Tag Archives: #refugees

Utica: The City That Needs Refugees (A Part of a “Fuck Trump” Series)

Yesterday, we had an all-staff meeting and the director was straight-forward: Trump, who is currently executive-ordering his cheddary balls off, wants to effectively shut down the refugee program in America. If he gets his way, there will be a 120-day blackout barring any and all refugees and immigrants from coming into the country. There will also be a slash at the number of those who will be allowed to come into the United States (from 110,000 to a jarring 50,000, which, if you put into perspective the fact we’ve already resettled 36,000 is heart-stopping). Refugees from countries such as Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia (basically anywhere with a Muslim majority or a big-enough Muslim populous) will be banned from entering. AND, to top off the Islamophobia-Wet-Dream-Cum-Splooge, WHEN refugees ARE allowed to be resettled there will be given preferential treatment to those of a religious minority (GUESS WHO’S A RELIGIOUS MINORITY NOW? YEP. CHRISTIANS).

If President Shit-Cock gets his infantile way, refugee centers across the nation will succumb to drastic budget cuts and lay-offs. People’s lives who couldn’t get any shittier will be jeopardized EXPONENTIALLY. Those who’ve been desperate to breathe freely might as well get a scuba suit or some shit because guess what? Our President and his Death-Eater staff have no love for your situation. No love.

Which is ridiculous in the sense of if Trump was HALF the savvy business man he tricked millions of people into thinking he is, he’d see the economic gain there is to letting refugees into the country. After spending 5+ years living in plastic tents eating the same bag of rice and shit, alternating from extreme distress and extreme boredom all day, you know who’s eager as a motherfucker to work? REFUGEES.

The city I’m from, when I was growing up, was poor as fuck because during the 80’s all the factories left and a lot of jobs were gone. A lot of people left for bigger cities and the ones who stayed behind were either the poverty-stricken, the stubborn or some immigrants (there was a joke bumper sticker that you’d see everywhere: Last One To Leave, Turn Off The Lights. It’s not that funny honestly but neither is the economic decline of an entire city).

Then, the refugees came. The Bosnians came and all those houses that were once boarded up and dilapidated were converted and rebuilt into Slavic-inspired PENTHOUSES. Vietnamese came and suddenly there’s restaurants everywhere again and THEY’VE GOT EGGROLLS THAT I’D SHOOT MY MOTHER FOR (sorry mom). Then the Cambodian and the Russian and all the other Slavs and Puerto-Ricans and Dominicans and soon this city, that was once only known for our beer, our Halfmoons and our drugs, we’re known for something much more profound: our diversity.

It took a while, but a city that was once made fun of for being the armpit of Central New York, and suddenly we’re famous for our compassion. We’re literally known as “the City Who Loves Refugees” “The Second Chance City”. But honestly, we’re not the city who loves refugees. We’re the city that NEEDS refugees. Without them we would have been on our way to just being another Sin City; another wasteland of good food and a lot of drugs. (We have a huuuuuge drug problem in Utica. I’m not even saying that to be funny. I’m saying that because it’s an issue that needs to be addressed: In the 90’s it was crack, in 2012-2013 there was an international drug prevention seminar held in Utica because of our Bath Salts Dilemma, and now we’re just like everyone else in the nation and have a heroin problem. But you know, you brag about the good you gotta own up to the bad)

It’s fair to say that America is way past due having this unnatural hatred towards refugees and immigrants. But then again, when you have a leader with orange skin, Thumbelina hands and enough neck fat to yank down and make a poncho out of, everything’s just the wrong amount of backwards right now.

S/O To Things That Made Me Cry: This Week Ahmed Danny Ramadan

Shout Out To Things That Made Me Cry is a brand new segment that I want to do where I basically talk about articles, essays and editorial pieces that made me cry.

This week, the thing that made me cry was Ahmed Danny Ramadan’s essay titled “Searching For A Home: One Man’s Story of Survival in the Syrian Civil War” (linked here for any of y’all who likes to hurting your own feelings).

How can you not feel for Ahmed, a dude whose homeland is furrowed beneath the weight of the Arab Spring, who not only has to deal with the theatres of war and military infiltration but has to lead this double life as a gay man in a thoroughly anti-gay environment? See in Syria people don’t judge you for being gay. They don’t make snide comments about your sex life or get uncomfortable around you; they take your job, they take your house, shit they’ll arrest your ass and nobody’s going to come to your defense because being gay is just another societal deviance that only prison can cure.

But he does a much better job of explaining all that in the essay.

I have nothing new to add. For I am probably the exact opposite of this guy: I’m not gay, I’m not a refugee (can’t say though that the looming prospect of Trump Rule doesn’t me wonder if I’ll be able to say that in years to come) and I’m not Arabic. But you don’t have to be for your heart to break for him and wonder if how many lifetimes is Ahmed and his fellow LGBTQ community away from the love and acceptance that is still hard to come by even in progressive countries such as mine.

