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Corned beef, cosmic art, ask an Asian

photo: Nitin Mukul

Dear Neighbor,

We need your help. Our vaccine registration efforts are going strong, with more than 2,300 appointments scheduled to date. We’ve added administrative support and plan to roll out deeper outreach and training. If you would like to donate to offset these costs, you can do so here. We also welcome corporate sponsors; write us with your ideas here.

You can learn more about our vaccine efforts here. They are rooted in equity. But the health of our community is nothing without the safety of our community.

So today we want to talk about another issue affecting not just New Yorkers, but people throughout the country: Anti-Asian discrimination.

Epicenter-NYC writer Chloe Tai spoke with attorneys, academics and community members and leaders to better understand the phenomenon. The following is an excerpt; you can read the full story on our website.

photo: Anokha Venugopal

If you see someone and automatically assume that they don’t belong, you are already, perhaps unknowingly, part of the problem. That’s at the core of the behavior that allows someone’s friend, sibling or grandparent to get attacked on the subway or verbally abused on their neighborhood block.

Words have meaning: 

“Where are you from?”

“Ew, what’s that?”

“You have no accent.”

Other words have no meaning: 

“Model minority”

photo: Anokha Venugopal

If these last few weeks have taught us anything, Asian Americans are not safe and need protection, whether from the government or fellow citizens who actively take the time to bridge the divide between their assumptions and reality. We talked to attorneys, professors, advocates and community leaders to ask what the community needs and wants you to know.

Asian hate is not new.

History has not been kind to Asian Americans, but people wouldn’t know that just from the lessons taught to us in high school. We learned about the amazing contributions that Asian Americans made to the transcontinental railroad, but perhaps spoke less about America’s fraught side of this relationship. Some other parts of history Americans need to learn:

  • The Chinese Exclusion Act
  • How deeply affected Japanese families were after their internment during World War II
  • The lack of protection of Korean communities in Los Angeles ‘92
  • The retaliation toward Asian Americans after a virus from China came to America; SARS in 2002

photo: Anokha Venugopal

What can you do to support Asian Americans?

You shouldn’t have to practice preemptive defense if you are an Asian American. But Helen Ahn, director of the Korean Community Services Senior Centers, says this is a reality for many in the community right now. The centers, even in pre-Covid-19 times, regularly hosted officers from the local precinct to educate members about safety issues — just in case.

Or you can also call SafeWalks, a community safety initiative formed of volunteers who will walk you home at your request, currently active in Brooklyn and looking to expand to Manhattan Chinatown.

These are not ideal solutions. They involve individuals taking the initiative to protect themselves from something that is not their fault.

The alternative — a true solution rooted in justice and equality — will take time and possibly a couple of generations’ worth of effort, Oh said. What it will take:

  • Legislative reforms to expand the definition of a hate crime in the city, as outlined in the AABANY’s report
  • Advocacy and communicating with the myriad AAPI political officials throughout the city to develop policy reform, such as promoting more civil administration complaints and remedies
  • Provide resources to Asian nonprofits so they can have the capacity to respond to the community’s needs
  • Intensive, broad-ranging educational campaigns that both encourage New Yorkers to be kinder to Americans of all backgrounds and promote collaborations between minority groups
  • Hire permanent members for the New York Police Department’s Asian Hate Crime Task Force, instead of only having volunteer members
  • Join one of Oh’s Healing Circles, as part of her work with Commonweal, whereby diverse, self-selected members are encouraged to silently meditate in one another’s presence

photo: Anokha Venugopal

And they will have to do so as a community, said Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and a founding member of Stop AAPI Hate.

“The community wants to stand up together to address long-term solutions, not just to share their individual grievances, but they recognize it’s a community issue,” he said.

But possibly the largest and the hardest change you can make is on yourself. How do you perceive Asians? Have you reached out to ask how we’re doing?

Being kind to your neighbors is a small role to play in this pandemic, but it can go a long way.

Read this article in full here.

 

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VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

photo: Kris B.

Our growing army of dedicated volunteers is the backbone of our vaccine appointment service. We are endlessly grateful for the time and knowledge (bots, Chrome extensions, oh my!) they contribute. As we like to say, they are the heart of Epicenter. This week, meet volunteer Kris B.

Why I volunteer
How else could I help protect the health of others from a keyboard sitting on my couch?  I especially like helping seniors and folks without speedy internet access to get a fair shot at the vaccine.  After I booked all the seniors in my own life I started signing up my neighbors- and now I am signing up anyone in need!  It is a thrill to help, I feel lucky to be in this group.

