Meet Maya and Phoenix… two brave trans women who have faced many challenges in their lives. Despite them all, they have gotten back up, stronger than ever overcoming obstacles and calling themselves “survivors,” because that’s what they are at the age of 50.
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Joel Daniels, a.k.a. MaG, is a spoken word poet whose music is inspired by inequalities he’s seen living in the Bronx and in Manhattan. He talks about racial profiling by police and how people view him differently because of his skin color, a problem his white friends don’t have.
Joel: The neighborhood I work in in the South Bronx, the Mott Haven area, there is always a police presence because there are so many programs in that neighborhood: so like mental health programs, drug treatment programs, and reentry programs for individuals that got released from incarceration.
There have been sweeps where innocent people have been caught up, like say there’s been a crime committed in the building. If you’re in the vicinity of this block you may get swept up just because you’re standing there. You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
New York City was definitely way more dangerous when I was growing up. It was like the Wild, Wild West in NYC.
They were definitely more aggressive, there was definitely a less tolerant police force. The police force now is sneakily tolerant.
There’s been an element created when you don’t feel safe, especially as a person of color, when you see multiple police officers. Like I don’t feel safe and that’s a problem. And I know the experience is maybe different for the Upper West Side white guy who grew up in NYC cause he hasn’t had to deal with those things.
I was walking to the bodega from my man Big’s crib to pick up some snacks or chips or some shit and this black, unmarked police car jumped the curb, lights blaring and everything, and jumped the curb and came about maybe two or three feet away from me. They hop out the car and pull out this picture of some miscellaneous person, a picture of a black person that supposedly looks like everybody and they grab my arm and they hold the picture up to me and they ask me if I’m this person. I’m like, “No this is not me.” They apologized, got back in the car and drove away, but that like fucked me up because it puts you in a constant state of fear.
Terri LaRocca: The idea that the police should have the total immunity what they want is absolutely reprehensible.
My son, de’d call me up, “I just got stopped and frisked again.” One time he reported other people breaking into a car. The police arrived while they were there and while they were leaving but they still stopped and frisked my son and my son does have a slightly more ethnic look than I do but not to that extent. He probably has been stopped and frisked seven times.
I’ve seen all sorts of situations where the perpetrator being a white male got away with it. You don’t want to ruin his family, what’s his family going to do for support, what would he do for his job. There’s a pity element there that doesn’t exist even for women.
Joel: Nothing about them screams friendliness though to me.
Poem (end): Diet Trim from the weight on my shoulders compressing me into a fetal missionary position because I feel our children our being raped by the future
As a teenager, Joel Daniels was robbed at knifepoint more than once. Growing up on Creston Avenue in the Bronx in the ‘90s, Joel describes the police that patrolled his neighborhood as being overly aggressive in their tactics, more so than today, when they’re more “sneakily tolerant,” of the people in the areas they watch over. Joel attended LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts; he now acts and performs as a spoken word poet, MaG. His day job includes working with recently released Rikers’ inmates, many of whom struggle to find work and earn a living with limited education and a criminal record. One of the problems with being arrested for minor offenses as a kid, says Joel, is that it puts you in the system and marks you in the community; white kids can get a lawyer to erase their past mistakes, but minority kids are stuck.
Audience Engagement: twitter.com/StefaniJKim/status/542910130820771840
Outlets: The Guardian, Narratively
What happens when even dreams that come true are not enough
“New York has the reputation of being one of the best cities in the world, and it is,” says Bridget Nicholas, born and raised in the city. Despite this worldwide acknowledgement, New York has seen many people come and go, and this video explores some of the reasons why residents are fleeing the big city.
The city has the reputation of being the best place on Earth, but, still, many people are fleeing due to several reasons. Although over the past five years 4.8 foreign immigrants moved to New York, 2.8 million residents (including U.S.-born people and others born abroad) decided to leave.
Three female characters, New Yorker Bridget Nicholas, American from Florida Malorie Marshall and the Argentinian Victoria Barceló talk about their reasons why they are fleeing New York. The intense rhythm, homesickness, competitiveness are only a few of the factors why people make the decision to live somewhere else.
