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“DESTINY IS A DECISION NOT DIVINE”

“DESTINY IS A DECISION NOT DIVINE”

STEMDUP ERA

 

The single most important element for a person, neighborhood, town and a nation to thrive is good education. However there won’t be good public education without good educational infrastructures. And there can’t be good infrastructures in the absence of strong commitment to public safety.

We’ve painfully learned so well in the Bronx that deterioration of law and order have contributed to the regrettable regressions Bronxites are accustomed to and sadly normalized.

Poor communities (such as ours) and nations (some of us come from) continue to be poorer for lack of prioritizing good education in a scientifically and technically rapid changing universe around them.  And for those mightily striving for socioeconomic development in the midst of privation, they have to own the ‘know hows’ and the tools of development since sustainable development can’t be outsourced permanently.

Furthermore, in terms of public safety, we all have recognized the fact that post-September 11 expenditures on local, national and international public safety aren’t prudent, sustainable or worst yet being able to alleviate hateful global violent attacks and conflicts.

So, because of our government’s wrong priorities with our tax dollars concerning peace and conflict, towns such as the Bronx have been neglected by the federal government who’s irresponsibly preoccupied dumping our finite resources into its endless and easily containable global Wall Street conflicts.

It is time to permanently end poverty, violence and normalization of failures in our neighborhoods in the Bronx and beyond. We said it is for STEMDUP ERA.

 

What is STEMDUP?

STEMDUP is the combination of our Wall Street, School System, Public Safety, and Peacebuilding expertise packaged into an innovative educational program bound to permanently transformed the unacceptable status quo of poverty, educational failures and hateful violence that too many of our peoples have unconsciously normalized as divine fate.  When it is absolutely not!

We are honored to inform you all that Bronx will be piloting a bilingual STEMDUP ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL, K-12, starting in the academic year 2019/20, followed by other counties and countries. #stemdupera #stemdupschools #stemdupacademy #stemdupinstitute #stemdup

For further information about STEMDUP ERA, please inbox us at: admin@stemdupacademy.org. Thank you!

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Political crisis in Ethiopia and the risks of ripple effect humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa

Political crisis in Ethiopia and the risks of ripple effect humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa

 

By:Nick Ogutu

Refugee and Immigrant Rights Activist, Executive Director of Columbia University based Initiative, Safari Yangu Immigrant Stories, President, Amnesty International Bronx New York. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

Nick Ogutu
Mr. Nick Ogutu

Ethiopia, with more than 100 million people, is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. It hosts the headquarters of the African Union and its geographical location makes it a strategic resource for the Western powers in their counterterrorism efforts. Ethiopia maintains very strong support from foreign donors despite its deteriorating human rights record (New York Times, 2016).

Ethiopia is currently under a state of emergency due to recent protests and violence. This violence has caused widespread internal displacement. In addition to its own internal turmoil, Ethiopia plays a crucial role in the region as a host of refugees itself. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, 2018), “Ethiopia is host to the second largest refugee population in Africa, with over 847,200 refugees from nineteen countries, the majority originating from neighboring South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan”. The political crisis in Ethiopia cannot, therefore, be told in isolation. Ethiopia is part of the Horn of Africa, the easternmost extension of African land, comprised of the countries mentioned above, and Kenya. These countries share a long history and many diverse communities live across the region. Due to political instability, the region has seen many conflicts and is very fragile. This article will examine the complex relationships between Ethiopia and its neighbors in order to understand the risks of a multi-country humanitarian and refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The Ethiopia and Eritrea Conflict

Following many years of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and at some point, involving Italy as well, Eritrea was formally recognized as an independent country after the 1993 referendum. Eritrea believes that Ethiopia is constructed of different nationalities that were forced together during the imperial scrambles for Africa, and is therefore held together with weak, artificial alliances. Therefore, the Eritrean opposition’s approach has been to conduct sharp, well directed military offenses in the hopes that Ethiopia will collapse. Hence, they identified south-eastern Ethiopia, inhibited by Ethiopians of Somali origin, as the weakest point of Ethiopia. For more than 30 years, escalation of conflict has continued along borders killing many people, displacing many people from their homes and adding to the regional refugee crisis (Axel Borchgrevink & Jon Harald Sande Lie, 2009).

The hostility between these countries has adversely affected the Somali communities that live along the common border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. According to a Human Rights Watch report (2018), the Somali region security forces’ intolerance for dissent by the Somali community extends beyond the border into Eritrean territory, targeting families with relatives across the border. Hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced since.

