After hearing that Sandy was coming, I prepared to evacuate from my Far Rockaway home and go to a hotel close to JFK Airport. Unfortunately, the storm winds were already in the area before arrangements could be made – forcing me to stay. At 6:30 pm, I heard my neighbor call out, "Ms. Stewart! The water is coming in!” As hard as we tried, we soon found our efforts to keep the water out futile. We watched and prayed as the water covered cars, SUVs, and minivans, and eventually entered the 2nd floor where we were sheltering. At 9:20 pm, the storm surge ended, leaving me without a home and most of my belongings. Since that time, I have been displaced, relying on the generosity of friends to keep me sheltered and warm.
This experience is not totally foreign to me. As an immigrant, I faced the same challenge of homelessness when I first arrived in New York City after being recruited from Jamaica to serve as an educator in the public school system. Since that time, my career has changed from teacher/educator to an everyday survivor of the problems inherent in the New York City Department of Education’s treatment of Caribbean teachers. Similar to my experience with Sandy, the situation with the Caribbean teachers has gone from bad to worse.
Beyond Sandy, I look forward to President Obama passing a Comprehensive Immigration Reform policy so that my adult child, and those of other Caribbean International teachers, can shed the cocoon of being "Aged-Out" of status; an issue which the NYC Department of Education did not address. I hope to see our children move beyond a dream deferred to a dream realized, so that even as immigrants, they are able to experience the same events that the American children we teach do.
Please join the AIE and The Black Institute in showing support for teachers like me by coming to the Beyond Sandy Benefit Dinner. Click here for more details.
And so, what lies ahead? For the Rockaways, it is renewal and restoration. With the little help from FEMA or Insurance companies so far, I am faced with the daunting task of completing the repairs over time, on my own as best I can. Also, I'll decide how much more “survival teaching” I will continue to do. No matter what lies in store for me, I’m grateful that a benefit dinner is being held for me and those Caribbean teachers in similar situations. For those of you who make a donation or buy a tickets for the Benefit Dinner, I appreciate your effort, your sacrifice, and your commitment to help those of us who suffered Sandy's wrath. Now, I'm reminded of the words of a song I sang with my alumnae in high school, and it goes something like this,
"When you go through a storm,
hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm, there's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone".
Beyond Sandy I reminisce, I sing, I dance, and I pray, but most of all I dare....
Beyond Sandy, I see the isles of the Caribbean, Jamaica - Land we love, and America the beautiful, a Land of immigrants. I dare us to put a face to our immigrant stories so as to command the passing of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Beyond Sandy as an immigrant, do I dare...?
Love you all!