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As legislators crack down on gun ownership laws in New York state, New York City residents may be wondering just who wants guns in NYC? John DeLuca, owner of Seneca Shooting Range in Flushing, invites any curious New Yorker to come see what the other side is about.
John Deluca: They think we’re all gun nuts. You know they put us in a thing, a gun nut carrier.
In the west, when they were traveling west, people always had a rifle or a handgun with them. So why should it be any different now?
JD: Do you need a pair of pliers?
Angel Avila: Let me see now John.
Oh, I’d say I’ve known John for two and a half years going on three.
JD: Three years.
AA: And you know I’m really pleased that I got to know John Deluca because actually he showed me how to shoot and fire. I met some very, very good instructors.
Yes, they’re more against guns.
JD: 85% Democrats versus Republicans. New Yorkers don’t have common sense. They lack it.
AA: New York, ok, we still have gun violence. And it’s not the good person, it’s the bad person. So, as always. the good people pay.
JD: What people get here is a good old-fashioned gun range. People sit around and just have a cup of coffee or a glass of water and just sit down and talk bullshit. Just good old fashioned bullshit.
It’s not just Texans who love their guns. This past April, over a million New Yorkers refused to register their weapons in protest of a new law that expanded the definition “assault weapons” to include high capacity magazines. Why? Because New Yorkers believe in their 2nd Amendment Rights too.
John DeLuca, owner of Seneca Shooting Range in Flushing, has been licensing gun owners and offering safety training to shooters the city since 1976. He says he’s eager to set the record straight about gun owners in the Big Apple.
This video takes a peak at daily life in DeLuca’s range – home of guns and “good old-fashioned people”.
Harlem’s “Stoning Lady,” Jennifer Louise Lopez, takes on the homophopic and transphobic Atlah Church in a viral video. PASSWORD – VSWspring
I packed up my stuff and went directly over to where the church was and to see the sign for my own eyes.
Harlem is a homo free zone.
Jesus would stone homes.
The sign made me feel disgusted.
That’s when I walked up to the door and I rang the door bell.
Hey there how is it going.
I saw your sign and I’m here for my stoning.
I’m a lesbian. Are you guys going to stone me.
What does the sign say?
Read the sign.
Do you understand what it’s saying
Yeah I’m here for my stoning.
Is it you that’s going to stone me. .
No I don’t have any stones.
He didn’t have any stones to stone me with.
I thought it would be silly. Nobody would be interested in seeing this.
I showed a couple of friends the video the next day and they said no that’s funny people. So that’s when I uploaded it to Facebook.
I’ve always wanted to live in New York City. I was living in West Haven Connecticut and ended up losing just about everything. My company I had. My family stopped talking to me and what not and depression sank in and I ended up losing where I lived.
Nobody was willing to take me in as a person transitioning from a male to a female.
When I was finally able to come and be like I want to start a life here in NYC, it was nervous and exciting at the same time.
I finally was able to have one of my biggest dreams come true but unfortunately that dream was coming true at one of the worst times of my life.
I was street homeless for a full 365 days.
I come here because it’s a safe place to me to come and do some work rather being at other places where people may find that I’m transgender or part of the LGBT community and decide to harass me.
Hi Brittany this is Jennifer Lopez with Everything Gender NYC and also writing for the transadvocate.com.
How are you doing?
So I have heard we have a transgender person in Oklahoma City that’s running for house.
I want to learn a little more about his run.
I’m sorry is it a female or a male.
Great. Can you tell me more about Paula’s run and the reason why she is running?
Do they view Paula as a transgender or or do they view Paula as just an ordinary woman who is just that’s out there making a change for the community?
Jennifer is an amazing activist. She is a hardcore activist who will do what she believes when she believes it at that moment.
We are for our stoning (Chanting.)
We are here for our stoning x 10
We must stand united against the spreading of hateful messages to other countries by these churches
We are here we’re queer, were’ fabulous don’t fuck with us.
Well Jennifer Louis Lopez was offended and she’s a lesbian.
Nah hold it.
Jennifer Louise Lopez was born in the Bronx NY as Ralph Johnson male.
Went to school as a male. Went to the boy’s bathroom all throughout high school.
HI my name is Jennifer Lopez. You may know me as the stoning lady. Earlier this year I went up to the
I decided to go up to the church with my video camera as ask for my stoning. As a result of asking for my stoning. I had worldwide coverage to the youtube video that I made and David Manning the pastor decided to say some negative things about me that were homophobic and transphobic.
My name is not Ralph. And my name was never Ralph and stop your hating. It’s 2014 and it’s time for you to grow up and realize that we live in a society right now where the truth is acceptable. And the truth is that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender have rights in this community and in this world and the truth is you are breaching those rights by your hateful messages.
Before settling into an efficiency apartment last spring in Harlem, Jennifer Louise Lopez was street homeless in New York city for 365 days. Atlah Church, on the other hand, has long been a major part of the Harlem social fabric. The church is well-known for its hateful church signs—it’s often referred to as the Church that doesn’t like President Barack Obama. In recent months, the church started to post variations of homophobic sayings that has caught the attention of the media.
“Obama has released the homo demon on the land. Lookout black woman a white homo may take your man.”
“Harlem is a sodomite free zone. Stop sodomizing our children in schools across America.”
“Jesus would stone homes. Harlem is a homo-free zone.”
The last sign disturbed Jennifer so much that she decided to go to the church and ask for her stoning. She posted the video of that act and the video went viral, garnering more than 200,000 views on Facebook and Youtube.
Since that brazen act, she has initiated a protest against the church, done dozens of media interviews and is now known as the “Stoning Lady.”
She’s come a long way from being street homeless just one year ago.
When Sandy hit New York City, 650,000 houses across the city were damaged or destroyed. The flood surge overwhelmed the East and South shores of Staten Island, covering more than 16 percent of the island’s residential areas. Many residents were forced to leave their homes. Banks have foreclosed on many properties, as homeowners couldn’t pay mortgages after the storm. Others couldn’t afford repair work.
Last August, Rep. Michael Grimm (R) said his office had a list of 60 Sandy-damaged houses that needed to have mold remediation or be demolished. Eighteen months later, many still stand empty.
The McGraths run a nonprofit organization on Staten Island called Beacon of Hope, which they started in February 2013 to rebuild the hardest-hit neighborhoods of Staten Island. When they first started, they spent more than 30 hours a week visiting vacant houses, checking their mold status and looking for ways to clean them up.
Deidre McGrath says that 54 of the homes they have inspected are infested with mold.
Claudia McKenna is one of Staten Islanders who stayed after the storm. Now she is living in the middle of two abandoned houses. She felt very unsafe because of the moldy smell.
For the McGrath, the main focus now is revisiting abandoned properties to see if their ownership and interior conditions have changed since October, while making a new list of mold-affected homes. Their next step is contacting city government and local politicians, trying to find a way to clean up these moldy houses.
[Claudia McKenna] This is Singulair pills that I take everyday, it’s a pill for breathing problems.
We’re trying to live here, we rebuilt everything and I wanna live in a safe environment. And right now it’s not safe.
People get in and out of the houses…
I have seasonal asthma bronchitis and I am afraid I am gonna have to start using my inhalers because you can’t smell when the wind comes by, you can’t smell the mold.
Look, look at this here…I don’t know if you could see it. But the roof is gonna caved in, there’s big hole…on the roof. The door is open… the breeze… This is a mass here.
18, 19 months later, the houses are still in the same condition. They still need to be got out, they still need to be cleaned out in the back and nobody has done anything.
The houses on the outside are deteriorating, inside the mold…
(Title card) The storm covered over 16 percent of the island’s residential areas. Many residents were forced to leave their homes. A year and a half later, some houses still stand empty.
He is a very good protector. I don’t need an alarm system. He doesn’t let anybody come near the property, which is very good because it’s very isolated here.
We were out of the house six months. I had five and a half feet water in each room of my house. Everything was destroyed. They had to be rebuilt. Now I am in the middle of two abandoned houses.
I feel very uncomfortable in the middle of very unsafe hazards.
[Deidre McGrath] We were walking in this area to show people in America that people were still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
That’s one of the problems that we have that abandoned houses like this, when the bank owns it, you have to contact… first you have to find out who owns the house. When you find them, you gonna contact the owner and get them to sign a waiver that lets volunteer groups go in and clean it up.
Nobody is taking responsibility for the interior of the homes that were saturated with ocean water and whatever other debris came up in that title surge. You know you had oil from home, you had gas from cars, you had sewage… I mean all the stuff went into these homes and has now sat for a year and a half inside these homes with the windows closed door shut and it’s just festering.
[Claudia McKenna] I really hope politicians, the local and state officials take this seriously that there’s big concern about this. Not everybody is back from Sandy. People still owe a lot of money. And the country, the state’s dragging their feet on this.
Indoor exposure to mold can cause asthma symptoms, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and coughing and wheezing in otherwise healthy people.
Adrienne Sprouse is medical director of Manhattan Health Consultants, specializing in physical and mental illness caused by environmental and chemical exposure. She said that if there’s one building next to another or there’s a very moldy building that people walk past all the time, they can definitely get sick.
