks and see normalcy. Drivers talking on cell phones, radios blaring, Gucci sunglasses, and shopping bags. Like nothing happened, or no one was only a few blocks crying because they lost everything. It is hard to comprehend when you are working with hundreds of people on a relief effort.
The police had the area closed off where we headed, so we decided to go right to the Midland Beach area, one of the hardest hit. In our miles of travel, we saw ONE Red Cross van, and nothing else. Now mind you we were driving just a few blocks from “ground zero,” on the main road. Lynne was checking facebook and twitter as I drove for other areas that needed help. She was plugged into all the social network feeds, and kept updating me. As we headed to Midland Avenue, she saw a feed that said one location had so much stuff they wanted people to get it. We got to Egbert Junior High School to find that almost the entire back half of the open parking lot in the school was flooded with supplies. Getting more hats, gloves, and warm items, we stuffed them into my already stuffed car, and kept driving.
There was a lot of activity at the south beach area, so we kept driving. Lynne saw that people in Great Kills, where boats were strewn about by the hurricane, needed everything. So we turned around and headed to that other beach area, asking people as we drove if they needed anything. Arriving at the “marina” we found police guarding the battered boats, as well as one van of a few National Guard soldiers handing out blankets. There was a guy with a pizza truck feeding people, so we looked for those who called for help via facebook. Finally we spotted a few tables just arranged by about 5 people who had some supplies out. We stopped and unloaded our car. They were so thankful for warm socks, blankets, coats and food. The houses were completed gutted by flooding, and the community was together ripping out the destroyed furniture, as the National Guard drove off.
They said they wanted hot food, and more socks. So we headed back to the Guyon Avenue site, which isn’t that far. As we drove up a caterer had just dropped off 10 trays of hot food, rolls, sandwiches and coffee. We took 4 trays, and whatever else we could get into the car, and headed back to Great Kills. I had already been driving almost 4 hours, and it was starting to get dark. Some lights were working, but most weren’t. We got back and when I opened up the tray of hot chicken fingers, I was rewarded by the smiles, especially the little kids who were so hungry. Everyone gathered around taking food, and the spirits were high. Just then I saw Congressman Michael Grimm appear out of nowhere. He looked right at me and said thank you for what I was doing. I really couldn’t respond since I was caught off guard. I wanted to say to him “how dare you show up here with nothing. No food, batteries, blankets, nothing.” He just came for the photo op and political boost riding around the devastated neighborhoods would give him.
From that location Lynne and I travelled back to the Guyon Avenue relief site, in the dark. The place had accumulated triple the amount of supplies since we had left over an hour ago. I decided to load up the car again with sandwiches and supplies and head back to the beach area where FEMA had set up their headquarters. Traffic had lightened up and when I arrived at the homes that had literally washed away, only news crews were there. I found another little station of relief hoping to give them what I had, but they were closing up shop for the night. Then I stumbled upon Alice. She was “guarding” her corner home from looters. She was freezing, standing in the front of her home across from a tossed street light. I got out and offered her supplies, she only wanted a blanket. We got to chatting and she went on a rant about the Red Cross. She told me she “always donated every single time all her life to the Red Cross but never would again.” She was angry, disappointed, outraged and sad all at the same time. As I looked over, I saw Geraldo Rivera in his limo with driver and security right next to us. She said she told him just moments ago how angry she was and how she felt that she had to stay in her home, cold and hungry, because there was no help.
When I got home I turned on “Geraldo LIVE” and was hoping to see Alice. Nope. Geraldo was standing at the FEMA command and control center with Red Cross volunteers praising their work, the work of all the first responders, and a few “regular” people who had been there dropping off stuff they had left from relief work they did in Brooklyn. I never saw the clip of Alice, nor will we ever see that on national corporate media. The crap being fed to the world is literally a happy face of how great things are for us at ground zero. Don’t buy it. People are hurting big time, and the only help is from other people who give a damn.
Where do I begin? How about never expecting Hurricane Sandy to create such devastation, destruction and dismay to the New York/Tri-State area. I write this today to remember and to share my single experience during the worst storm in my life.
In 1993, when the “perfect storm” hit Long Island and Connecticut, I was on a boat tied to a dock in Long Island Bay. My kids were little then, and we were on a 35 ft. power boat enjoying our weekend. It was too late for us to head home, so we decided to ride it out. Even though we were there, and boats did fly over us, it wasn’t all that bad. I’ve also survived major blizzards and blackouts from the 60’s to the 70’s. So I really didn’t give the prediction from our pretty weather people much thought. We stocked up on water, batteries and pet food. I couldn’t believe that starting Wednesday, 5 days before the hurricane was supposed to hit, every single news broadcast was screaming about the “SUPER STORM” heading our way. And watching Bloomberg telling people they should leave or else, really annoyed me. Of course with Ray Kelly at his side, they had planned to shut down power in public housing, as well as shutting down elevator service. I live in what they determine to be “Zone A”, and are directly in a flood area. I actually grew up in this neighborhood, and road inner tubes down the gutters during thunderstorms.
