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Laughter therapy clubs are spreading like gunpowder around the world. Vishwa Prakash has been a laughter therapist for nine years. Every Wednesday evening a group of 15 to 40 people gather in his textile design store in Midtown Manhattan for a free 45-minute laughter session. People come for reasons ranging from entertainment to stress relief to physical and mental healing.
There are regulars as well as new faces every week. Some people come just for the fun, like Elsi Blum, 90, who is also a laughter therapist with dementia patients in a hospital out of town. Others like Beverly Schultzman, 65, come for pain management. Others for stress relief or exercise. In the meditation part of every session, Mr. Prakash reads or makes others read an article about a health benefit of the therapy: it lowers blood pressure, it’s anti-ageing, antioxidant and increases the number of endorphins in the body. The benefits are countless.
Prakash’s gatherings are part of a growing worldwide movement in defense of laughing against the ills of the world. In 2002, when Prakash became a laughter coach after training with guru Dr. Kataria, only a dozen clubs existed. Nowadays there are hundreds around the world.
Many of them, including the one that meets in a seamless clothing office in the heart of Times Square, will be celebrating World Laugher Day on May 1 doing “what they do best”: laugh, and laugh and laugh.
A clubhouse in the South Bronx eases troubled minds.
In New York City, hundreds of thousands of people live off of disability checks. Not working may sound like an easy lifestyle, but if you have no place to be and only enough money to eat and pay rent, what do you do to fill up your day? Read? Sleep? Stay home and watch TV?
What if being alone with your thoughts is the reason you’re on disability in the first place?
For the mentally ill, staying home alone all day can be frightening. Sometimes, you just need a place to go. For a few dozen mentally ill New Yorkers, Geel Clubhouse in the Melrose neighborhood of the South Bronx is that place.
The people who spend time at Geel are not “patients” or “clients,” who must be there, as in traditional day treatment programs. They are “members” who choose to go. Members socialize and eat a free lunch, but they also volunteer to work at tasks that maintain the clubhouse, like cleaning, cooking, and clerical work. An emphasis is placed on work as a form of rehabilitation, and the Clubhouse sponsors “transitional employment” jobs to help members ease back into the workforce.
There are Clubhouses all over the world. According to The International Center for Clubhouse Development (ICCD), these rights of membership are at the core of the Clubhouse Model:
1) A right to a place to come
2) A right to meaningful relationships
3) A right to meaningful work
4) A right to a place to return
Read more about Clubhouses here:
Geel Community Service’s Clubhouse
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Multimedia Piece on Mental Illness in Prison:
Tuff City, a tattoo shop located at 650 E. Fordham Rd in the Bronx, offers the services of nine tattoo artists, most of which have a graffiti background. The shop has been in existence for 20 years, but moved to this location four years ago.
The shop’s backyard offers an open space where those who work at Tuff City, as well as local graffiti artists and artists from all over the world, can paint freely. A mural of a train and three other canvases line the walls of the yard and are worked on daily. In addition, there is a music studio upstairs, where rappers and other musical artists often record.
In April, Tuff City opened its second location at 17 Essex St. in Manhattan. The launch party included an art show, featuring Tuff City’s own, Ces. Sixteen new paintings were on display in the store downtown, and 10 up in the shop in the Bronx. These paintings can now be purchased online at tuffcitystyles.com.
The new shop, which officially opened for business on April 25, features two tattoo artists and a yard with a train mural similar to the one in the Bronx.
5Pointz Aerosol Art Center in Long Island City has been considered a mecca for graffiti artists, hip-hop performers and aficionados for more than 10 years. Yet as the urban art center battles for its existence, some graffiti artists wonder where the big-name celebrities are to defend the haven against developers eager to transform the property into an apartment complex.
But in March, Wolkoff announced the building could become the cornerstone of a neighborhood revitalization project aimed at transforming the Long Island City into the next downtown Brooklyn.
