I was a 17 year old high school student who did not watch the news, I would just roll over in the morning to my mom telling me “Janelle, its going to rain; Janelle its going to snow”. I never had to think hard about any extreme weather conditions or relocating of any kind because I live in a pretty sturdy building with bricks, the most troubling thing on my mind during extreme weather conditions were leggings or long-johns. September 17th, 2017 was a Sunday to remember in retrospect, I was very obnoxious that day when I heard about the storm that hit Puerto Rico. Not knowing the damage this Hurricane would later result to, as a teenager the only thing that ran through my mind was “Is the rain going to hit New York, so I can stay home tomorrow?” Till this day those words haunt me every time I go to my “Puerto Rico: After Maria” class and hear those who have family members in Puerto Rico directly effected by the storm. I live in predominately black neighborhood, so its not until I got to Hunter College when I started meeting people from different cultures and taking classes that taught me about them as well. Two semesters ago I took this Puerto Rican history class that basically gave me many examples of how the United States of America values what Puerto Rico can offer rather than appreciating their people. Ever since then I have been taking interest in these courses because I feel like it is my job as someone who lives in America to educate myself on whats going in a country that even though Trump hates to admit, is apart of us! Now I’m in a class that focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and current day Puerto Rico. On the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria According to the New York Times article, “Hurricane Maria, 2 Years Later: ‘We Want Another Puerto Rico’” the citizens of Puerto Rico are still holding together assembly’s in the San Juan neighborhood, to discuss what they want their future to look like.
It is hard to believe that 2 years passed and the people of Puerto Rico are still without power, clean water, and food. Reading about to the conditions that Puerto Ricans are living in, makes me commend them for their logical ways of trying to get a reform by being patient while still advocating for themselves. Slowly but surely Puerto Ricans will get their island cleaned up completely and this will all be worth it. Some of them are even looking at this gap that is supposed to be filled with the U.S giving reparations and cleanup as something that was crucial and necessary. Emilio Pantojas García, a sociology professor at the University of Puerto Rico states “What Maria did was very important in political terms: It showed that the government of Puerto Rico was the equivalent of a failed state; We survived Hurricane Maria because of solidarity among churches, community organizations, neighbors. The government never arrived.” This quote is relevant to the point of “it takes a village”, when the government and FEMA became useless the people of Puerto Rico stepped up to the plate they took matters into their own hands.
World Vision and volunteers from church partner Calvary Church in Utuado, Puerto Rico, provided food, water, hygiene kits, and tarps to 32 families in Jayuya- area communities of Parceles Ponce and Paso Palma following Hurricane Maria (2017 World Vision/Photo by Chris Huber)
Not only are the people of Puerto Rico pitching in but so are celebrities and college students. Right after the Hurricane hit Marc Anthony alongside Jennifer Lopez, who is a six time Latin Grammy award winner started up a humanitarian relief initiative called “Somos Una Voz” (We Are One Voice) backed by an “alliance of celebrities working together to rush food shelter, medicine, power and communications to areas affected by recent natural disasters” in the wake of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Also, rapper Pitbull sent his private plane to Puerto Rico to transport cancer patients seeking chemotherapy treatment to the U.S mainland. In the New York Daily News, Pitbull humbly said “Thank God we’re blessed to help.Just doing my part” that statement should make a light-bulb go off in Trump’s head because it is actually Donald Trumps “part” to assist the people of Puerto Rico and to get them back on their feet being that Puerto Rico is territory of the United States.You even have CUNY students flying out during their summer break to help Puerto Rico rebuild, everyone is taking accountability except government officials.
Seeing people who are just like me pitch in to support gets me inspired to want to help as well. In my opinion, I think that as people who are not originated from Puerto Rico we should first start by educating ourselves and then looking for solutions or outlets to further support Puerto Rico. Just because our president holds Puerto Ricans in no regard does not mean we should too. Learning about Hurricane Maria helped me become more involved with supporting those in need. My mom is a teacher at a school in Bushwick, and we came up with the idea of making a safe space for not only the children but also the faculty who have families in Puerto Rico struggling to piece their homes back together. I always felt so guilty for being ignorant that Sunday morning after hearing about what was going on, and insensitive to what I could not see, but just because it was not around for me to see does not mean it did not happen or damage was not done, so I look at this as a way to redeem myself in a sense. Even though, these group members are not directly effected I still think its a step towards knocking down stereotypes and misconceptions about Puerto Ricans that are spread throughout white America. Just from hearing them speak about the benefits and assistance that is not afforded to them, tells me that the strain this Hurricane is putting on their loved ones are still bothering them 2 years later. I believe everyone has a story to tell, you just need someone willing to listen.