Antonio Yarbough is released after 12 years in prison thanks to a new DNA analysis technique
Catalina has an unusual landlord, even by New York City standards. After a winter without heat or a bathroom, Cat was less than surprised when the city shut down her entire building. Now she’s fighting to hold on to her home.
No one should have to live like this. To go through what I went through, it was horrendous really. Not being able to use the bathroom, the no heat, the roaches. The bottoms of my kids’ socks had mice droppings.
I just didn’t know what else to do. What else can I do? Going to court I felt was the only step but even so nothing was done so basically I was doomed.
In gentrifying areas like North Brooklyn, this phenomenon of landlords either creating these conditions or allowing bad conditions to persist uncorrected in an effort to get the tenants out but even though there is this phenomenon happening all over the place I would say that the Israel’s behavior does stand out as a particularly dramatic example.
Catalina lived in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Greenpoint. All of the apartments in her building are rent-stabilized, so tenants pay less than market rate. If all of the tenants moved out, the Israels could renovate the building and make a lot more money.
Forget about trying to get a market rent for your apartment you cant get the rent you need to cover your expenses that’s the problem with rent stabilization its basic algebra.
I honestly feel like the rent-stabilization apartments help out a lot of people in the community. I have two kids I have to take care of, my income is not that high. I can’t really afford a $2,500 apartment.
Living conditions at Catalina’s building kept getting worst. The city deemed the building unlivable and ordered all of the tenants to move out.
I feel like they’ve taken full advantage of me. I’m homeless I have no place to go. I have no place to go I have no place to live my kids don’t have a room. My kids don’t have a bed to sleep in. So I feel like they basically won they got what they wanted.
Now I’m starting to puzzle the pieces back of my life and get back on my feet but it’s been a bumpy road. The only way that I honestly feel like I got some type of justice is when I move back and who knows when that will happen? So when can I come back home?
New York City is experiencing what Mayor Bill de Blasio calls an Affordable Housing Crisis. With rents up more than 75% since the year 2000, it’s hard for low-income families to find adequate homes.
Many middle-class renters have been priced out of Manhattan, and are moving to Brooklyn. Eager to capitalize on this migration, developers build luxury apartments in what were once working-class neighborhoods.
As gentrification takes hold, low-income families can’t keep up with rising rents. What keeps many of them in their homes is rent-stabilization, a government program that limits the amount rent can go up on certain apartments.
But what happens when a booming housing market pits landlords against their rent-stabilized tenants?
Catalina Hidalgo is homeless after the city placed a vacate order on her apartment building. Her landlord, Joel Israel, is accused by his tenants of neglecting his buildings in order to scare off low-income families and move in richer ones.
Cat and her children endured a winter without heat and moths without access to a bathroom. She says Joel Israel always had an excuse but never had a solution.
Cat’s story is a prime example of the hidden costs of gentrification. She is now navigating the complex labyrinth of housing court in a quest to bring Israel to justice. And despite all the obstacles in her way, Cat just wants to move back in to her old apartment. As far as Cat is concerned, home is something worth fighting for.
Password: debt. Student debt continues to spiral upwards in America. With the help of some real-life students in debt, this animated explainer gives a quick recap of where we’ve been, how we got here, and (hopefully) where we’re headed.
TOBIAS SCHAD: My name is Tobias, and I have $106,000 in student debt.
VO: Well, gentlemen, at least you’re not alone. More than 7 million student borrowers are in default. That’s a larger population than 37 U.S. states. On average, college seniors graduating in 2012 left school with $29,400 in debt. That can be pretty spooky.
And it’s not getting any better. Federal loan rates are on the rise again, and tuition rates continue to spiral upwards.
A bachelor’s degree has never been this expensive or this popular. In 1980, room, board and tuition would top out under 10,000 of today’s dollars. But in the last 30 years, college tuition has increased 1,120 percent.
OBAMA: We can’t stand by when millions of young people are saddled with debt just as you’re starting off. And higher education cannot be a luxury reserved for a privileged few.
VO: States are the easy scapegoat. From 2008-2012, states cut funding to higher education by $2,394 per student. That’s a lot of ramen. But there’s some disagreement. Here’s Rachel Fishman, a policy analyst at NewAmerica.org.
RACHEL FISHMAN: Institutions turn around and point a lot of blame at states, but it’s more complicated than that. Jobs have really changed in the past few years in that you need some post-secondary training of some sort.
VO: College doesn’t necessarily mean a leafy campus anymore. It doesn’t have to be synonymous with debt either. There are a lot of degrees out there, not all of which require buying the equivalent of a luxury sports car every year for four years. We have options now. It’s time to start using them.
As for alternatives, Fishman points to rising attendance rates at technical and two-year programs as an indication that America is getting wise to their education needs. Free and online course continue to grow in number, and public universities have renewed a push to return higher education to an affordable place.
Johanny Puig, AKA “MC Joha,” was picked up from his home Feb. 7 by immigration officials. Puig is an undocumented immigrant who left the Dominican Republic to pursue hip hop in NYC.
And basically, that’s what it is
It’s funny, cause even when he’s in there, he just talks about his music.
TITLE CARD: Johanny Puig is an undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic. On February 7, he was detained in his home by immigration officers. He arrived in NYC six years ago to pursue a career in hip hop and performs with the group Los Leones. Los Leones have performed a couple of shows without him.
I felt like, he was missing, cause he’s a big dog.
It’s not the same energy.
TITLE CARD: Esther Vasquez visits her boyfriend each week while they wait for him to be deported or released. Their lawyer tells them there is a chance he could be released since he has no criminal record.
I want him out, right now, that’s the only thing I want.
TITLE CARD: On April 25, Esther gets a call. Johanny will be released that night.
The system took three months of my time, of my life. It thought it took it from me. But it’s given me three months of wisdom. And I’m happy about it.
“Los Leones” performed at several concerts raising awareness about his situation as well as helping raise money for lawyers fees. His girlfriend Esther Vasquez visited him every Friday until April 25, when they got word he would be released since he didn’t have a criminal record.
The Obama Administration has announced that its priority in deportations is immigrants with serious criminal pasts. Reports show that two in five immigrants deported in 2013 had no criminal record.
Gemma Solimene, an immigration policy at Fordham University, said immigrants who are detained can seek prosecutorial discretion. It means the Department of Homeland Security has leeway and can decide how and when to enforce immigration laws.
“All you really have is the government saying, ‘OK, we’ll leave you alone — for now,’” Solimene said.
Roca Mía is a cooperative construction company in Far Rockaway that formed from the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy. They’re attempting to rebuild houses and the local economy.
Manuel: In a normal job, the employee is paid for the amount of time he works and the profits belong to the owner of the business. In this case, no. In this case, we, the owners, are the workers, and the profits are distributed equally.I’m part of the cooperative Roca Mía and we’re dedicated to construction.I live here in the city of Far Rockaway. From what you see from the outside it would seem that everything was already back to normal. But inside, no, no you can see that people still don’t have everything fixed.
Never in my life had I had the opportunity to see so much… destruction.
The church was also converted into a help center for the community. It was also a beautiful time.
Caption: After Hurricane Sandy, relief workers hosted workshops for Rockaway residents interested in starting their own cooperative businesses. A year later, Roca Mía is one of two businesses still running that came out of the program.
Hugo: They came speaking Spanish, speaking like us. Well, different accents, right. But they cared a lot about what was happening here and about the Hispanic community. That was what caught my attention. I had never seen anything like it before.
Manuel: We have weekly meetings to discuss all of our projects and check in on how we’re doing.
Scott: We could try to get the government to give you a contract.
Henry to Son: How was school?
Henry’s Son: Good.
Manuel: We need someone else? Another member of the coop. Not an employee.
Communist Party Headquarters. [laughter]
Tammy: You know, in the wake of a natural disaster, there’s a lot of destruction and a lot of loss and so it’s a moment and an opportunity to rebuild and re-create and the question is what that rebuilding looks like. Is it going to be rebuilt in a way that some people coin ‘disaster capitalism,’ where it’s an opportunity to push out the people who have been there and really gentrify the area? Or is it going to be rebuilt in a way that creates wealth and ownership for the people in the Rockaways?
Caption: The program is now holding its second round of workshops to incubate new co-ops.
Workshop Facilitator: We want to do a role-play with you.
Workshop Facilitator: Anyone want to volunteer?
Volunteer: How much more are you going to pay me?
-I’m only going to pay your normal salary.
-It’s no good.
Manuel: This is a new economic vision. It’s not that those on the top are going to be brought down, but that those on the bottom are going to rise up.
Manuel: En un trabajo normal, el empleado le pagan por su tiempo de trabajo y las ganancias quedan con el dueño del negocio. En este caso, no. En este caso, los dueños somos trabajadores ya las ganancias se reparten equitativamente.
Soy parte de la cooperativa Roca Mía y estamos dedicados a la construcción.
Vivo acá en la ciudad de Far Rockaway. Por lo que se ve por afuera, pareciera que ya todo á como normal. Pero más sin embargo, adentro, no, no, la gente todavía no tiene todo listo.
Nunca en mi vida había tenido la oportunidad de ver tanta… destrucción.