This is a very white middle-class neighborhood about less than a ¼ mile from the beach. I often wondered if Staten Island would sink if there was some kind of super storm, but laughed it off. Going through the weekend, the warnings and drama on television increased exponentially. By Sunday plans of shutting down bus and subway service, rail service and bridges were announced. A pre-emptive strike by government to keep people inside, as well as immediately declaring the tri-state a federal disaster area by President Obama came by Monday.
Bloomberg started declaring that anyone who didn’t evacuate was “selfish” and “putting first responders in harm’s way.” I myself felt that was totally uncalled for, but everything his says and does is uncalled for. In the meantime people couldn’t get to work, and schools were closed. So in order to save the “infrastructure” and the equipment involved, it was moved to a “safe area”. No mention of Rikers Island, or the tombs evacuation, and absolutely no questions from the “concerned” media about the people being kept in the prison system there. I still don’t know what happened to them.
By Monday the winds started blowing my windows, and deck. We thought we were ready. I watched as trees started coming up by the roots one at a time in my neighborhood, including a 10 year old pear tree which landed on my back fence. By 3:00 pm Monday power went out, which was expected. Just as we were watching a news story on TV about the “Great Kills Marina” a few blocks away from my home, had flooded and boats were lifted out of the water and headed for local area restaurants and homes. A few hours later the power came back on, and more stories of flooding were on the news. But now Chris Christie and Cuomo, along with Bloomberg, looked scared shitless. As prepared as they thought they were, the storm caught them off guard. Each government official had their own spin on this.
All the while I am thinking to myself the only reaction and response these people in control had was to literally declare some sort of martial law. Bloomberg literally had people locked up in whatever home they had, Christie was demanding people evacuate, and the only reasonable voice was the Governor of Connecticut who said that “people need to use their best judgment.” Monday night I listened to the wind blowing, which was actually quite soothing. The lights were out now permanently, trees were downed, and most people were inside. Except for a bunch of kids playing football. As I lay in bed all I could hear was the wind, which almost sounded like the ocean. For all I know it may have been the sound of the ocean not too far away. The air was pleasantly fresh, for a change, and I thought, this isn’t so bad. I was lucky. I had a nice bed, warm blankets, and food. I also had hot water and a gas stove that worked. I thought about the people in Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean who suffer through this every year, and have nothing to begin with. I do some volunteer work in Haiti, and have seen firsthand how living in a tarp tent in a hurricane will humble someone like me, but is the norm for them.
During the night the winds picked up, and hail started hitting. I was more worried about my 90 year old mom who lives 10 houses around the corner from me. Tuesday morning came, and as I walked outside, I couldn’t believe what a mess it was. Everyone was out in the streets, looking pretty stunned, waiting to see emergency vehicles. What I noticed is that the entire night into the morning, I did not hear one emergency vehicle, nor did I see one. In fact, I wasn’t alone. Everyone was talking about it.
So for 5 days before this storm, all we saw were political figures, government officials and media standing up and shouting orders; showing us slideshows and presentations on how the storm was going to hit us, what zones were the worst, what they were going to do about it, and how we needed to listen to what they were telling us to do or else. For 5 days before people were ransacking the local supermarkets, stocking up on whatever they wanted. Here in Staten Island I saw carts filled with cookies, cereal and soda. But now, after the storm hit, those same politicians, government officials and media folks were at a loss. Every one of them kept saying they never saw anything like this; Cuomo made reference to his conversation with Obama saying that “we have a 100 year storm every 2 years now, how do we handle it.” He meant, “how do we handle the people.”
Standing out in my street, I didn’t see one “emergency responder”. Not one vehicle or cop. A friend came by and said that the national guard was all along the water front street of Hylan Boulevard, protecting the homes there. Turns out those same yachts and boats that were docked in the most prestigious marina where there are million dollar boats, came loose and floated 2 blocks into all the homes in the area. It’s sad that the waters had risen so high to come up ½ mile into homes, and we hoped no one was hurt, but the message was sent clearly that the national guard was not there to help us, they were there to protect property. There were no emergency evacuations happening. In fact all along the south shore, people were stranded in their homes, some of them washed away, calling for help. Help did not come.
After people had been told to listen to their government officials, they were now left to fend for themselves. Bloomberg and the rest of the talking heads, were on the airwaves saying they were told to evacuate, and now people had to wait. Statements started coming out how power wouldn’t be turned on for at least 5 to 7 days, and that the main focus was to get Wall Street, which was flooded, up and running first.