Now, more than a decade after the attack to the twin towers, New York is still avoided by some residents who make up their minds and decide to go somewhere quieter. Statistics from recent years prove that many newly-arrived to the city leave in a matter of years. The transitory spirit of the big urbe makes the protagonists reflect on the place, examining its magic and letdowns, and what happens when dreams coming true are not enough.
Have you ever thought about escaping from #NewYork? They toyed with the idea and now they are fleeing. Why? Check out this video.
New York is the city of dreams, but what happens when dreams are over? These three women faced different situations but took the same decision: after living in the big apple for a while now, they decided to leave. Homesickness, frustrated prospects, tiredness of the hectic pace, watch why some people are fleeing the city.
New York attracts and repels at the same time. Although the city must be love at first sight for many, it is also a relation driven by hate and frustrations. All great loves come to an end and New York is no exception.
Over the past five years 4.8 foreign immigrants moved to New York, but, during the same period of time, 2.8 million residents (including U.S.-born people and others born abroad) decided to leave.
This video includes interviews to three characters who, because of different reasons, are saying goodbye to New York.
Potential outlets to run this video:
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, thousands homeowners along the shores of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut — most only recently renovated post-Sandy– must embark on a costly process to elevate their homes as they try to beat back rising tides and keep their property above water.
Kathy Butler: I like living by the water. You can take a walk over and see the ocean any time of the year. It’s just peaceful. It makes me happy.
We’ve lived here 28 years. Our home was a small little beach bungalow that my husband’s grandparents owned. So he’s been coming here all his life. He really wanted to move here.
Mike Butler: I’ve been here for 58 years and it’s…I love it.
Kathy: Sandy was a big surprise to all of us. The morning we came back we had had 3 feet of water in the house. So everything was full of sand and mud and yuck and cabinets were broken open. It was pretty…horrible.
Yeah it was up to here (shows about 3 feet height). We decided that we had to raise our house for many reasons. And the main reason was we don’t want to ever have to go through what we went through with Sandy.
Jason Yarusi: We were hired by the Butlers down here in Sea bright to raise their home today. With the storm it’s become apparent that people need to do this and that the shoreline is actually receding some 3 percent in the next hundred years so at some point this is going to get even worse besides the storm damage..
We’ve done over 300 lifts since the storm. A couple hundred thousand homeowners that are now affected by the storm
We had to break holes in the foundation to allow us to put our steel underneath the house. Once we’ve got it under the house, we set wood or shimming on top to make the system that will allow us to properly support the house when we raise it up in the air.
Mike: I think they know what they’re doing. Hopefully another storm doesn’t hit before it’s back down.
Jason: We do 14 inches at a time. We use very strong and solid oak six by eight oak blocks and we raise it up. At each point we have to reset our jacks and raise our jacks up so we can go the next 14 inches. So today I believe we went around 6 and a half feet so give or take that was about five pushes.
Mike : It’s faster than I thought. Looking good. I’ve never seen a house being raised before. In one day they did everything, breaking through the foundation, putting the beams in raising it and done in eight hours.
Jason: It’s nice to see a lot of homeowners getting back in their homes, but there’s still a lot that I go to every day to set up and estimate that are still not even close.
Mike: Now with the house going up, I’m going to be able to see the ocean, from my back window. This was a big step just getting this. Because now everything is going to be moving forward. I’m hoping to be back in before Christmas.
Kathy: This will definitely protect us from any of the storms we’ve had so far. If we have something worse than Sandy I guess none of us will have a house here.
Mike: No matter where you live you have to worry about it. Whether it’s water or a tree falling on your house. But I feel safe here plus I just love it here. There’s a lot of memories in this house and there’s going to be a lot more. I can’t think of living anywhere else.
Mike and Kathy Butler have lived in their Sea Bright, New Jersey house for nearly thirty years. Before he was married, Mike spent summers visiting his grandparents there. In more than fifty years, the house never flooded, but Hurricane Sandy was different.
“When we came back the next morning, there had been three feet of water in the house,” Kathy said. She, her husband and their two daughters had ridden out the storm with friends and neighbors, but quickly realized that they wouldn’t be living at their house any time soon. “We were all stunned. This was supposed to be one of the high points in town.”
