Voices of NY http://www.voicesofny.org Showcasing the best of the community and ethnic media Tue, 25 Nov 2014 23:22:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 New York Sandwiches, by Way of Lisbon and Naples http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/portuguese-inspired-sandwiches-italian-american/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/portuguese-inspired-sandwiches-italian-american/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 22:38:22 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57539 Michael Guerrieri (Photo by Alexandre Soares for Voices of NY)

Michael Guerrieri (Photo by Alexandre Soares for Voices of NY)

There’s a new cuisine in New York City. It was created by Michael Guerrieri, 44, a chef born in Naples and raised in New York, who moved to Lisbon in his early 20s. Almost 15 years later, he returned to open City Sandwich and shared what he calls his ItaLisboNyorker sandwiches.

On 9th Avenue, between 45th and 46th streets, Guerrieri’s eatery offers sandwiches heavily influenced by his years spent in Portugal, boosted with the Italian flavors redolent of his Italian childhood. To start it all, he worked with a Portuguese bakery from New Jersey to create a golden, lightly dusted with flour, thin-crusted bread. “I believe one of my missions is to make New Yorkers stop eating bread wrapped in plastic,” he says. “Bread is not supposed to last three weeks. It’s supposed to get hard the next day. If it doesn’t get old, it is killing you.”

Guerrieri then removes the inside of the bread and carefully layers American, Italian and Portuguese ingredients, like salt cod, octopus, sardines or different kinds of sausages. In the beginning, he couldn’t find the right ingredients and considered buying directly from immigrant families who home-cooked them. Then he looked 10 miles away, to the Ironbound neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, home to a large Portuguese community, and found everything he wanted. “For a long time, some people in the United States have heard about how delicious our food is, how great our wines are, but it never went mainstream,” he says. “These are truly hidden culinary treasures.”

Guerrieri has no reservations using the adjective “our” when speaking about the Iberian country. “I still feel more like a Portuguese than an American or Italian. When I got there, I immediately felt like I belonged.” This is noticeable at City Sandwich, a clean, minimalistic space, where only the menu across the wall – divided into the three colors of the Portuguese flag (red for meat, green for vegetarian and fish, yellow for eggs) – really stands out.

One of City Sandwich's "ItaLisboNyorker" offerings. (Photo by Alexandre Soares for Voices of NY)

One of City Sandwich’s “ItaLisboNyorker” offerings. (Photo by Alexandre Soares for Voices of NY)

Guerrieri moved to the United States from Naples, with his parents and four brothers, as a child. On Long Island, his father made him work at a pizzeria when he was 14. “He told me I was going to do the dishes until I knew what I wanted to do with my life. And that’s how my story in the kitchen started, crying,” he remembers. He ended up opening his own pizzeria at 21 and, around the same time, started a catering service.

In 1997, while vacationing in Europe, he accepted a friend’s invitation to spend a weekend in Lisbon. Three days became weeks and then months. Guerrieri decided to stay and, one year later, opened “Mezzaluna,” the restaurant where he started experimenting with his signature fusion of Portuguese and Italian cuisine.

Guerrieri opened City Sandwich at the end of 2010 and, for four years, he split his time between Portugal and the U.S. He had dual citizenship by then. Last summer, he finally sold the restaurant in Lisbon. “I felt that New York was the place to be right now, but I will always be connected to Portugal.”

All the 24 sandwiches are named after friends. “This was my way to say thank you,” he explains. “Fátima,” made with octopus, is named after the lady who taught him how to cook the mollusk in Lisbon. Henrique takes melted mozzarella, steamed collard greens and the Portuguese alheira. “Nuno” has the strong flavors of morçela, another kind of sausage.

Few Americans know what morçela and alheira are, so the staff is trained to explain the ingredients. “The customers walk in because they heard about this great sandwich with blood sausage,” Guerrieri says. “But they leave knowing that it is called morçela and comes from Portugal.”

Order an Henrique, for example, and you may hear the chef himself explain that Portuguese Jews invented alheira during the Portuguese Inquisition, using only bird meat, to deflect suspicions raised by the fact that they didn’t hang sausages in their smokehouses (today, most of the recipes also include pork).

When it opened, City Sandwich didn’t advertise. Guerrieri says that the first customers carried their sandwiches back to their offices, were asked what it was that smelled so good, and on the same day, officemates were coming in to order their own ItaLisboNyorker.

