Damaris Reyes is Executive Director of GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side), a housing and preservation group that has worked in Loisada since 1977. They combine services for tenants with community organizing to ensure that the neighborhood continues to flourish, benefiting from economic development without displacing long-time residents.
In my interview with her, Damaris talked extensively about her childhood growing up in Loisada public housing, how her community was more tight-knit back then, and how her neighborhood has changed. In this video post, Damaris talks about two experiences that influenced her decision to become a community organizer: She describes how spending time with her grandmother planted a seed of social justice in her, and how, when she had been aspiring to move up the career ladder at her telecommunications company to save enough money to leave the neighborhood, a public housing rally made her see herself and her local environment via a new analytical lens.
For more information, see:
The Good Old Lower East Side website
An interview with Damaris Reyes at the Lo-Down blog
Una Abuelita Para Cada Plaza Pública
—I was working, I was wearing a black suit and commuting from the Lower East Side to the Upper West Side, I was moving up and over like a knight, I was telecommunicating. I was getting out of here, por que, aunque, sin embargo ella me dijo que, Sin el pobre no hay rico. (¿Por que? It was a day like today, daylight gray, the climate changed version of a romanticized Vermeer haze, cast on my claustrophobic tableau, still-life with stigma, poverty, and stroller.)
—I was trying to climb upstairs, but this crowd stood in my way, obstructed my view. (Yo no sé, ¿estabán luchando? So I stayed still and watched the blockade. And in my mind’s eye, the colors of a panoramic vista marbleized into clouds of soft focus blur, a ribbon of a longer time horizon tied into itself with frayed knots. To work towards what we have lost, a redress cut from what social fabric.)
—Mira, ella fue una seamstress, pero ¿de cual fábrica? She worked in so many, manufacturing these hope-shaped cloaks. Me recuerdo mi abuela, quien me dijo tambien: En el día de mañana we will visit everyone, we will know those no one else knows, we will work for the blind among us, we will be attached at the hips, we will become Siamese. Ojála, to be bilingual, to have a place in this city, in these projects, in this sphere, in this square, to shape these privatized shapes: Let us make them public, let us install some benches, let us sit. (¿Donde, cuando? When we bow our heads in contemplation, let us raise our voices.)
(Thumbnail photograph by GOLES, all rights reserved.)