The river, which had churned itself into a toxic soup of oil, mud and sewage, had destroyed their first floor. A hot tub in the backyard was lifted and turned on its side by the force of water.
As she stood in the wreckage of her living room, Kathy thought about cutting her losses and leaving. “It was devastating to see everything…cabinets, furniture floors just ruined.”
Devastation became determination, as friends and family arrived to help the Butlers clean and rebuild. Rather than flee for higher ground, the Butlers began looking for a way to protect their home by the sea — and the government soon provided one.
They would have to lift their house.
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There are more than 220 venues in Manhattan where people can listen to live jazz, including clubs, restaurants and bars, but also music schools and concert halls. Yet it is hard for a musician to find a steady gig, let alone one that pays well.
Yuki Futami, 27, is one of many jazz musicians who come to New York City looking to further their skills, through schooling or performing. When it comes to finding places to play gigs, competition is fierce.
Gabriel Guerrero, 37, and Marianne Solivan,38, also share their experience.
Gabriel: There are thousands of musicians, here. Thousands. And we all want to play, we all want to have steady gigs we all want to be exposed.
Marianne: Getting the gigs isn’t usually about your talent. It’s about how much hard work and hustle you put into it. You gotta work really, really hard. And they don’t make it easy for you here.
Yuki: So many talented musicians from all over the world gather in this country.
Gabriel: There’s a lot of clubs, but at the same time, the number of musicians is bigger. Right now, I’m looking for gigs for next year, for example.
Yuki: Sometime we go to jam session. To make a connection with other musician.
Marianne: I was going to Smoke Jazz club for a year and a half, like a religion every Monday when I first moved here, to go to that session. And, for the first 6 to 9 months, I think every single time I went up to sing I was still treated like ‘We still don’t know about you.’ And, in a way that was great. In a way it forced me to always try to do my best. After that year and a half, when I actually started getting to work, the guys that I worked with there, and who saw me there, are my closest friends.
Yuki: I come here every day, because I don’t have my piano in my house. I want to have routine. I say to everyone that I practicing here 3 to 9, so that, you know, I’m pushing myself.
It was first time. My performance in New York. Some of my Japanese friend invited me. They had a party. So they enjoy dancing. Some people also excited and screaming. I played for a few hours. Nobody listened to the music, I think. But it was great experience. Maybe next time, maybe I’m gonna get upset.
Gabriel: I was lucky to have really good mentors. Somebody that is guiding you step by step and like, supporting you artistically and emotionally and is like a, is like a father.
Marianne: I wasn’t teaching for two years prior to this because I only wanted to sing. And that was (laughs) an interesting time (laughs). But, you know, people have all sorts of work that they do, and they piece together a living, so that they can stay in this city.
But once you tip the balance of doing that other thing more than the actual art that you want to be doing, I think it starts to really become a battle. And I think in New York you see a lot of people fighting that battle.
I personally don’t want to just sing on the side and teach.
Yuki: Mainly, I play at the Bite, at the restaurant.
Like one day we played and the owner, Ami, liked it, liked our music.
He paid us a, I cannot say little, but yeah, a little bit. And, we can also get tips.
Jeff: We were recording Yuki’s audition tape. He’s applying for the Julliard jazz program.
Yuki: To be honest, I want to be international jazz pianist. Go all over the world, a great jazz musician.
I’m studying English. Because last year I applied to Julliard, but because of my English, and I failed.
I can meet so many talented musician here and they motivate me to practice hard.
Gabriel: The music scene, in New York is very rich, is very active. New York has a unique energy that triggers a lot of things in me.
Marianne: Oh gosh. I mean, playing. When you actually get to do that, it is unbelievably gratifying and magical. And, that really doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it for $50 at a restaurant, or whether you’re doing it for $10,000 at Carneige Hall. That feels so good that it’s, at least for most artists, worth all the other things that you might have to give up.
Every Thursday night at Bite, a café on East 14th Street that can seat a dozen people, the same scene takes place. Yuki Futami, 27, arrives and pushes away a table in the corner next to the window. He sets up a large electric-piano keyboard. Then his two bandmates arrive and position themselves next to the keyboard, with drums and a bass. Even though they’re in a corner, with no space to walk around them, their presence reduces the café’s seating capacity by one-fourth.
