Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa Market/Sowing Place, 6/2/18

Weather: windy, looking like a thunderstorm, but just occasional rain.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, no walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3.5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00

 

Observations:

This was the second time the Sankofa Market was happening in conjunction with Sowing Place. It’s pretty new and it’s also set back off the street. So far, most of the people who’ve talked with me at this event have been involved with Sowing Place as vendors, artists in residence, etc.

I talked with two kids about yellow, white, and purple clover.

 

Some conversations:

 

 

I’m undocumented, and one of the major things I’m anxious about right now is the state of immigration in this country. It’s very scary. We don’t know what’s happening. Trump, one of the things he was running on was this attitude toward immigration, and he doesn’t actually know how it works—he’s talking about building a wall, because he doesn’t know that most of us come on planes. We just have overstayed visas. He doesn’t know how it works, but he wakes up and decides one day to end the program that I’m on. … So what’s the next thing he’s gonna cut? When he ended DACA it was a big deal because people cared, but then something else is on the radar next week. There’s crisis after crisis and it makes it hard to take a collective approach.

Would you say it’s a feeling that’s always with you, or comes and goes, or–

It’s seemingly always with me. It’s part of my identity, it keeps me on high alert. ‘Cause it’s not just me, it’s my entire family. I’ve been talking about it, trying to educate people. ‘Cause the whole narrative of immigration in the US is this xenophobic anti-Latino narrative, but you’ve got like Irish old men living in the Bronx who are undocumented and nobody knows about it because they’re white. So I’ve been trying to talk more, and, more publicly, about my own Black immigrant experience.

How are the conversations going?

They go well. I feel like I’m changing minds. I’ve been writing poems about it and it’s new territory for me, that I’m starting to write about it, because it’s so stigmatized. If my mother knew she’d have a heart attack. But being out and open, especially in the face of all this—when he ended DACA I was like, Let me start to be vocal. And when I talk to people I know, since they realize it’s me [that’s affected by this], they start to care. I have this visibility and maybe power, as a performer and as an online voice especially. I don’t have a huge following but I know people pay attention to what I say, so maybe I should put a tweet about this in between the tweets about poop or whatever. I’m also trying to find my stride as a writer. Poems are great and I love them, but I really wanna do essays, write about ending stigma, talking about status and citizenship. People are like, “Go back to your country,” but the country I was born in doesn’t do birthright citizenship.

*

What I’m concerned about is this natural gas plant. We need to figure out how to get them to listen to us. One of my coworkers has been a powerful advocate, and she got me involved. We had an event at our church, and that got a lot of people to know about it. We need to be able to eat the food that we grow in the ground, and breathe air that’s in our backyards. When I would go to these meetings, a lot of white people showed up, but we need people in the Latino and Southeast Asian communities to talk to each other. They want to know about it, but people don’t understand.

And I know that the agencies and so on don’t make it easy to understand.

When they had the hearings, they took people out of a public space into a side room like they were interrogating them. One person from our church, he said, “I thought I was doing something wrong.” There’s not enough of us to tell them that this is the wrong position. We need to make them understand that [they] are a public servant, they work for us—not the opposite.

 

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/30/17

Weather: Hot, bright, breezy, cooling and graying toward the end

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.11

 

Observations:

At 2:13, two cops in uniform and a cop in button-down and tie demanded ID from a man resting in the shade. They looked at his ID, then left. At 2:50, a cop in a suit and a cop in uniform walked by with a man in handcuffs between him, and the person talking to me told me that the man they arrested had exposed himself to a kid—I don’t know how they knew.

So far my booth repair—a new piece of cardboard to firm up part of the sign so it can hold the other part of the sign in place—mostly works, except in a sharp gust of wind.

A non-zero number of people read the “¢” on the sign as “$”, and I don’t know why.

 

 

Some conversations:

 

I feel like I’m chasing my tail. I’m shoveling shit against the tide. I’m trying to get back with my family. I went up to DCYF today and I stayed for an hour, I ain’t no deadbeat dad, but my appointment never showed. I’m trying to get back with my girl. I just got an apartment, but I’m on SSI and SSDI, and it takes almost all my money for rent. I have to struggle, I’m struggling.