Meres handpicks the artists from submissions from around the world. His goal is to transform the space into a graffiti art museum. Over the years, 5Pointz has been attracted well-known hip-hop and R & B artists like Joss Stone, Grandmaster Flash, and Doug E. Fresh. Stone is one of the few celebrities to start a petition to prevent 5Pointz from being closed.
Zeso, a graffiti artist from France and a 5Pointz denizen, recently took time to talk about what makes the center more than just a colorful New York artifact.
After hearing the news of possible closure, I went to 5Pointz to check it out for myself. I met Zeso, a 33-year-old French chef who does graffiti on the side. He didn’t want his face to be filmed partly because, he has another life, but partly I suspect he is not fully respected as an artist and could still risk being mistaken for a vandal. Zeso isn’t surprised by the bad news and blames corporatization of hip-hop for the way 5 Pointz is being ignored in it’s time of need.
I go to Queens by subway and I know this spot. I know this spot existed long time before I came to America, but I don’t know where it was.
When I took the 7 line, you know you can’t miss it. You have to be blind to miss it. So I get off and I check the spot. I meet Meres and I understand you have to ask him to paint. This is it.
You know I started in France like 10, 12 years ago easy. I am not consistent. Sometimes I stop for a couple of years. I am back. Busy life you work you have your family.
You are always critical of yourself. You never say what I am doing is so good. If you say that you will never progress. You say, “Eh it’s alright. I can fix that. I can fix this. ”
The more you spend time on it the less you are never satisfied. I like when I do one day, and I do my characters. One day is fresh.
Let’s say a big production. You need time for that you don’t want to be arrest. The more you spend time the more the police can come and catch you. So we ask authorization and this place is pretty cool for us. We can paint, relax without worry about the police or things like this. You know what I mean.
The guys like Jay-z, Fat Joe, Mark Ecko, you know Mark Ecko. He makes big business, big money with graffiti and with hip-hop. He makes big money. This place is going to shut down and they’re not going to give nothing back. They don’t do nothing. They’re just going to take money from hip-hop and they don’t give anything back. For me that is a shame for these people.
You know to me anyway, to me graffiti is not a crime it is just a paint. At the beginning you do vandal more than anything else you know you got like 15 (years old) and you want to do something against the society. With time, it’s less vandal it’s more like production, you try to get some more production, more beautiful. I don’t want to say vandal graffiti is not beautiful. More acceptable by everyone because you do characters and things like this, you know?
East Harlem School serves an entirely vegetarian, locally sourced lunch each weekday to its 130 middle school students. EHS, which has been dishing up veggie meals for 15 years, made the switch to an uber-healthy menu this year with the help of a new chef. While the new meals are more nutritious, are the students eating – and enjoying – their lunch?
EHS, an independent school chartered by the New York State Department of Education, recently received an award for its healthy food program from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and has drawn the interest of groups like the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.
EHS made the switch to a meatless menu 15 years ago as a result of the community’s health epidemic, said Ivan Hageman, head of EHS. More than 1 in 4 children in public elementary schools in East and Central Harlem are obese, according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Most EHS students live in East Harlem.
While the school’s previous menus cut out meat-based fat and cholesterol, they were stuffed with extras like salt and sodium. EHS overhauled its menu last summer to create a new model based on fresh ingredients prepared by Executive Chef Jonah Chasin, who created a new low-fat menu that added ingredients like kale and apples while cutting out frozen food and refined sugar.
In addition to cutting calories, EHS is saving lunch money. Chasin said the new menu, which costs approximately $1.82 per meal per student, is a reduction from the more than $2 the school spent last year. Still, the new menu costs significantly more than the city’s public school lunch program, which runs about $1 per meal per student, according to DOE estimates.
EHS considers its program successful based on student feedback and body composition — 85 percent of its students are maintaining a healthy weight.
