Estamos Aqui! New York is Full of Heroes
The soul of our city is alive and well
2020 has been a year of pain, loss and unexpected challenges. My house has been no exception. Last October, my parents sold my childhood home, excited to fulfill their lifelong dream of returning to the island of Puerto Rico in retirement. They’d worked hard for that. My father served as a 32BJ stationary engineer in the warehouses down by the waterfront. My mother was an office manager for the Pocketbook, Leather & Novelty Workers Union, Local 1. They believed you always did what you could for others. So, throughout my childhood, we often found ourselves providing “temporary housing” for friends and family in need. It’s just what we did, and it’s what so many New Yorkers do every day. That has always been my guiding principle.
My parents stayed with me through the holidays after the closing in October. But shortly after arriving in Puerto Rico in early January, the earthquake hit. They lost power and water. Between my mother’s insulin dependent diabetes and their other elderly needs, they returned to my house in Brooklyn until things on the island “returned to normal.” Then COVID hit, and it became clear that their stay would be extended. As the pandemic took hold, both of my kids returned back from their college campuses. Three generations under one roof since March. It is not without its challenges, but this is just what we do. We take care of each other.
As August approached, we prepared for my daughter’s return to college in Pennsylvania, cautiously optimistic about the health guidelines in place, and the additional breathing room her move would bring us all. On July 30th, the school unexpectedly sent an email decreasing on-campus options and offering all classes online. So now BOTH of my children were going to be home. This was not the empty nester life I’d planned for!
A few days later, I sat with my parents at the kitchen counter sorting through documents for their taxes. While poring over paperwork, I smelled gas. A few hours, and one repairman later, my stove was broken. As I dialed retail store after retail store in search of a replacement, tax preparation abandoned, I was struck by my situation. I wondered about other single moms who have to manage changing priorities, emergencies, and other crises on their own. I wondered how they were handling their households right now and what resources they needed to navigate the days, months, and years ahead. And I wondered how many other elected representatives understand these barriers first-hand and what it takes to overcome them.
I couldn’t have foreseen the devastation wrought by COVID-19 when I decided to run for Mayor more than a year ago, but I know something about the cascade of crises the pandemic has exposed. As an Afro-Boricua single mom, I have had to navigate our broken education system. I’ve known a mother’s fear as police threatened my son in his dorm room. I’ve known the inadequacies of the healthcare system as my daughter struggled with mental health crises. The virus didn’t create those flawed systems. And while I built my entire career working to address deeply ingrained oppression and inequities in Black and Brown communities, I felt compelled to find a way to address the root-causes of racial and gender oppression that have been made so intensely plain in 2020.
Of all the tragedies so many have experienced this year, my inconveniences are nothing. There are those who have been quick to say we’ve reached the end of New York as we know it; that we need a hero to save us. No doubt, we’ve been knocked down by the incredible, tragic loss of so many New Yorkers, and many of us have been forever changed. But New York is far from over. In fact, stories like mine, of people and families coming together to face down problems, are extraordinarily common, and there are heroes everywhere you look. Mothers taking care of their children and daughters caring for their parents. People looking out for each other through mutual aid. Essential workers ensuring we all have clean buildings, and food to eat. Thousands rising up against violence and oppression.
I am running for Mayor because I believe in the heroes I see around me every day. They are the heroes we’ve been waiting for. They are the soul of New York. And I know them. New York’s heroes are visible behind every act of resistance and solidarity we take to keep each other safe. And we are not going anywhere. Because the soul of our city is not measured in the temporary value placed on luxury condominiums that sit empty and traded in global money laundering schemes.. It is in our resilience and commitment to solve the problems we face together. And we will no longer placate suffering with half-measures.
Together, we will make the radical changes that are long overdue, divesting from police and investing in our communities, desegregating and transforming our schools, guaranteeing housing for all, and building an economy that prioritizes the solidarity New Yorkers always show each other in our darkest hours. That’s the real story of heroism in New York.
Estamos Aqui. We are here and ready to make New York better than it’s ever been, for all of us.
Dianne Morales is the first Afro-Latina candidate for New York City Mayor. Learn more about her campaign: www.dianne.nyc
Paid for by Dianne For NYC