Tuesday wasn’t too bad, but people looked stunned. I spent time at my mom’s house, and found it was getting very cold. She sat with 2 coats and her home is all electric, so she had no gas at all. Her neighbors were outside with photos and stories of the flooding and electrical wiring downed. But still no sign of ANY help. I decided I would venture out in my car to find gasoline, since I was on empty. I couldn’t believe how people were reacting. Now I am a “post-apocalyptic zombie movie” fan, and always laugh at people who go “rogue”, until I got in my car and started looking for gas. Street lights were out, trees were in the middle of the road, and houses were destroyed. Yet there they were, hundreds of cars, mostly SUV’s, with maniacal drivers behind the wheel. People were pale, eyes bulging and hair standing on end. I am not kidding. I found a CVS that was open, and people were pushing and shoving just to get batteries and water. Angry faces, angry body language, and loud voices. I thought to myself, now I understand where they get the scripts for these movies! I kept looking for the walking dead behind my shoulder.
No one knew what to do with themselves except shop. People on line had candy, boxed cake mix, soda, and other such items. Everyone was lost and asking where all the help was. Here they were listening to those in charge telling them what to do, and now dead silence. Staten Island, it turns out, was one of the hardest hit. Families lost lives, homes and businesses.
I left the store and went to a gas station. Again, cars headed in every entrance and exit in different directions trying to get to the pump first. Yelling out the windows at each other, and looking like live zombies themselves. I immediately went home. There was no help coming, and no one wanted to help.
There’s something to say about how some communities pull together, but from what I saw after this devastation, that’s a rarity. You may see it on the news, but they aren’t going to show you the overwhelming amount of times people will run you down first, and ask questions later. I started to examine why this was happening here. First of all, living in middle class suburbia, people basically don’t spend time socializing unless you have small kids. There is really no sense of community. We don’t live in buildings where you see your neighbors several times a day, like in public housing, or in the urban areas. People here are out for basically out for themselves.
By Wednesday, now 2 days without power, the frustration was evident everywhere. No help came at all, but news about the opening of the stock exchange was on the radio airwaves. I stayed at my mom’s house since now it was really pretty cold for her at night. I went from thinking that we could ride this out, to going into full emergency mode. I had no cell service on Monday and Tuesday, and thought it would return, also hoping power would return. But it hadn’t and it was getting colder. People in the streets were talking about how this was more than a hurricane. A tsunami or tidal wave was more like it. Many felt now that we weren’t being told the entire story, and still no help came. Most feel helpless because in their minds they are depending upon those same officials that said they were in control before the storm, but were now pretty much invisible except for press conferences.
It is amazing how you go from taking your TV, internet, cell phones, refrigerators and cars for granted, somewhere in the back of your mind understanding that you shouldn’t really depend upon all these comforts, to now taking it hour by hour, only thinking about how you can keep warm, how you will eat, and when dusk comes, making sure you have candles lit, and enough flashlights. You literally start operating in emergency mode. I felt myself on Wednesday at some point switching over into high gear. Thinking that if we had to go through this for 5 more days, we needed food, and heat. I planned with my husband to head out to Philadelphia to find batteries and a generator on Thursday, so we could at least survive. We could at least keep my mom warm, and my dogs and cats, who were already spooked. I wasn’t even thinking about watching TV or going online at that point. It was shear survival instincts kicking in.
All I could think about was Haiti, and New Orleans. How in NOLA Blackwater mercenaries started shooting people. How people in Haiti start burning tires out of frustration. Would that happen here? What would be the new norm. Yes, we now have storms of the century every 2 years, or sooner. And those in control are “altering” their grand plans for the rest of us. What does that mean?
It certainly doesn’t mean they are coming to help immediately. It means they will enforce martial law sooner, more fiercely and let us ALL fend for ourselves, while they keep “order.” Of course people feel helpless, angry and afraid. We are not in control. We are used to the creature comforts, but we don’t have our hands on the button that control it. Those who stand on the podiums do, and they will control it, the military and us in the process. Early Thursday morning, while we were sleeping, all the lights and appliances flipped on. I looked up and realized how much energy I was actually using, that was my first thought. I walked around my house shutting off lights, televisions, computers, and washing machine. It scared me into thinking how dependent I was on these things, and how I just took it for granted, or worse, ignored it.
I was happy to have heat again, and so was my mom, but now have a greater awareness of who is in control, and how I can be in more control. Somehow we have to sever our ties with those who control our living existence.