Interior of City Sandwich (Photo by Alexandre Soares for Voices of NY)

Interior of City Sandwich (Photo by Alexandre Soares for Voices of NY)

A few blocks away from Broadway theaters and major television networks, City Sandwich has celebrity clients like the actor Oliver Platt (fan of the morçela) and the television anchor Sam Champion (who goes for the Portuguese bacon instead). Chris Pine, Piers Morgan, Marisa Tomei, Jesse Eisenberg and Rosie O’Donnell are also clients. Between 300 and 500 sandwiches are sold every day, the prices ranging from $7.95 to $12.95.

The space has a suggestive slogan – “Eat Good, Feel Good” – and Guerrieri uses no mayonnaise, substituting yogurt sauces and olive oil. But he fights against the healthy food label. “I don’t like the expression healthy, though, because it has become so misleading. I just believe in eating right, giving your body what it needs.”

The menu has options like turkey, ham and chicken, but 90 percent of the customers try something different. “If it wasn’t for the adventurous spirit of the New Yorker, we wouldn’t be open,” Guerrieri says.

That’s why he wants to expand the ItaLisboNyorker cuisine beyond the golden bread in which it was born. But like the culinary treasures he is slowly unveiling, the masterful sandwich chef is keeping his plans a secret for a little longer. “The Portuguese cuisine is one of the best and everyone needs to know that,” he says. “The world needs to know about alheira.”

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New Yorkers Protest Ferguson Decision http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/new-yorkers-protest-ferguson-decision/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/new-yorkers-protest-ferguson-decision/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:05:44 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57528 Protestor in Times Square (Photo by Melissa Noel for Voices of NY)

Protestor in Times Square (Photo by Melissa Noel for Voices of NY)

Hundreds of people took to New York City streets Monday night, in protest of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.

This large crowd first gathered in Union Square prior to the grand jury’s decision to hear the outcome they had awaited for more than three months.

They then marched from Union Square to Times Square shouting, “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace!” They also held signs that read “Once again no justice,” “Don’t shoot,” and “Stop killing our friends.”

The decision not to indict officer Wilson left many feeling sad, but not surprised. “When you have a certain perpetrator and a certain victim, the crime is ignored and it’s a shame,” said protestor Dominic Ryan.

Steve Yankou, who was carrying one of the many signs that read, “Black lives matter” alongside Ryan, agreed. “We have been out here before and it makes me sad to say this, but we will be out here again,” he said.

New Yorkers have turned out before to express their anger over the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers. A much smaller, but similar scene to Monday’s protest took place in Brooklyn last week after the death of Akai Gurley. Gurley, an unarmed 28-year-old, was shot to death on Nov. 21 by a rookie NYPD officer in the stairwell of a public housing project.

Protestors at Times Square (Photo by Melissa Noel for Voices of NY)

Protestors in Times Square (Photo by Melissa Noel for Voices of NY)

There were a number of protestors whose signs had pictures of Gurley and many others who have been killed by officers demanding that the justice system “Jail killer cops.” Other demonstrators yelled “Eric Garner” and “ Ramarley Graham” repeatedly and asked when their families will get justice.

Garner was a 44-year-old father from Staten Island who died after being placed in a chokehold by officers during an arrest for illegally selling loose cigarettes. Graham was an 18-year-old who was shot and killed by an NYPD officer, who believed he had a weapon. Graham was followed into his home where he was shot in the chest in front of his grandmother and little brother. No weapon was ever found.

“It’s been two-and-a-half years and it still feels like yesterday,” said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham. Her family is still waiting for their day in court. A 2012 indictment of manslaughter against the officer who shot her son was tossed out due to a technicality, and the family is still expecting the results of a federal investigation.

“Another mother has lost her son and still no justice. How are we ever going to win? A person can come into your home and murder you and walk free,” she said. “This keeps happening and there seems to be no accountability.”

The issue of accountability is what many New York demonstrators said is the big issue, one they can no longer be silent about. “We need to do more of this. We don’t do this enough. I will be out here as long as it takes for things to change,” said Janet Vasques from Harlem.

Overall the protests were peaceful. However police cited several arrests, including one of a protestor who splattered NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton with fake blood. The crowd in Times Square dispersed around 11:30 p.m. Some continued marching well into Tuesday morning. One group went toward the FDR Drive and across the Triboro and Manhattan bridges while others headed toward Brooklyn.