Ethiopia’s Long Border with Somalia & The Somali Diaspora
(Photo credit: Nick Ogutu) Ethiopia’s Long Border with Somalia & The Somali Diaspora

Somalia has almost one million citizens living in the diaspora, many of which are refugees and asylum seekers. Any conflict in Ethiopia would result in a grave situation in Somalia, given the long, unmarked border that Ethiopia and Somalia share. In fact, Ethiopian military has in the past crossed its southeastern border and intervened inside Somalia (New York Times, 2011)

Somalia is one of the most unstable countries in the region at the moment. Since the former president Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in a bloody civil war in 1991, Somalia has not had a stable government. Parts of the country have either seceded or are run by different warlords. Some militant groups like the Union of Islamic courts, which later evolved into the now infamous Al-Shabaab, have been labeled as terrorist organizations.

More than 10 peace conferences were held throughout the 1990s to address the sources of conflict and possibilities for peace in Somalia, but they were largely unsuccessful. (Axel Borchgrevink & Jon Harald Sande Lie, 2009). Since then, other efforts followed, and Somalia is now governed under the Federal Government of Somalia, a government which is not widely accepted and has faced constant opposition and threats from different militant groups. The fragile government is protected by the African peacekeeping forces, AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia).

Ethiopia’s southern Kenya Border & Regional Refugee Hosting Challenges

Kenya is one of the most stable countries in the region, with a diverse economy and vibrant democracy, civil society, and press. However, Kenya has faced its own human rights challenges. Just like Somalia, Kenya shares common ethnic and geographical similarities with Ethiopia. The upper eastern province of Kenya is predominantly Oromo and Somali ethnic populations, ethnic groups that also reside in Ethiopia and Somalia. Apart from the recently arrived refugees, many of the Oromo and Somali ethnic populations have lived in Kenyan for decades and are Kenyan citizens.

The Kenyan government has long supported the Ethiopian government, showing a blind eye to the human rights violations it is accused of.   Ethiopian refugees face so many challenges in Kenya. It takes months if not years to get official recognition as a refugee, a status you need to access any benefits from the host government or UNHCR (United National High Commission for Refugees). Kenya has an encampment policy, which requires refugees to stay in the camps at Dadaab and Kakuma. These camps presently also house refugees from Sudan and Somalia. The two camps are the biggest in the world and cannot accommodate any more refugees. Refugees in Kenya who choose to not stay in the camps faces arrest and prosecution by the Kenyan authorities. Amnesty International Annual report (2018), explains how the Ethiopian government has taken advantage of that loop-hole in Kenya refugee policy to harass their own citizens in Kenya. The Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi has recruited spies and bribed the Kenyan police to target the Oromo refugees in Nairobi and other cities (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Many of these refugees have been either killed, tortured, or deported back to Ethiopia.

Kenya has gone through its own internal economic and social challenges that have had negative effects on the refugee populations it hosts. The economy is shrinking, and the country is divided along tribal and regional lines due to political upheavals. For a number of years, Kenya has threatened to close down the refugee camps (UNHCR, 2015) and repatriate the refugees back to their countries of origin, citing security fears and the economic burden. Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps remain open only due to a court order and international pressure. UNHCR (2017) while urging the government to reconsider their decision, issued this statement, “UNHCR works closely with the Government of Kenya and we understand well the current regional security situation and the seriousness of the threats Kenya is facing. We also recognize the obligation of the government to ensure the security of its citizens and other people living in Kenya, including refugees.” Kenya is concerned about terror groups using refugee camps as recruitment centers, especially after the Garissa university terror attack (Kenya Daily Nation, 2017). The terror suspects were found to be operating from the Dadaab refugee camp.

Current Ethiopian Political Concerns

If the Ethiopian crisis escalates, it could spiral into a regional catastrophe affecting more than six countries. When the former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his draft of reforms that included the release of thousands of political prisoners (Human Rights Watch, 2018), there was a sense of relief among civil society and the international community that finally the government was serious about addressing some of its political issues. However, his resignation weeks later shocked many, and the subsequent declaration of a state of emergency (Reuters, 2018). Some of the recently released prisoners have since been re-arrested (Amnesty International, 2018) and then released on bail, and many people live in fear.

Ethiopia Prime Minister
(Photo credit: Nick Ogutu: Ethiopia Prime Minister)

Since the state of emergency was declared in Ethiopia, almost one million Ethiopians have been internally displaced, and thousands have crossed the border into Kenya. Activists have also sounded the alarm on the rising incidences of rape and other gender-based violence, allegedly committed by the police and the military (Amnesty International, 2018). Last month’s election of the new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, a former lieutenant-colonel in the army and the first Prime Minister from the Oromo community, has not definitely quelled any fears from the general public.

The Ethiopian situation is a time-bomb that the international community must take an active role in to ensure stability. With a population of over 100 million, the current refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa risks meeting the levels of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Iraq, and the Congo. With so much instability in the region, including the ongoing war in South Sudan, most of the countries neighboring Ethiopia are terrified.

There has been evidence of victims of slavery and human trafficking in Libya are refugees from the horn of Africa (The East African, 2018). Any further escalation of violence Ethiopia and instability in the region will push more refugees to attempt the already dangerous journey to Europe through North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.