Saint Luke, a Lutheran Church, opens its doors to the needy twice a week as a soup kitchen, as well as renting out space for offices, and a school. In addition ; surprisingly it has hosted a theatre in the basement for more than 25 years. Currently, four plays are being performed on the Saint Luke’s theatre, but one in particular is unique. : « My big gay Italian wedding ».
In Saint Luke’s theatre, four plays are being performed, alternating during weekdays and the weekend except during mass due to the level of noise of the performances.
Rehearsal time must be able to fit in with the Churche’s schedule and needs of the basement area. For instance, every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 to 2pm a soup kitchen is organized and the theater space is transformed into a dining area. The Church serves hot meals on average to around 160- 220 people.
Performing in a lobby underneath, the Church requires the Artistic Director to be able to work around the Chruch’s schedule. When Ed Gaynes is preparing a new play, he must submit the script to the Church board for approval.
One of the plays that is being performed is called My big gay Italian Wedding. According to the Artistic Director, the Church does not mind having these kinds of plays unless it’s offensive. To see a play addressing issues that deal with such issues, shows a great amount of openess and toleration from the Church.
It’ all about survival. Church is a building but it’s more than that, they got to pay their bill. So they need income.
They got their assests and the space they own so that they use it by the maximum by renting it out.
It’s starting happening about 45 years ago. Lobby Church buildings have big rooms that they can Underlising. For instance, in this building they don’t rent only to a theatre, they rent to a school, some other offices, because they have large offices space upstairs.
All the schedules are juggling between the show performing here versus what the Church wants to do in here, it all tends to work good well as far as the scheduling was. It’s very rare to see that anywhere else but probably in New York.
We try to not do as the same time as a mass.
For each show it’s simply a matter of if I get interested in the show and I want to use the theatre, I have to submit the script to the board, they’re just different members of the Church. And they have to determine if there is nothing over offensive. They don’t really want nudity, they don’t want anything with too much bad language, or something with like a very offensive theme. It’s a case by case basis. They are not anti gay at all, they don’t want just that it reflects badly on anybody. This is a comedy, a fun show, nobody is gonna be insulted, nobody is being make fun of , so it’s fine.
I don’t really feel that I’m performing in a Church because the way you’re walking into this particular theatre is that there is a theatre in the lobby so I don’t feel that I’m entering in any sanctuary, so litterally when I come in to work I feel that I’m walking into the theatre about doing the show.
( as a reference that this king of theatre already existed in the past)
( a new way of thinking the Church)
The East Harlem School has been serving all vegetarian meals for several years. Last year they took on a new chef – Chef Jonah – who stopped the use of canned and frozen goods and now makes everything from scratch. Check out the video to hear from Jonah and the kids who eat his meals every day at school.
Chasin revised the menu and stopped the use of canned and frozen goods, opting to make everything from scratch. He buys as much local food as possible and buys vegetables from local East Harlem farmers’ markets.
Kids have incentives to eat the food. They are offered dessert, for instance, if they agree to eat the main course. Chef Jonah also sneaks healthy food, such as Tofu, into some of his dishes. This allows him to supplement additional protein into their diets.
The school also attempts to work the idea of healthy eating into the curriculum – it’s not just the food, it’s an entire lifestyle. They show kids educational movies, like Food Inc., Chef Jonah said. He also coordinates daily lunches with teachers, so they coincide with lessons learned in class. For instance, the Spanish teacher asked Chef Jonah to make Gazpacho on the day that it was part of her lesson plan.
Watch the video to see how Chef Jonah approaches his job, to hear some thoughts from Head of School Ivan Hageman, and to see what the kids think about the new school lunches.
Chef Jonah: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen
Kids: Good afternoon Chef Jonah
Richard: I came from a public school and so the transition to eating an all-vegetarian plate was difficult. But after the first few weeks I got really used to it and I started to like it. Today for lunch we had beans with carrots and pineapple and a muffin. And it tasted really good.