Fave NYC spot
I am a transplant to Manhattan’s UWS and I love it, well located, approachable, and cool.  But my secret pandemic getaway has been Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx! Scenic, beautiful architecture, ample parking, and totally socially distant.  If I visited Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris, why not Miles Davis in NYC?  My main squeeze and I research and visit at least one grave per trip, then walk around and sightsee. Next up: Dorothy Parker!

My scheduling tip
If the person I am helping is curious, I try to teach them to navigate the vaccination sites.  I send them links and we work on their appointment together.  Sometimes with two computers going we snag their appointment right there on the phone!  Either way, after we hang up they know how to book their own loved ones moving forward, which is a great feeling.  I tried to recreate those conversations in a tutorial for the three main websites I use (NY State and NYC and Health+Hospitals) available here.

 

OUT & ABOUT

photo: kusama_archive

Cosmic Nature
An immersive installation from world-famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is making its way to the New York Botanical Garden on April 10. “Cosmic Nature” is an homage to Kusama’s lifelong fascination with the natural world, guided by concepts of infinity and eternity. Tickets went on sale this morning; Kusama’s work is wildly popular, so we recommend reserving your tickets ASAP.

Yoga at the cathedral
The Church of St. John the Divine is hosting virtual yoga and mindfulness meditation on the second and fourth Monday of every month. Next Monday, March 22, at 6 p.m., join Mia Michelson-Bartlett, manager of visitor services and certified yoga instructor, for 60 minutes of beginner-friendly stretching and breathing exercises with a backdrop of the building’s beautiful interior. Tickets are $10, get yours here.

photo: @pastramicomedynyc

Pastrami: A live comedy show in Central Park
And now, for a whiff of normalcy — live comedy by some of NYC’s finest! In the park! Free! Every Thursday and Saturday night at West Drive and West 100th Street (right off Central Park West). Donations accepted.

Speaking of pastrami
Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day! (Corned beef, close enough.) While celebrations will be muted, here are a few ways to get into the spirit: Swing by Chelsea Market from 4 to 8 p.m. to get your corned beef, cabbage, soda bread and beer fix while you listen to live Irish tunes in the market’s heated outdoor area. Want to celebrate from the comfort of your apartment? Join the Irish Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. for an event celebrating the country with Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S., Dan Mulhall. Tickets are free, but advance registration is required. And of course, there is the famed St. Patrick’s Day parade. Exact details of how the celebration will take place this year are under wraps, but you can tune into the 260th annual celebration virtually.

DJs and politics
The two don’t usually go hand-in-hand, but the former certainly makes the latter more fun. Join 21 in ’21, an organization dedicated to electing at least 21 more womxn to City Council, this Sunday, March 21, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. for a ranked-choice DJ battle. The event will feature Attorney General Letitia James and record producer and #MeToo silence breaker Drew Dixon. Four DJs will compete against each other in a contest where the winner will be chosen by ranked-choice voting — a new system of voting that will be employed in the city’s mayoral primary election. Need a primer on what exactly ranked-choice voting is? Epicenter has you covered.Tickets are $21, get yours here.

 

GIVE & GET HELP

photo: FDNY

Help Jackson Heights
A four-alarm fire destroyed much of a commercial building on 74th Street on March 4. While nobody was injured, the fire has endangered the livelihoods of community members — many of whom were already struggling due to Covid-19. Local organizations Chhaya Community Development Corporation and Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) have come together to raise money, which will go toward direct relief grants to uninsured business owners, undocumented workers and street vendors. Donate here.

Understanding the Covid-19 vaccine and what’s next
How do our immune systems work? How does the vaccine work? Join Dr. Miriam Merad, director of the Precision Immunology Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and New York Times global health and science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli this evening at 7 p.m. for some answers. The event, which is hosted by the 92nd Street Y, is free but you must register in advance.

Work in vaccine distribution
As New York City ramps up its vaccine efforts, it needs more people to staff vaccine sites. There are various positions that need to be filled, including those that don’t require a medical background or a college degree. The positions are full-time and offer high pay rates. Learn more.

 

 

Make sure you are subscribed to our sister newsletter covering NYC schools.
Rally to reopen schools
More than one year after New York City schools shut down, the debate over reopening is as intense as ever. A group of protesters gathered outside of the Department of Education last Saturday to demand schools reopen, once and for all. Despite recent reopening plans for middle and high schools, New York City families and teachers are sick of the hybrid model forcing students to continue remote learning at any capacity.

Historically low attendance rates
Public schools in Covid-19 hotspots across New York City aren’t seeing students in-person or online — because they aren’t going to class either way. The Independent Budget Office analyzed attendance rates from October 2020 through January 2021, exposing how online learning leaves vulnerable students behind. District 75 schools, which serve students with complex disabilities and transfer high schools had the most concerning rates at 79% and 41%, respectively. Black and Brown neighborhoods are also disproportionately affected, despite those populations being more hesitant to send their children back in classrooms.

