I’m excited to announce the upcoming launch of WordToRI.com, a new digital platform for the Roosevelt Island community to weigh in on critical topics of racial justice, immigration, disability, as well as gender and radical inclusion.
The Get Out! film screening and panel discussion on April 15 raised several important questions and perspectives. Unfortunately, the audience interest in participating exceeded the available time we had for discussion.
This new forum is one way to communally define the Island’s history and it will operate as a sounding board as we imagine together what a more inclusive future looks like.
This project was born out of the conviction that we, the current residents of Roosevelt Island, must acknowledge the ground we occupy and the histories of the people who came before us. Only by doing this can we begin imagining our future.
We live on Minnahanock, the name given to this narrow strip of land in the East River by the Canarsie Indians who preceded the Dutch colonists. Our Island’s story of colonization begins with Europeans exchanging a fistful of beads for the right to rename it Hog’s Island.
The story of our Island continued as a story of colonization. Next, institutionalization and isolation through prisons and quarantine centers. Then a transition into the liberal ideals that informed the late 20th-century makeover of Roosevelt Island into what was intended as an economically, racially, and ethnically diverse town that integrated people with disabilities.
The Island has entered a critical juncture. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Eric Schmidt, and Technion President Peretz Lavie are championing a vision of the Island as a Silicon Valley rival. This vision is predicated on an erosion of affordable housing that began two decades ago with the addition of market-rate development and the expiration of Mitchell Llama. Now gentrification has been hyper accelerated by the Cornell Technion research center.
Technology is a value neutral tool. We shouldn’t be afraid of modernity but we need to reckon with the moral implications of erecting a beacon of computer science on the displacement of public hospital residents. We cannot disentangle the loss of more than a third of the Island’s physically disabled persons and black American families from our history of colonization.
We have a civic responsibility to be part of the conversation. We must be part of the visioning, part of the determining of what comes next.
Let’s start by stepping up and telling our stories. Use our voices, our words, and our bodies to proclaim our own experiences and stories, and to communicate a vision for an inclusive Roosevelt Island that can be a neighborhood for all of us into the future.
One way to be a part of the project, is come to the Main Street WIRE table on Roosevelt Island Day, June 16 and share your story. We will have a recording studio set up, and will be recording your responses to a series of questions designed to help Roosevelt Islanders start telling their stories. These personal reflections from residents in the form of audio/video recordings, interviews, essays, and artwork can speak to their own experiences of hope and injustice on the Island. Selected submissions will be edited and posted on a public website that will be shared with the community. Or feel free to send your own submission to GetOutRI@gmail.com.
No preparation and no appointment needed. Just bring yourself and your ideas to the booth and we’ll help!
Come and be a part of the conversation.