The year has been a year fraught with political turmoil for much of the United States, with major changes on the horizon for many families and communities across the country. What better place to uncover and tell those stories than the epicenter of American policymaking? This year’s Reporting the Nation/Reporting New York students trekked to our nation’s capital to do it. Join us in our Washington, D.C., journeys as we confront the issues facing America’s most vulnerable communities, from sex trafficking to healthcare to the opioid crisis. Read our stories here.
About 200 people gathered in east Minneapolis for a rally and march to denounce hate speech and hate crimes against Muslims. They marched to a nearby Republican Party office to denounce the rhetoric of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Protesters also denounced government surveillance of the Somali community. Photo by Fibonacci Blue
Harsh words about many groups including LGBT people, the disabled, African Americans, Hispanics and women have been at the forefront of this campaign season. Muslims have been particularly under fire amid the slew of terrorist attacks both abroad and domestically. Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the US has helped unite Muslim communities and inspire voters to voice their opinions.
“I’m calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” Trump’s campaign said in a release in December 2015. Trump later said his ban would, in fact, be temporary. “It’s a temporary ban. It hasn’t been called for yet. Nobody’s done it,” he said on Fox News Radio in May. Trump’s rhetorical attack on a Muslim family whose son was killed in Iraq while serving in the U.S. military, and his willingness to consider closing down American mosques have added to the turmoil in Muslim communities.
Egyptian-American Yasmeen El-Shakh, a 21-year-old Rutgers University student, believes Trump and his stance on Muslims threaten the fabric of American society. “I feel it is deeply unconstitutional,” she said. “It goes against everything the US stands for which is the idea that your religion shouldn’t be a factor into how you are treated in the US, a country founded on religious freedom.”
El-Shakh is part of a larger Muslim community that has spoken out against Trump and his attacks on the Islamic religion. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has criticized Trump’s rhetoric, highlighting a few points about Muslims, including the proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, on its website. CAIR is also providing forums for Muslim Americans to voice their opinions on the upcoming election and address any specific concerns for their community.
Zogby Analytics, an independent pollster, conducted a survey asking Arab Americans who they plan to vote for on Election Day. The survey found 12 percent of Arab-Americans support Trump, while 67 percent are rooting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to become the next president. “The poll found that a majority of Arab Americans identify with the Democratic Party, the highest percentage since the 2008 presidential election,” Jim Zogby, founder of Zogby Analytics wrote on his website.
While the Zogby poll found that the majority of Muslims support Clinton, the Trump campaign has done little to attract this increasingly important voter bloc. According to the Hill, a top US political website, Trump’s foreign policy advisor Walid Phares did reach out to popular Muslim Republicans back in May urging them to organize for Trump. However, the outreach from the Trump campaign to gain support from the Muslim community has been anything but successful.
According to the US Census, there are roughly two million Arab Americans living in the US, and the Arab American Institute says 91 percent are planning to vote on Election Day. The Institute says, “Arab Americans live in all 50 states, but two thirds are concentrated in 10 states; one third of the total live in California, New York, and Michigan.” With such a direct attack on more than two million individuals, the Arab American community is speaking out.
American Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC) and the Arab American Institute are working to empower the Arab and Muslim vote in the US. Jennifer Salan, communications head at the Arab American Institute, wants to enable Arab Americans to make their voices heard. The Institute created the “Yalla Vote” initiative, meaning “Go Vote” in Arabic, to help Arab-American communities make a difference and voice opinions. The Institute is bi-partisan and has not endorsed a candidate but is generating excitement for the Arab community. “We host registration events at mosques, churches, college campuses and restaurants to engage everyone in the community,” Salan said, adding that “we are all stronger when we are all engaged and active in our communities.”
This year, the Arab American Institute is launching a ‘Yalla Vote’ hotline to respond to any voting questions prior to Election Day. “We at the Arab American Institute are doing our part to ensure that Arab Americans are registered, organized, informed and ready to cast their ballots on November 8th,” said Salan.
