Story for the Ages: Stepping Out during COVID!

Mis amores de Story Avenue!

Beloved James Monroe Seniors,

I wanted to take a moment to document all that we were able to create together during this COVID 19 pandemic. It has not been easy to facilitate creative writing workshops during all of this chaos. There was so much up against us as soon as it hit. My seniors could no longer leave their homes. The senior centers were shutting down one at a time. As quickly as we started programming was as fast as we were called to cancel all of our classes field trips. One of the trips I had planned with my seniors was to go to Ellis Island in order to locate the names of our ancestors who arrived to these lands. CANCELED. All programming was cancelled. We were unsure how we would bring classes to them when they were being forced to stay home for their safety. The very real threat that my seniors were part of the group most susceptible to the virus was enough for me to say–OK I will stop coming to James Monroe. I could not imagine exposing the virus to my elders.

Connection has been crucial for the success of my workshops. COVID has definitely taken a toll on the elders. My seniors have lost friends, their independence, and access to community that is so vital not just to them–but all of our survival. In the beginning, some of my elders did not have internet or access to a computer. How do we teach them remotely? Poco a poco our seniors found their way to a virtual classroom and it has made all the difference. It was like a family reunion the first time we saw each other online… we all felt a little less alone.

It took a few weeks but Glisette and her entire team found a way for us to begin to hold classes in late May and what we have been able to create and all that we are still creating together is nothing short of miraculous. Thank you Bronx Council on the Arts, Acacia Network, NYC Department of Aging and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs for your generous grant that made my workshop and residency possible.

To my beautiful elders, thank you for moving with the current. We have had such a great time. Here are some photos from our time together. Usually we would be having a huge graduation party but I am glad that we get to have our tea and coffee together still on Thursday mornings.

With so much love, respect, and admiration!

Tu maestra, Alicia

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