Reforms Required: A Call to Action

The political opposition, civil society, and the press must be given a respected space and a voice in Ethiopian society to ensure transparent governance. The Ethiopian democratic space must be opened and widened as the political landscape is quickly shifting. It will have to accommodate the people’s demands, especially the most vulnerable such as displaced populations, if the current ruling party wants to govern equitably.

As a key western ally receiving billions of dollars from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada, the West must use that leverage for reforms before instability in Ethiopia have widespread repercussions across the region. All political prisoners should be released, responsive and representative government formed, end state of emergency, compensate victims of violence and perpetrators of crime to face justice.  Without these urgent reforms, unrest in the country could have a domino effect in what is an already volatile part of the African continent.

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Peace Hyde, Vanessa Simmons, Karen Civil and Mc Lyte speak At 2018 Essence E Suite Panel in New Orleans

Peace Hyde, Vanessa Simmons, Karen Civil and Mc Lyte speak At 2018 Essence E Suite Panel in New Orleans (Source: Brenda Omawumi |

NEW ORLEANS, United States of America, July 9, 2018/ — The Annual Essence Festival in New Orleans, presented by Coca Cola, is one of the nation’s largest live events. Each year, the festival draws nearly 500,000 attendees who gather for three days of music, entertainment, empowerment and culture.

Now in its 24th year, the Essence Festival has featured some of the biggest names in entertainment and the nations most influential speakers, authors and leaders, including Beyoncé, Alicia Keyes, Prince, Janet Jackson, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Kahn, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Rev. Al Sharpton, Deepak Chopra, Ava Duvernay, Magic Johnson and many more.

Joining the exclusive new Black Women’s Business summit: E Suite panel this year is renowned media personality and founder of education non-profit Aim Higher Africa, Peace Hyde. The panel is an exclusive festival opportunity for select founders, seasoned executives and emerging entrepreneurs. In the E-Suite, attendees got the opportunity to encounter experts who shared tips and insights on accessing capital, sharpening entrepreneurship skills and planning career advancement, as well as strategies to help expand expertise in technology and personal finance. Joining her on the panel were fellow entrepreneur and TV personality Vanessa Simmons, entrepreneur and author Karen Civil, founder and CEO of curlBOX, Myleik Teele and artist, author and entrepreneur MC Lyte.

Hyde shared her expertise building over 800 businesses in Africa with a positive knock on effect of creating over 3000 jobs through her work with Aim Higher Africa. The organization was recently featured in CNN for its impactful story and has subsequently opened its Lagos branch in Nigeria’s tech hub Yaba. The organization was shortlisted as a finalist at the 2017 Waislitz Global Citizen award for its innovative solution to ending youth unemployment in Africa through its MRDT Curriculum.

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Historic Summit in New York

muslims and israel
New York City, New York – Gaza is dubbed an open prison with the highest unemployment in the world, Hamas a terrorist organization, Fatah puppet of the West, and Palestinian youth martyrdom trainees. This is all happening right in a land regarded internationally as the “Holy Land” at a religion that pumps more oil than water and receives more visitors than natives.
 
Against this inhumane and unsustainable condition, we are hosting an historic summit in New York City “Muslims and Israel” on Monday, August 27, 2018, 6:8:30 PM to seek the immediate end of this unnecessary condition on our Palestinian families. The summit is dedicated exclusively to God’s words about Israel, holy land and Jerusalem. No prophetic, scholarly or political quotes shall be allowed. As Abrahamic Family, once we all accept God’s Words, human interests and positions on the holy land can then be connected to God’s commandments/instructions.
 
So far we have two of the most eminent Muslim scholars on the issues of the holy land confirmed and waiting for their counterparts’ confirmations. The summit is a secure, close door forum and all RSVPs must submit to background checks. RSVP: editor@muslimcommunityreport.com
 
Dear Muslim Leaders,
 
You have 57 nations in OIC including 22 Arabs ones. You possess and enjoy more natural resources than others. You numbered close to 2 billion. Your Palestinian families are dying to work for and in Israel every day. You call Palestinian families in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt refugees when in fact artificial borders were created by your invading colonizers to divide and weaken you. Your governments enjoy Israeli technical services and your peoples are becoming Kamikazes just to go to Israel for work and freedom. You maintain power and control of your destitute populations partly by blaming the Jews and Israel for your incompetence, etc…
 
Dear Muslim Populous,
 
If you truly love your Palestinian brothers and sisters, then open your minds and allow understanding and wisdom to guide your feelings and emotions. 70 years of public misleading from our corrupt dictators and biased scholars has been the single most deadly cause of Muslims in the world including Palestinians. With rational thinking and right attitude on the part of Israel’s neighboring nations, the Holy Land can easily be a peaceful and prosperous homeland for all Israelis and Palestinians, home and abroad. Therefore, we must cease justifying our anti-Semitism and anti-Israel by peddling leftist Jewish groups’ activist tactics. These leftist liberal Jews are bunch of humanitarian souls fighting for the rights of all peoples regardless of who they are.
 