I am watching the news now in my living room and all I see are people crying out for help. How frustration is growing, and most are fighting with each other, over food, gasoline and anything else they can’t get. People are standing alone, hungry, and asking the camera “where’s the red cross? Where’s all the help?” It’s not over, not by a longshot. More than ever, we have to take our lives back, our world back, and NOT depend upon others to keep control in our name. In the meantime, I’m going to sit down and watch a good zombie movie.
STOP PATRIARCHY & PORN: Rally & Protest at Times Sq.
Today, Saturday, March 10th, marks International Women’s Day around the world. Hundreds of thousands of women, and men, rallied around the globe honoring, celebrating and praising women for their hard work, for their existence, for their love and for their motherhood. Yes, it has taken women hundreds of years to progress to a point where we are “recognized” as being equal. But are we really?
After making strides towards independence and real recognition and freedom in the early 70’s with the passage of “Roe v. Wade,” the legislation that gave women the right to abortion, how much more progress has been made. We are not equal in the workplace, many studies show. We have to raise families pretty much on our own most of the time, while trying to make ends meet and attempting to create “model” citizens. We have to starve ourselves to “look good” to not only men, but to compete with other women, and to fit into society by wearing a size 4 pair of pants, “skinny” jeans, and “boyfriend” jackets. Oh, and don’t forget the new “platform stilettos” that are all the rage because of the Kardashians. In order to “get a man” a woman has to be sweet, coy, sexy, beautiful, skinny, fashionable, smart, loving, caring, have a nice ass and boobs, and most of all, put up with a man’s endless crap and selfishness.
So how have things changed? Not much. Today a righteous group of women, and men, joined forces at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan to say NO to “PATRIARCHY AND PORNOGRAPHY!” This is an all-inclusive statement. The Catholic Church is the largest purveyor of patriarchy on the planet, and Timothy Dolan (a/k/a Cardinal Dolan), is the loudest oppressor of women. He is verbose in his denunciation of women using birth control and having abortions. We held signs and passed out stickers that said “ABORTION ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT AN APOLOGY” to the good Catholics entering and exiting the church.
In the almost 40 years that women have had the right to choose, we have made little progress. It is more like we are going backwards. And there are many reasons for that. Large organizations such as the National Organization for Women and even Planned Parenthood are too busy getting government funds to pay exorbitant salaries to top management. They have become complacent when women are concerned. Lobbying congress and being friends with President Obama is the message they are sending to women, young and old. But in that process, our lives are being sold out to the highest bidder. Just like the United States Government, women’s organizations have become institutions of greed and continuity.
International Women’s Day is nice to celebrate, as it has been for decades. However, if you think long and hard about the status of women today, on a global level, there is absolutely nothing to “celebrate.” In fact, we are heading backwards. Candidates for President, such as Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney espouse hatred of women in their doctrine of abortion being a “special interest.” Draconian laws are being passed almost monthly in the last year curtailing services and service providers for women’s health care needs. Insurance companies will no longer pay for birth control or abortions. And all of this under a “democratic” administration.
So today we in New York City, took to the streets not in celebration, but in righteous anger by demanding hands off our bodies, lives and minds. Stop enslaving women through trafficking and pornography, industries that make billions off girls’ bodies. We told the Catholic Church, Fox News, military recruiters and anyone else, male or female, to stop sticking your noses in our vaginas and leave us the hell alone!
On International Women’s Day, there was a righteous rally and march beginning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, home to the suppression of women, and heading to Times Square, denouncing the military for ignoring sexual military trauma, and ending up at strip clubs demanding an end to pornography and the sexual exploitation of women all over the planet.
When will we make real progress to be truly equal on this planet? When we destroy the systems, religious and governmental, that suppresses us forever. So stop celebrating and get busy making real change.
Some people would think that the Jim Crow laws enacted between 1876 and 1965 which mandated “separate but equal” in all public facilities for “negros” was over. Well, in the year 2011, and under the administration of an African-American President, it is alive and well and vibrant in New York City.
Of course this practice of targeting individuals who look “suspicious” or may “pose a threat” to police and the public, in other words walking “while black”, has been growing strong over the last 30 years. However, the NYPD has perfected its use and is now on target to “stop and frisk” (SNF) over 700,000 young men in 2011. The Police Department said it made 601,055 street stops of potential suspects last year, with about 10 percent of the stops resulting in arrests. In 2009, there were 575,304 stops. There are now lawsuits pending against the NYPD demanding proof that this policy is not racially biased and legally viable.
For this reason, the “Stop Mass Incarceration Network” has formed the “Stop, Stop and Frisk” movement. People throughout the city, and those who are now part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, are challenging this racist, illegitimate and immoral policy by taking to the streets demanding its demise. They are the “New Freedom Fighters.” The first protest was on October 21st in Harlem at the 23 precinct. Members of the community, activists and victims of SNF blocked the entrance and shut down the precinct for a short time, shouting the slogan “Stop and Frisk don’t stop the crime, stop and frisk is the crime.” After about 30 minutes, 37 people were arrested for disorderly conduct. But it didn’t stop there. Two more protests, November 2nd in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and November 19th at the 103 precinct in Queens, challenged this policy by directly confronting the perpetrators of the crime, the police themselves.