También fue una etapa bonita. La iglesia se convirtió en un centro de ayuda para la comunidad.
A través de Occupy Sandy, vinieron The Working World con esta visión de impulsar la economía y reconstruir lo que el huracán dañó.
Hugo: Vinieron hablando español, hablando como nosotros. Bueno, diferentes accentos. Pero, como que les importó mucho lo que estaba pasando aquí con la comunidad Hispana. Eso es lo que me llamó la atención. No lo había visto antes.
Manuel: Tenemos reuniones semanales para discutir siempre los proyectos, para ver cómo vamos caminando.
Scott: Podríamos presionar al gobierno para que les den un contrato.
Henry a su hijo: ¿Cómo fue la escuela?
Hijo de Henry: Bien.
Manuel: ¿Necesitamos a alguien? Un miembro más de la cooperativa. No es un empleado.
Sede del Partido Comunista. [risas]
Tammy: Sabes, después de un desastre natural, hay mucha destrucción y mucho perdido, así que es un momento y una oportunidad para reconstruir y re-crear y la pregunta es, ¿cómo parece esa reconstrucción? ¿Va a estar reconstruido en una manera que algunos llaman ‘el capitalismo de desastre’? ¿O va a estar reconstruido en una manera que crea riqueza y propiedad para la gente de los Rockaways?
Caption: El programa ya está en su segunda ronda de talleres para incubar nuevas cooperativas.
Workshop Facilitator: Queremos hacer una actuación.
Workshop Facilitator: ¿Alguien quiere ser voluntario?
Volunteer: ¿Cuánto más se va a pagar?
-Sólo te voy a pagar tu salario normal.
Manuel: Este es una nueva visión económica. No es que los de arriba van a venir para abajo, sino que los de abajo van a venir para arriba.
Call it “Disaster Socialism.”
In the destruction and debris that Hurricane Sandy left along the urban beachfront communities of the Rockaway Peninsula, some relief workers saw an opportunity for local residents to profit. WORCS, or Worker Owned Rockaway Cooperatives, was conceived by members of Occupy Sandy, an organization that sprang from the Occupy movement and began setting up relief centers in areas affected by the storm as soon as the waves ebbed back into the Atlantic. One such hub was based in a makeshift church on Cornaga Avenue where the future members of the cooperative construction company Roca Mía prayed together every Sunday.
After the storm wiped out his heat and electricity, Manuel Escobar, a founding member of Roca Mía, spent 15 days living in the basement of Cornaga Church with his wife and two daughters, one of whom was just a few weeks old at the time.
Occupy Sandy volunteers from around the city worked closely with residents like Escobar to revive the Rockaways, adamantly calling their efforts “mutual aid,” not charity. They soon became familiar with the issues that plagued the peninsula’s working class neighborhoods before the storm. Unlike most parts of the city, for instance, the Rockaways suffer from a lack of restaurants and other services, which contributes to high rates of unemployment.
Economic opportunity was part of what had motivated Escobar to move to the U.S. from El Salvador two years prior. “I had heard that it was a good place to work and to grow economically,” he said.
Upon landing in the Rockaways, Escobar bounced between construction and other odd jobs, but always had the idea in the back of his mind that he could start his own business.
In the Spring of 2013, he got his chance.
Occupy Sandy members teamed up with The Working World, a non-profit incubator for cooperative businesses, to create a 12-week crash course for local residents with entrepreneurial aspirations. Participants from a wide range of backgrounds came with a flurry of ideas and eventually coalesced into five groups with five separate visions: an entertainment collective, a health food store, a pupusería, a bakery and a construction company.
After a year of growing pains, only the bakery and the construction company remain. But now that WORCS is in its second round of workshops, the Rockaways may soon be home to a worker-owned laundromat, juice bar and cab company, too.
Jessica Lief, a trauma therapist in NYC, reflects on her experiences with street harassment. Studies show internationally that anywhere from 70 to 99 percent of women will face street harassment. Now, NYC women are speaking out against it.
Replace this line with Your 240 character description
NICK: There’s always a duality between superheroes and villains. They’re mirror images of each other. Instead of opposites. They’re more like part of each other because you can’t have a super villain without a super hero and you can’t have heroes without villains.
. We’re all interdependent but for most people it’s in the background. They don’t think about the millions of things that support their life. All the people that are involved in supporting their food, their income and their day to day life.
We’re all mutants. If you have a genetic disease. You’re definitely a mutant.
If you’re creative, then creativity itself is like a mutation in a way. A mutated way of looking at the world.
That’s how I coped. You’re kind of escaping things. You’re creating a parallel world. Because you can’t really move around your own world.
Nick was raised in Mobile, Alabama. He talks lovingly of the lush, jungle flora found at the border of Louisiana. He’s been on one form of life support or another since the age 9, when an infected surgical site irritated the mitochondrial disease he was born with, causing a ‘mito collapse’ and, in Nick’s words, “killed what little muscle tone” he had previously.
It was during this first collapse that Nick began to draw comics. He drew them for himself and his fellow patients. He created a whole, alternative world based around his character, Super Dude. He eventually lost control of his muscle functioning, confining him to a bed. Using the digital paint tool Corel, he began drawing web comics.
Nick beginning attending Spring Hill College’s Mobile campus at the age of 16. While there, he began a state-wide campaign to extend home-care funding past the age of 20.
Nick lives in lower Manhattan, with his girlfriend Alejandra Opsina, who is also a disabled activist. The two met on Second Life in 2007. A showing work based around this Life Support conversation he had with his friend, anthropologist Zoe Wool, is currently being shown at Bushwick art gallery Gordilloscudder.
“What Remains” is a visual exploration of the Prinkipo Greek Orphanage on the island of Büyükada off the coast of Istanbul. The orphanage closed its doors in 1964, and for the past 50 years, it has been in the care of Erol Baytaş.
What Remains – transcript
My dad had been the head cook at Robert College, Boğaziçi University.
Babam daha once Robert Kolei’de – Boğaziçi Üniversitesi’nde, babam başaşçiydi.
Since he was incapable of holding onto a job, he came here out of necessity.
Hayata dikişte tuturemiyince mecburen buraya geliyor.
Then he passed away and I came in.
Ve vefat ediyor ondan sonar işte ben tekrar devre alıyorum.
So for 30 years, I’ve been the caretaker.
Otuz senedir ben burda görevliyim.
To me, this is my home, but long before, it was a haven for the orphans, who are spread around the world, some of whom come to visit.
Diyorum, bu benim de evim, ama ayna zamanda burdaki daha oncedeki yaşamış olan çocukları, yetim çocukları eviyde, barınağeydi.
A lot of those old people come and point out, “That was my bedroom.”
Işte o yaşamışlı yani şimdi geliyor kişi diyor ki bu benim yatak odam vardır diyor.
And they know exactly where it is. Maybe they only spent five years there in their childhoods, but they know where their bedroom is in this gargantuan building.
Yani ve biliyor. Yani, çocuklukta belki beş sene kalmış ama neresi yatak odası koskoca binada bir yabanci girse kayboliyor.
Can you imagine it?
These are very emotional moments, but unfortunately I didn’t write them down, any of them.
Yani, çok duygulu anlar ama maalasef, yazamadım.
Now they’re lost to the wind, but if I had written them down, or taken pictures, it would be quite different.
Şimdi belki havada kalıyor ama keşke yazılmış olsaydı keşke resmi olsaydı çok farklı olacaktır.
I say this to everyone: I protect the building from people.
Ben işte herkeze doğru söyluyorum.
I’m not a guard. I’m protecting my own home, is how I feel.
Görev değil. Benim evimi koruyorum gibi geliyor bana.
The building is crying. It’s living through its last days. It wants to live as it did in the past.
Bina ağlıyor artık. Ve, son yaklaştı bitiriyor bu bina. Bu bina kurtarmak gerekiyor ve eskiki canlığını istiyor.
Honestly, I don’t want anyone to be a caretaker of this place. I want it to be alive again.
Valla bence…kimse bekci olması istemiyorum. Burası canlansın ve eski hayatına kavuşu isterim.
In 1964, the Prinkipo Greek Orphanage closed its doors and shuttled children to a nearby church. Overlooking the sea from high on the island of Büyükada off the coast of Istanbul, the orphanage has been decaying for the past 50 years. What was once a haven for orphans is now a crumbling building with remnants of its previous life.
It was acquired by the Patriarchate in 2010, and in 2012 it was announced that it would be converted into an international environmental center. That project was given a two-year timeline, and now it still sits in a state of structurally unsound disrepair.
For the past 30 years, Erol Baytaş has been the caretaker, a career he began after the death of his father, who was the original caretaker. Baytaş was born on the grounds of the orphanage, and has developed a deep connection with the orphanage to the point where he doesn’t want anyone to carry on his line of work. He wants the building to be alive again in a way that would benefit people.
The building will not, however, be restored as an orphanage, and it’s unclear when the process will begin to convert it into an environmental center. The path towards new life for it is a gradual one, and each footstep is vital.
This is a short film about my relationship with my boyfriend Juan, who lives 232 miles away. It’s about being together even when far apart. It’s a love story.