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Chinese Consul General Visits Historic Exhibition on Community http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/chinese-consul-general-visits-historic-exhibition-community/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/chinese-consul-general-visits-historic-exhibition-community/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:33:06 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57526 SinoVision reports from the “Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion” exhibition at the New-York Historical Society again, this time to cover the visit of Sun Guoxiang, the Chinese consul general in NY. According to reporter Lani Nelson, the exhibition traces the history of Chinese in the U.S., starting from the first American trading ships in China in 1784 to the Chinese Exclusion Act and all the ‘struggles and achievements of Chinese Americans from past to present.’” Guoxiang commended “Exclusion/Inclusion” – which Nelson notes is the first large-scale exhibition on Chinese-American history to be presented by a mainstream institution – for its thoroughness and attention to detail.

“Today, you can find Chinese traditional culture around the globe. Why? Because wherever our predecessors went they brought their culture with them. Through this exhibition, even more people will be able to understand our Chinese society and Chinese community’s past. I’ve seen the exhibitions at our Chinese American museums, too, but this one is even more comprehensive, and the planning was even more thorough. The attention given to each of these minute details makes the experience even more convenient for visitors.”

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Thanksgiving Turkeys in Care of Latino Hands http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/thanksgiving-turkeys-care-latino-hands/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/thanksgiving-turkeys-care-latino-hands/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:00:32 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57523 Roberto Domínguez has worked for years in a Brooklyn hatchery. (Photo by Gerardo Romo via El Diario)

Roberto Domínguez has worked for years at LaPera Bros. Poultry. (Photo by Gerardo Romo via El Diario)

Throughout the year, Mexican Roberto Domínguez starts preparing at 7:00 a.m. to greet customers at LaPera Bros. Poultry, a live poultry market in Brooklyn. However, as Thanksgiving Day gets closer, the activity increases in this business, which sells birds year-round.

In the four days prior to this family holiday, LaPera sells between 700 and 800 turkeys. The rest of the year, the establishment sells between 15 and 20 per week.

“For me, it is an honor to contribute to caring for the turkeys during their last days after they are brought here, especially knowing the significance of Thanksgiving Day,” Domínguez, 34, said with pride as he grabbed and weighed a bird chosen by a customer.

The job performed by the Puebla native, who has worked at LaPera for 20 years, includes feeding and looking after the approximately 400 turkeys coming in from farms in Pennsylvania.

María Montenegro, 42, a frequent customer at LaPera, said that she likes to celebrate Thanksgiving eating turkey, and that she prefers those sold where the turkeys have been raised to the frozen ones sold in supermarkets.

“The live ones are more expensive, but you can tell the difference when you taste them,” said Mexican-born Montenegro, who is a mother of three. She paid $37.50 for a 15-pound turkey. In the supermarket, it would have cost her less than $20.

Like Montenegro, many other Hispanic customers turn to one of the 80 such poultry sellers in the city to get their fresh poultry.

LaPera, located in Borough Park, has two poultry yards, each holding around 200 turkeys. During their last days, the birds are fed grains and water and they seem to be resting, although they get stirred up and warble when someone comes near.

Another Puebla native, Mauro Velázquez, 34, is one of five Mexicans who have worked at LaPera for 14 years. His duties include cleaning the pens, and he says that his job is “like any other job,” except that, right before Thanksgiving, “it feels good because people come in a festive mood.”

The turkeys start their journey in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, located some 160 miles southwest of Manhattan. Known for its stockbreeding, the city is home to several turkey farms.

According to Carlo Formisano, current manager at LaPera, Hispanic workers play a vital role in poultry-raising, especially during this time of the year.

Formisano, who has worked in the establishment for over 25 years, added that raising a turkey takes between 5 and 7 months, depending on the desired size for the bird. They are fed according to type: Black feather turkeys are juicier because they are fed a more natural, organic diet, and are priced 75 cents more per pound than their white-feathered counterparts.

“Black feather turkeys are given more freedom to walk around during their lives and are fed differently. That is why their meat is more tender,” said Formisano, pointing out that all their turkeys are raised in pens and are never given hormones.

Regardless of the color of their feathers, Formisano said that turkey “is part of the Thanksgiving Day tradition and it should not be absent from a table reuniting the whole family.”

