Ana Maria Jemenez at the celebration of the Day of the Dead in Corona Park, Queens. Photo by Maria Panskaya
For Ana Maria Jemenez, celebrating the Day of the Dead on November 2nd in Corona, Queens was not all about cheer and fun. She, along with other immigrants from Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Dominican Republic and El Salvador, instead talked about their concerns regarding the upcoming midterm elections and it’s effect on the immigration reform.
The DREAM Act, which was first introduced in 2001, provided some residential rights to illegal immigrants under the age of 35, allowing them to get work authorization and educational opportunities. So far only 15 states have their versions on the DREAM Act, including New York State.
“I brought my son illegally to this country,” said Jemenez, 39. “He is now 13 and goes to school. I want him to have good education and good future.”
Jemenez, unlike her son who is living in the U.S. under the DREAM Act, is facing deportation. Her case has been with the Immigration Services department for two years. She lives in fear that one day someone would knock on her door and deport her back to Colombia.
Living in fear and barely making ends meet while working two jobs, Jemenez refuses to stay ignorant about her rights as an undocumented worker and constantly follows any developments on immigration reforms as well as senate, house, presidential, or even local government elections. Never use illegal alien..it is considered offensive.
“Yes, I cannot vote,” said Jemenez, who only has a little trace of a Colombian accent. “But it doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I always hope that immigrants like me would get more rights, just like President Obama promised.”
Jemenez, said she understands how the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives operate and is very concerned about the outcome of the midterm elections..
“If Republicans win, we, and I mean all immigrants, are going to be deported,” said Jemenez. “Republicans don’t like Latinos. But we work hard, we love this country. The jobs we do, American would never do.”
Jemenez works at a local grocery store, doing everything from scrubbing floors to working at the cash register. The storeowner pays her $6.75 per hour. Since she doesn’t have legal papers there is nobody she can complain to. According to Jemenez, if Republicans win the senate she will lose the little that she has now.
Miriam Guzman, 42, from Mexico, works as a fulltime babysitter for $10 an hour. If she weren’t an illegal immigrant, her salary would be $15 an hour.
“Family I work for is rich,” said Guzman. “They hired me because I speak Spanish and their children love me. They pay me less because they know I have no papers and no choice, but to accept what they give me.”
Miriam Guzman and her fiancé, Greorge Pateka. Photo by Maria Panskaya
Despite the fact that the midterm election turnout is usually quite low, with turnout of eligible voters never going beyond 50% according to the Center for Voting and Democracy, undocumented immigrants from Latin America fully understand that midterm elections can be even more important than the presidential election.
“What people don’t realize is that the outcome of the midterm elections will determine the future of the country and possibly effect the presidential election outcome in 2016,” said Alan Acosta, 34, a Hispanic community activist and volunteer, Queens. “I received my green card a year ago under the DREAM Act, after a nine-year-long battle with paper work, and I’m going to vote on Tuesday. Sometimes one vote can make a difference.”
Acosta came to the U.S. illegally from Dominican Republic when he was 19, before the DREAM Act was introduced. But the act eventually made him eligible for getting social security, then work authorization and citizenship.
“This was a dream come true,” said Acosta. “I want every immigrant to experience the joy and relief I experienced a year ago.”
According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of eligible Hispanic voters is dropping by seven percent each year nationwide. One of the issues of low turnout among Latinos is underrepresentation.
“We have a black president and the majority of congress, senate and house officials are white,” said Jemenez. “I want to see more Hispanic representatives. I feel like Latino population doesn’t vote that much is because there is nobody we can vote for.”
According to Migration Policy Institute, undocumented immigrants from Latin America represent 46% of all foreign born immigrants, who currently reside in the U.S., with 28% of them being Mexicans. Indians and Chinese, along with other Asian countries, represent 29% combined together. The other 25% are immigrants from Europe and Africa.
All immigrants who cross the border with the U.S. on illegal terms, whether smuggled on a ship or train or traveled with fake passports, have one dream in common—becoming the U.S. citizens. While the Obama administration has expressed strong support for numerous immigration reforms, like the DREAM Act, the majority of those propositions were voted down in the Senate.
In May 2014 New York State tried to expend the DREAM Act policy by enacting free college education to immigrants, but the initiative hadn’t been passed.