We’ve been living apart for the past 9 months — I came to New York City for graduate school, and he stayed in Washington, DC for his job at the state department. Our situation is not unique. According to the census, the number of couples in long distance relationships has doubled in the last twenty years.
Originally we met online, through a dating service called OKCupid. Now much of our relationship takes place via digital proxies like FaceTime, Google Hangout, Snapchat, etc. How appropriate that a relationship begun on the Internet now continues in those venerated tubes.
Despite leaving her home country of Ecuador more than a decade ago, it wasn’t until recently that Luisa Simbaña started to feel at home in New York City. Thanks to Project Luz, a Queens-based photography workshop led by Argentinean artist Sol Aramendi, Luisa started to explore New York through the lens of a camera and make the city her own. This is her story.
[Luisa] Do you want to look at the tree?
When I first got here, the first thing that struck me about Sol was…
In the first class she gave me she said “Why are you always dreaming of going back and don’t live in the present? The present is this country that offers you beautiful things.”
That struck me. And I said to myself “This isn’t an ordinary class. This is a class that started to reeducate me.”
[Sol] I want to see the photos you took. Girls, someone, Neshi, can you get the lights?
Ah, Luisa, what is this, Luisa?
[Luisa] That’s my tree. [Sol] Corona?
[Sol] Ah, the tree you’re taking….
[Luisa] Yes, I have a tree I say hello to everyday.
[Sol]There it is growing.
[Luisa] And now look, it’s blossoming.
[Sol] Look how pretty this picture is. Don’t you think so?
[Sol] I believe it took me three years to arrive.
Immigrants live in an imaginary space. Thinking they’ll go back, or maybe wanting to go back, but knowing they’ll never return.
So they never truly arrive.
The city gives you mixed feelings… Sometimes it seems unreachable, like in the movies.
So it takes a while to get over that and say “I’m here, I too can go to this place, do this, use this space, walk around here…”
And that’s also what I transmit in my workshops, that sense of belonging, of “I’m here.”
[Luisa] When I arrived in this country, the thing I could do was hairstyling.
Sometimes the work you do takes over your life.
But I then started to sort of wake up.
And she started teaching us, but it wasn’t just photography, it was culture.
Oh, and I just loved that.
For me, now, this is a city of dreams.
Now, when I ride the train I even start looking at the map… I mean, I didn’t know how to read the map before.
I would always go straight home from work and back.
After 12, 13, 14 hours working with a lot of stress and more things to do at home…
And now I’ve stopped working!
I quit my job. And I’m not starving.
Now my dream isn’t to pursue money, but life.
Now I just want live.
Project Luz is a Queen-based photography workshop designed to help Latino immigrants connect to the city and their new community through the lens of a camera. “When I moved to New York, photography made me, slowly but surely, feel at home,” says Argentinean artist Sol Aramendi, who leads the workshop. “And just like photography helped me arrive, I wanted to do the same thing for other immigrants.”
One photo at a time, Project Luz’s students learn the basics of photography but also learn how to tell their stories and everyday experiences through visual storytelling.
Luisa Simbaña left her home country of Ecuador more than a decade ago, but it wasn’t until recently that she started to feel truly at home in New York City. Thanks to Project Luz, Luisa started to explore New York through the lens of a camera and make the city her own. This is her story, through the lens of Project Luz.
Michelle and her two sons have been limping by in their ruined home—an apartment with no daylight, no running water and no toilet—for nearly a year. Follow one morning in their long fight to remain in their rent-stabilized apartment.
(Boys… Michael… Mike…)
We used to wake up to daylight. Early in the morning. Bright daylight coming in through the windows. We don’t have that anymore
My landlord came into this building. He was gonna renovate our kitchen and bathroom. So we trusted him. But that wasn’t the case. he tricked us, her destroyed our kitchen and bathroom just to try to force us out, and charge triple or four times the amount of rent.
I didn’t even want my kids to see it. I didn’t want them to see how it looked. Cause I’m like, if I feel this bad, I didn’t want them to see.
(You can see right through the basement. And this here’s what once upon a time used to be my bathroom)
(Daylight. So much of it…)
It’s been ten months already. We have to go upstairs, use somebody else’s bathroom. We don’t have water downstairs Obviously so we take empty gallons of water and fill it up.
Mike. (knocks) Yes? Are you okay in there?
10 months now. 10 sucky months. Right David?
It’s not about being lazy. It’s about going into someone else’s apartment. It’s not your own space, you know?
I know baby. But this won’t be for long OK? I told you that.
You feel hopeless sometimes, you know? I hate the fact that my kids have to go through this.
This is the kitchen-slash-living room. cause this is what the living room was before the landlord destroyed our kitchen and bathroom.
There’s no chocolate chip today. I know.
I miss baking so much. It’s part of being a mom. Tou just want to do stuff for your kids.
You shouldn’t give up. People give up so quickly. I mean, we still have a roof over our heads. We still have food in our stomaches.
I don’t know, just… Keep fighting. Let your voice be heard and let them know this is not the right way to live.
Enjoy boys. See? Not so bad.
Rays of sunlight, peeking through cracks in the plywood, are all that Michelle Navas and her family have left of their old kitchen.
Their apartment has no running water and no toilet. They cook with an electric stove in what used to be their living room, and every morning they gather their towels, tooth brushes, empty water gallons and a bucket, and trek upstairs to a neighbor’s apartment—to use a bathroom that’s now shared by a total of 14 people.
Michelle’s family has lived in their Bushwick apartment for 24 years. As a result, the family pays less than $800 per month, in a neighborhood where market rate apartments nearby have soared to as much as three times that. In June last year, the family’s landlord sealed off the kitchens and bathrooms on the bottom floor of 98 Linden Street, saying that he needed to do some repairs. Soon after, says Michelle, two men showed up with chainsaws and sledgehammers. Only two hours later, her apartment had been utterly demolished.
The destruction at 98 Linden Street in Bushwick is one of the most egregious examples of a worrying new trend. Local activists and politicians say that in New York City’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, they’ve seen a noticeable uptick in landlords destroying their own properties in an effort to force out long-time, rent-regulated tenants.
Local politicians are now calling to designate acts of sabotage against rent-regulated tenants a Class D felony—but for Michelle, that legislation will come too late. Her only recourse is a long battle in court to remain in her home.
“It’s just patience,” says Michelle. “This whole thing is just patience. Waiting around for the city to do something, and not giving up. Cause we’re not giving up, at all.”
When he turned 18, high school student and budding actor Gary Corbin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer. Doctors told him that if he didn’t have his leg amputated he would die within a few months. Corbin, who had grown up in inner city Baltimore, Maryland, had only recently discovered his passion for acting. He didn’t want to do anything else with his life.
Ok. Well a lot of times when people ask me this I just say I’m Gary I’m Gary Corbin I was born in Cambridge, Maryland, spent most of my time in Baltimore. I was raised by my mother and grandmother and two younger brothers and a bit of an extended family. When it comes to profession I usually say I’m an actor, first and foremost. I’m also a playwright, and arts administrator and emerging producer and someone who’s stuck on the arts and entertainment industry for life. Made a lifetime commitment.
Well I think it’s sort of kind of in your DNA so to speak but from a very young age I was really drawn to TV shows I think back in the 60s it was stuff like Leave it to Beaver and Gilligan’s Island and the family used to sit around and watch TV and one of our favorite shows was the Ed Sullivan show and one of the frequent guests were Diana Ross and the Supremes, and just like Opera the Supremes and especially the Motown Sound, sort of uh, I could identify with them and that was where it started. And of course as you grow from childhood on to adolescence and what have you.
When I was in high school we were kids in the ghetto before it became the hood, young black kids. And they had after school programs because they had funding for it and it was a program called the Model Cities Cultural Arts program. And it was a program that gave young inner city kids something to do after school and of course there was the drama club and I joined the drama club. And they say that there aren’t any or not many African American role models but there was a guy, Robert Russell, an actor I believe he was in his late 20s back then and he took us under his wing and
And introduced us to the world of theater. And we started doing things like, we didn’t just do the typical stuff like we did The Rainmaker, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we even did British farce [laughs] and there was always a budget for it we would dress up in costume and have the set designs, the whole works I mean it was like a full-fledged production. And then, fortunately and unfortunately at the year of 18 at the I guess my first year in college, I was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma. That was in ’75 and for those of you who may remember it’s a type of bone cancer, and it was introduced to the word by Ted Kennedy’s son, if that’s the right way to put it.
What I was told back then was that if I didn’t have my leg amputated that I would die, essentially. So they had to do a high above-the-knee amputation for a lot of reasons, I mean the tum–the location of the tumor–it actually was affecting two joints. I believe at the time they were actually considering, since I was still growing you know I was 18 and until you’re 25 you’re still growing, so they decided to keep me from some other surgeries. And the first thing out of people’s mouths were that ‘Well there goes your acting career.’ So I went through the chemotherapy and my mother and grandmother. Grandmother the typical Lena Horne Raisin in the Sun African American matriarch and then my mother she had my three brothers at a very young age and she was a working single black mother African American mother.