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Rallying to Reform the School Disciplinary Code http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/rallying-to-reform-the-school-disciplinary-code/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/rallying-to-reform-the-school-disciplinary-code/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 21:00:57 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57498 A recent rally on the steps of Tweed Hall, where the Dept. of Education's offices are located. (Photo: @UYC_YouthPower via Gotham Gazette)

A recent rally on the steps of Tweed Hall, where the Department of Education’s offices are located. (Photo: @UYC_YouthPower via Gotham Gazette)

Students, teachers and student advocates waiting for New York City’s Department of Education to announce revisions to the school disciplinary code are urging the elimination of a rule known as “infraction B21,” which provides extraordinary leeway in punishing students, reports Alex-Quan Pham in Gotham Gazette.

Under B21, students can be suspended for “defying or disobeying the lawful authority,” and that disciplinary latitude has led to a great deal of harm being inflicted on students, students who are members of the Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) say.

“Policies like B21 target black and Latino students, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students. I know not just because of the research, but because I have experienced it,” said Markeys Gonzalez, a high school student who spoke of his experience with school disciplinary policies at the rally, which took place on the steps of Tweed Courthouse on Veterans Day and attracted about fifty students, teachers, and advocates.

Gonzalez was suspended for a week under B21 when he refused to take off a “rainbow bracelet” during LGBTQ Pride Week. Gonzalez chose not to divulge the name of his school for fear of being targeted.

Matthew Garcia faced the same punishment when he disobeyed a teacher who wanted him to remove his hat. Alana Cooper was similarly suspended for not eating in the lunchroom, where she felt her personal safety was compromised by bullies.

The data show that blacks and Latinos are disproportionately affected by school disciplinary actions. According to the UYC, “of 53,504 suspensions last year, black and Latino students made up 89 percent of all students suspended. Black students make up only 26 percent of the student population, but accounted for 53 percent of all suspensions.”

The application of the disciplinary code was stepped up during the Bloomberg administration, and advocates are hopeful that the de Blasio administration will modify the code and its use. During the Bloomberg administration, the number of annual student suspensions in the city more than doubled, “from less than 29,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 in 2011,” according the New York Civil Liberties Union.

A revision in the city’s school disciplinary code is expected before the end of the year.

Read Gotham Gazette to learn about restorative justice and other programs that have been tried in various cities to reverse the effects of stiff and discriminatory practices by school officers against teenagers.

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Mexico Through Different Lenses http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/mexico-different-lenses/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/mexico-different-lenses/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 20:40:54 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57504 Mexico, April 15, 2008 –  A freight train, full of migrants that boarded in Arriaga, Chiapas, is headed to Ixtepec, Oaxaca. Migrants frequently endure a number of human rights violations by both the Mexican authorities and members of the drug cartels. (Photo by Mauricio Palos via Mott Haven Herald)

Mexico, April 15, 2008 – A freight train, full of migrants that boarded in Arriaga, Chiapas, is headed to Ixtepec, Oaxaca. Migrants frequently endure a number of human rights violations by both the Mexican authorities and members of the drug cartels. (Photo by Mauricio Palos via Mott Haven Herald)

The Mexican community is rapidly growing in Mott Haven and the local Bronx Documentary Center wants to welcome them in and bring them together with the rest of the neighborhood. And the Center is looking to an exhibition of photos by five Mexican photographers to do just that, reports Ana M. Rodriguez for Mott Haven Herald. “Miradas: Contemporary Mexican Photographers” opened last week and Mexican photographer and local resident Netza Moreno helped to organize it. The Center’s not just looking for a Mexican audience – the hope is that the exhibition will influence Americans’ perceptions of their southern neighbors.

Dressed up for Halloween (Photo by Alejandro Cartagena via Mott Haven Herald)

Dressing up for Halloween (Photo by Alejandro Cartagena via Mott Haven Herald)

The photos highlight the political, environmental and safety issues faced by many Mexicans who have emigrated to escape their country’s rugged realities, Moreno added.

The exhibition aims to cast a more realistic and wide-ranging light on life in Mexico than is commonly portrayed in the US media, said The Bronx Documentary Center’s gallery manager, Bianca Farrow. The photos of migrants and drug cartels seen on this side of the border often skew Americans’ perceptions of the country, she said.

The photos display stark contrasts – one is of kids dressed up for Halloween, another is of “a half-naked man lying dead on a patch of dirt beneath lush vegetation” – but at the same time, show the different faces and complexities of a country many Americans only see through a single lens.