What would make a difference?

If my girl dropped the restraining order. But her mother don’t like me, and she’s holding the house over her head.

Like, “You can’t live here if you get back together with him?”

Yeah. I got a one bedroom apartment, but there’s a parlor that could be made into a bedroom. I don’t think she wants to live in [REDACTED]. We were living in [REDACTED], then [REDACTED], then I went to jail, came out. I’ve met her on the DL a couple times. People are barking down her throat about me. I told her, When two people are in love, a lot of people are jealous. It’s easier for her to just rise out of the [can’t read what I wrote] and just patronize her mother. When the cops came and DCYF came, she lied to them for me—I didn’t ask her to. She says she’s proud of me, but she changed her number, or she didn’t pay her bill. I haven’t talked to her in over a week and I’m starting to get worried. My little boy is with her, and she already lost him once, drinking and not thinking. She drinks, she goes to AA meetings and to a group, but she still drinks. It’s not fair to my little boy, it’s robbing him of his father and mother.  … My [other] son’s in for ten years for gangbanging. I let my first son down—he got in a fight, he retaliated, and I’m sitting in the ACI. I wanna be there for all my kids …

(Seeing that someone marked the park’s beech tree on the map of beloved places yesterday)

I been going under that tree since I was a little boy, 7, 8 years old, when I started riding the bus. I got a history with that tree.

*

That fricking global warming shit is crazy. How much it’s changing! All the smoke that goes in the air, it does make a difference. I watched a movie about global warming. The South Pole already dropped so much—who knows if it’s gonna flood, if the North Pole is already breaking up. Look at all the stuff that’s going on already.

*

What are you anxious about today?

Money. I’m so stressed out about money. I wanna start school but I don’t wanna put myself into debt. I wanna be a teacher. My parents don’t have college funds, we’re regular middle class, we struggle sometimes. I get good grades but not enough for scholarships. I wanna go to CC[RI] but I didn’t want to ask my parents for help. I can’t even afford a car. Insurance is so expensive. How are they saying you have to have a car, pay taxes, go to school—How? How? Don’t even get me started on health insurance.

Now I’m gonna get started on health insurance. My parents are immigrants from Portugal. They didn’t have papers at first, and the process takes decades. They’re still waiting on their papers and they’ve been here since I was two. People are like, Why don’t you try to get papers? We have been trying but there’s millions and millions of people! My mom’s paid a lawyer thousands of dollars to move us up on the list and we still have to wait five more years. So they’ve been here almost 20 years and they haven’t had health insurance. My mom’s teeth are falling apart, she’s in pain 24/7, it would cost thousands of dollars to fix. She had one cavity, and to fix a cavity it costs $454.67. That was both my parents’ paychecks for one cavity, and she had three young children. That one created another cavity and another cavity, and now her mouth is decaying. And now I have a cavity and I can’t afford to fix it.

… So when my parents came here they signed me up for DACA. I get a social security card, I can get a job and a license while I’m waiting for my papers. But it doesn’t give me health insurance! If I get sick, I can’t miss a day of work because I can’t afford to go to the doctor. I can’t afford birth control. I went to the pharmacy, they said I had to go to a doctor. I asked what could they give me over the counter, it was thirty bucks for a month’s supply. I know that doesn’t sound expensive, but when you have to pay for food and bills and Ubers every day–

… When you’re an immigrant you don’t tell people. You’re scared 24/7. I got pulled over, and I have a license, but I was so scared, because if you’re an immigrant they can send you away.

… My mom started her own [REDACTED] company, under the table … She’s my biggest role model. She’s the biggest entrepreneur that I have ever known … After we got here, my dad was the family’s only source of income, so if dad’s not working, we’re not eating. My mom was like, I gotta do something. So she built up her client base, she got references. Now she just hired two girls to work for her. She’s becoming a boss a little bit. As soon as she gets her paperwork she’s gonna make her business legal. My mom dreams of owning her own house one day. My dream is becoming a preschool teacher.