Faizan Riaz, a 22-year old student at Georgetown University, believes the “Yalla Vote” initiative is a good way to engage communities. “As a Pakistani Muslim, I find that especially in this election, it’s important to get out and vote and not just sit back and complain about the outcome,” he wrote in email. Riaz believes Trump and his proposed ban on Muslims further divides Americans and marginalizes minorities. “It really comes down to the fact that his rhetoric inspires so much hate and that some people don’t even notice,” he wrote. “It kind of reminds you of how the Japanese were feeling during WWII [World War II] or even the beginning of the rise of Hitler. You don’t know what’ll happen but you just feel this animosity around you sometimes that makes you scared to be where you are.”
While Muslims around the world are weighing in on the upcoming US Presidential Election, there is no question there is a sense of animosity among Muslim communities towards Trump’s campaign. As the election nears, Trump’s campaign will be put to the test to see if marginalizing this minority group will cost him the election.
Jessica Duran, who completed the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon in 10:00:12, proudly displayed her medal near the finish line (the timer pictured reset after 10:00:00). This was the 35 year-old Bronx-born Staten Island resident’s first marathon. Picture by Eli Kurland.
With tears streaming down her face, Jessica Duran fulfilled a life-long dream by crossing the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon’s finish line. She completed the event with the closest time to exactly 10 hours, coming in at 10:00:12.
But race time mattered little to Duran or her husband and three daughters, all locking into a group hug the moment both her feet stayed planted on the ground.
“I didn’t have any expectation but I knew I had to finish,” Duran said. “I needed to show my little daughters that if I can do this, they can do this. I did it because of them. I didn’t think I was able to fulfill this dream until God and my heart took me to the finish line.”
Duran, 35, was born and raised in the Bronx but lives in Staten Island now. Completing her first marathon in New York City elevated this experience even higher for her, especially since it began in Staten Island.
“Your first marathon has to be in New York City,” she said. “There’s nothing like it. I cross the Verrazano Bridge (connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn) every day to go to work and now I’ve ran it. My husband’s from Brooklyn and the vibe there today was fantastic. And when I got to Queens I saw my dad, and I had a moment. He just told me, ‘Keep going. Keep going.’”
And she did. But she almost didn’t.
Thirteen miles in, at an emotional low point in her run, Duran noticed a “sweep bus” picking up runners who decided not to continue. These buses follow the marathon at a pace meant for the slower runners, so it hurt her self-esteem to be in the presence of one. Cold and hungry, she seriously debated quitting.
“But I had to accomplish what I’ve wanted to accomplish for a very long time.”
Duran pressed on.
“I doubted myself for a split second but seeing my family and friends – their support for my crazy idea I could do this – a girl who never finished college, a stay at home mom whose priorities are her kids – this is her and her children’s moment.”
She plans to run another marathon in July.
NYC marathon runner Yolanda Roman stands near the finish line with her family including brother Juan, mother Viviana, boyfriend Charlie Santos, cousin Sonia Ariza and her husband Eli Modesto, and nieces Madelyn and Melanie. Photo by Rebeca Corleto.
Yolanda Roman ran her first marathon today. She finished the New York City Marathon in about five and a half hours, but her time was not the first thing on her mind.
“I’m running for my daughter and now my grandfather.”
Roman’s baby daughter, Chloe, passed away from a brain disorder. It was shortly after her daughter’s death that she took up running, as something to hold onto and get through her grief. Her grandfather also passed away this year.
“It means everything to be able to run for her,” she said. “Everything. It was hard but I’m doing it for her.”
Roman’s brother, Juan Roman, came to cheer her on. The Roman family are lifelong New Yorkers. They live on 62nd Street, just a few blocks from where they waited to meet Yolanda after the race. He waited with their mother Viviana and Yolanda’s boyfriend, Charlie Santos, at the family reception area after the finish line.