Go to Mott Haven Herald to find out what one of the photographers meant when he said that the exhibition presents “an emotional conflict.”

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First-Ever Chinese Float to Debut at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/first-ever-chinese-float-debut-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/first-ever-chinese-float-debut-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 19:29:46 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57480 "Beauty of Beijing" float for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo via The China Press)

“Beauty of Beijing” float for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo via The China Press)

This year, at the 88th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, history will be made as “Beauty of Beijing,” the first-ever Chinese-themed float, will be featured in the parade.

The float, commissioned for the Macy’s Parade, was designed in collaboration with the Sino-American Friendship Association, a nonprofit group that promotes cultural awareness between the United States and China. At a Nov. 18 event open to reporters and the community, many journalists and elementary students from the nearby school district attended the float workshop in Moonachie, New Jersey, to have a look at “Beauty of Beijing.”

Shaped like the Great Wall of China and painted in red, a popular Chinese color, the float takes the phrase “Beautiful Beijing Welcomes You” as its theme. It also features the symbolic memorial archway of Nanlou Guxiang, a popular district in Beijing with many siheyuan, or traditional courtyard style houses.

In addition, there is a beacon tower; a lion statue, traditionally placed at the entrance of Chinese imperial palaces; and other ornaments and structures that represent Beijing, such as a canopy placed over imperial carriages. The most central part of the float features the Temple of Heaven, a complex of religious buildings in Beijing first constructed in 1420. Like the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and is among the must-see destinations for tourists visiting Beijing.

Li Li, executive vice president of the Sino-American Friendship Association, said that a marching band, with music that strikes a balance between East and West, as well as a Beijing flag performance and lion dance will accompany the float.

Jessica Moretti, one of the designers of "Beauty of Beijing" (Photo via The China Press)

Jessica Moretti, one of the designers of “Beauty of Beijing” (Photo via The China Press)

Amy Kule, executive producer of the parade, said at the Nov. 18 press conference that the “Beauty of Beijing” float “looks beautiful from any angle.” She added, “The Macy’s Parade is a worldwide parade that includes culture from all over the world.”

The “Beauty of Beijing” will be featured in the parade for the next three years, even though the design may change slightly each year, Kule said. Kule, who visited Beijing two years ago and said that the city had left her with a deep cultural impression, added that being able to include the Beijing float in this year’s parade has obviously made her extremely happy.

Work began on the “Beauty of Beijing” a year and a half ago, said Jessica Moretti, one of the four float designers. After listening to constructive advice from the Sino-American Friendship Association, the designers then began to concretely plan and carry out their design.

“We’re confident that once this float is showcased at this year’s parade, it will convey a beautiful image of China, especially of the capital Beijing, to a western audience,” said Neil Epstein, co-chairman of the Sino-American Friendship Association.

“For upcoming years, we will present different facets of Chinese culture to the American audience,” he continued. “This year, Chinese and Americans can celebrate this holiday together and cordially invite tourists from around the world to visit Beijing.”

Children watch a traditional lion dance in front of the “Beauty of Beijing” float. (Photo via The China Press)

Children watch a traditional lion dance in front of the “Beauty of Beijing” float. (Photo via The China Press)

In an interview at the gathering in New Jersey, Li and Peter Zhang, president of the Sino-American Friendship Association, both said that Beijing is a window into Chinese tourism that links the world. They added that the float’s appearance in the United States’ biggest holiday parade will influence tourism in cities and provinces throughout China, as well as promote these cities to a mainstream audience.

“America provides the largest source of tourists visiting Beijing,” they explained. “[The Macy’s Parade] has the advantage of relying on an American mainstream holiday celebration to provide a platform for popularizing Beijing, and to raise awareness of it on television, in print and through Internet media…”

This year’s Macy’s Parade includes 16 large-scale character balloons and 27 floats. There will also be 1,300 cheerleaders and dancers, 1,000 clowns, 12 bands and a number of famous performers. The parade route remains unchanged, with participants marching south down Central Park West, passing through 59th Street and Sixth Avenue, and then turning right on 34th Street and ending in front of Macy’s.

The parade begins at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.