Dear citizens of the world,
 
If you’ve desired a world of peace, love and harmony, let us make the holy land a place of peace, love and harmony. We can’t afford the status quo. The rise of religious extremism and bias attacks have roots in anti-Semitism, anti-Israel and Islamophobia. September 11 tragedy and all post September 11 conflicts are some of those rooted in what is happening in the holy land. According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person is entitled to a homeland. So do the 15 million Jews.
 
In conclusion, If we all love world peace and Palestinians’ dignity, we must all support an independent and secure Jewish State of Israel. Ones the Muslim leaders formerly welcome a sovereign Jewish nation in OIC, a sovereign Palestinian nation becomes a reality. Ain.t simple! #muslimsandisrael #holyland #palestine #peacefulcoexistence#nycsummit #muslimmedia
                           
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… On NYC fans of the World Cup 2018

... On NYC fans of the World Cup 2018

Teshome M. Borago | PT Staff writer

As the World Cup progresses forward, New Yorkers are running out of favorite teams to support.

In a city like New York, where one can find a significant population of residents from countries all around the globe, the World Cup is always a major event. But with the locally favored national teams of the United States, Ireland, Italy, Ghana and Ecuador not even qualifying to this year’s tournament, 2018 was already one of the least anticipated World Cups in recent memory. Certainly, it has not been as lively as four years ago. These team absences have particularly affected the Bronx communities where such ethnic enclaves are found; from Little Italy at Arthur ave & Pelham; to Little Ireland in Woodlawn and the Ghanaian community of east Grand Concourse.

Nonetheless, some local immigrants from South America and Africa started backing their neighboring countries like Brazil, Senegal, Columbia and Mexico – who have qualified for the event. In NYC, there are various tight nit Brazilian and Senegalese communities while Mexican Americans are the fastest growing hispanic community in the Bronx. According to US Census 2010, the NYC and North NJ area also has the largest urban concentration of Colombians in the whole country.

In the beginning of the contest, Brazil and Mexico breezed thru easily but Columbia and Senegal had to face each other with the former barely advancing.

Far away from the Bronx is also a sizable Russian-American community in southern Brooklyn area of NYC, enjoying a rare success as the host nation; until their eventual downfall against the gritty Croatian club.

As for the local favorites MEXICO, their anticipated run was cut short, thanks to the great Brazilian footballer Neymar, who scored one goal and assisted on another. But the physical and emotional contest with Mexico put a heavy toll on the 145 pounder NEYMAR; as Belgium worn him down and the European media influenced the referees, disseminating a negative image of a foul-prone soft player. The referees seemed to buy that Neymar stereotype, as they ignored several cases of Belgian foul play, including a potential Penalty Kick for Brazil after Neymar was pushed while in the air during an attempted header. Thus, Brazil lost by one goal.

As the tournament winds to the finish line, New York fans are hoping the next World Cup will have more of the local favorites in 2022. Many local businesses and bars, especially the Italian, German and Irish pubs, are counting on it. The consensus among many sports analysts is that, both Italy and the United Stated missing out on a same World Cup again, is virtually impossible.

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Gang Free Zone

gang free zone

PRESS CONFERENCE TO ANNOUNCE A $5000 DONATION TO ‘COMMUNITY PUBLIC SAFETY PARTNERSHIP’ IN SUPPORT OF ITS WEEKLY ‘PEACEMAKERS DINNERS’ FROM THE YEMENI BRONX BUSINESS OWNERS.

 

Event: Press Conference

Date: Monday, July 9, 2018

Time: 11:00-12:00 PM.

Venue: Steps of Bronx Courthouse Building

Location: 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451

Contact: 718-822-5555 or info@peacepatrol.org

 

Re: Gang Free Zone initiative

 

We would like to take this momentous opportunity to express our profound gratitude to you all for your commitment to our New York ‘Gang Free Zone’ initiative.

Gang violence, according to NYPD, has consistently been the single largest contributor to overall devastating crime rates.  While too many folks look at these (mostly) young perpetrators with disgust and avoidance, we, on the other hand, see them as naïve victims failed by societal protective pillars. Another word, we see them as victims as much as we abhor their activities.

Although the Big Apple remains the safest big city in the nation, gang violence has nonetheless continues to rob too many families of their loved ones, devastate our communities, and deprived us of any sustainable socioeconomic progress in our affected neighborhoods.

So since gang violence is the single most urgent public safety challenge faced by New Yorkers, especially those in low income neighborhoods, Community Public Safety Partnership, through its weekly Peacemakers Dinners, has been very effective in countering gang recruitments. “It takes a village to protect our neighborhoods.”

