After almost half a year of meetings, talks, negotiations, debates and a lot of warmth from so many people and organizations that love our borough, the South Bronx Congress will be born this coming Saturday June 5th, 2010 at the Hostos Community College Savoy Manor Building on 149th St. & Walton Avenue.
This is truly historic. I have been living in this borough since 1956, I have seen many changes and unfortunately the changes have not resulted in a quality of life that I can be proud to speak of. We are still considered the poorest Congressional District in the county. Our statistics in just about every area of our lives is either the worst, highest, or one of the highest in the country. We were just informed at our last preparatory meeting that The Bronx is now the “Epicenter of AIDS” in the country. Yes, the whole Unites States.
On Friday I was at one of the best house parties (really in the basement cafeteria of St. Pius HS on 143rd. St. near 3rd Avenue) that I have been to in a long time. Forget the Clubs and trendy bars, there is nothing like a good house party with family and friends that you have not seen in years. It was more than a Rivera – Cortez family reunion; it was a get-together of the lower hood that I grew up in. It was great! Good home cooked food; great music from unknown D-Jays that played music that kept us on the dance floor all night. Kids that I remember teaching introducing me to their kids. To see and hear what most of the young people that I remember investing a little time and resource on are doing today gave me an incredible uplifting feeling. A feeling that gives you hope in knowing that no matter what the worst conditions and circumstances are, we have survived. The party was more than one of my best friends, Maxi Rivera’s 60th birthday and retirement party; it was testament of our tenacity to survive.
I mention this party cause it showed the best and the worst of our community. After partying like it was 1999, we began to leave a little past midnight. As we were packing some stuff into our cars we clearly heard what I was always used to hearing on a daily basis and had forgotten, a string of gunshots. My friend who also grew up in the hood looked at me and we both shook our heads in agreement. If you never grew up in these conditions it is hard to explain how you can get so use to hearing a sound that automatically triggers your body to jump to the floor, or lower your body while you are driving. I forgot that sound, but my body obviously did not. Living in my oasis on the Grand Concourse has muffled those sounds, but my body and subconscious mind remembers much too well and I am grateful.
As I drove through the Patterson projects I was looking at the other South Bronx, not the one on the Concourse, or on the Co-ops of Walton Avenue, but the one that I remember. The real South Bronx that has not changed and in some cases getting worse was staring me in the face. Police everywhere. Cops stopping some cars, over 10 cops with flashlights looking underneath every car parked and a helicopter hovering above. Hopefully, no one got shot from a stray bullet, or we will be having another candlelight vigil for some innocent youth, or person sometime next week. When I grew up through this it was like living in Beirut, on Saturday I was reminded as to what it must be like in Fallujah Iraq, or Kandahar in Afghanistan.
I can go on and depict many other conditions to give each and everyone of you reading this a reason to STOP for one day and do something that perhaps can help change the conditions that have held us back for so long. Our community lacks resources, lacks leadership, it lacks vision, but most important it lacks people like you who live here who need to do just a little more to help us change our conditions. Everyone is busy; we are all doing more than one thing to survive in this cement jungle. However, there comes a time when you need to STOP and give a little of your time to something that can make an impact to the community that you call home and perhaps more important to the life of a child that you will never know.
I strongly urge everyone in my circle of family, friends, acquaintances and readers, if you live in the Bronx, specifically if you live in the South Bronx join me and the over 30 other organizations that have invested more than rhetoric to help make a change in our community. It has taken us months to forge together something that can bring all of us together under one umbrella: One For All and All For One. No longer should we be separated by issues, lets continue to focus on what’s important to us, but let’s spend a few hours that can help the rest of our lives.
Looking forward to seeing you all on Saturday June 5th @ Hostos.