“I’m used to this,” said Juan Roman. “I was born in New York City, so I know the marathon, but this is the first year we’ve been involved. After my sister’s daughter passed away, we have a reason to be here. And she has a purpose to be here—her daughter and our grandpa.”
Juan Roman proudly explained that to get here today, his sister had to complete trial runs with qualifying times. She began her training schedule a year ago.
Their cousin, Sonia Ariza, and her husband, Eli Modesto, along with their daughters Madelyn,7, and Melanie, 4,, came from Brooklyn to support Roman. Madelyn and Melanie played and ran around while they waited to greet their aunt. Ariza and Modesto took turn holding high a pink sign with glittering letters spelling out, “RUN FOR CHLOE.” When Roman finally reached her family, she was greeted with hugs, tears, and congratulations.
“We saw her running when she ran through Brooklyn,” said Ariza. “We live in Brooklyn, so we wanted to watch her there, and then we came here to see her at the finish line.”
There were two moments along the 26.2-mile run that stood out to Roman. The first occurred during a difficult section of the race.
“In the Bronx, my leg started cramping,” she said. “It was cramping so bad and then I saw on the side of the path, there were Mexican people rubbing people’s legs. That helped me get through. And then, crossing that finish line,I didn’t believe it when I crossed the line. It was a good day. A good run. I’m so happy I finished and saw my family here.”
Roman’s spirit is strong. Even after completing the longest run of her life, she had no intention of resting tonight.
“We’re going to celebrate,” she said.
Keith Claxton has been attending the race for the five years in a row. A person he met on the sideline gave him the sign, but Claxton cheers for everybody.” – Photo by Lisa Setyon
For the fifth year in a row, Keith Claxton, 53, of Eastchester Road in the Bronx, stood near the Willis Avenue Bridge encouraging the runners soaked in sweat to finish the race.
“I love the sport and I think it is something awesome that people run 26.2 miles,” Claxton said. “I just come to show my support for them. It is the least I can do.”
Today , 21 miles away from the finish line, Claxton, an accountant originally from the Virgin Islands, was among the thousands of spectators, waving, cheering and pushing the runners to get through the Bronx. Every year Claxton arrives at 8 a.m. and stands by himself, in a red track jacket, grey sweatpants and Nike sneakers.
While most of the other spectators are in groups and at the bridge to support a friend or family member, Claxton is there to support everyone.
“I cheer the last person to come across so I’m going to be here until the night,” Claxton said. “It just gives me a good feeling to be here, to be able to cheer them on, because, if they can run 26.2 miles, what is it for me to just turn up here and cheer?”
Claxton has lived in the Bronx for the past 25 years. For him, having the marathon in his neighborhood is also a way to add color to an area that has often been discredited.
“It gives people an opportunity to see a little part of the Bronx,” Claxton said. “I wish they could have gone more inside the Bronx so they get a better understanding of what the Bronx is.”
Claxton also sees it as a good way to gather communities together.
“Young, old, black, white, all nationalities are here,” Claxton said. “A sport like this bring everyone together. It just supports one cause, no division, just a marathon.”
Ten years ago Claxton used to run. But with a new job and taking care of his two children, Claxton stopped. But as he watched runners run past him, Claxton was envious and felt it was time for him to run again.
“I got caught up with just life,” Claxton said. “Sometimes you tend to put your hobbies on hold just to make a living. Now my two boys are 29 and 22. I feel like it is just time for me to go back out there and do me.”
His goal for next year is to run the marathon.
“My part right now is just to cheer,” he said “Hopefully next year, I’ll be running and I’ll have someone to cheer for me so I’m excited about it.”
If Claxton was looking forward to attending the marathon, the highlight of his day was seeing marathon winner May’s Keitany’s performance.
“She was sprinting and killed the hill in a sprint,” Claxton said. “I almost didn’t even see her, nobody was nowhere close, she really dominated the field this year. This a repeat for her, the third times she wins that in a row, it’s a big deal.”