On Saturday, November 19th, 20 people were arrested, and incarcerated for “Obstructing Governmental Administration” a misdemeanor, and the second charge of “Disorderly Conduct”. I was one of them. We started our march in the neighborhood where Sean Bell had been brutally executed by police. Members of the community stood up to speak about how SNF had stolen the lives of young black and Latino men by police who eagerly snatch and grab them on the streets as they are going about their daily lives. Many are put up against a squad car in broad daylight, told to empty their pockets, frisked, questioned and usually arrested for minor “offenses” such as not having ID, appearing to look like they are a criminal wanted for questioning, or holding a negligible amount of marijuana in their pockets, out of public view. According to the breakdown, police stop and frisk about 1,900 people a day, most if not all of who are black and Latino men from the age of 16 to 25, who live in the inner city neighborhoods.
After holding our rally, we marched through Jamaica, Queens directly to the 103 precinct, which has the highest percentage of stop and frisks in the City. Our plan was to walk to the main entrance, determined to let our presence be known. However, upon arrival, there were police barricades surrounding the entire square block, the building, and one cop every 2 to 3 feet behind those racks. We stopped and assessed the situation, since this put a kink in our plans. But before I knew it, there was an officer standing at one section of racks asking if we wanted to go inside to the main entrance. He opened up one section, and let those of us in who were committed to taking our message up front.
After only 10 minutes tops, we were ordered to leave or we would be arrested for “Obstructing Governmental Administration.” I thought this was rather harsh since shortly before they allowed us entrance to the area we occupied on the steps. An officer was counting down to the second, and repeated the order. Swiftly they started removing people, me included. Cuffs slapped on and tightened in anger, we were all literally pulled and dragged to an awaiting van just 25 yards away. There were police swarming all over us, and the area. They outnumbered us 4 to 1.
From there we were taken to the 105 precinct for processing. Six women and fourteen men, it took 10 hours to fingerprint us and then we were hauled to Queens central booking for the night. Our property was strewn all over the floor while in the precinct, cops by the dozens were in and out of the holding area, with guns on their hips, and the women were told we would be strip searched for certain property they were looking for. I was there with 5 young brave women, 2 who had never been arrested before. They were somewhat frightened by the police behavior, but stood their ground, did not succumb to threats and bullying. We sang songs, laughed and told jokes until handcuffed again.
Once at central booking, the nightmare continued. By this time we had already been incarcerated for about 11 hours, no food or water, and constant harassment. I had to stick my fingers in my ears to stop the noise from giving me a further migraine. We had already been fingerprinted at the precinct, but now we had to walk through a metal detector, get frisked, and have an optical scanner shoved into our eye sockets. Now I started to get enraged. No one ever asked me if I wanted my eyeballs scanned for database entry so that I would now forever be traceable. My rights had been already egregiously violated that at this point we had no choice but to continue this process.
The outright bad attitudes of the police continued on to the corrections’ officers. The entire building, even where they work, was absolutely filthy. There was dirt and dust in every nook and cranny from the 1960’s. I couldn’t imagine going to work there everyday, but could understand how their bad attitudes were only exacerbated by their working environment. There were roaches crawling on the empty DOC food bins, which once contained dinner of PPJ and cheese sandwiches. We got locked into a holding cell, now in general population. We met others who were similarly disgusted. They talked about how dirty the place was, and how when they were there previously, they had bed bugs and bites on their legs and arms. They warned us not to eat the cheese sandwiches because they were “lethal,” and were truly amazed that we voluntarily placed ourselves in this predicament.
Once another intrusive interview was conducted, where they ask basically your weight, where you were born, and how you earn a living, we were escorted by a miserable man into the main holding pen. By now it was 2:30 am, and the pen was filled with women. There was absolutely no room to move. We had to walk in and step over bodies that were on the floor, sleeping on dirty mats with equally filthy blankets. Searching for a spot, I had to take to the wooden bench, last spot left, that abutted a wall that had blood, urine and feces stains. The bench was about a foot in width, which is way smaller than my ass. Everyone else scattered inside the pen to find their spot, pretty disheveled and disgusted by this point.
Here we were, the new “freedom fighters” going through the system we were fighting against. We all started questioning our resolve and wondering how stupid we could be to have put ourselves there. I looked around the pen, thinking that I had to remain calm, focused and in a Zen like state to get through the next day, or more. Most were sleeping, or attempting to sleep in the crowded, miserable area.