In conclusion, we’re deeply indebted to our New York City Councilmember, Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr., State Senator Luis Sepulveda and State Assembly Victor Pichardo for their willingness to sponsor this historic and life-saving ‘Gang Free Zone’ legislature in New York.  We also thank the Yemeni business owners for their generous donation. It is our position that restriction of gang activities in certain venues must be vigorously enforced and violators severely punished.

Please contact Rev. Diaz, Mr. Sepulveda and Mr. Pichardo and thank them for their leadership on this noble piece of legislature. God bless you all! #gangfreezone #nycpc #revdiazsr #luissepulveda #victorpichardo #nyc #nys #nypd #justiceforjunior #iamjimenez #cpsp

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A Gross Example of What Fake News Looks Like

A Gross Example of What Fake News Looks Like

You should know that recently I personally experienced a case of “Fake News”.

As you know my dear reader, I am the Chairman of the newly created “Committee on For – Hire – Vehicles” at the NYC Council. This committee deals with all for hire vehicles and companies such as Uber, Lift, yellow Cabs, Black Car, Livery, Green, Para-Transit, etc…

Councilman Fernando Cabrera and I introduced a piece of legislation {Intro., # 958} to deal with excessive fines given to Livery Taxi Drivers when committing a traffic violation such as picking up a hailing passenger. This is called an “Illegal Street Hail”.

For Illegal Street Hails drivers, specifically (Livery Drivers), who happen to be Black, Latino, and immigrants are being severely punished with hefty fines as high as $10,000.00 and face having their (T.L.C.) Taxi and Limousine Commission’s License suspended.

It is important for you to know that our Legislation {Intro., #958} deals exclusively with the mentioned hefty fines imposed on drivers for “Illegal Street Hails”, and NOT for refusing to pick up passengers of color. But surprise, surprise; according to Dana Rubinstein a Reporter for “Politico” on Tuesday June 26th wrote that these fines “are designed in part to deter the widespread and persistent problem in this city of trying to hail a cab while Black.” This is False, False, False, and False reports.

Dana Rubenstein failed to mention in her report that the $10,000.00 fines, imposed by the TLC are NOT for livery drivers refusing to pick up passengers, quite the contrary. These fines are given to livery drivers because they picked up passengers in violation of the “Illegal Street Hail” which is a city ordinance. Ms. Rubenstein also failed to report that these fines are given only to Livery drivers who happen to be Black, Latino, and from immigrant communities.

Another case of “Fake News” appeared in the New York Post on June 26th. It was reported that “ Two City Council Members introduced a bill so racially charged that the NAACP testified against it.” Both the New York Post and Politico journalists, intentionally or unintentionally forgot or refused to mention the hefty fines as high as $10,000 imposed on livery drivers, members of communities of color. Both these reports failed to mention that the fines are imposed for picking up “Illegal Street Hails”, and not for refusing to pick up street hails.

Both these journalist should know the difference between drivers wanting to pick up “street hails”, but are not authorized. As a result they get a hefty $10,000 fine for doing so. The majority of these drivers receiving fines are Black, Latinos, and immigrant drivers. These drivers are not the same as a driver’s who are authorized to pick up street hails, but refuse to pick up a passenger based on racial discrimination. There is a big difference and as journalists they should know that.

These reporters should also know that those who are refusing to pick up street hails are NOT Livery Vehicles. It is the Livery drivers that are asking for equality and justice. The Livery drivers are only asking for fair, equal treatment and for the opportunity to pick up street hails without being penalized with these outrageous fines and punishment for trying to earn a decent and honest living.

Our bill stipulates that those excessive fines should be lowered. Obviously, said fines are outrageously high not befitting the violation.

These are the facts. This is the truth about said legislation, yet both these two reporters from “Politico” and the “New York Post” on Tuesday June 26th both grossly distorted the facts, and reported a gross example of “Fake News”. Hmmmm, could this be a failure to check their facts? I invite you to read our bill {Intro., # 958} and you decide my dear reader what is real (truth) and what is fake (false).

Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered the police not to arrest and send to prison marijuana smokers, those who skip the tolls of trains and those who urinate publicly in the streets, because according to the punishment is too great for the crime they make.

Then I asked: Why penalize the drivers of the liveries with fines of up to 10,000.00 for just picking up passengers on the street, in order to honestly earn bread for their family?

This is Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz, and this is what you should know.

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IMMIGRANTS MAKE PARKCHESTER GREAT

IMMIGRANTS MAKE PARKCHESTER GREAT

It’s 5:30pm in late 2016 in New York and the subway train is packed to capacity; everyone is trying to either go home, pick their children up from daycare, or go to another job. I am sitting quietly on the 6 train heading toward Parkchester to meet a community leader whom I had heard much about. Sheikh Musa Drammeh is a man who wears many hats: as a spiritual leader, community leader, businessman, and peace builder.

