POETRY PAGE FIVE
COLUMN FIFTY-EIGHT, APRIL 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
Battle of the Lower East Side: Observations and Pleadings
is no civilization. There is no humanity.
total war for living space in NYC.
words were spray-painted
the sidewalks of Wall Street in 1991
an artist identified as Susie.
started coming to the Lower East Side in New York City in 1991,
then-Mayor David Dinkins’ assaults
the homeless camps of Tompkins Square Park.
is the testimony of Israel Gordon Rivera:
those people were thrown out of Tompkins Square Park,
homeless park of the world, they were thrown on the backs
the community and more crime erupted.
we’ve got AIDS and the drug epidemic.”
is the testimony of Terry Taylor:
Terry T. I’m the Minister of Madness.
see the Lord sent me. I’m a Black spiritualist.
of Madness. They gave me that name when
went to the March on Washington in ’89.
an activist for human rights.
march against unjust things, as in
goes to jail for it.
city government is trying to push us aside,
to say that we don’t exist.
know there’s 90,000 homeless people in this city alone.
David Dinkins was mayor, he was borough president of Manhattan.
was still in ’89.
had 400 people in front of him before the March on Washington.
told us to go give them hell.
was a letter that was no good.
was the first person to send the police on us.”
Taylor died of AIDS in 1992.
finally moved to the city in 1995 during
pitch of the battle to save social services
the hungry jaws of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki
the Newt Gingrich reign of the Contract On America.
participated in the April 25 “This City Is Ours” bridge shut-downs,
action bringing together welfare and homeless clients,
students, health care advocates, and victims of police brutality,
action called by bell hooks, native of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
a cop told me in the Tombs under Manhattan District Court,
shoulda bombed Tompkins Square like Beirut
should be cop in Haiti where ya don’t hafta concern yourself
constitutional rights --
the fuck out of ‘em if they start pullin’ that shit.”
I left again.
I returned in 1998, the “no future”
late ‘70s punks prophesied had come to pass.
swagger, the quick boasting of street talk,
the musical ebullience of spoken language,
the dazzling downtown grafitti and murals,
the punk fliers slapped on lamp posts advertising
loud, fast music, theater, and anarchist picnics,
the gaudy drag queens parading down West 20th St.,
and most significantly, the homeless people --
but salient street observers)
were gone, replaced by new city denizens
from over-time, nose-to-the-floor labor,
spark of resistance burned from their eyes.
will tell the people,
speak truth to power,
rise to the occasion in the hour of steel and chaos?
services were gutted,
most eloquent and vibrant of the underclass were cut down by police
names are Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, and Anthony Rosario.
spaces were pillaged by the private interests
developers and waves of gentrification swept poor people
of the center city, consigning them to remote ghettoes,
New York City a vicious, visionary example
the rest of America, for the rest of the Americas.
is the triumph of capitalism and the annihilation of the left,
legacy of Rudolph Giuliani in the mean streets
the post-future American city.
then, is not a eulogy for a dead city.
is a wail of anger to animate the bones of the metropolis,
raise the spirits because even as the city is laid to
by the commercial privateers and robber barons,
and camaraderie in struggle persevere through
most remarkable bands of resilient resourcefulness and ingenuity.
getting our asses kicked
half the time we don’t even realize
fight’s being picked with us.
New York City -- 10,177 children sleep in homeless shelters on any
stand outside of the shelters prohibiting residents from
their circumstances to reporters from the New York Times.
is the news from the last decade. This is year one in society.
expected, but I have no fears.
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