Just as I dozed off at 6 AM, a corrections officer and 2 inmates dressed in orange pinstripes appeared at the gate. The officer started yelling “if you want to eat, line up.” And he continued to yell “ladies, hurry up or you won’t eat.” That’s when I got to see the other occupants of the cell. Young women mostly, an ethnically mixed crowd; Asian, Black, Latino, and me. The discussion was cordial, and turned to “what are you in here for.” There were 2 young women picked up for solicitation, several others for drug use, and then the rest, believe it or not, were “stopped and frisked.” I couldn’t believe my ears. We told them we were there for protesting. Our story was met with disbelief, but complete support. All of them knew about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, and were pretty well informed, up to the minute. They asked about the police raid last week, expressed concern that the police just “tossed out” personal items, tents, and books; and that the cops generally “sucked.” We had a political conversation about how bad the government was, and how America was absolutely not the country they thought it should be or people believed it was.
The Asian women were from Beijing, China. They said they want to go home. They came here thinking they could live a good life and get good jobs, because that’s what everyone believes. But realize at this point that’s a lie. The young black women were picked up by cops just as they were walking out of their building. They were stopped and asked for identification. They responded that they didn’t have any because they weren’t going anywhere, and were immediately arrested. Another young black female was in the park with her boyfriend after 9 pm, not realizing that there was a curfew. She said out of the bushes came 2 cops who told them they were “trespassing” and immediately cuffed both of them, no questions asked.
So here we were, having put ourselves into the “system”, having doubts about doing so, yet realizing the reason we were there. Stories upon stories of violations of civil rights were told. Stories of disgust with the NYPD, and the situation in this country. After several hours of discussion and debate, we had all bonded, realizing we had much in common. Here were women from the inner city, targeted for very similar reasons to be thrown into the system that would and could destroy their lives. They had kids left at home unattended, jobs they couldn’t get to and questions about their freedom. And yet strangely enough, some, who were constantly in and out of jail, had built a symbiotic relationship with the police who held them hostage and bound in their chains.
For instance, Linda, a hard core addict, greeted a female officer on the morning rounds. They exchanged greetings, and Linda said “she’s my friend for 25 years.” The officer said to Linda “I’m retiring in 30 days, when are you going to retire?” Linda responded, “I’m working on it.” And they both chuckled. I had witnessed earlier at the precinct the desk sergeant walking out with a group of young boys, and I mean boys, who were probably just victims of stop and frisk. She went up to the front of the line as they were cuffed and chained, and fussed with one kid’s hat. She pulled at it and fixed it for him. He seemed uncomfortable, shifted his feet, and hunched a little. She then said to him “Isn’t that better?” He couldn’t really respond because there was no mirror. I could see many emotions passing over his face. What could he have been thinking? Probably “don’t touch me bitch.”
By noon, 20 women were taken to the court holding cell, a 10’ x 12’ space. Once again the walls and floors were blackened with years of dirt, and the toilet, open for viewing, was unspeakable. By now most of us had been held almost 24 hours or more. We were hungry, tired, irritable, and smelly. The hallways were bustling with cops, and corrections officers. They were yelling and cracking jokes about all of the prisoners there, as if we couldn’t hear them. Calling names, exerting their perceived authority and superiority. One corrections officer, Johnson, started to call a women from Occupy Wall Street by her first name. He relentlessly pursued harassing her, until she answered him. The officers then all chimed in and asked us if we were all the “99% ers”.
I told the young woman who was with me not to answer, to ignore their chiding and snide remarks. But by this time she was angry and extremely stressed. Johnson said that he “was with us”, but she said he wasn’t and if he was he would quit his job, or make life better for those of us on the “inside.” They debated and talked about what it meant to be part of the 99%, what the government oppression was all about, and the role of the police protecting the 1%. The discussion raged, and more guards got involved. At this point the women in the cell wanted to put an end to it. Here we were, six “freedom fighters” who were attempting to create a better world being told we were causing a problem. You see those who spend their lives in this cycle of oppression, depend upon this abusive relationship between guards and prisoners. I was told by a woman that Johnson was a “good guy,” that he gave her cigarettes, and water when she was there at other times. Linda said that we were causing a problem for them because they had to return and deal with the guards; that their relationship was important to the comfort of their incarceration.
How odd. The guards depended upon the inmates for entertainment, to make their day go quickly; for exercising their power and supremacy over those that they imprison; and for keeping the system running so that these women would return, and the cops would continue to have a job. The women depended upon the guards for a perceived comfort, like a battered wife saying that “he isn’t so bad,” and basically they were treated “ok.” A textbook abusive relationship, cycling on for decades.