Taide de DeLeon (left) supports Belinda Bricketts (right) as she photographs the runners in the TCS New York City Marathon. Photo by Sophie Herbut
Taidé de DeLeon watched the sweaty runners come through Downtown Brooklyn in shorts and tank tops. She was bundled in layers of dark sweaters, a scarf covering up to her nose and a beanie pulled down to her eyebrows.
This is DeLeon’s first time watching the marathon. She came from Panama to accompany and support her friend, Belinda Ricketts, 59, who was photographing the runners. The two are longtime friends and travel partners.
Downtown Brooklyn was closed off for the marathon on Atlantic Avenue. Blue police tape sectioned the sidewalk for the spectators, but many spectators were not fazed it and stood on either side. The shops were mostly empty or closed and not much attention was on anything but the runners.
DeLeon’s friend, Ricketts, had been photographing the TCS New York City Marathon as a hobby since she came to New York at 18. This is the first time she invited DeLeon.
“I’ve always loved sports, especially the marathon,” Ricketts said in Spanish.
The runners came in waves and one woman stopped in front of the two friends to catch her breath. Ricketts learned her name and cheered her on to keep running while snapping pictures on her Canon camera. DeLeon clapped encouragingly.
In Panama, DeLeon, 67, was a history teacher with no plans for traveling because it wasn’t in her budget. Even with her husband as an economist, money was tight.
Now that her daughter’s graduated from college, she and Ricketts have plans to travel the world.
“I’ve always wanted to come to the United States with someone who spoke English,” DeLeon said in Spanish. “My husband wasn’t as desperate to travel as me. Neither was my daughter.”
Ricketts and DeLeon met in Panama, in 2008, while Ricketts was there to settle some property issues. The two quickly became friends and planned numerous trips together.
But in 2014, Ricketts was diagnosed with breast cancer. The two postponed all their travel plans for Ricketts to go through treatment in Panama and DeLeon to help her through it. Now they stood on the sidelines as runners passed by, Ricketts photographing them and DeLeon supporting her still.
Barely done with her treatment, Ricketts clapped, cheered and filmed the runners as she stood in the sun with an open neon green jacket. She could have easily been mistaken for a volunteer.
“I wasn’t too worried to lose material things,” said Ricketts of her life before being diagnosed with cancer. “Money only lasts a short time. [DeLeon] said money calms the nerves but that calm is temporary.”
Another wave of runners passed by and DeLeon turned to clap for them as the music roared. Ricketts pulled out her phone to film the runners since she wasn’t quick enough to snap any pictures with her camera.
“If it were not for [Ricketts], I would have only done [few] things in my life,” said DeLeon. “She’s mobilized me.”
Luiz Morales, 20, stands near 62nd Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan as he waits for his father, Alex, to run past the 16-mile mark of the course on Nov. 6, 2016. Hundreds of people lined 1st Avenue on both sides encouraging marathoners as they ran past with handmade signs and enlarged photos. Photo by Razi Syed.
Standing along the sidewalk at 62nd Avenue and 1st Avenue, Luiz Morales was waiting restlessly among the throngs of supporters and well-wishers who cheered on New York City Marathon runners.
Around noon today, the 20-year-old Morales lifted his head every 10 seconds or so, and scanned over the throngs of people who lined 1st Avenue in an attempt to make sure Morales would see his father, Alex, pass what was a little bit beyond the 16-mile mark.
“I need to be focused because at any moment he could pass,” Morales said of his 52-year-old father, who flew in from Puebla, Mexico — a major metropolis located southeast of Mexico City. “He’s running New York for the ninth time.
“He’s ran Berlin, Chicago, Boston, Paris and, I think, Dallas and Tokyo,” Morales said, over the loud cheers for the steady stream of runners passing by.
The marathon, which is in its 46th year, is the largest marathon in the world, with roughly 50,000 people completing the 26.2-mile course for recent years. Since 1970, when there were just 127 entrants and 55 finishers, over 1,000,000 people have partaken in the marathon.
