Every couple years we publish a collection of writing from our Advanced Writing Class taught by NYU Gallatin Professor June Foley. Our latest collection is called Remember, and it’s full of stories and poems about NYC, technology, family, art, and the pandemic. Here’s a sample for you:
Counting Hours Mariana Lemos Duarte
I am not sure why this memory returned. Maybe because of the silence in the street, Or because of the fear dancing in the air, Or because of the sun that insistently invades the floor of my kitchen.
When I was a girl, I used to count the hours.
I used to wake up early just to have more hours to do nothing. I used to sit on the top of my bunk bed just to have a different point of view of things. I used to look out the window to find the Cristo Redentor. I used to stop whatever I was doing just to see the sunset.
Now, I always have an unfinished task on my to-do list. And these billions of incomplete to-do tasks grow in a way so fast and deep that I lose the joy of doing nothing, And these billions of incomplete to-do tasks grow in a way so fast and deep that I forget to look at things from a different perspective. And these billions of incomplete to-do tasks grow in a way so fast and deep that I find myself thinking: Why does the sunset take so long?
Suddenly the time goes so fast that I lose the ability to count it.
Stop! The world has stopped To remind me of those days When I used to count the hours.
This week we had the pleasure to speak with City Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Justin Brannan and the staff of City Council Members Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin about the importance of adult literacy, especially in these trying times. Our students need English classes to get jobs, get better jobs, help their children with their learning, live independently in New York, and to help others! We’re asking that the New York City Council to maintain current funding for adult literacy at $12 million per year. Along with the New York Immigration Coalition, we’re also asking for continued legal services and emergency cash grants for immigrant New Yorkers.
Today University Settlement staff members attended a vigil on the Lower East Side to protest against the separation of families at the border. The vigil was coordinated by Families Belong Together.
FamiliesBelong Together includes nearly 250 organizations representing Americans from all backgrounds who have joined together to fight family separation and promote dignity, unity, and compassion for all children and families.
Led by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Women’s Refugee Commission, MomsRising, FWD.us, United We Dream, People’s Action, ACLU, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, MoveOn and others, the coalition has raised millions of dollars for immigrant children and families, mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in all 50 states to take action, and helped to reunite thousands of families.
FamiliesBelong Together continues its work to permanently end family separation and detention, seek accountability for the harm that’s been done, and immediately reunite all families who remain torn apart.
Each year University Settlement impacts 40,000 New Yorkers who come from 50 countries and speak 40 different languages. Every September we begin new 10-month intensive classes in our Adult Literacy Program. Valikhan, a participant in the program, tells us what University Settlement’s program has meant to him, in his own words.
In Kazakhstan I was a professor. I was invited to George Washington University for a program and after I decided to stay and move to New York. But I did not know English. It was important to me to lean and so I came to University Settlement two years ago.
I have done a lot. I wrote two books and I met with members of Congress. I can speak different languages. But I did not know English and I needed help. When I heard about University Settlement I came here for help. It’s very important to me to have good teachers. Our teacher Jon has a lot of emotion and I like that.
I feel very good about my English now. I grow slowly but nonstop. There is a lot that I did not know before that I know now. Now I can describe things to people and am able to ask questions. Before I could not.
I was worried and scared at first but the teachers make it comfortable. You are outside your comfort zone but you need to do that to learn. Now I travel to other cities and feel okay about it with my English. I enjoy it. I am taking more classes to get even better. They care about you here and help you. I would tell everyone that they should come here.
Here’s another essay based on a photo by Jacob Riis from our New York Rising classes. These were written as part of their Life on the Lower East Side Project, in which students were asked to write a short essay from the viewpoint of someone in the photo.
A NEW IMMIGRAANT
by Vicky Qiu
I am an immigrant from Italy. I came here by ship. Now I live on Bayard Street in the tiny basement of a dirty tenement. Did you know that I live in a room with no windows and insufficient air?
I always wonder why this place is in such bad condition. I make my own bed with two barrels and a long piece of wood. I also have this dirty mattress that looks like it has never been washed, but that’s the best I could find.
Last night, when I was sleeping a few rats climbed into my bed. It was disgusting. When I need to use the toilet, I go outside because there is no toilet in my room. The toilet that I use is also the toilet that everybody in the tenement house uses. There is also no hot water where I live.
I work in a clothing factory. Sometimes I work overtime but the boss of the company doesn’t always pay me the amount that I worked overtime and I wonder why. I don’t want to complain because he might fire me. Though I live in such a bad condition, I know that I live in a condition that is better than some other people in New York City have who sleep in a spot with more than twenty people in a room.