“It’s already hard enough for the president and his aids to pass any bill and to get it approved,” said Acosta. “And it’s going to be even worse if Republicans win the Senate. The next two years are going to be hell not only for the president, but also for all immigrants.”
Aoiko Moisu, from Tokyo, Japan, ran the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon dressed as a samurai.
Photo by Maria Panskaya
by Maria Panskaya
Gusty freezing winds greeted runners as they got off the Staten Island Ferry to run the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon this morning. One by one, as they exited the ferry terminal, sleepy participants hurried to get to the warm buses, almost competing with each other for a cozy bus seat.
The 26.2-mile course challenged 40,000 runners from all over the world. It started on the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island, covered all five New York boroughs and ended in Central Park.
Aoiko Moisu, from Tokyo, Japan, participated in the marathon for the second time, proudly wearing traditional samurai attire. While his outfit may look odd, for Moisu, wearing samurai gear during the marathon is a way to introduce Japanese culture to viewers and a way for him to have fun.
“When I’m in the middle of the race, dehydrated and tired, hearing people cheer for me, like ‘Go, samurai, you can do it’, gives me energy and motivation to finish the marathon,” he said.
Moisu, who didn’t want to give his age, but said he “felt 18”, started running marathons six years ago and wears this costume every time. . The attire is made of light plastic parts and stretchy fabric, which allows Moisu to run fast, without restricting his movements.
“The plastic parts, arms, boots and chest, always remain the same,” said Moisu. “But I change fabric. When it’s hot, I use light material, when it’s cold, like today, I have heat-technology fabric underneath.”
In addition to running a tough marathon, Moisu has the added difficulty of getting the medal over his helmet.
“After I the cross finish line. organizers always find it hard to put the medal on me because of my helmet,” he said. “They end up putting it on my helmet’s horns.”
As Moisu waited to board the bus to the start line, the yellow and blue tussles of his costume were dancing in the wind, attracting not only the runners’ attention but also the police officers’. They searched him three times before allowing Moisu to board the bus.
“It’s cold outside and they made me take off my costume, leaving me in my shirt and pants,” said Moisu. “But I’m not mad at them. Police does this kind of thorough search for our own safety. We all remember the Boston Marathon.”
Moisu clipped his mask to the sides of the helmet and jogged slightly closer to the start line, occasionally stopping to shake hands or to take pictures with other runners.
Yoga Instructor and personal trainer, Allaya Cooks-Campbell, revitalizes her life and the lives of others, through yoga.
Agony, despair, loneliness, hunger–these are some on the emotions and physical states actors tried to communicate to the audience during the “For the Homeless” ballet performance. Photo by Maria Panskaya
by Maria Panskaya
With eyes filled with tears, Ricky sat in the front row at Church of the Holy Apostles, in Chelsea, Manhattan yesterday attentively watching young and old performers acting and dancing on the stage in the new ballet show, “For The Homeless” by Edward Morgan Ballet.
Ricky is not her real name and she no longer uses her last name. She said her age is insignificant to her; while such things as food, shelter and hygiene is of a huge value to her life.
“For The Homeless” a free performance, which was created in collaboration with Goddard Riverside Community Center and Joseph Alexander Awareness Project, revealed the uncensored side of homelessness, trying to raise awareness and educate people on the issue thought dance and expressive acting. The show closes tomorrow.
“A lot of people have a misconception about homeless,” said Celestiena Trower, a former social worker and one of the performers. “We hope that people who see the performance will be more conscious about this issue. The homeless are not weak people or people who don’t want to work. They are all kinds of people: people who had been at war and came back injured, people who worked and lost their jobs. We want New Yorkers to know it.”
Ricky, who had been homeless for about five years, was covered in thick bluefish blankets, with charcoal leather boots slightly showing from underneath her numerous robes and with a red t-shirt brightly popping out from underneath her navy-blue hoodie. She didn’t smell. She wasn’t rude. And she didn’t choose to live on the streets or to beg for food, she said.
Before, she had it all—family, home, food—but one day she lost her job, all savings drained away, she received almost no help form the city government, lost her apartment and friends, and ended up moving to the nearest dumpster.
