In the galaxy of Queens I learned empathy and compassion shoulder to shoulder at bus terminals, squeezed in on trains, and dollar-vans, or at the counters of crowded bodegas and pizza spots. The diversity and culture showed me the potential for people and their capacity to live amongst each other. Growing up in South East Jamaica, my little world was filled with black people, but after being forced to a school outside my neighborhood, it only took a few public bus rides to see how much Queens had to offer outside of black people.
Every school I attended was further from my home, but I collected friends from all over. I learned Muslim and Hindu traditions from my Pakistani friend, learned to use chopsticks with my Taiwanese friend, tasted every flavor of the Caribbean on Eastern Parkway, and so much more. My travels around the city helped me to genuinely connect with people, and by high school I had friends from all over the world.
I’ve known New York since infancy. I know what it’s like growing up here, and what it looks like living from another state. I’ve traveled the country and like it or not, the essence of New York is always with me. It’s baked into my mannerisms, and dialect, but also my code of honor, and ethics, and respect for others. I’ve been to other more simpler places that may not have the crime and big city issues, but also have no tolerance for the evolution that is our American culture.