Porter’s first day
Meisha Ross Porter officially started her role as New York City Schools Chancellor yesterday, the first Black woman to hold the position. She met with students at P.S. 15 in Brooklyn, sitting in for lessons with students of all grade levels.

 

DAY-TRIPPING

photo: Rockaway Brewing Company

The forecast for this weekend looks beautiful — temperatures in the 50s and nary a cloud in the sky. For New Yorkers, that’s practically sandal weather. So why not head to the beach? Specifically, Rockaway Beach in Queens. We promise, it will be good for your soul. If you don’t have a car at your disposal, we suggest grabbing the ferry from Wall Street; it takes about an hour. Once you’re there, enjoy the feeling of being far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. If the waves are good, watch the city’s die-hard surfers do their thing. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a surf lesson yourself from the pros at Locals Surf School — they teach year round. After that, head to Fort Tilden (about a 15-minute drive), a former military site with hiking trails and great views of Jamaica Bay and the Manhattan skyline. Reward yourself for hiking (or, alternately, just for making it through the past year) with a cold, local beer from Rockaway Brewing Company. Be sure to catch the sunset around 7 p.m. (hello daylight savings) and then head to Uma’s for some delicious Central Asian cuisine. For those unfamiliar, we recommend Uma’s signature salad (roasted peppers, fried eggplant, fresh tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs topped with feta cheese — we swear this alone is worth the journey), borscht soup and traditional manti dumplings.

 

LAST WORD 

photo: Alexia Drummond

We want to see, hear, feel and support your art and response to this moment. To submit a poem, short story, artwork or any shareable experience, email us. If your work is selected, you will receive a $100 stipend and become part of our growing network of artists. This week we welcome Alexia Drummond.

“I go to a private school in Cambria Heights, and I’m thirteen years old. I am mostly a singer, as well as a rapper, visual artist, poet, and overall creative thinker. Poetry came naturally to me. When I listen to music, I focus a lot on lyrics and how they make me feel, as well as what I can visualize when I hear them. At first I was just writing my feelings on looseleaf, just to let everything out. After a while, I realized that my words seemed poetic to me. I felt something and read more than just words. I decided to take all these scattered papers full of emotion and turn it into an art. In my poetry, I speak nothing but truth. And for me, that deals with love, hurt, depression, pain, happiness, dreams and life. It’s a roller coaster of feelings in every poem I write. A lot of people think that as a thirteen-year-old-girl, I have not an issue in life. All I have to do is go to school, do my work and everything’s fine. But through my poems and my art overall, people see something else. They see my reality and the surrealism in my head. They see my imagination. They see me. There is so much more to a child than many people can see, so, so much more. So I write, and I write and I don’t stop until I feel that everything was said. Until I feel that not only do other people understand, but I understand for myself what exactly I hold inside of me.”

 

Twilight Mystery Box

 

Horizon

Bring me closer to the horizon

And around sunset to the twilight

So I can see freedom for once

It’s so simple but so awakening

Let’s go to LA just for the moment

Or maybe Times Square right here

Don’t ask me what we gon’ do when we get there

Just know we gon’ do something

Just know that our bodies gon’ take control

Just know that love, life, and happiness is all we need to know

When our dirty Vans and Adidas touch the ground

And maybe we can go hang out by the salon a few blocks away

And tell Big Ma all our feelings

All our dreams

All our needs

And what we see is reality

Once we step outside the lie

Life is like a mystery box

And I’ve been waiting to open it

Been waiting to stick my head to look inside

Like when Big Sis sends gifts

Says “Don’t look!”

But I’m gonna look eventually

And I know inside there’s tears, fears,

Lies, tries, fails, hope

Sadness, madness—

But I won’t miss…

The restriction and limit, the fake friends, it’s toxic

It’s the lace in the drink

Throw it away, I’on want it!

No money, no car, no designer, no trend

Will ever match the happiness I’ll feel

When I reach and I grab

The freedom I’ve been longing for all my life

And the things I will create

Will take me and fill me up

With the beautiful bloom and the constant growth

So let’s start here

Take me to the twilight sky

With the trees, grass, and dirt underneath

Bring me closer to the horizon

So I can see freedom for once

And then twice, and three times,

A trillion times more,

And forever.

 

 

This newsletter was written by Chloe Tai, Jade Stepeney and Danielle Hyams. It’s designed by Nitin Mukul and edited by Robin Cabana. Did you like it or find it useful? Tell a friend to sign up. Support our vendors, freelancers and efforts by making a donation to our tip jar.

 

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