by Eden Rose Pollock:
We started the day with a later wakeup, to the delight of all. Some went for breakfast at Tal Bagels, while others explored breakfast options on the Upper West Side. We made our way down to Battery Park via subway where we discussed the American Dream: what is it, has it changed since our ancestors came to this country, and if it’s still alive today. Answers ranged from bright optimism to the cynical phrase, “The American Dream is dead.”
We then went to Ground Zero of the terrorist attack of 9/11. I’m a native New Yorker, but I had never been to Ground Zero before. Seeing the memorial, especially when juxtaposed with seeing Come From Away recently, really put things into perspective for me, having not been born yet when the attack happened. Then, we walked up to Wall Street and Zuccotti Park, where we discussed the occupy movements and the impact that all kinds of protests have, peaceful or violent. A focus was on the Native occupation of Alcatraz, which they were able to hold for around 6 months. Of course we couldn’t forget the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 which protested social and economic inequality. This was a very thought-provoking conversation, especially having just discussed the life and (possible) death of the traditional idea of the American Dream. Who gets to fulfill their dream, and is it an equal playing field? I believe these occupations prove that it is not. We also touched on anti-homeless architecture, which I continue to be very disappointed in my city for building.
Traveling uptown, we had a pizza lunch at Francesco’s, then went to Central Park to relax and listen to David Ippolito play covers and original, politically-centered songs ranging from critique of the current president to critique of society’s reliance on technology.
Afterwards, we took the subway up to Harlem, where we met with a young law student and activist, Khaair Morrison. He talked to us about race relations in New York and about his political opinions. He discussed the evolution of stop and frisk, the importance of community policing, and the deeper issues of implicit bias and institutionalized racism, and other forms of institutionalized prejudice or oppression. A stat that really stood out to me is that Black and Latino people make up about 26% of NYC’s population, but 86% of arrests for marijuana possession were arrests of Black and Latino people. He came to a consensus that I agree with: the NYPD is trying to change and improve, but they’re still not yet doing enough.
We closed the day by going back downtown into the West Village for free time and dinner. We made a stop to see historic Stonewall Inn where Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, among others, protested arrests and police brutality towards LGBT people in 1969. I’ve passed the Inn many times before, but I have never really taken the time to appreciate its history. All in all, it was a wonderful day in a city I’m truly proud to call my own!