But like all written works of tragedy and human suffering, this essay has an element of hope at the end. “As a former refugee, I feel responsible to be a successful citizen here [in Canada]; not just for me but also for all other Syrian refugees, and all the LGBT refugees will come after me. I want to show Canadians and westerners that LGBT refugees, with the right support, can and will embrace their new home. I want to show that LGBT refugees can give back to the community that opens its arms for them. To do this, I need to be resilient. I need to be strong.”

 

 

Tales from the Refugee Center~2016

Today was my last day at the Refugee Center for 2016. Here are some of my favorite moments (names have been changed):

–Iraqi dude asks me if I had any eyeliner so he could fill in his beard. Is completely stunned when I tell him he can easily buy some from the dollar store.

–Being confused for months and months why the refugees keep calling you ‘teacher’ (even though I’m clearly NOT their teacher) just to find out they mean they respect you.

–One of the refugees hands me a pamphlet from Planned Parenthood with a picture of a pregnant woman on front. He has drawn a circle on pregnant woman’s stomach and written the word ‘like’ on it in crayon. He hands it to me, laughs hysterically then walks away without any explanation. I still have that pamphlet.

–Russian dude dramatically announces, “Without the jokes, I would DIE.”

–I ask same Russian dude how to say ‘sunshine’ in Russian. Replies, “I don’t know. We don’t have that in Russia.”

–Middle-aged Bosnian dude asks me something & when i reply ‘wasn’t me’, he looks me dead in the eye and asks me, “What are you, Shaggy?” (Please refer to Shaggy’s ‘Wasn’t Me’ song if you don’t get the reference)

–When me and different middle-aged Bosnian dude bonded over our love of Borat. Calls me Azamat now whenever I see him.

–Accidentally offered a Muslim woman some pepperoni slices. She smiles at me and says “It is forbidden” before popping 3 of them into her mouth.

–Refugee: “So, what other languages do you speak?” Me: “….Uh, slang?”

–Me: “Yo i think (Bosnian Dude) thinks I’m dumb. He just came up to me and asked me to point to Italy on a map.” Coworker: “Well, Meag, in his defense when I came out here I saw you playing with a pink balloon.” Me: “IT’S CALLED WHIMSY.”

–Bosnian lady: “Why do you call it macaroni salad? There’s nothing green in it.” Me: *face turns into ‘hit the blunt’ meme*

–Spanish speaking refugee finds out I can speak limited amount of Spanish. Goes to friend, grabs her by the elbow, points to me and says in Spanish, “She can understand us.”

–I’m looking for one Bosnian dude. Goes to his employer and jokingly asks, “Where’s your best friend?” BD: “HE’S NOT MY BEST FRIEND.” (later I’m talking to BD#2) “So, where’s your best friend?” (BD#2 points to BD#1’S office) BD#1: “YOU ARE NOT MY BEST FRIEND”

–Day after Trump was elected, I’m at work crying my eyes out and Russian guy is trying to comfort me: “It’s okay. It’s okay. I survived Stalin. Trump is nothing.”

–When the refugees came out and sang us Christmas Carols and my fucking heart exploded like movie Voldemort

–Bosnian dude and I bonding over hand deformities. BD reveals gun wound: “I got this from the war” Me reveals crooked finger: “I got this from playing keep-away.” BD: “Nice.”

–Me and Bosnian dude getting into argument about how there’s no way I can get AIDS from a vacuum.

–Me: “(Karen guy), I like your shirt.” Karen guy explains to me how he got this shirt going back to Burma to see his dying father whom he only met once and how he journeyed back home for the first time in years just to speak to him on his deathbed and how literally three hours after he sees him, his father dies. Me: “Wow KG that’s amazing.” KG: “Yeah…It’s alright.”

–One of my favorite refugees always gives me a round of applause whenever she hears me using Arabic (all i know is thank you and peace be with you)

–Karen Guy#2 tells me how he lived in a refugee camp and how he had to eat cobras and shit to survive. Karen Guy: “Wanna know how to eat a snake?” Me: “How?” KG: “You go behind them, catch them by and tail and (swings arm) WHAM WHAM WHAM. Against the rock.” Me: “KG, you’re so hardcore.” KG: “(laughs) Yeah…”

–Trying to tell Russian Dude at work a joke: “Hey RD, what do you call cheese that someone has stolen from me?” RD: “Give-it-back-cheese?” Me: “No, nacho cheese.” RD: “….Give-it-back-cheese is better.”

–When some Syrian girls your own age are bored waiting for Immigration Lady so they silently come over and start braiding your hair

–When one of my favorite refugee children comes up to me, randomly hugs me and says, “She’s my friend.” And every previous good feeling you’ve ever had doesn’t compare to that exact moment.

–Bosnian lady: ( to me) “You struggle to say ‘good morning’ and ‘chair’ but I teach you how to say ‘shitty’ and suddenly you’re fluent. What the fuck, girl?”