Here we were, women who wouldn’t tolerate the condescension, challenging the system that others knew was oppressive, however, wouldn’t allow us to continue to actually tear a hole in it. I can’t stress enough how important it then became for us to bear witness to this situation of dual dependency buried deep inside a system that perpetuates oppressive, demeaning behavior for all of those involved.
By this time the legal aid lawyers started calling our names and getting us ready for court. There was no privacy to speak to an attorney, so either we stood at the bars by the door, or go inside a tiny room that was refuge for the remaining women who were cramped in the cell with us. My lawyer was thumbing through my file and with a look of shock and a hint of a smile asked me about my “record.” She said “I see there are other cases in your file.” I asked her what she saw, and that nothing was outstanding. In fact, I was acquitted at a trial in Philadelphia. She looked up at me and said “yes, I see that.” We remained in the cell until 3 PM, all of us with no food, water or room to even stand comfortably.
By the time I was called into the courtroom, my head was about to explode, I was shaking, ready to vomit, and worst of all, my makeup was completely smeared on my face. When I got out into the air, all I wanted to do was flee, go home, take a long hot shower, and eat. As I got into my car, and drove along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to my home in Staten Island, looking at my bruised wrists that were cut from the flexi cuffs, I couldn’t stop thinking about those women I had met on the inside.
I had a retreat. I could go back to my all white neighborhood, with my 4 dogs, 2 cats and husband. My nice 2 story home, on a tree lined street in the most middle class area of the borough was awaiting me. How sad. Those women I left behind didn’t have that option. They would either get out and go back to a place that was targeted by a system of repression, where they couldn’t even walk out of their building without being harassed, or remain in jail to face further incarceration and harassment. There was no retreat, or very little. They had to remain on alert, constantly operating in emergency mode, and most especially, their male friends had to do the same in fear of the police who comb their streets only to pick them up again because of a policy that targets the color of their skin in the place where they live. Whereas I could even drive without identification.
If this isn’t the new Jim Crow, then tell me what is. We live in a country that was founded on genocide, and built on slavery, which won’t end until we make sure it does. It is incumbent upon us, those who can openly fight the system, to do so. Yes, it is more difficult than natural child birth, but the results could benefit all of humanity.
December 2nd is the next day of action where students will be called upon to leave school and rally against this racist policy. Join us. Call 866-941-9139 or visit Stop Mass Incarceration Network.
Why would I care, being a middle-class white woman from Staten Island, what happens with the people who are effected by the NYPD policy of “stop and frisk?” It doesn’t ever bother me, I don’t get pulled over, or stopped in the street, nor do my children, or my extended family.
I’ll tell you why. This policy, instituted under the reign of terror implemented by “bulldog” Kelly and Bloomberg, is up there with the likes of Guantanamo Bay, Baghram prison, and the Hutto prison, all of which, and more, not only detain and torture people illegally, but are just plain morally wrong.
Stop and frisk has given us a whole new generation of black and Latino men who suffer from the “new Jim Crow” law. Because of how they look, they can be detained on any street, store, or anywhere by a person who carries a badge and physically assaulted through frisking. Have you ever been frisked by a cop? Not fun, nor is it done with respect.
By the statistics released by the NYPD, over 400,000 young men were detained last year, and projecting 700,000 in 2011. Most result in arrests for absolutely nothing except being a different color or living in the “wrong” neighborhood. My son was on the “force” for over 6 years, and hates the policy of stop and frisk. He says “it’s racist and stupid.” I say it’s dangerous. If we allow the NYPD to continue, other police departments not only in the country who emulate the supposed “best of the best” but internationally our cops go and train other police forces, like in Haiti, or Afghanistan, it permeates this entire culture of hurting humanity and takes it to a global level.
We cannot allow this to happen. That’s why I was arrested on Friday, October 21st in front of the 28 precinct, and will be arrested on Tuesday, November 1st at the 73 precinct. By the way, the neighborhood in which my husband used to work as an borough command operations Lt., now retired.
This policy represents one of the worst in this city that I grew up in, along with the targeting of our Muslim communities through mosque surveillance, and entrapment. No longer should we tolerate the abuses of our fellow brothers, and sisters. It’s way past time to get mad. The system we are living under is oppressive, always has been and always will be until we decide to change it.
I feel as if that time is now here. The “occupy” movement has taken hold in over 1,500 cities around this country, and others around the world. Targeting the end of policies such as this, and other legislation like the Patriot Act, will strip away one by one all those governmental rules that chain us and make us slaves in the 21st century, no matter what color your skin is.
“Thank You For Giving Us…” is a musical book and multimedia project that teaches kids, from a very young age, about the positive power of gratitude. It comes in the form of an enhanced e-book for iPod, iPhone & iPad, hardcover book, song and tour.