“I thought it would never happen to me. I would never end up living on the street,” said Ricky. “But it happened. Sometimes I overhear people say that I chose to be this way, but it’s not true. How can someone, in good mind and spirit, intentionally become homeless? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Joseph Alexander, director of the Edward Morgan Ballet and initiator of the Homeless Awareness Project, came up with an idea of a ballet for the homeless four years ago, inspired by one of his students. With ballet being an art of physical strength, grace and discipline, Alexander’s student was coming in late for classes and skipping some of them.
“I remember her crying a lot,” said Alexander, in reference to his student. “I thought that she might’ve been abused at home or something along these lines. But one day she said to me that she and her mama were moving to a shelter and it is hard for her to keep up with ballet training. I was shocked.”
The following year Alexander began to work with kids who lived in shelters, teaching them how to sing and dance. The hard work was paid off when the kids won a talent show with their musical theater/ballet performance.
However, one of the difficulties Alexander had faced since the awareness project started was raising funds. He had always spent his own money to cover ballet expenses such as children’s trips to contests and equipment costs. No donations were coming in from anywhere. But it didn’t discourage him from committing to the project.
“I still reach out to children form different communities, trying to integrate them,” said Alexander. “If you have talent and drive we will foster it.”
Since then, in collaboration with various organizations, he has worked on raising awareness about homelessness, sending the message that homeless people are people too and they deserve help and attention. Despite the Morgan’s ballet company’s nation-wide recognition, the company still train children from impoverished communities and participate in multiple outreach programs.
Approximately 150 people attended “For The Homeless” performance and among those were representatives from different cultures, generations and races—from several homeless people like Ricky to college students to concerned citizens, who live just above the poverty line.
Sharice Burgess, of the Bronx is struggling to provide for her two children and her 94-year-old mother.
“I stay in prayer all the time,” said Burgess. “My family is too close to being kicked out from the apartment. I pray I have enough money to pay rent every month.”
According to the Census Bureau, 21% of New Yorkers live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet every day, just like Burgess. While watching the emotionally intense ballet choreography, Burgess broke into tears, scared that one day she might end up living on the street, sleeping on the stone-cold floor and begging for food.
Zach Mihalko, of Brooklyn attended the performance only because of the Morgan’s outstanding dancing skills and reputation, but said he was educated and inspired by the show and he vowed to volunteer at soup kitchens every week.
“This performance added to my understanding about homelessness,” said Mihalko. “To be honest, I have never even thought about this issue. I didn’t care much. But now I feel like I have to do something to help those unfortunate on the streets.”
Mihalko’s emotional response to the ballet was a reaction Morgan had tried to achieve among all guests. Even though no politicians or governmental officials responded to the Morgan’s invitation to see the performance, he was still happy that their awareness message was able to touch hearts and open minds of regular folks like Mihalko.
“Most people take comfort of their home and food on their table for granted,” said Anne Wangh, of Manhattan one of the attendees. “They don’t think they can end up homeless one day.”
Too wide to be grasped at once, “Treatise of the Veil” forces the viewer to move literary along its surface, constantly shifting perception. Photo by Maria Panskaya
by Maria Panskaya
Three new exhibitions opened on Friday at the Morgan Library & Museum in Murray Hill, featuring paintings and sketches from private collections, which were never exhibited before in New York City. The first two galleries displayed works of French and American virtuosos of 19th and 20th centuries, while the third gallery was exclusively dedicated to artist and illustrator, Richard McGuire, and his comic book “From Here to Here.”
In spite of the fact that exhibitions presented different styles of painting and were coming out of different art schools, all of them had one aspect in common—an idea of passing time.
“When I first saw the comic strip it was clear that it was something original,” said Joel Smith, curator and contemporary drawings department head. “Before McGuire, I don’t know anybody who systematically has taken apart the way the narrative action works in comic strip and made the experimentation with time the subject of the strip.”
Even the name of McGuire’s book, “From Here to Here,” reflected on the idea of time traveling and people interacting with different time passages. Despite the fact that the book hits bookstore shelves only in December, the exhibition has given an exclusive insight into some of the book pages, as well as has provided visual access to McGuire’s creative process—from petit hand-traced Persian rugs to magazine cutouts of fashionable shoes to bold sketches of his main characters to the 16th century hand-drawn religious manuscripts.