As a new resident of this great city, I endured so many culture shocks from food, language, public transportation, and education systems.  Having lived in Pennsylvania, where I did my undergraduate studies, to see the level of diversity in this city was inspiring. A mother who was speaking to her daughter in Spanish quickly reaches out to remind me in English that Parkchester station is the next stop. A lady in a nicely cut African dress asks in French if I am Senegalese. Most Senegalese are tall and dark just like me. We finally reached Parkchester station and it seems everyone is getting off the train. I have never seen so many people running down the stairs and speaking so many different languages. I believe I heard almost ten different languages on that train and saw as many different cultural fashions but nothing prepared me for what I saw at Sheikh Musa Community center.

Sheikh Musa and a colleague of his, who later introduced himself to me as Lamar Diallo, were praying Maghrib, the prayer performed after sunset in Islam, while two Jewish religious leaders were holding a conversation in hushed tones at the table. Abdul Vincent, a middle aged African American man, was passionately telling a group of young men who had just arrived from Guinea Africa, about the history of the subway train and how the MTA never took his designs. He seems to be bothered by the noise from the 6 trains and blames the city for not constructing underground lines like they did in Manhattan.

By the time Sheikh Musa and his colleague completed their evening prayers and noticed me, the room was already packed. Police officers, political candidates, religious leaders, Army veterans, former gang members, Africans, Latino, African Americans, and Asians were all represented in that little room on Westchester Avenue.

“Welcome Mr. Ogutu to our community center, what can we get for you, chai tea, green tea, coffee, or samosa? Feel comfortable, today is our weekly community meeting and you are welcome to attend,” said Sheikh Musa.

As I enjoyed chai tea with samosa, I could not imagine how lucky I was to be at the space. Islamic cultural Center was set up after the 9/11 terrorist attack to educate the local about Islam but the it has gained a huge reputation for its role in bringing harmony in the community. This evening, law enforcement officers were receiving reformed former gang members, who will work with them to improve security in the area. I will write more about this community center in the coming weeks in this column.

In my fellowship at New York Immigration Coalition and as the leader of the Amnesty International Caucus at Columbia University, I have had opportunity to lead many meetings with diverse audiences, but what I saw in this facility marveled me. Everyone seemed to know each other and was comfortable in the space. I saw many Africans, African food, and dashiki shirts, things that reminded me of my home in Ombeyi village, Kenya.  My long journey in search of identity in this great city had come to fruition. I could not stop taking pictures of people, food, and the space I was in. I was so excited to meet everyone, In fact I did video interviews with so many people

Since then, I visited the Bronx often, especially the Parkchester area. In fact, after graduating from Columbia University, I looked for an apartment and moved here, officially becoming a resident of the Bronx myself.

In the almost 3 years of my engagement with the community, I have met people from all over the world, living, working, studying, and doing business here in the Bronx. Each of them have a compelling story telling their journey, struggles, and contribution to the local community. Safari Yangu Immigrants Stories, an initiative started by a group of students at Columbia University, have been documenting and sharing these stories for more than a year. We have started seeing the positive impact of how telling our stories accurately challenges the negative narratives in the public discourse. That is what I hope to continue doing with this column at the Parkchester Times. Statistics show this city cannot survive without immigrants, but the narrative has been different.  

Parkchester needs everyone, immigrants and American citizens working together. This column is for all of us, please share your story and let us learn from it, Together, we make Parkchester the great place it has always been. Invite me to your home or office, or email me for an interview, I look forward to hearing from you.

nick ogutu and sheikh musa drammeh,parkchester times,parkchester
(Photo credit: Nick Ogutu)
nick ogutu and sheikh musa drammeh,parkchester times,parkchester
Nick Ogutu and Sheikh Musa Drammeh.
(Photo Credit: Nick Ogutu)
nick ogutu and sheikh musa drammeh,parkchester times,parkchester
Council member Andy King and Nick Ogutu. (Photo Credit: Nick Ogutu)
nick ogutu and sheikh musa drammeh,parkchester times,parkchester
Nick Ogutu, Bob Press and Sheikh Musa Drammeh after Crowley-Ocasio Debate at St Helena’s Church. (Photo Credit: Nick Ogutu)

 

You can contact me at –

Nho2106@columbia.edu

 

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NYC Excessive Heat Warning

NYC Excessive Heat Warning

WITH PROLONGED HEAT CONTINUING INTO THE WEEK NYC EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE URGE NEW YORKERS TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO STAY COOL 

Excessive Heat Warning in effect through Monday morning

Cooling centers remain open through Wednesday 7/4. To find the nearest cooling center call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/beattheheat 

Parks department will extend daily NYC pool hours to 8 p.m. through Tuesday 7/3 for Olympic and Intermediate pools

   With high heat and humidity continuing to affect New York City into the week, the New York City Emergency Department and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are urging New Yorkers to continue to take steps to beat the heat. The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for New York City in effect through 6 a.m. Monday, 7/2. An Excessive Heat Watch for New York City will be in effect from 6 a.m. through 9 p.m. Monday 7/2. According to the latest National Weather Service forecast, temperatures today are in the upper 90s, with heat index values in excess of 100 degrees.  Temperatures are forecast in the mid to upper 90s through Wednesday, with heat index values in the mid to upper 90s.