Of course they were very nurturing and very loving but they were also strong, and they wouldn’t let me wallow in self-pity and they ushered me into my new life. And I was taken under the wing of the Department of Vocational Rehab and it’s really interesting that right now I’m a master’s student–and I’ll get to that later–in counseling with a vocational rehabilitation option. But I remember my first vocational rehabilitation counselor, Dorothy Clifford, um, strong domineering so to make a long story short after the chemotherapy and the physical therapy and everything um of course there’s the discussion about what are you going to do with your life now, and I still wanted to be an actor despite the fact that you know a couple of people were not sure about that.
And thirty-some years later they’re still not sure but I’m still determined anyway. Um, but she, Dorothy Clifford, she had some reservations but she paved the way for me to um go to uh the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where I majored in theater. Actually they called in visual and performing arts, theater. And on campus, well the feedback was that I became the campus star, I had lead roles in the Man Who Came to Dinner–which broke all box office records by the way–and, god I did–the good part about being a theater major is they take your raw talent and mold and shaped it and craft it into a craft, a skill, and I knew what theater was. I was exposed to Bertold Breck, the Caucasian Chalk Circle which I did, Beckett, um and of course Shakespeare, of course, and the many different genres of theater. They taught me at University of Maryland Baltimore County how to be a better artist, which was great, but not necessarily the realities of the business world.
So naively I thought that I would be able to transfer my campus stardom into New York and Hollywood and the works and boy was I shocked. Um, it’s hostile, it’s an industry that’s extremely hostile towards persons with disabilities. Um, and so during that time after I graduated with my degree in theater, my BF–my BA–in theater, my mother passed away with breast cancer. And the thing about that though is that it was harder for me to go through hers and harder for her as a mother to go through mine, than it was for us to handle our own. That episode and the fact that the shock and disappointment about how horrid it actually–I mean I knew it was hard, trying to get into the industry as an actor, but as a disability, um you’re not supposed to use words like impossible, um highly unlikely, improbable, those are the types of words that you would use and people aren’t so nice about it either. They tell you point blank, ‘You can’t walk right,’ cause I do have, like, for my level of amputation which is above knee hip disarticulation uh that’s high and I use a full prosthesis with the brace and everything so that’s an added thing.
And back then they weren’t too kind to African Americans as well–uh limited roles–so the disappointment of knowing because I had brought into the concept that this is America, the land of opportunity, if you believe if you work hard you can achieve anything that you want. And I relied on that and I did work hard, I believed, I mean I conquered my cancer I learned to walk on my prosthesis I did my homework, I rehearsed endless hours and knowing that I had picked a difficult field but I had done what I was supposed to. So when I stepped up to the plate to achieve whatever I could, um, well you’re only hearing my side of the story but basically I was told things like, ‘There’s no way you’re gonna make it in the industry as an actor. Period. And coupled with the death of my mother who was my number one fan I went into a serious emotional decline. And it was for many years.
But I finally got out of it, when I got out of it, we’re talking about like 1982 and I got out of that fog around 1986 and mind you by that time the concept of mental illness was something that was not really well known at the time or appreciated for what it is. So I didn’t know I was bipolar too. There was a bit of…see the thing about my life is that when you go to a tragedy sometimes there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So I walked into the office of the Maryland State Arts Council one day and I was looking for a job, and I was ready to take anything matter of fact I applied as a secretary. And I interviewed and they were so impressed with the interview that they made me the first Director of Performing Arts Programs at the Maryland State Arts Council.
And um, actually it was one of the best years of my life. Going to college, conquering cancer and going to college was probably the best, then my years at the Arts Council was another one. And it introduced me to the arts as a business, that I didn’t get when I was in school. Not complaining, you have to learn to become a great artist, and if you’re going to go into the business angle you need to know great art when you see it because great art costs money like anything else. So as director…I was introduced primarily to the not-for-profit sector, and that means well it means many things…so I oversaw all of the, many of…I handled the smaller and midsize and what have you theater and dance programs in Maryland and the individual artists. And I formed the panels and I learned not-for-profit arts funding frontwards and backwards, and of course being at Maryland I was next door to the National Endowment for the Arts, and um I got um invited to participate on certain types of panels.
I left that secure job because I wanted to prove that a person with a disability can be an actor. Left it too early, but I left and but I was armed with the experience I had as an arts administrator, and to make a long story short and I’m jumping because it’s a long story, I decided I would go to New York, and try my best, and audition and get close to Broadway or Off-Broadway, and it was extremely hard. In the industry it’s like barely two percent of the jobs that performers with disabilities–and I don’t have the exact statistics with me–but you get the idea it’s very small. Uh, so I what I decided to do after um joining various groups, black groups, groups of people with disabilities and the whole works to try to address the void and the need and the discrimination and the injustice and the disparity, and I sat in on one meeting, and I sort of had an epiphany. I thought, ‘Well we had this same meeting five years ago…no a decade ago..no two decades ago…no several decades ago! We’re having the same meeting, and I don’t want to marginalize but essentially it amounted to writing protest letters to producers, asking why aren’t certain number of African Americans hired, why are persons without disabilities being put into roles other than people with disabilities
and what have you and we’re really going to sock it to them and tell them about themselves and make them cast us and give us the opportunities, or at least the fair chance. One person said at least a fair chance to fail. Um, the epiphany was, well you can’t really make other people, uh, tell your story. Or, they don’t have the passion, even if there’s empathy and desire they’re looking at the market potential and they’re looking at their audience and they’re looking at so many things as well as the traditional prejudice so I started looking at some other people, and I’m not begrudging anybody, but they were making hundreds of millions of dollars to produce what some people consider…trash. [laughs]
And um people that were producing something that’s really going to do something good for um the people that are consuming it are having doors slammed in their faces. So, in addition to, I arrived at the decision that in addition to creating your own opportunity, um, I’m sorry in addition to waiting for others to give you an opportunity perhaps we should also try to create opportunities for ourselves. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. So I was walking down the streets of Harlem one day and this is one of those stories, and I was thinking well how in the world can I create a role for myself, and at that time the one-person shows were becoming very popular. You had Eric Begossian, um doing Talk Radio and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee and Whoopie Goldberg did hers, where she did something that’s very universal, you put a white shirt over your head and she pretends she’s a black girl wanting to be a white girl this is my long, luxurious hair, blonde hair [laughs], and Anna DeVere Smith was becoming very popular.
And during that time I had just finished reading Wallace Terry’s book Bloods. Which was one of the first significant accounts of the African American male experience in Vietnam. Up until then it had been Apocalypse Now and Platoon etc. And he was nominated the Pulitzer Prize and he actually served in Vietnam. So the book was essentially videotaped, person-to-person accounts with African Americans who served in Vietnam from every um part of the armed services…the navy, the army, the marines, and different ranks like sergeant and private and what have you and essentially he just allowed them to talk, and to share their experiences from their gut. And it was one of the most real, gut-wrenching, raw, and visually powerful um words that I read on paper where an image comes into your mind, and it was all about what one of my main drama teachers taught me, to dig deep inside yourself and pull out whatever raw wonders are hiding there.
And I looked up in the sky and I had this image of four pieces of the pie and I don’t know why that came, maybe somebody gave a lecture or something, with one of the workshops, and then I thought four, well, One-legged Men. And I wrote the first one which was a very graphic, raw monologue about a Vietnam, dedicated to the African American Vietnam soldier, but it wasn’t exclusive to African American, and I’m not apologizing for that, I think some things have to be exclusive to our experience because people write history and try to rewrite history and deny us the opportunity to say these things. But, um, my first piece is universal, all wars all races, and not just people who’ve been in wars but anyone who’s been in that type of crisis. And then I wrote four other pieces and got ‘em together and wrote a script and started applying for grants. Because I kept griping to people, to strangers and to people in the industry, and they were like, ‘Well, you gotta do it yourself.’
So I did it and I got the New York Foundation for the Arts, well first it was the Individual Artists in Playwrighting from the Maryland State Council, and then they um theater commission from the NY state council, the performance art fund, I’m doing it out of sequence, the performance art fund from the Franklin Foundation from Jerome, and the…where they pick one for each of the boroughs and I was on Staten Island so I was picked for Staten Island, so just to get the encouragement. Because when you’re told, well I could say some harsh words about what people are thinking but essentially when you’re a person with a disability people magnify it more than what it is, and they only see that.
So I started searching for a director and I found William Martin who was an assistant with Edward Alby and I had an extensive Broadway/Off-Broadway college theater director, the type of director who loved actors…he worked with…all different types of stars and he knew theater. So we took the stories and we shaped and molded them and made them better stories and we put it on the stage and I performed it in New York and Montreal and I performed it and it got rave reviews or whatever, and the process, that process demystified the concept of producing. What happens to a lot of people is you get this image in your mind about what something is like and its so huge till you’re afraid to do it and up till that point I was guilty of it too. But what I found and what I mean by demystifying the concept of producing, uh that concept, or that project, um, eradicated some of my fears and it um destroyed some of the myths.