Whenever we get frustrated, either as individuals or as a family, gratitude helps bring us into the present moment. Saying and singing “Thank You” helps calm us down and celebrate life, especially when the waters of life get rocky. We want our daughter, Louise, and other children everywhere, to have a navigation tool like gratitude from the start, a tool that will help bring them into the present moment as they fulfill their potential and create their dream reality in this ever changing world.
This upcoming holiday season, please share the gift of gratitude with a child you love by backing this “Thank You For Giving Us…” project now and choosing from the abundance of thank you presents that we will be ready to send to you by October 28th, 2011:
The hardcover picture book is 32 pages long. It follows us on a fantastical adventure through The Land Of Now. The illustrations tell the story of how we lost the Flying Key of Gratitude and how we had to find it in order to get home. Sharing this book with your children is a fun way to teach them the positive power of gratitude from the start.
The enhanced e-book is everything the hardcover book is, plus it has a multitude of exciting features for kids to explore. This e-book/app will entertain your children in a way you can feel really good about! The features include: a musical book, a bedtime story, sheet music, a read it to yourself feature, a record it yourself feature, a customize it feature, a simple thank you game feature and a send a musical thank you card feature.
The song is easy to learn and to sing with your kids. Whenever our little Louise is crying or upset, singing this song brings her into a place of joy.
With the thirty thousand dollars we raise for this project, we will complete the illustrations, design the lay out, print 1,000 hardcover limited edition books, print 1,000 limited edition CDs, master and mix the “Thank You For Giving Us…” song, create the enhanced e-book, and begin to distribute and promote the entire multimedia project throughout the world (including a U.S. tour).
If we raise more than our goal, we will use the money to further promote and distribute the “Thank You For Giving Us…” project in a variety of ways, including producing a world tour. We will also develop the enhanced e-book for Android and Blackberry.
Phase I: Pre-production (June 7-July 21, 2011)
1. Raise Money For Project
2. Illustrations: Complete Illustrations–12 of the 32 pages are already illustrated but we need help so we have time to finish the rest (cost=$3,500)
3. Music Production: Mix and Master “Thank You For Giving Us…” and “Chariots Rise” and design limited edition CD (cost=$1000)
5. Book Production: Design and Prepare Hardcover Book for Printing (cost=$4500)
6. Kickstarter: Pay Kickstarter 5% commission on $30,000 raised (cost=$1500)
Phase II: Production (July 22-Oct 28, 2011)
1. Book Printing: Print 1000 First and Limited Edition Hardcover Books (cost=$6000)
2. Music Production: Print 1000 Limited Edition CDs (cost=$1000)
3. E-book Production: Put Enhanced E-book on iTunes and other distribution networks (cost=$500)
4. Music Production: Put song on all digital download distribution networks (cost=$500)
5. Promotion: Promote “Thank You For Giving Us…” throughout the world via fan-base, internet marketing, press, and advertising. (cost=$4500)
6. Packaging/ Shipping: Package and Mail Kickstarter Backer Gifts (cost=$3500)
7. Promotion: Produce and Promote Release Party and Tour (cost=$1000)
Phase III: Release and Promotion (Oct 29 – Dec 19, 2011)
1. Host and Perform Thank You For Giving Us…Release Party
2. “Thank You For Giving Us…” U.S. Promotional Tour
We asked a a few parents to try out our work in progress. They shared the first 12 illustrations, the entire text of the book, the morning song and the bedtime reading with their children. Here’s what was said:
“I love that book. Thank you Lizzie and Baba. I like the singing and the pictures.” – Leif (3 Years Old) Norfolk, CT
“We read your book with Felix this evening and he (and we) loved it! Felix is 3 and he was thoroughly engaged –the text was just lovely and so easy to read and the pictures were really awesome and whimsical and fun. Felix really enjoyed pointing out the various elements in the pictures — like the dolphins and the mountains and the donkey.” – Azi, mother of Felix (3 Years old) Brooklyn, NY
“Isabella sat still (a rare moment!) and was mesmerized by Thank You For Giving Us…I love that the song has a happy upbeat start the day feel, and then the reading has a lulling, dreamy end of day feel. Perfect for a bedtime story before falling asleep, dreaming of what you are thankful for. As a mother of a very active 15 month old daughter, even I imagine lying in a hot bath at the end of the day with my favorite glass of wine and listening to the “Thank You For Giving Us reading…” – Emma, mother of Isabella (15 months) Eagle, Colorado
Our goal is to raise $30,000 for the multimedia “Thank You For Giving Us…” project, but we also aim to inspire as many people as possible to say thank you for someone they love. So go do it! Write or call someone you love…
Or you can post it publicly on our facebook page, www.facebook.com/thankyouforgivingus