“The subject of the comic strip hardly matters at all. It’s hardly trivial at all and none leads to the other in the systematic way,” said Patrick Milliman, museum administrator and director of communications. “All action occurs in the reader’s head. It is sort of the essence of what its called modernism and fiction writing and that’s what makes the book enjoyable.”
McGuire was well known before he created this groundbreaking comic strip concept. His carrier as an artist started as a children’s book illustrator and continued on in the New Yorker magazine in the 1990s, where his humorous, but complex and layered at the same time, sketches were appearing in every issue and sometimes even on the magazine covers.
While McGuire preferred to experiment with graphic novels, Cy Twombly, an American painter who spent most of his life in Rome, Italy was concentrated more on meditation on time and space.
An enormous canvas painting, which was about two story-building high and 33 feet in length, along with 12 other Twonbly’s creations, was arranged in the middle of a spacious room to create a feeling of freedom and limitless. The creator of “Treatise of the Veil,” Twombly had left clues about how to read and understand his work.
“There is an in sign on the left, and out sign of the right,” said Isabelle Dervaux, the gallery’s curator. “You can see how the density of brush strokes decreases as you walk along the painting; you can instantly visualize the passage of time, from birth to death.”
The last time “Treatise of the Veil” was displayed in New York was in 1985 and it had remained in a private collection until now.
The other French painter whose work illuminated the halls of the Morgan Museum was Theodore Rousseau and his collection of oil paintings “The Untamed Landscape.” Rousseau belonged to the Barbizon School of masters, whose preferred subject was the primeval wooded forest landscape.
“His main focus was never on a subject,” said Amy Kurlander, an expert on the 19th century French painters. “Rousseau has always aimed at capturing a moment, like on wind that powerfully brings the trees down or waterfall and the immediacy of water falling down.”
Rousseau had achieved the at-the-moment effect with use of bold colors, multiple layers and bizarre shapes that some of his views contained.
From Rousseau’s relaxing oil-painting landscapes to Twombly’s charcoal lines to McGuire’s modernistic graphical boards and comic strips, the exhibitions wouldn’t have been possible without generous donations from private collectors as well as city’s active involvement.
“Every specimen here is unique on its own,” said museum goer Elizabeth Sanchez. “You can never get enough or get tired of them. A 15-minute exposure to art per day increases your brain potential and helps to relieve your daily stress. It’s particularly good for college students who are under constant pressure all the time.”
The 21st century biker-pirate, Juan Camacho, on the West Side Highway. Photo by Maria Panskaya
by Maria Panskaya
Members of Biker Entourage gathered together for the third time on Friday night to celebrate the international “Talk Like a Pirate” day and to ride the streets of Manhattan in honor of Captain William Kidd, New York City’s most famous pirate.
The annual parade, or Pirate Ride, stated in downtown and went though all piratey landmarks across the city.
“This ride is not about egos and not about showing off,” said Deme Spy, 48, the founder of Biker Entourage.” “It’s about positive experience and having fun.”
Eye patches, plastic swords, loose fitting flowing pirate shirts and, most important, motorcycles, were all that was needed to participate in the ride. And the desire for the great adventure was welcomed too.
The bike ride started on the West Side Highway, with Spy leading the group under the Jolly Roger Pirate Flag. Back in the days, when New York was New Amsterdam, pirates used to sail the waters alongside the highway; and now the 21st century biker-pirates carried on the time-honored legacy, cruising the roads on the roaring boats.
“Had two-wheeled dragons been invented 300 years ago,” said Spy. “Pirates would be roaring through the streets with them between their legs as sure as a shark loves a chum bucket.”
The Pirate Ride continued on Times Square, where bikers’ sudden appearance triggered all kinds of responses—from friendly similes and laughter to utter confusion.
“Arrrrr! Ye best be talkin’ like a pirate today,” said Jon Levi, 46, gently throwing silver plastic coins and bouncing eyeballs into the amused crowd.
The next piratey destination was Trinity Church, to which Captain Kidd believed to be a benefactor. Spy passionately narrated the tale for those, who participated in the ride for the first time, attracting curios passersby to stop and listen at the same time.
“I love bikes myself and I think I’ll get involved,” said Sherif Sadek, 18. “Looks like what these guys do is different from anything else I’ve seen before in my life. These are not your typical bikers.”