Chef Jonah: They were doing vegetarian food but it was all processed, frozen, vegetarian food.
Today we are having Ms. Rosa’s rice and beans, with roasted carrots, corn muffins and pineapple.
Craig: Last year’s food it was more bland and the chef, she didn’t prepare it as well as Chef Jonah does. She would make it fast and then serve it and Chef Jonah would make it until it’s good and then serve it.
Chef Jonah: I try to get as much local and seasonal stuff as I can. When available I go to the green market – we have a green market around the corner.
I don’t have anything in the kitchen that has high fructose corn syrup in it. We don’t even use refined sugar here. I use all natural cane sugar.
Ivan Hageman (Head of School): They do eat their food and they by and large love the food. And also they don’t have much of a choice. So it’s like, we’re not serving beautiful vegetarian food next to tempting chicken nuggets or whatever mystery meat they’re serving at the public schools.
Chef Jonah: They’re trying to implement it as much as they can into the curriculum. They show movies like Food Inc. to the kids.
Iliana: I kind of just think about exactly what I’m eating, exactly what it’s made of. So I’m more aware.
Three links to the subject, story or theme from other sources
The tradition of Square Dancing with a gay twist. The Times Squares Dance Club, launched 27 years ago as an alternative social gathering to the drug ridden gay club scene. The club is also therapeutic for members who struggle with personal issues.
The Times Squares Dance Club teaches a primarily gay audience the basics of Square Dancing Calls through a series of eight classes, which culminates to graduation and a prom night. New class graduates join lifetime members of the club, who attend the social gathering weekly.
Members of Times Squares attend the club as an alternative to the gay club scene and long time members consider the dancers their family. Square Dancing with other gay members, gives the dancers a sense of solidarity, a place where they feel safe and happy.
Square Dancing is deeply seeped in American history. The Time Squares teach traditional Calls, also known as steps, to non-traditional disco music. They are the only New York based membership based, gay square dancing club and their offer classes for dancers at different levels.
Video of Square Dancing in New York, Circa The Square Dancing craze is sweeping across the nation sweeps across New York in a big way. Ten thousand dancers turn out in Central Park’s Mall to swing their partners, in spite of the heat, the big city folk have a high ol’ time following the caller.
Times Squares 200111945 (Play that Funky Music in the background.)
Circle to the left, girls and boys sachet, circle to the left, allemande left, and promenade, and you get her back home, promenade her there, when you’re set here we go, four girls change. Join hands, circle to the left, to the left, to the left.
In gay square dancing, we call it friendship set to music, it’s corny but it is true. We have just in a natural kind of organic way developed our own sound effects and styling, we call it, and various flourishes. We do the same calls as straight people but we do it in a different flare.
Don’t stop it don’t slow down, that’s a call in square dancing.
That’s when you are promenading in a circle, the caller says don’t stop don’t slow down, it basically means keep on promenading,.
Yeh, but it has other uses.
And then he is going to give you another call
About 20 years ago, my brother died, and I was very depressd, but you know what helped me? Was coming to Square Dancing. Square Dancing you hear the music, and you get uplifted , the music the people the energy.
To have a whole room full of people singing happy birthday and that I really care for them so much. And going through all the rough stuff with the cancer, it’s like WOW I did make it to another birthday, hurray, halleluiah!
JOHN MARIO RUSSO
Well I could come here and dance with another man and not be looked at strangely.
There was a time when I first started Square Dancing where I took a hiatus from verbal therapy. Because I felt great.
- at least three suitable links to the subject, story or theme from other sources
In downtown Manhattan, a women-only residence run by four Carmelite Sisters nuns is a safe heaven for newcomers to the big city. Compassion for others is the terms that best define El Carmelo Residence.
The Carmelite Residence is next to a Catholic Church – The Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as other Catholic and diverse denominations churches located nearby, within walking distance. That is the main reason for its high affluence of immigrants and newcomers seeking advice and comfort from the nuns who run the residence.