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A Different Kind of Thanksgiving http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/different-kind-thanksgiving/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/different-kind-thanksgiving/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:24:48 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57445 In this Thanksgiving edition of CUNY TV’s “Independent Sources,” the woman behind the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog wants to fight the Thanksgiving status quo and get children and adults alike to learn about the accurate history and culture of the indigenous people. Hunger never takes a holiday but Thanksgiving could be the busiest time of year at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger pantry as it organizes its 4th annual Thousand Turkey Challenge. And finally, Chef José Galarza of Sabor Borinqueño stops by with a Latino-influenced Thanksgiving spread.

Debbie Reese, who runs the blog “American Indians in Children’s Literature,” advocates for going beyond the tale traditionally told at Thanksgiving and teaching Americans about the history and culture of Natives – without the stereotypes, the whitewashing and the inaccuracies. The story of the American Indians, in all their diversity and richness, is “one of the most significant stories mistold,” she says. (1:04)

In the next segment, Hannah Lupien, policy director at West Side Campaign Against Hunger, talks about the Thousand Turkey Challenge organized by the food pantry and explains why more people turn to them during Thanksgiving than Christmas. WSCAH is the first supermarket-style food pantry in the country and in October, saw its busiest month on record in its 35 years. (14:53)

In the third and final segment, Chef José Galarza, owner of Sabor Borinqueño in East Harlem, serves up a Thanksgiving meal “with a Latin twist.” Galarza explains the changes he has made to the so-called traditional dishes, as host Abi Ishola gets a taste of each. There’s the turkey seasoned with a “little kick to it,” coquito, an eggnog-like drink spiked with rum, and corn bread “with more flavor to it.” Watch the episode to find out the rest of the dishes. (22:17)

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Discussing Free Speech at Brooklyn College http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/brooklyn-college-event/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/brooklyn-college-event/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:20:25 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57432 Steven Salaita, Katherine Franke and Sarah Aly (l. to r.) listen to a question at an event on the silencing of critics of Israel within academia, at Brooklyn College, on November 20, 2014. (Photo by Matt Surrusco for Voices of NY)

Steven Salaita, Katherine Franke and Sarah Aly (l. to r.) listen to a question at an event on the silencing of critics of Israel within academia, at Brooklyn College, on Nov. 20, 2014. (Photo by Matt Surrusco for Voices of NY)

Professor Steven Salaita’s scathing tweets last summer criticizing Israel for its actions in Gaza were read aloud by both his supporters and critics at Brooklyn College Nov. 20, during a student-organized event on silencing dissent in academic discourse related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Salaita, a Palestinian-American professor whose job offer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) was revoked before he was to start teaching classes this fall, after he tweeted denunciations of Israel, spoke at Brooklyn College about academic freedom and attempts on U.S. campuses to stifle political and scholarly views that are critical of the State of Israel.

“I believe it’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend Israel,” Salaita said, which is why, he added, it becomes necessary for Israel’s supporters to censor criticisms before they are made publicly.

Formerly a professor of English at Virginia Tech, Salaita was joined in the discussion at Brooklyn College’s Student Center by Katherine Franke, a Columbia University law professor, and Corey Robin, chair of the political science department at Brooklyn College.

The event was attended by approximately 125 people, many of them professors and activists, and a few dozen Brooklyn College students. Some sported black-and-white checkered scarves, the kaffiyeh, known as a symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

“I think it’s just absolutely a fundamental principle that people should not be penalized at work for what they say politically,” said Robin, who moderated the discussion.

As Robin read aloud some of Salaita’s most controversial tweets, giving Salaita an opportunity to explain his 140-character diatribes, some elicited applause from a few people in the audience.

Regarding one tweet, which critics interpreted as Salaita claiming “anti-Semitism” was something “honorable,” Salaita said his views were the opposite, and that equating criticisms of Israel’s actions with anti-Semitism is “not only a stupid thing to do, but it, at least tacitly, alters the meaning of anti-Semitism.” It “devalues the word,” he said.

Salaita’s main message to the audience: You can’t punish people for their political views, or because of how you interpret what they say on Twitter. Salaita is now suing UIUC to force the release of administration officials’ emails related to his firing.

This week, student organizers, academic departments and the administration of Brooklyn College faced criticism over the event, which was co-sponsored by five academic departments, five outside organizations and Brooklyn College’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter.

New York State Assembly members Dov Hikind and Steven Cymbrowitz, both Brooklyn Democrats, called for the event to be cancelled, claiming the speaker, Salaita, is a hater of Israel and the event will only serve to incite anti-Semitism on Brooklyn College’s campus.