Morales has traveled with his father around the world to run in marathons. He said standing among the crowd and encouraging his father as he ran was the most enjoyable part of the race.
“It’s fantastic for my dad and all the runners for the support from me and all the other people,” Morales said. “I think it’s great.”
The atmosphere along 1st Avenue was jovial, as people supported their friends and relatives on with signs and cheers, with the constant sound of rock and pop music in the background.
While the first six years of the marathon consisted of just laps around Central Park, for the past 40 years the route has snaked its way through all five of the city’s boroughs.
Runners start the race in Staten Island, cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and through a variety of Brooklyn neighborhoods, over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens and across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. Runners then make their way uptown, crossing into The Bronx briefly and before coming back to Manhattan, where the race finishes at Central Park South.
Over the next couple hours, Morales will move on to Harlem and Central Park to cheer on his dad as he came up to the final miles of the race and crossed the finish line.
“The sound, all the people that are cheering for their own people are fantastic,” Morales said, explaining why the New York marathon is the favorite of him and his father. “The weather is fantastic, the city is fantastic.”
This is the ninth time that Morales has accompanied his father to New York City Marathon, which will end with their traditional post-run celebratory meal of hot dogs.
With runners from over 100 countries represented, the city’s marathon is a true international affair. With two blocks near the course’s 16-mile mark, flags for Sweden, Germany, Mexico and Spain were visible, among the handmade signs and enlarged photos held aloft by spectators.
A committed athlete who focused his energy on playing soccer before he pivoted to long-distance running, Morales said his father’s motivation to run came to him in spiritual terms.
“His inspiration is the uncles and cousins who’ve passed away,” Morales said. “He sees it, like, ‘This marathon is for all the people that pass away.’”
Mitch Feng, left, Anita Chen in the middle, their son in the front right, and friends, cheer on Chen’s six colleagues who are running for the Dream Corps charity. By Jennifer Cohen
Bells, whistles, cheers, and music blasted the streets on First Avenue as nearly 50,000 runners made their way through the affluent neighborhood of the Upper East Side.
Anita Chen, her husband Mitch Feng, their son, and friends live just down the street from where they stood to cheer on their colleagues on 77th Street and First Avenue. The neighborhood is known for being the most affluent in the city, with celebrity residents and upper class families, but today it was filled with an array of people supporting their friends and family running in the marathon.
Chen’s six colleagues ran today to raise money for the Dream Corps charity, which helps fund underprivileged children in rural areas of China with books and education. Almost $3,000 will was raised from the marathon to help provide the resources needed to educate the children in rural China.
“Rural China children, we are emphasizing, don’t have as much resources as the Metropolitan area that’s why they need help and we help them,” said Chen, an NYU Stern Alumni.
Chen has been running marathons for the last seven years. In 2013 she ran the TCS New York City Marathon and will again run it next year. This year for the 46th annual TCS NYC Marathon, Chen decided to be on the sidelines to cheer on her colleagues who helped raise money for the charity. She is very excited to come back next year as it makes her feel so humble compared to other cities she has ran in before.
“This marathon is a party for New York City and it definitely is one of the biggest events,” with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in second and the Yankee’s Parade in third, if they win, said Chen.
One of Anita’s colleagues, Yun Chen, took a break from her run to stop and took a picture with the sign that was made for her. With only 9 more miles to go, she smiled for the photo and headed back on the road to finish strong.
Chen and her family have walked from their home the last couple of years to watch the marathon. Although his wife is a big runner, Feng is not. He said it would be nice, but it is a lot of hard work to be able to run that long.
“Twenty-six point two miles oh my god, it takes such a long time to even pronounce that,” said Feng.
They may not run together, but the whole family takes the time to cheer on colleagues and watch everyone run up First Avenue. If people didn’t hold signs with their friend or family members name on it then they rang cowbells and screamed their names. It’s hard not get into the spirit of the marathon.
“You walk around there’s so much energy all over the place, it’s very exciting to everybody,” said Feng.