But there are limitations for residents of El Carmelo, in other words, the place has a curfew. From 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. the door closes and any resident who is outside has to spend the night out. “You have to be here on time,” says the brochure that each prospective resident receives at the door.
Renzo Gracie, member of the Gracie family of Brazil, is a Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitor in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Gracie is also the head instructor at the Renzo Gracie Academy in midtown Manhattan, where he has taught several notable UFC fighters including Georges St-Pierre and Matt Serra.
The UFC is currently the largest MMA promotion company in the world, and it’s still gaining popularity.
It currently has a cable-television deal in the works, and is expanding into Canada, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Asia.
MMA, often referred to as ultimate fighting is a full contact sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, while standing and on the ground. Its origins can be traced back to the Greek Olympic Games with Pankration, a no-rules fighting sport. More recently, the sport Vale Tudo that had developed in Brazil from the 1920s was brought to the United States by the Gracie family in 1993 where it developed into the modern-day UFC.
- Every time you hit someone in a professional way, in a fight, it’s very rewarding.
- Fighting solves everything, even bad blood, once you go at each other and you decide who’s better whose not, whose tough whose a wimp, everything becomes clear after that. Fighting has the ability of setting things straight.
- Finally martial arts was able to hit the media. Bruce Lee made martial arts popular in the 70s and it was a big leap. and the I really thought that the next movement of evolution was MMA, and I wasn’t wrong, and now the whole world is doing it and it’s a great sport, it become a mainstream sport.
- You train a lot, it’s a lot of training, like.
- My dear friend, when you are the nail hang in there, when you are the hammer hit hard. So if you have to be the nail just hang in there, just take it as much as you can.
- There’s no violence, there is intensity.
- My man its hell. You have to love it, there’s no other way.
When people think of nuns they imagine a life of strictness, service, and solitude. But in the ones at El Carmelo Residence dispels that
myth. The immigrants and students can they help will attest that these nuns are kind, friendly, and far from cloistered.
However, within the doors of the El Carmelo Residence between prayers
and bible readings, there is laughter. The immigrants who pray there
laugh, the students who live there laugh, and the nuns who take care
of the house laugh. It is a place where people feel comfortable and
socialize with one another in large part because of the nuns.
Here’s a place where the nuns provide more than just spiritual
guidance but foster an environment to build a sense companionship.
They take pictures, make jokes, and cook food that you cannot refuse
(trust me I tried). In that atmosphere friendships are built not only
between the immigrants and students but also with the nuns.
The El Carmelo Residence is located at 249 West 14th Street, between
7th and 8th Avenues. The residence was originally meant to house woman
of Spanish descent but has gained in popularity overtime and now takes
in women from around the world.
When I have a problem, I come here and as soon as I get here I forget
about my problems since I found a family-environment.
Different to other stereotype nuns that you would hear about, I’ve
been educated at a convent so I know how strict nuns can be, but
they’re really flexible with you except when it comes to the curfew.
You have to have certain rules otherwise it’s very difficult around
our place, but given that they’re really very nice. You know, they’d
keep food for you if your not here for dinner, they keep food out for
you if you need something to eat. So they’re very friendly and
different from the kind of nuns that run a school.
Sister Angela Perez:
The residence opened in 1983 and three years ago we celebrated our
Many immigrants looking for work, orientation, spiritual advice and
comfort visit us. They feel happy here and we are pleased with the
community work we’re doing in this area.
The initial goal of the residence was to shelter Latina students but
now they come from all over the world. The majority of our residents
are students and some of them go to school and work at the same time.
That’s our live. The live of a nun, or those who dedicated their lives
to help others, it’s a normal life.
We visit families and families come here to visit us. It’s a normal
life, and happy life when you have the vocation. It’s not a matter of
cloister, it’s a normal and happy life.