Opeyemi Remembers

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I ran into one of my high school sisters. Embarrassingly enough, I had to confess to her that I forgot her name. We recognized each other at the same time in the train station. But she acknowledged me first.

Lystria Hurley!!

Oh, Hi! You look familiar.

Yesssss.

Yes. Where did I meet you at? Did you attend Fordham or do you go to…

You forgot me? Really?

No, I remember you. I just forgot your name and…

SJB! We met in high school. You were a year older than me!

Ohhhhhhhh, shucks! Right. right.

Do you remember my name?

No. No. I’m so sorry. What is it again?

Opeyemi.

Oh…..yeah. Opeyemi! I remember now! How are you?

After a short moment of ohhhing and ahhing to convince Opeyemi that I really did remember her, we embraced and spoke for a long time.

Majority of the conversation was her reminding me about high school.  Actually, my memory was depending her hers and vice versa. I could not remember who she hung out with, some of the teachers we shared, and even if we shared friends (which it turned out that she knew all my friends and sisters!).

She kept on bashing me (in a kind way) for forgetting her. “How could you forget me? I’m hurt.” But, I really didn’t forget her. I simply forgot her name….and some high school moments. Or maybe they were replaced by other moments which made other memories dormant? Perhaps they were waiting for Opeyemi to come along and ignite them. Isn’t that’s what memories are, bits of information that sits in our head until time tells us to use it?

One thing I do remember about high school is sitting in Ms. Kurtz’s biology class and zoning out. She was talking to the class about the difference between long term and short term memory. I was staring outside and something she said about long term memory drew me in.

Ms. Kurtz, can you give an example of long term memory? I asked.

Lystria, if a cute boy walks up to you today and tell you that you are pretty and gorgeous, you will remember that for a long time. That’s long term memory. He made you feel good. Your emotions were evolved. But, these notes? you will not remember them. Unless you study, and you still may forget them…..

I kid you not, I did not even pay attention to anything else she had to say. I kept on day dreaming about that cute boy.

When Opeyemi scorned me for forgetting, I blamed it on age but that didn’t work being I was only one year older than her. However, now that I am still thinking about the situation, I think it does have something to do with age. I was Opeyemi’s older sister in high school. She and her friends all looked up to me. I tutored and counseled with them. This made her remember me. I also was an ambassador for my school which meant I was always meeting freshmen. Every year. And being paired with new students.  While most of the upper class men were busy with just their  friends, I knew students from every year. That’s a lot of people to remember now! Had it been the other way around, she probably wouldn’t remember my full name!

I think how I treated the freshmen and welcomed them into my school, made memories stick with them. I can’t even remember all of my close friends from high school.

The words poet Maya Angelou said are true:  …people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel, this good feeling of nostalgia showed up in our ability to pick up our companionship. However, I think the quote should read, people will forget your name too.

 

 

 

 

Tabling at Wildlife High School

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Last weekend I tabled for Mary Mitchell at Wild Life high school for their health fair with some of my colleagues. The new intern for the After School Program, Arianna, came along and was a great help. Sylvia, Ana and Ms. Aleyna were also there. We all work together but for different aspects of the center so our table was full of resources.

Just to talk about Arianna a bit. She started working at the center two weeks ago. During our quick and fun interview process, she shared with me a secret…. ‘I don’t know much English, Ms.’ She seemed very bashful and somewhat ashamed. She was so shy that on her first day of work, she brought in her older sister (who spoke English and worked with me before) to speak on her behalf….(Her sister encouraged her and to her surprise… left her there to fend for herself). Nonetheless, after working around the center for three weeks, Arianna started opening up. She is speaking more and even translating for others!

During the health fair, I turned to Arianna and told her that she was going to table alone for one hour. I gave her quick instructions on what to say to the people and left. When I returned she had a huge smile on her face. She not only spoke to people about the center but got others to sign up for the La Canansta Program and even participated in a raffle and won a tee-shirt!

I have been working with the Pathways to Graduation Internship Placement Program for three years and I enjoy it. I’ve met great people starting with the development coordinator, Ms. Ocean. She does a fantastic job of linking the Mary Mitchell After School Program with great students who work along with the center. Arianna is one of the many students who I get joy in seeing grow and flourish in positive ways.

Volunteering at the Langston Hughes Home

 

A week ago during the snow storm, I left my warm apartment and went to Harlem and volunteered with i, Too, Arts Collective which is a  non-profit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. They are responsible for renovating  the Harlem renaissance poet, Langston Hughes, home.

When I was in college, I went on a date with a young man who grew up in New Orleans. He was crazy about the Harlem renaissance because of his high school teachers. I, who grew up in New York, was crazy about Harlem because of the books I read alone (my high school  curriculum skipped majority of my history…really America’s true history). In any case, he took me to Harlem for a date and I remember us standing outside of Langston Hughes home taking about his poems. Then we spoke about what it would take for his home to become a museum. Then, we stopped talking so the conversation pretty much died like a raisin in the sun. However, the dream didn’t because I am now apart of a team of people who are preserving Mr. Hughes legacy by opening up his space and reserving it for writers and other artist to gather.

For Closure

In West Farms Square there is a new sculpture titled “For Closure” by artist Gabriela Salazar. It is a 26-feet-tall artwork made from locally salvaged doors and resembles a house of cards.

I ran into these young women and asked them to pose for me. And they were just A*W*E*S*O*M*E. You will see more photos with these DIVAS but before that here is some history of the Artwork.

I took the following excerpt from the artist’s website:

It is meant to represent the fragility of the housing market.

“A lot of people already talk about financial collapse so I don’t necessarily expect the piece is going to bring more attention to that, but I do hope it humanizes that experience a little bit, reminds people that all these homes are actual people’s lives,” said artist Gabriela Salazar

The temporary art work was brought in through a partnership between the Bronx River Art Center and the Department of Transportation’s Urban Art Program.

“For Closure” will be on display for seven months.

I think “For Closure” is in the perfect spot. I see my neighborhood changing everyday. So many businesses are closing down and there is an increase of homelessness in the Bronx. Homes are going up everywhere but it seems more are moving out of the neighborhood than moving in.

Just this week when I was passing out ‘Saving Kayton’s‘ flyers, I ran into a mother with three children who asked me about helping her find an apartment. She seemed very desperate.

Speaking of  ‘Saving Kayton’s‘ I am still working on the project. I spoke to Bronx officials and emailed friends and family hoping for the story to fall into the right person’s hands…now we just have to wait. It’s sad that we have to fight so hard for a store with such history and good quality to stay in our neighborhood. However, if landlords don’t care enough  about single mothers with children then why would they care about a store?!