You have this image–producer, you know a bunch of white guys sitting up in a high tower on broadway smoking cigars and millions of dollars. Actually, and I don’t want to overly simplify, but it’s about raising the money, which I happen to do with my grants, in a small scale but hey. Raising the money, renting the space to rehearse and create, and hiring the people–your director, your stage manager and whatever and your actors and you put it on. And you work, cause Bill and I worked really hard to make this a really good piece of theater, and it turned out to be that.
So that’s when I decided, ok, I’m an actor as well and I have produced and that’s when I decided to be a producer as well, so I joined the New Producers of Broadway League, I sent an email to Rachel Riner, Hi Rachel if you’re out there, she’s just wonderful, um. People like Rachel Riner they help you to forget about all of the discouragement and um all of the slammed doors, because it’s hard, but if you hang in there every now and then someone comes along and opens that door and lets you in and she did. And one good part about being part of the New Producers of Broadway League is you get a chance to have a sit down, face-to-face, well actually it’s like any other workshop where people are invited we new producers and a panel discussion meeting and I’m seeing actual Broadway producers sit across the stage….
The producers of Memphis, the guy that produced Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury and the revival of A Little Night Music, and um it’s all about learning something. And the main thing I learned back then was ok I’m a shoestring producer now, but I’m dealing with the same issues essentially that they’re dealing with, because they’re discussing their target market, audience development, how do you market the product, how do you get people to want to come, how do you advertise it, and just about everything. The big difference though is that I’m working paycheck by paycheck and they’re talking about millions of dollars. But the concept is there. That experience encouraged me to continue pursuing my pursuit as a business person.
So I joined the small business administration and um, different types of small business development organizations that exist to help people develop more, and the main reason I’m doing it, now I’m doing it to create opportunities for myself no one else will, but the idea is to try to help others. So I formed Globescope Arts and Entertainment Inc. which is home to disabled and senior citizen artists and entertainers, underrepressented cultures and our supporters. Now we’re refining the mission statement, but with that I was able to produce multi arts events with singers and dancers and what have you, and from some of my small business development mentors, uh, from Baruch College the small business entrepreneurs program…
Now what happened was I got a scholarship from Reese Baron for acting and film and TV and what have you and people in Hollywood, people in Hollywood have been trying to get me to come here for 10 years but I could not abandon my grandmother who had suffered a stroke and it was a six-year nightmare. And it’s a good thing that this is a health oriented project as well because another part of Globescope is we’ve got to do something about the senior citizens. It’s pathetic the way we treat them in this country. So anyway but while I’m here I’m gonna work on the solo career and continue to work on Globescope, and something else wonderful happened–um as I discussed earlier when I mentioned that all of the rejections and people doing everything unintentionally and intentionally to prevent you from moving forward with your dream, every time that happens someone else comes along.
So I decided that I wanted to, since I ran out of money, and I’m in the start-up phase and am having problems getting money and finishing up my business plan or whatever, I decided to get my master’s. And um, uh, I started browsing around the halls of Cal State LA and my third-party funder would not fund TV, film and theater, but I thought I’m going to have to find some kind a way to get some money to pay for my dream and there was a guy, I called up the counseling with vocational rehabilitation and Cal State Los Angeles and Dr. Martin Brodwin got on the phone, and it was something about the repoir it was natural nothing forced about it and I was like ok I have a counseling and they want me to, we’re thinking about finding money for me to go to grad school…
and me finding a career to look into and um, he said well can you come down next Wednesday I came down that Wednesday and we sat there and the deadline for to get into the grad program was Friday and he’s well this is may be a little bit impossible but do you think you might be able to get your statement and your three references and fill out the application by 3:00 Monday. Well we spoke and it was a really nice conversation and the minute I got out of the meeting I called a couple of people in New York and I called my counselor and she said ‘Oh I’ll write a letter,’ and my father figure in New York, I’ll write a letter, and one of my biggest funders, so I had my letters to email to me. And then I barricaded myself in for the weekend and wrote my statement and filled out my application and 12, maybe 2:00 everything was on his desk.
And so I went for the interview and I was accepted into the program. The master’s program at Cal State Los Angeles–counseling with a vocational rehabilitation option–and I love that. In my undergrad it was visual and performing arts with a concentration in theater. You need to broaden it. But anyway so I’m here. Woo! The first year…that summer! It was…we’ll put it this way, uh this is April, July I’ll be 57. And in a couple years I’ll be a 40 year cancer survivor. You don’t remember things or process information in the same way you did at 57 even if you’re youthful 57, I mean I’m trying to turn the clock back, but you don’t process information the same way you did when you were in your 20s, but he took me by the hand. Dr. Brodwin, Dr. Paul. Um everyone here, the staff is wonderful, and Dr. oh because I had to take statistics.
And I can’t count. I could barely count…I’ve never done well in math. And, um, sure enough the first day at school, ‘Well um tighten your seat belts based on these test scores I want you to find the cumulative frequency the relative frequency and what have you,’ and I thought ‘Ok, I might have made a mistake, maybe I shouldn’t take this class.’ I was in Dr. O’s office with a drop slip, and she looked at it calmly, ‘Hm, well I’ll sign it, I’ll get the professor to sign it, but I think you can do it.’ [laughs] And then I think she said, ‘Well I have some suggestions’ and then she said, ‘Well just sit in for the summer for the first 10 weeks, digest it, get it all in your system, listen, look at it, take it in and then come back in the fall and then we’ll start the grading process.’
I’ll give you an incomplete and we’ll start the grading process. Well my first reaction was that’s 20 weeks I can’t take 20 minutes of this class. [laughs] And she’s like well you’re gonna have to do it if you wanna…so anyway, but I got a tutor and um, she just oh kind, all it takes is a kind person. My point being that after decades and decades in the arts and entertainment business, wouldn’t it have been nice to have someone just usher me in the way Dr. Brodwin and Dr. O did? It took one weekend, to get someone to look at you and see you for who you are, see what your potential is, not tell you who you are not but tell you who you are, something you’ve been waiting forever to…so that’s what’s happening.
And you know when people, when you say you wanna do something and tried to do something many people have a tendency to go to far on the pessimistic side or too far on the optimistic and paint too rosy a picture. The reality is actually in the center. So I’m riding the center. Now, how does vocational rehabilitation gel with arts and entertainment? I’ll tell you. My work has always had a social enterprise element to it–be it not-for-profit or not, and I’m going by the premise right now, or the hard-core belief, when you look at where people are, and I’ve been learning this in my voc rehab classes, when you look at the state of the lives of people with disabilities right now the employment statistics are grim. Um, a lot of senior citizens who thought they would retire are not gonna be able to retire and pulled back into work. We live in a marginalized me me society where racism still exists, prejudice still exists and even worse, indifference and denial have even taken their place. They’ve usurped the reality of that.
So, the, I guess, and you know we’re human and there’s always going to be something about being uncomfortable about around someone who is different from who you are. I mean I get the discomfort and it took me years of therapy for me to reach a level of acceptance that people are discomfortable, are not comfortable, with the fact that I had an amputation, the fact that I walk with a prosthesis, etc. I understand that. Uh, but what has to happen is that attitudes really need to change. I mean this is the 21st century, the year 2013 and we’re still holding on to these things. Well, how do we do it?
Well, I have a talent and others…I’ve decided to combine my artistic talents with my administrative talents and come up with a concept that’s going to bring us out of the shadows and into the light and the best way to do that is through film, TV and the stage. That’s how we…now sometimes it doesn’t work…but since I actually live it and others actually live it, uh, I think I have a better idea, or not better but I think I have a good idea of what it means to be a well-rounded individual with a disability. We have hearts we have brains we have spirits and bodies and souls. So once someone has enough, has a lot of exposure to the full humanity of people as a human being, then the stereotypes and the misconceptions and the prejudices they sort of evaporate.
I mean just look at the um, gay community. In television for example, and I’m not saying that it happened overnight, but a little over a decade or so ago, if you even suggested or mentioned…the ad sponsors would yank it, would yank the program. And now we see images everywhere. But with people with disabilities um even there are roles with people in a wheelchair and the actors aren’t even in a wheelchair. We do have um, Robert Hall on um, don’t kill me buddy but he’s on CSI and he’s been on there for years, a lot of people don’t even know he’s there he’s a double amputee. Jerry Jewell was the first semi-regular role on The Facts of Life, we got Oscar winners Marley Matlin, Linda Hunt, so it happens but we need to keep the momentum going.