In a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould, referencing the controversy surrounding previous student-hosted speakers critical of Israel, Cymbrowitz wrote that, “Brooklyn College should not make a habit of turning a deaf ear either to the community it serves, which includes a large Jewish population, or to its major funding source.”

Salaita, who has been on a national speaking tour, and made recent stops on college campuses in New York City and New Jersey, later said the officials trying to get cancelled a discussion on the topic of silencing dissent “need to hone their sense of irony.”

In recent years, on-campus events hosted by SJP groups have faced public criticism, with detractors citing one-sided, anti-Israel bias by invited guest speakers or organizations. An event featuring speakers who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, held at Brooklyn College in February 2013, was criticized by Hikind, 10 New York City Council members, and the well-known attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

During the Q&A session on Thursday, some students spoke out against politicians’ attempts to suppress campus events, past and present.

“This campus belongs to us, more than any City Council member,” said Thomas DeAngelis, a SJP member and senior at Brooklyn College.

Another Brooklyn College student, Michelle Terebelo, who identified herself as Israeli, quoted a Salaita tweet she found offensive.

Terebelo criticized Robin for hosting Salaita in spite of his speech on social media; Robin told her people should not be punished for their political opinions.

“I think you want to see this as a form of hate speech,” he said. “I don’t see it.”

After the event, Salaita said his priority now is to have UIUC’s offer of a tenured position reinstated. “I’m still holding out hope because I think it’s the best solution for all parties involved,” he said.

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New Yorkers Celebrate Obama’s Executive Order http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/new-yorkers-celebrate-presidents-executive-order/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/new-yorkers-celebrate-presidents-executive-order/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:04:06 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57400 New Yorkers Celebrate Obama’s Executive Order [see the SlideDeck]


On the evening of Nov. 20, President Barack Obama took executive action to ease the lives of millions of U.S. workers and residents.

Immigration relief will be provided to parents of children who were born in the U.S. and have lived here for at least five years and pass background checks, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be extended.

In this special reporting package on Obama’s historic action, Voices of NY offers two articles. The first is an account by Gwynne Hogan of reaction from the crowd that watched the president’s address at a “viewing party” held at 32BJ SEIU (Service Workers International Union) headquarters in Manhattan. In the second article, Pamela Granda reports from the Brentwood, Long Island offices of the nonprofit Make The Road NY where people assembled to listen to Obama’s announcement. Finally, check out NY-area reaction on Twitter, curated by Nancy Ayala, in the Storify slideshow at bottom.

As President Barack Obama announced his historic executive order that will pave the path to amnesty for 5 million undocumented immigrants, immigrants and their allies gathered at 32BJ SEIU headquarters in New York City to watch and to celebrate.

The massive room swelled with excited energy and nearly a hundred bodies. Families and friends greeted one another with warm embraces and bright smiles; in an art corner, kids and parents drafted up colorful signs.

Despite the festivities, the moment Obama began his speech a hush engulfed the crowd. Many in the audience had only dreamed of this moment, while others had been fighting for it for years.

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?” Obama asked. “Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?”

Obama’s executive order may allow almost 5 million undocumented immigrants who’ve lived in the U.S. for at least five years and who have no criminal record to apply for legal work permits.

“I’m so happy that President Obama finally did something that he proposed years ago,” Bismarck Contreras, who attended with his wife and two young sons who are both U.S. citizens. “We have children and we’re paying taxes. It’s time for a change.”

Clarisse Mefotoso Fall came as a representative of the African Hope Committee that advocates for African immigrants.

“This is good for our community. Africans also have a large number of people detained,” she said. “It’s a victory.”

Maria Palaquibay clutched an American flag joyously. She’s lived in Queens for 20 years and her two children are citizens. But because of her legal status she’s been terrified to leave the city.

“[I feel] such happiness,” she said with a wide and radiant smile. “If everything goes right I might be able to visit my parents and my family.”

Some still had damp eyes as they piled into the elevators and headed back to street level. But the cold night and a few angry protesters were quick reminders of the struggles still to come. The clump of dissenters pumped signs that read “Stop the Illegals” and “No Amnesty,” and heckled people entering and exiting the building.

“You should be ashamed,” one woman chanted back at the protesters and channeling Obama’s message from the evening, “We’re all immigrants!”