An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when a combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees or greater. New Yorkers should use air conditioning to stay cool at home or go to a place that has air conditioning. New York City cooling centers will remain open throughout the five boroughs through Wednesday, July 4. Cooling centers are air-conditioned facilities such as libraries, community centers, senior centers, and NYCHA facilities that are open to the public during heat emergencies. To find a cooling center, including accessible facilities closest to you, call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) or visit the NYC Cooling Center Finder atwww.nyc.gov/beattheheat.

“The hot weather will continue into the week and we urge people to keep safe,” said New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito. “Drink plenty of water, use air conditioning or go to an air-conditioned place, and avoid strenuous outdoor activity during the periods of intense heat.”

“Hot and humid weather like what we’re experiencing this weekend can cause heat illness, and even death,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “If you have air conditioning and you have not used it up until now, now is the time to turn it on. Setting it to “low” or 78 degrees Fahrenheit will keep you cool and keep your bills in check. For those without air conditioning, especially older adults and people with chronic health conditions, we urge you to seek an air-conditioned place in your neighborhood or go to a NYC Cooling Center. As always, we urge New Yorkers to Be A Buddy and check on your neighbors, family and friends who may be at greater risk for heat illness and make sure they are safe and cool.”

Extreme heat is defined by temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region, last for prolonged periods, and are accompanied by high humidity. The New York City Emergency Management Department urges New Yorkers to take steps to protect themselves and help others who may be at increased risk from the heat. Those at increased risk are people who do not have or use air conditioning AND:

  • Are 65 years or older;
  • Have chronic medical, mental health, or cognitive/developmental conditions;
  • Take certain medications, which can disrupt the regulation of body temperature;
  • Are confined to their beds, have limited mobility, or are unable to leave their homes;
  • Are obese; or
  • Misuse alcohol or drugs.

CHECK ON THOSE PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO THE HEAT:

  • In New York City, most heat-related deaths occur after exposure to heat in homes without air conditioners. Air conditioning is the best way to stay safe and healthy when it is hot outside. Encourage at-risk New Yorkers to use air conditioning. Help them get to an air-conditioned place, even if for a few hours, if they cannot stay cool at home. Make sure they are drinking plenty of water.
  • Get to know your neighbors.  During extreme heat, call or visit at-risk neighbors, friends and family, such as older adultsand anyone with a pre-existing medical condition. This small but crucial gesture can help ensure that we all have a safe and healthy summer.
  • During extreme heat, the Department of Social Services (DSS) issues a Code Red Alert, initiating enhanced outreach efforts. During Code Red periods, shelter is available system-wide to accommodate anyone who is reasonably believed to be homeless. Homeless individuals experiencing heat-related discomfort are also able to access the designated cooling area at any shelter; and transportation to cooling centers is available via DSS outreach teams, who are out 24/7/365, checking on and engaging vulnerable clients with greater frequency.
  • The Parks department is extending general swim hours to8 p.m. at all outdoor Olympic and Intermediate pools beginning through Tuesday 7/3. City beaches are open and will operate on a normal schedule from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Parks has more than 600 spray showers, which will remain available until sundown, or later if actively in use by the public. Free SPF 30 sunscreen is available at all City pools and beaches.

ADDITIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY TIPS FOR PROTECTION AGAINST THE HEAT:

  • Stay out of the sun and avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Drink fluids, particularly water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool. Those on fluid-restricted diets or taking diuretics should first consult their physician.
  • Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid beverages containing alcohol and/or caffeine.
  • Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the sun’s peak hours:11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
  • If possible, go to an air-conditioned location for several hours during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Cool down with a cool bath or shower.
  • Participate in activities that will keep you cool, such as going to the movies, shopping at a mall, or swimming at a pool or beach.
  • Cover all exposed skin with an SPF sunscreen (15 or above) and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and head.
  • Never leave your children or pets in the car.

For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/health

FACTS ABOUT HEAT ILLNESS:

Heat illness is serious. Prolonged exposure to the heat can be harmful and potentially fatal. The added stress caused by heat can also aggravate heart or lung disease even without symptoms of heat illness.

Know the warning signs of heat stress. If you or someone you know feels weak or faint, go to a cool place and drink water. If there is no improvement, call a doctor or 911.