The trio tunes, warms up and decides what to play. Jazz fills the room. Traffic noises and distant sirens stream in as customers enter and leave.
“It’s hard to find a place where we can play regularly,” Futami says. “So I think I’m very lucky because I can practice every Thursday, even though it is background music.”
Futami is one of many jazz musicians who come to New York City looking to further their skills, through schooling or performing. When it comes to finding places to play gigs, competition is fierce.
“Even talented musician is hard to find jobs here,” says Futami.
More than 33,000 jazz musicians live in the New York metropolitan area, according to a 2001 study commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts. That’s 1.8 jazz musicians per 1,000 inhabitants.
However, there is no updated register for the number of jazz performers, unlike those in other professions, in New York City. Even nationwide, little data is available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a category for musicians and singers, but it does not break it down by musical genre and doesn’t include musicians who are self- employed.
“There’s a lot of clubs, but at the same time, the number of musicians is bigger,” says Gabriel Guerrero, 37, a jazz pianist based in Queens who has been living and working in New York for eight years. “It’s like, you have to wait in line.”
Hot House, a New York City magazine specializing in jazz, lists 223 venues in its website for live jazz in Manhattan alone, including clubs, restaurants and bars, but also music schools and concert halls. The spectrum runs from Carnegie Hall at the high end to dozens of cafés and restaurants with live background music. Yet it is hard for a musician to find a steady gig, let alone one that pays well.
“Getting the gigs isn’t usually about your talent,” says Marianne Solivan, 38, a jazz singer and educator. “It’s about how much hard work and hustle you put into it.”
Carnegie Hall’s first jazz concert took place in 1912. The city has been a hotbed of jazz since the big bands of the Roaring ‘20s, moving through bebop in the mid-20th century and cool jazz in the 1970s. Today, New York still attracts musicians from other parts of the country and the world.
Futami used to play in his native Japan. He moved to New York a year ago with the hope of entering the jazz program at the Juilliard School; its music division has 600 students from more than 40 countries. But because of his limited proficiency in English, he said, he was not admitted to the program.
He is reapplying after studying English for a year at La Guardia Community College in Queens. Every evening—except Thursdays, when he plays at Bite—he books a small room with a piano in the school’s music wing.
“I come here every day because I don’t have a piano in my house,” he says, gazing at the white walls of the windowless room where he practices for six hours at a time. “I’m pushing myself, you know.”
In New York City, most jazz musicians work more than one job, and sometimes that means working at something other than playing music. There is also no standard fee for a jazz musician’s gig.
“If you’re doing restaurant work,” says Solivan, “it can be anywhere from $50 to $200 per person, for the evening, per band member. Outside of that, it can go from there upwards to the thousands.”
Teaching is often a parallel source of income for performers. Solivan teaches singing at City College, and though she likes it, she says she doesn’t want to sing just on the side.
“Once you tip the balance of doing that other thing more than the actual art that you want to be doing, I think it starts to really become a battle,” she said. “And I think in New York you see a lot of people fighting that battle.”
At the end of November, Futami met with his trio at a studio in midtown Manhattan to record three jazz standards for his Juilliard application. After the last chord, he stood up, turned off the recorder he had set on top of the piano and, with a smile, lifted his arms.
“Yeah!” he said. “We finished.”
He expects to hear back from Juilliard next spring.
The story of 19-year-old jazz player Alfredo Colon, based in Harlem. By Denisse Moreno
In a tiny West Village shop, frozen in time, horologist Grace Szuwala keeps New Yorkers’ clocks and watches ticking.
Years ago there were only mechanical watches.
Now you have battery watches, sports watches, on your phone you have a watch. I just fix the watches that are mechanical and worth some money. People bring me watches that was grandfather’s watch that they found in the attic or something. And I bring it back to life.
It’s a dying trade. Definitely there’s less and less people doing that.
This year will be 36 years that I’m here. But I guess I like it. I love my watches and I love my clocks. You meet different people. There is a lot of people who care about time and watches and clocks.
I think I need a new battery…How long do you think?
About 15 minutes.
Ok. Thank you!
