Staten Islanders protest recent violence.
Last summer, in the wake of several anti-Latino hate crimes in the Port Richmond community on Staten Island, Make the Road New York recognized the need to create dialogue between Staten Island’s diverse communities. In response, MRNY launched a reconciliation campaign in order to address the root causes of inter-racial, anti-immigrant and homophobic tensions that led to these terrible crimes.
The borough of Staten Island is becoming ever more diverse, unfortunately increasing tensions between the growing populations of Latino and African-American immigrants on the island. As of 2010, the Latino population is now at 17.3 percent, a growth of 51 percent since 1990. The African-American population is 10.6 percent.
After an initial survey to find more about the root causes of tension and violence between Latinos and African-Americans in the area, MRNY has held 125 one-on-one meetings with members of both communities to further discuss the hopes and worries each shares about Port Richmond. To begin making intercultural connections that will form the backbone for a stronger community, the meetings were held with support from St. Philip’s Baptist Church, the Port Richmond Anti-Violence Task Force and other allies.
“I’m interested in improving the situation for the youth in Port Richmond. Building a relationship between the Latino, African American, and all communities is the first step to strengthening our neighborhood,” said Jessie Barnes of the Men’s Ministry at St. Philip’s Baptist Church. “We need to bring more and more people into this process, and hear more and more opinions, so we can paint a picture of where Port Richmond is today.”
MRNY’s adult education program has also participated in the campaign, incorporating discussions across races into English conversation classes.
“I always have something to learn from other people, and through the monthly Friendship Dinners and our conversations in my English class, I have the chance to do that,” said Patricia Suarez, MRNY Leader and Adult Education Student. “There is so much I want to know about other people’s culture, and so much we Latinos need to share.”
In the next few months, MRNY and our allies will be organizing a community forum to involve more members of the community in the reconciliation efforts and increase the effectiveness of the campaign in the diverse communities of Staten Island.