So I have been–of course I’ve done the workshops and I’m learning it–it’s not just a pipe dream it actually can happen. I had the opportunity to observe people who have tried in the past to do the same thing that I’m trying to do now, I had a chance to watch their success and I had an opportunity to observe um what they did, you know that sunk the ship. And I don’t want to make those kinds of mistakes. So here I am and let’s move onward and forward. And let’s try to bring people with disabilities out of the shadows and into the light. Let’s um appreciate the value of our seniors who are walking history books…
When I lost my mother, that really triggered it. Um, it was as if, well when that happens and it’s something that has to happen to you, you have to lose your mother too to understand exactly what that means, life becomes a lot less secure. Because when as a child you injure your knee or something, or you break a tooth, who’s the first person that you, ‘Mom!’ and just to see her laying in that casket, stiff and cold–and I wrote a play about that by the way and I use that experience in the play mind you–but to see her cold and stiff and then you kiss her and it’s like kissing the cement, um, it did something to me that’s you know really hard to describe. It broke my brothers, one of them is still broken, the baby brother, he was 18 and he just graduated from college. It just didn’t seem fair, didn’t we just go through seven years prior, my amputation and that was quite a shock and a challenge, so I um went into a deep depression for several years
And it was exacerbated by um, marijuana and alcohol, that even brought it out more, and then I fell in love with someone and I tried with the individual to take my mother’s place well part of it was taking my mother’s place and that broke me too. And then while that was going on I had just graduated from college from UNBC, the same school as Cathleen Turner, and I see Cathleen Turner on the screen and she’s the big star–Body Heat–and I’m being, when I walk into a casting office despite the fact that the quality of my artwork has never been challenged, never. Some people think that I am brilliant–their words–some people think that I am, but I would go into the casting office and they look at me as if I’m some type of joke, ‘What are you doing here,’ and I would do a wonderful audition and then after the audition they would say ‘Well that was great. Have you ever tried writing?’ [laughs]
You know those types of things. And then when I would go out, cause you know I like making love and relationships and those types of things, and I got a lot of rejections. It’s very painful to get rejected because you’re an amputee. Um, especially with someone that you’re attracted to and you know you’re young, so that was part of it and then, I went through the process and went to therapy, and then I got the Arts Council job, and I left that too early to tour with a group and then I thought I had made a big mistake cause I got fired from that job…she was an evil bitch. Pardon the expression…she was evil…a polio survivor. You see sometimes your own people, oh they can cut you up worse than others. So as a matter of fact any break that I’ve gotten in life has come from white males.
You know the races, white male. All the big significant breaks have come from a white guy who saw me as Gary. Well not all of ‘em but most of ‘em. And then there were some good years. And then my grandmother had a stroke, and mind you my grandmother wasn’t just my grandmother she was my best friend. And then she had a stroke. And she became mom after 25 years, and when she had that massive stroke in ’96 it took away her ability to speak to and just to see this proud…she’s Lena younger…and to see that happen to her…and my uncle had died of a heart attack before then and so she lost my mother and uncle and my aunt was the one left. And, well it got really the relationship between my aunt and my cousins got extremely hospital. To be fair for their first two years they took care of her.
But then afterwards she was in the nursing home for the next few years and that felt like a slow death sentence where you’re gonna lose a mother twice. And towards the end one of the nurses at the nursing homes said, ‘You’ve been here for her, she’s getting ready to die. Go to New York. She doesn’t really know you’re here. Go to New York.’ And so I went to New York, fell in love with someone, got my heart broken, had a nervous breakdown. My first job, with Cushman and Wakefield, and it was a good one, but I was slowly losing it before then cause I had walked off of five jobs. And just that night it was like I had gone through a dark tunnel, and I just broke down. So I went to the hospital, they admitted me, and um I was there for five weeks.
There was this main doctor who for two weeks would not let me make the call–cause what I was doing was I was calling my grandmother in the nursing home cause I knew she was, well she may have been too far gone but if she was she would’ve been waiting for me cause I was the only one she could depend on–and so I was calling them when I was allowed to call, to let them know, to tell them that the reason I hadn’t been seeing her is that I got this really bad cold and I didn’t want to infect her. And they said that they’d been giving her the messages. But when I finally made that call they were like, ‘Well didn’t you hear? She passed away two weeks ago?’ So that’s how I learned. I missed the funeral and everything. But that was ok though cause it was so nasty between me and the rest of the family. I was demonized. I was the devil. Because I knew what she really wanted. Part of it. And so,
They through me out on the street in the hospital, lied to me and next thing I knew I was out in the street, homeless, and the first shelter was like a jail. They got me out of there and then I stayed in one for about six months and then they found me housing. And then I slowly but surely…now before the breakdown I was working with Four One Legged Men with Bill, but we had to stop it because of what was going on. And then I got my housing and after I got my housing and started making my climb back I went on SSD cause I wanted to get my mind back together so it was the mental thing. And, um, during that time though I was still winning fellowships and awards and grants. And then I was finally able to do the show. So those were the dark periods.
So Four One-Legged Men is a one-person show, I perform it I wrote it and I perform in it. And it’s essentially about four different high above the knee amputees from different backgrounds and seasons and eras. It starts in the winter of the present time where I play a writer who’s visiting a nursing home. He’s guilty about not seeing his grand, well foster grandparent cause he was adopted, and um he decides to go and to dedicate three stories that he wrote. So we move from the fall in the nursing home to the present day in 1957 in the spring, um where a father wants visitation rights to his toddler-aged daughter and he has a huge battle with his wife and he storms out of the house and he gets drunk and falls asleep and he dreams of uniting with his daughter, and um his mother in law which he was really in love with over his wife, they see a rainbow….
And um, he comes to terms with his amputation and his divorce and the whole works and his love for his daughter. And after that scene it moves into the AIDS era in the 80s where I play a gay male, and it’s the 4th of July and I’m dressed up in a white nurse’s uniform with a white cap and a black stripe. He’s going to a costume party in a bathhouse. And he falls and breaks his artificial leg at a remote bus stop, and mind you back then they didn’t have cell phones, and he’s trying to and he’s got one quarter to do a public…to hop down the hill cause when your leg is broken you gotta hop…down the hill to call either his father who hates his lifestyle or his friend who he just had a huge argument with.
And while he’s um deciding he reminisces about how he equates his life to Dorothy and Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind…he’s gonna find his way home. And after that scene the third one it moves into the third scene waiting for Oz, the Vietnam part where I play a Vietnam veteran with an afro–you take licenses when it’s theater–he’s detained on the psych ward of a hospital, and I have on nothing but my army shorts. I take off the prosthesis and I perform the piece in it’s entirety with my, on my one leg. And he goes through the ordeal of this deranged delusional Vietnam vet who’s in a state of delirium, but not enough that he doesn’t realize that he wants to be united with Oz, who’s the symbol of the powerful African American veteran in the Vietnam War. And it sounds tragic, it’s raw and gritty–I have the raw version and the clean version.
And at the end of the dance his liberation is he dances to Ike and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary and I dance on one leg to Ike and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary. Not doing it now but I want to revive it, before I get 60 and I can’t do it anymore, kick the legs up and jump up and whatever. And hop on chairs and stand on chairs and raise my fists. Can’t do it! There will be a time in the next few years where I won’t be able to do it. So that’s um Four One-Legged Men.
Yeah, um. I guess well the thing is I um, I had just well it was the year that I had graduated from college and I was optimistic. Because after all I was the campus star. So I mean I and The Man Who Came to Dinner it broke all box office records at the college, and um it was well established that I could act despite my disability, that I could pack a house, that I could get laughs that I could play all different types of roles, so I just went charging out there thinking, ‘Yeah it’s a difficult world,’ and by that time Howard Heerollins from Baltimore had done Ragtime and he was nominated for an Oscar. So I just thought that there was hope. But to continuously hear, you know without even giving somebody a chance, ‘Yeah, you’re good. But it’s not good enough,’ and so I’m sort of paraphrasing, that brings you down.
And um, just like I said my mother was, when you have your mother, you know you feel safe. I guess you know I mean from our very early stages in infancy we connect and attach to the mother and then when we come out of the womb there’s the stages–Erickson’s seven stages of development and I can’t remember any of them right now–but we go through the stages. And my mother was barely in her 40s and she died. And um, I guess during that time before that time and before my mother’s death and before I had to face the reality that becoming successful in the industry was going to be a lot harder than I thought it would, I had this, an extremely positive attitude, a Peter Pan type of attitude, I actually believed that if you waved a magical wand and sprinkled stardust you could create miracles, and I still believe that now. [KICKER?]
But um, I’ve had a little bit of a reality check. [laughs] So now it’s a thing where if my dreams don’t come true the way I want, of course I’m still proud of what I have accomplished but I still want more, I want to do film, I want to do TV I want to do more, but, um, with years of therapy I’ve been able to accept that if I want a romantic relationship that there are people that I’m gonna be attracted to that aren’t going to be attracted to me because I have a disability…it doesn’t hurt anymore. Therapy has helped me reach a level of acceptance…not surrender you still fight but it reaches you, a level of acceptance, it is what it is, and it teaches you how to look on both sides of it. Not the glass half empty half full analogy, that don’t dwell exclusively on the wrong things or what hasn’t happened, but also balance it with what has.
So I’ve reached a level of acceptance that it’s possible my dreams may not come true but didn’t I try? I lived in New York and um, in living in New York I gave it a try and I’m here in Hollywood and now I’m giving it a try. So when I look back on my life there won’t be any ifs or what-ifs, and I’m at least trying to do something that’s gonna help the next generation. And that’s another thing. Of course at 57 you reach Erickson’s is it stagnation versus…oh! Professor Meliki is gonna kill me. Is it stagnation versus generativity or is it generativity versus stagnation, I can’t remember [laughs] but anyway it’s that stage where you want to give back and help other people.