I open up 10:30, come in and I start to work watches or take a clock apart. Sometimes I have replacement parts, but most I have to make.
It’s (an) English clock. About eight feet tall. Thick, beautiful case. Very elaborate case.
This was loose, this was worn out. So as I’m going along, I fix it step by step, whatever I see wrong.
Some people think I need a lot of patience to do this, but it’s the opposite. It’s soothing. It’s like you’re doing a puzzle. The more pieces you take, the more you get into it and the more you feel like you have to finish this up.
Maybe the digital watch will keep better time, but this is a piece of art, the way watches were made years ago. Some are worth hundreds or millions of dollars.
That’s a nice sound right?
I see it works and it makes me happy.
Grace Szuwala fixed her first clock when she was 10 years old.
As a child in Poland, she fixed cars with her father in his garage. When she realized the watch she’d gotten for her tenth birthday didn’t work, Grace took it apart and made it tick.
“Everyone was very impressed,” she said.
Years later, she graduated from a Polish clockmaking school near her home — the only woman in a class of about 400 men. Grace next moved to New York City and found work at a tiny clock shop on Greenwich Street. Thirty six years later, Grace now owns Time Pieces, where she restores and sells antique watches and clocks. Some of her customers send their broken watches from as far away as Tokyo.
“I guess I like it,” she said, smiling. “That’s why I didn’t ever leave. You meet all different kinds of people.”
The neighborhood around her has changed through the years, but Grace’s clock shop looks exactly the same, as though frozen in time.
But Grace says clockmakers like herself are hard to find these days. Her assistant passed away last year and she hasn’t been able to find a replacement.
“There’s not so many people doing this anymore,” she said. “The school I went doesn’t exist. It’s long gone.”
The clock making business may have changed, but Grace said she wasn’t worried about having no business.
“There will always be people who have old Paddocks or old Rolexes that were their father’s or grandfathers and they want to keep them going,” she said. “It’s a piece of history.”
Piecing time together – by Camilo Gomez
Grace Szuwala is a clockmaker in a trade dominated by men. One that is also going through a slow decline…
For me, the most intriguing thing is, if somebody brings them and they’re broken, in pieces, and I bring them back to life. I see it work, and it makes me happy…
In the beginning when I start to work, people would come with watches and they would say, “Where is the guy? Where is the boss?” And I would say, “well, it’s me.” They wouldn’t want to trust me. So I used to say, “Well… he went for lunch, he stepped out, he’ll be back later”… I used to lie. Just to keep them in! Then, after a while they learned to trust me.
I am here since December 5 1978. The store was here before me.
The junior generation, nobody is learning that. They’ll know how to change a battery, like the basics. Everybody is learning to use the iwatches, you know, electronics, not the mechanical ones.
Some people think I need a lot of patience to do this but it’s the opposite, it’s soothing. It’s like you’re almost doing a puzzle. The more pieces you take, the more you get into it and then you feel like you have to finish this out.
I always was with my father, in his garage, working on his cars, doing mechanical things. Never like a girly girl.
People bring you watches that they found it in the attic or something, or somebody passed away… I like what I do and I’m proud of it.
Grace Szuwala works in Greenwich Avenue, in Manhattan, in Time Pieces, a clock and watch repair shop that she owns. Originally from Poland — the country where she learned her craft — she has made New York her home, and has worked in the same place for 36 years.
Szuwala’s is a male-dominated profession.
“When I graduated it was like 400 students, I was the only girl”, she says.
But even after she became self-employed in New York City, she had trouble with clients who wanted to talk to “the boss.”
“They wanted to see a guy, not me,” says Szuwala.
So, at first, she would pretend that a fictitious male employer was away from the shop when clients demanded to see him, just to keep them in.
After more than three decades in the business, she has a steady influx of clients. But the future of clock making may not look as bright.
“There’s no more schools to teach watch making, ” she says, noting that the school that taught her the craft in her home country no longer exists.
“The new generations, I don’t think are really learning,” she says. “They’ll know how to change the batteries, like, the basics.”
And even though younger people may not be learning the trade, she thinks that there will always be someone in need of a professional to get his grand father’s clock running again after finding it in the attic.
“I bring them back to life,” she says.