One protester who’d been saying, “I follow the law,” got under the skin of Robert Blair, who’d attended the viewing party. Blair pushed by the protesters in a huff.

“Slavery was a law, does that make it right?” he asked.




An hour before the president was set to make a historic announcement, energy was high at the offices of Make the Road in Brentwood. As they walked in, community members searched for a seat in front of a large projector, where they would watch and listen to the nation’s commander-in-chief deliver some much-anticipated news.

With 20 minutes left for the broadcast, a tall, lean man took center stage to welcome everyone.

At Make The Road NY in Brentwood, organizers stress the importance of continuing to be involved until comprehensive reform is accomplished. (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

At Make The Road NY in Brentwood, organizers stress the importance of continuing to be involved until comprehensive reform is accomplished. (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

“We’ve been anxiously waiting for this announcement. We’ve been fighting for 11 million undocumented people. What is our ultimate goal?” he asked in Spanish.

“Keep fighting for comprehensive immigration reform,” the crowd responded in unison.

The man was Daniel Altschuler, Long Island Coordinator for Make The Road New York. He further explained that because Congress had not taken action, the president was taking a legal measure to protect millions of undocumented people.

Make the Road organizer rallies the crowd, chanting si se pudo (yes, we did it/we did it) (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

Make the Road organizer rallies the crowd, chanting si se pudo (yes, we did it/we did it) (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

On Long Island, immigrants make up 16 percent of the area’s 7.5 million population. Of those, about one in five immigrants in the Long Island area is estimated to be undocumented, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. The total number of undocumented immigrants in New York State is 690,000, about 6 percent of the estimated 11.5 million nationwide.

There have been a number of cases in which communities of color, including immigrants, have been systemically targeted by police. Organizations on Long Island like Make the Road have pushed for immigrants’ rights. Most recently, they claimed a victory when Suffolk County officials announced an end to the “Secure Communities” program, which detained immigrants in local jails while they waited to be questioned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Lucy Castillo, a native of Colombia, is an active Make the Road member who has been part of the organization’s reform efforts. She has been living in Suffolk County since she arrived in the U.S. 13 years ago, and has been undocumented since.

“I feel so happy right now,” she said with a smile. “This is going to bring change to so many families. They’re going to be able to achieve the American dream – buy a house and drive a car without fear of being deported.”

Because she has two American-born children and no criminal record, Castillo would qualify for temporary relief.

Assemblyman Phil Ramos at the Brentwood Make The Road NY offices on Nov. 20 (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

Assembly member Phil Ramos at the Brentwood Make The Road NY offices on Nov. 20 (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

When the president finally spoke, the chatter in the room went away. People listened intently. When the connection went away, people took out their cellphones and played the announcement on loud. Seventeen minutes later, there was a roar of applause.

¡Sí se pudo! ¡Sí se pudo!, they chanted.

Assembly member Phil Ramos was present at the event and spoke to the crowd.

“My friends, tonight we won a battle. Today it was 25 percent, and maybe in the next two years the other 75 percent can be won,” he said.

“Five million people living out of the shadows is huge,” he emphasized.

In his speech, the president emphasized that relief would not begin until spring 2015, and urged people to beware of scam artists.

Lawyers agree. Raymond Fassano, an immigration attorney with the firm Youman, Madeo and Fasano, LLP, advises people to demand to see a lawyer’s full credentials before seeking legal advice.

“What we’re going to see is places like churches, law schools, temples, that are all going to come out and say that they can fill out their applications. It’s not enough to have the heart and altruism,” he said.

Poster announcing workshops to help determine eligibility for immigration relief (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

Poster announcing workshops to help determine eligibility for immigration relief (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

“With these types of giveaways, anyone thinks they can handle it. Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean they’re qualified.”

At Make The Road, attendees signed up for informational workshops that will start as early as Saturday. There, people will get a description of the political context and implications of the executive action, and will see which programs they are eligible for and if they meet all the requirements. The service fee is $50 for professional review by one of the group’s attorneys.

In the meantime, the group suggests that people begin to gather the same sort of evidence and documentation people provided to demonstrate eligibility for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

Nancy Morawetz, clinical professor at NYU School of Law, said that although the president’s executive action may seem bold to some, it’s more modest than what George H. W. Bush did with the family unity provision of the Immigration Act of 1990.

“People need to understand that although today it looks partisan, over history presidential authority has been exercised on a very bipartisan basis,” she added.



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