And I don’t want other persons with disabilities feeling or being told that you must accept less than your full worth as a human being. So I guess to answer that question during that time I was hurt, I was shocked, I was disappointed and I felt hopeless. I just refused to believe that I had to accept less than my fullest potential. And then the one with my grandmother too, that was another knockdown. My two favorite heroes are Mohammed Ali and Diana Ross.
And just to give the boxing analogy it felt like that there was that final blow, and I was knocked out or knocked down and the referee was going 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and during that time I wasn’t gonna get up off the mat. I wasn’t. So I could feel people lifting me up, and you know so I’m up off the mat and I’m fighting. [laughs]
Oh, [laughs]. It’s heaven on earth. It’s work. A lot of people think it’s easy, it’s work. But I feel 100 percent complete when I’m doing it. One-hundred percent com-plete. It’s just as good as making love if not better. [laughs] Better. [laughs] Or it’s traveling to some exotic place but you feel, um, you feel 100 percent complete and this is why I’m alive and this is life and this is the closest thing to heaven on earth. It’s, that’s the only way I can really describe it, yeah.
Corbin chose surgery and promised himself he would continue acting. After recovering from the procedure, Corbin went straight into physical therapy. He spent months getting used to the feel of the heavy prosthesis wedged just under his upper thigh. Then he started college. Everything seemed to fall into place—he began acting again, and rose to campus stardom. Corbin even earned his school, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, honors when his acting group broke box office records for their production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, in which he played the lead.
The fame was short-lived. When he graduated, Corbin found no acting company took him seriously. After being turned down from hundreds of roles in New York City, Corbin traveled across the country to try out in Hollywood. By that time, he had run out of money. Corbin soon found himself homeless. A guidance counselor suggested he try to get a scholarship for a graduate program. She thought it would help him get a higher-paying job. He thought it would at least help him fund his dream—an acting company for people with disabilities.
Estefania’s father disappeared one day and never returned — he had been deported back to South America. And though in the time since she’s been able to start a new life for herself and her child, she wants to help others in a similar situation to hers by advocating more humane and sensible immigration laws.
My name is Estefania Galarza. I was born in South America, in Ecuador. I came to the United States when I was five years old.
After I went to high school, my father went to work one day, and he never came home. I never really got to say goodbye to him. You know, he was deported. And he was a very, he paid his taxes every year, he was, no criminal activity in his life, a very responsible father.
In 7th grade, I took my first civics class. And I was just so fascinated with this country, it was just so weird, it was kind of like a forbidden fruit, you know, the more I learned about it, the more I learned about its history, government leaders. I was just so intrigued and at the time I so wanted to become a US Senator. Then in HS i realized that I couldn’t, because to be a Senator you need to be a citizen.
Because my child, thank God, is a US citizen, he will never have to face the same obstacles that I did, so in a way, I’m thankful that if he dedicates himself in school, if he’s a really good student like I know he’ll be, he’ll achieve like I did.
Estefania Galarza is an immigration activist with Faith in New York, an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of immigrants and the communities they live in. She was born in Ecuador and her mom left to go to America when she was five; she stayed behind with her grandma, and followed a couple of years later.
Her family — parents and three kids — struggled to get by but made ends meet through hard work. She excelled in school, attending summer camps at Harvard University and Georgetown. From a young age she wanted to become a US Senator, a desire only fueled by her love of the new country and the seemingly vast amount of opportunities promised. But her ambitions for college — and for government — came to a rude and abrupt end when she found out that because she did not have citizenship she would not be able to get entrance into many schools and could not afford the others.
One morning — shortly after her high school graduation — her father left for work as usual but never returned. He had been detained by immigration officials, who held him on bail for several thousand dollars, a sum too great for the family. He was deported to Guatemala, and Estefania hasn’t seen him since.
She’s now dedicated to changing the politics of immigration, asking lawmakers to put politics aside and concentrate on the people involved. She’s not asking for much, she says, just the opportunity to live without fear.
A renowned Beijing opera connoisseur, Weizhong Lv, emigrated to New York a decade ago, where he now works in a nail salon in Astoria. Struggling with language and cultural barriers, Lv is determined to keep alive a cultural treasure that has almost turned into an antique relic.
Several days ago, when I got back home from work, it was already one in the morning. I suddenly realized it was the Tomb Sweeping Day. The Tomb Sweeping Day is an important festival in China. On this day, people visit their relatives’ graves and wipe the tombstones to honor them. I thought of my parents. Both of them have passed away. I didn’t even get a chance to see my father when he died because I was in New York. I suddenly felt tons of different emotions rushing through my heart. I started singing “Oh, dad, mom…”
We always joke that we are high on Peking Opera. How do you celebrate when I am happy? You sing. How do you heal when you are sad? You sing. How do you pass time when I am bored? You sing.
No matter if it’s a comedy, a tragedy or a fighting scene, every show tells a story about the traditional Chinese values. We value humanity, justice, courtesy, knowledge, integrity, loyalty and filial piety. These values will never be outdated.
Singing Peking Opera is hard, so is listening to it. We live in a fast food culture. It is the exact opposite of what Beijing Opera represents. This is a huge problem for all traditional arts. How do you cultivate the audience? How do you make them understand it, appreciate it, or even go crazy for it?
Before coming to the U.S., I thought I’d regret for my whole life if I didn’t come. But now that I’m here, I feel like I regretted for the second half of my life. One day I was doing pedicure for a customer. She was lying on the chair very comfortably. I was scrubbing her feet with a stone. As dirty water dropped into the sink, I felt like my tears were flowing to the stomach.
Although I live in the U.S., my roots are in China. Beijing Opera is what connects me with my culture. If I were a kite, Beijing Opera would be the kite string.
Before coming to the U.S., Lv was a director in Chinese arts program at a local television station in northern China. Feeling unmotivated and stuck, Lv decided to challenge himself by emigrating to America. Giving up a stable and well paying career to become an underprivileged nail salon worker wasn’t the easiest transformation Lv had to make. With his feet set in foreign land, he realized Beijing Opera has become the closet tie between him and his culture.
Lv’s experience is an example of what many Beijing Opera artists are going through in New York City. Knowing little English and lacking marketable skills, most of them found nail salons the easiest industry to enter with low stakes. Working long hours and distracted by trivial daily routines, many are not practicing the traditional art any more, in which they have received decades of training.
Once a renowned national performing art for more than 200 years, Beijing opera is facing a crisis in modern China. A great number of Beijing opera artists were persecuted, some even killed, in Cultural Revolution, when the art form was deemed feudalistic and reactionary.
Not only is China losing its talents as legendary performers are aging, but it’s losing the audience to modernization. In China, young people would much rather see a Western movie than sit through nearly three hours of traditional opera singing that they cannot understand.
Growing up studying Beijing opera, Lv was even discouraged by his master from pursuing the art. “What’s the point of studying Beijing Opera in this era?” said his master. “It’s dying.” To Lv’s comfort, his 3-year-old daughter seems to enjoy the old tune, amid his wife’s protest against his prioritizing arts ahead of businesses.
Samantha Carasquillo, 22, is six months pregnant and lives in a mold-infested NYCHA unit with her son Aiden who is three. She’s concerned about the well-being of her children and found out about the mold from a community outreach organization called Little Sisters, who pointed the problem out to her on a recent visit.
When I was adopted, that was pretty much my home. Like I was good, ’til when I got to the group home.
[Aiden you gotta move your head.]
It’s really been since I was in a group home, since 16-17… [Put it in the garbage Aiden!]
Since i was 16-17 I’ve pretty much been on my own.
At first my rent was $117, when I first moved in, it was only $117. now it’s like 2-something because my sisters living here. It’s not bad at all, I mean.
Well, actually when they told me it was mold, I showed them how like here, and there’s a couple of places where there’s a lot of paint peeling. That’s where I showed them, in the bathroom there’s a lot of places. I was like listen, I’m concerned because I have a child and have a child on the way.
So then, they went in the bathroom and looked and was like “you also have mold” and I was like, I didn’t know about that. I was just mainly concerned about the paint peeling, and you know, lead poisoning and everything, because I caught my son picking at the wall too.
And housing has came here multiple times, they never told me nothing about that being mold, never. They’ve been in the bathroom multiple times, they’ve seen it… I called for the paint peeling and everything everywhere and I needed plastering done and everything in the bathroom, and they told me June.
NYCHA houses about half a million low-income New Yorkers and has an extensive backlog of apartment repairs requested by residents. One of the more pressing concerns in the units is mold and mildew infestations in bathrooms, kitchens and other areas. However, mold isn’t even one of the categories for complaint on NYCHA’s forms, so there’s no way to know how wide the scope of the mold problem really is.
Samantha Carasquillo, 22, is six months pregnant and lives with her son Aiden, 3, in a one bedroom unit in NYCHA’s Jefferson Houses in East Harlem. She recently found out she has a mold problem after a community outreach organization called Little Sisters pointed the issue out to her. They’d visited to make sure her pregnancy was going well and to look at a paint peeling problem she was concerned about.
Carasquillo says NYCHA has been in her apartment numerous times to check out other problems in the apartment, but never acknowledged or pointed out the mold problem to her, which was right in front of their eyes. She’s now put in a work order request, which under a new agreement with the city, must be at least investigated by NYCHA within 15-days of the complaint.