Call 911 immediately if you have, or someone you know has:

  • Hot dry skin.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Confusion, disorientation, or dizziness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

 

KEEPING YOUR PETS SAFE

  • Avoid dehydration: Pets can dehydrate quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water.
  • Exercise early and late: When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Your pet’s body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn.
  • Know when your pet is in danger: Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor, or even collapse. Animals with flat faces like pugs and Persian cats are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. They should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
  • Keep cats safe by installing screens in your windows: Unscreened windows pose a real danger to cats, as they can fall out of them often during summer months.

IMPROPER FIRE HYDRANT USE:

The improper opening of fire hydrants wastes 1,000 gallons of water per minute, causes flooding on city streets, and can lower water pressure to dangerous levels and hamper the ability of FDNY to fight fire safely and quickly.

Properly used “spray caps” reduce hydrant output to a safe 25 gallons per minute while still providing relief from the heat. To obtain a spray cap, an adult 18 years or older with proper identification can go to his or her local firehouse and request one.

For more information, visit NYC.gov/beattheheat. New Yorkers are encouraged to sign up for Notify NYC, the City’s free emergency communications program. To sign up for Notify NYC, download thefree mobile application, visit NYC.gov/NotifyNYC, call 311, or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter

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NYS Republican Senators Propose Cynical Bill Ending NYC’s Life-Saving, Time-Tested Speed Safety Camera Program to Replace it With Stop Signs

Statement of Transportation Alternatives’ Executive Director Paul Steely White in response to Senate Bill 9123 introduced Friday by Senators Felder, Golden and Lanza, which would extend New York City’s speed camera program for only six months and direct the revenue they generate during that period to fund stop signs near schools: 

“Holding the expansion of New York City’s life-saving speed camera program hostage is callous. Ending that program in six months and suggesting stop signs will be as effective is both unfounded and heartless. This is not a solution, it’s a deflection and a dereliction of duty. 

For three years New Yorkers from every corner of our city have come together to demand an extended and expanded speed camera program, including hospitals from every borough, hundreds of schools, teachers  crossing guards, law enforcement agencies, senior citizens, and youth leaders. And earlier this week, people who have lost their family members to reckless driving put their bodies on the street, and were arrested, to make it known that without life-saving speed safety cameras, children are going to die. Clearly Senators Felder, Golden and Lanza have not been paying attention. There’s no chorus of voices clamoring for stop signs. There are no experts or data suggesting that signage alone brings about comparable safety benefits  The Senate should not be in the business of rationing safety measures near our schools and tying New York City’s hands on what it needs to do to keep kids safe. 

We believe every student should be safe and that every one of the city’s more than 2,000 schools should have  a safety camera when needed to curb dangerous speeding. Two years ago a compromise bill brought the number from all 2,000 schools down to 750. Then it fell to 290, a modest increase from the current 140 school zones. Those compromises were at the behest of the very senators now decrying the limited number of schools zones covered. The Senate finally had a chance to pass this modest yet life-saving legislation, but these three senators and their leader, Senator John Flanagan, showed their true intentions: they believe the current 140 camera, protecting hundreds of thousands of kids, is 140 too many, and are actively working to end this life-saving program entirely. 

This is particularly galling coming from Senator Golden who has acknowledged the effectiveness of speed safety cameras, and as a cosponsor of the bill extending and expanding them, promised his constituents he would bring them home. He failed to deliver on that promise and is now actively misleading them. Senator Golden should rethink his current course and recommit to fulfilling his vow to protect New York City school kids with speed safety cameras. 

Senators Felder, Golden and Lanza are trying to fool the public into thinking that stop signs are an effective replacement for speed safety cameras. In the first two years of the speed camera program, speeding in the 140 school zones with cameras fell by a remarkable 63 percent, and resulted in a 23 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries. And 81 percent of vehicles caught speeding in school zones don’t get caught a second time. Total traffic deaths have fallen every year since speed safety cameras were first installed in New York City school zones four years ago. Nationwide, fatalities have increased during the same period. 

Last week the Assembly passed separate speed camera expansion bills that have bi-partisan majority support in the Senate (A.7798C/S.6046C along with A.11189) and has the support of the governor. Yet Senator Felder and Flanagan blocked it from receiving a public vote, denying the will of the people of New York. The legislation passed by the Assembly must be brought to a public vote in the Senate by Senator Flanagan, and if Senator Golden is a supporter of speed safety camera expansion as he has repeatedly said to his constituents, he will stop with these distractions and half-measures and make sure the vote happens. 

New York City’s speed safety camera program is saving lives, and has proven to be the single most effective technology available for protecting people on our streets. That Senators Felder, Golden and Lanza would gladly turn off proven life-saving programs like speed safety cameras in favor of signage alone  is a betrayal of the public’s trust and shows that their loyalty is to anyone but New York City schoolchildren.”

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