Breaking stereotypes is one of the group’s goals, while simultaneously educating people about biker’s culture, showing that riding a bike can be a positive experience, and that it is all about one’s inner strength and freedom. Spy, like other participants, holds a full-time job and a professional in his field. Levi, for example, is a photographer in regular life and Juan Camacho is an IT expert.
“At the end of the day it’s all about embracing freedom of a motorcycle,” said Camacho. “We want people to know that we are not all Sons of Anarchy type bikers.”
Spy, as a leader of Biker Entourage puts a substantial emphasis on safety. Before bikers leave for a ride, he goes over some of the ground rules like no heavy drinking before getting on bike, no speeding, stay and alert and fully conscious on the road, and don’t be aggressive—respect comes first.
Only after safely sailing the city, playing various pirate games and having a sword fight, with Ducatis, Harley Davidsons and Hondas neatly parked, biker-pirates rest at a bar with a glass of beer or scotch, sharing their after-ride experiences.
Children play with an enormous robot-giraffe at the fair. Photo by Maria Panskaya
by Maria Panskaya
The 5th Annual World Maker Faire took place in New York Hall of Science, Queens, yesterday, where technology and science experts, as well as ambitious startups, gathered to share their ideas and inventions.
The fair brought together more than a hundred inventive makers from across the county. It’s main focus was to educate kids about technological innovations, inspire them to create new things and to motivate the new generation to be curious about the world around them and beyond.
One of the ways the fair engaged children, and anybody who was curious enough, was a NASA Solve challenge. Dr. David Miller, NASA chief technologist, spoke about overcoming space challenges by involving society into the NASA’s creative process.
“Our vision is to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown, so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind,” Dr. Miller said. “If you have an idea that can improve our satellites’ or modules’ functioning, we want you to participate. You are the future and we want your ideas.”
Dr. Miller didn’t forget to mention that the most creative idea would be rewarded with a $20,000 check.
“If you are interested in space exploration, or want to learn more about Mars or other planets, or simply interested in overcoming challenges, then you bring us an idea and we bring the check,” Dr. Miller said.
While NASA Solve challenged middle and high school students, there were other pavilions, workshops and DIYs, like Maker Camp, for younger kids. Children got to take various techno parts apart, like keyboards and radios, with pliers and screwdrivers, creating sculptures or pictures out of those recycled pieces.
“One of my friends is a fan of electronics and robots and I got my interest form him,” said Ellis Retzer, 6, while tediously hot-gluing a keyboard key to his sculpture. “I love building new things after I’ve taken them apart.”
Children like Ellis spent hours uncovering the unknown parts of computers, printers and other techno stuff, while others preferred to hang around the two enormous space rockets installed in the middle of the fair or to pet a five-feet high electronic giraffe.
Vanessa Leung, 13, came to the fair not only to see what other makers had invented but also to present her own invention. Leung, together with several classmates from Simon Baruch Middle School, had built and programmed a Finch, a small electronic pet.
“It can measure the temperature in the room or it can play with you cat,” Leung said. “Finch is a really good tool for beginners to use to pick up on computer programming, since you have to navigate it from your laptop, and it’s fun to play with.”
Matt Trossen, CEO of Trossen Robotics, had also presented his high-performance Jimmy Research Humanoid. A 27-inch robot, which was also available in different designs and colors, would hit the market at the end of the year, presenting interested educators with a functioning high-level robotic platform to develop research on.
“We would love school and college students to have these robots and explore them,” Trossen said. “It would give students a chance to understand robotics without having a high level of education or knowledge in this area.”
The price range for Trossen’s robots would vary from $1,600 to $16,000, depending on the endoskeleton’s structure, computer programming and robot’s build-in features.
The majority of exhibitions on the fair had aimed for children’s educational needs and development, but e-NABLE had different goals. e-NABLE is the global network, which uses a 3D printer for prosthetic hand production for children.
“The bio-prosthetic hand costs a lot of money and as children grow you have to get more prosthetics, which can be quite costly,” said Ryan Brandy, 24. “With a 3D printed prosthetic hand, you can modify it as children grow. Just change the size and print out a new hand, which is less expensive.”
With so many more exhibitions and pavilions to explore, the fair dubbed “The Greatest Show & Tell on Earth”, will be open again today for curios children, educators and anybody who likes to explore the techno world.