Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Reflection: A Sense of Community

In the light of the whole, Marcella Sills fiasco.  I wanted to post something that the Rockaway community need to remember:  The loving feeling of family and leadership.

For the last seven years, Marcella Sills and those individuals who ignored the pleas of "un-just" have help to rip apart the already crumbling Rockaway family by going after the innocent children. 

The lack of care and concern is unacceptable.  But, I am not surprised by it.  The African-American community of Rockaway have and is still being ignored.  Todays, political leaders and community advocates are trying to change that but, the issue at P.S 106 should have not have happened.  I know everyone can not be at every place at once but someone should have listened to the pleas of the people before the New York Post became the whistle blower. But, do applaud the New York Post--even though I do not like their sensationalism journalistic approach--for bringing attention to this issue.

But, like I said, I wanted to post something to remind the people of Rockaway that there is someone who cares about them and want to keep the Rockaway family together, Cynthia Woods.

As a person of color, the long anticipated event in Rockaway is the Function at the Junction. Former Rockawaites travel from different parts of the country to join Rockaway residents in this annual reunion. They all come to Bayswater Park with a cooler full of barbecue and memories. Five years ago I sat down with Cynthia Woods, founder of the Function at the Junction and talked to her about who she admired growing up and the Function's history.

Photo by Sandra Proto

Sandra Proto: When you were growing up in Rockaway, who did you admire in the community?

Cynthia Woods: My softball coach, Mr. Kenneth Perkins. And the reason why I admired him was because he was like a father figure for all the girls. He had his own family but he was really like our father. He made you feel like you belonged to his family and he was there for you. You could talk to him about anything-he was just a family man. My parents had split when we were young and he was a person we looked up to. He bought my first pair of gold earrings when I graduated from high school-I still have those earrings. He's a person who has never been recognized in the community but had a real strong impact on the young people in the community.

Sandra Proto: I'm going to jump to my next question. What prompted you to start the Function at the Junction?

Cynthia Woods: A friend of mine, Gladys Renée Edmonds Hunter...was sick and she was dying of cancer. We would always talk about different people in the community and bringing people together-not seeing people just at funerals. Just bringing people back together. Just have fun-just be with people-just bring back that "community" that we lost. She gave me the idea-Why don't we have a reunion? And it's so ironic because the day of the reunion was the day they had her cremation. So, I can feel her spirit every year since we had the reunion. I can feel her spirit because she was a very jovial person, and very happy, and loved life.

Sandra Proto: So, the Function at the Junction is very nostalgic?

Cynthia Woods: Very much so. People haven't seen each other in twenty, thirty years, and when they see each other it's always an embracement, crying, and happiness. It's just like a day that can never be relived and ever year you see people come back to the community. Every year it’s a different set of people—it’s not always the same people. I look forward to that. And every year we have lost people since the reunion began. This is why I keep it going. People don’t know how important it is to the Rockaway community—especially for African-Americans who have lived in the community—who grew up in the community. I mean, there is not much really left for them in the community. This is something that is really important.

Cynthia Woods keeps it going because she is very compassionate about the state of Rockaway and its people. She told me she was finally comfortable being called a Community Advocate and Activist. Just like Goldie Maple, Sarah Colson, Reverend May, and Reverend Mason (to name a few) were considered pillars of the community, so should Cynthia Woods. Mrs. Woods considered Kenneth Perkins a father to her and he has been an obvious positive influence on her as well. As I look at the accomplishment that Mrs. Woods has with the success of the Function at the Junction, I can say she is the “Mother of Rockaway”— forever nurturing the community. 

But she also need help to keep this event going.  She is in need of committed individuals to be a part of the team of the Function of the Junction.  If interested please, comment on this post with your email address and I will give it to her or if you have her information please contact her directly.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Reflection: I'm Coming Out

As 2013 dissolved, making room for 2014, I thought about what had happened in the last twelve months.  There were some sadness in my family from the loss of a loved one, happy moments like my younger daughter's Moving Up Ceremony from Kindergarten and a dance recital that my older daughter pliéd and relevéd to Tinkerbell’s theme song while my younger one tapped to Mary Poppins‘ Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  There were fun family outings over the summer to see Annie, the Musical, two trips to an amusement park, and a day at a beautiful botanical garden. Also, there were some revelations about my health—that warrant me to eat healthier and to lose twenty pounds. And of course, the last three months filled with birthdays, anniversaries, and holiday celebrations.

But also with the reminiscence of the past year, I thought of the longevity of my writing life.  I’ve been putting pen to paper and fingertips to the keyboard for the past thirty-four years and had little taps of success that had rattled my door such as my poem, Blackberry Beauty, which I wrote at the age 12, was featured in a staged production, an art exhibit, as well as published in a local newspaper before I published it in Wrapped up in Life Omniscient Eyes in 2011;  I had performed my poetry with two bands: 
 T-7 and Hudson’s Hope live and been recorded on a couple of tracks on their CD’s;  I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing one of the first African-Americans who lived on the Rockaway, New York peninsula; and most recently, I had a pretty decent year with readings and publishing credits.
I am truly grateful for these opportunities, but I think that my writing life should have more of a success story.  I blame myself for lacking the confidence to market and push myself further.  Some people say that the fear of ‘success’ more than the fear of ‘failure’ zaps one’s confidence and motivation.  I think the fear of Success and Failure tag-teamed me and pushed me into a corner—making me feel oppressed.  That is why one of my goals for 2014 is to improve on self-promotion. And to motivate me, I have made Diana Ross' song I'm Coming Out my theme song for this goal. I am ready to push Failure to the side and make my way to unlock the door of Success.  I am ready to bang my drum and blow my horn and let my tresses fly in the wind (as I imagine Diana's hair is doing while she is singing). I have the feeling of empowerment—I can do anything and I will do everything. 

Listen, everyone must find something that pushes them further towards their goals.  Whether it’s reading; exercise; eating; yoga, meditation or listening to music.  As long as it will help you to reach the next level in your goal I say do it and don't look back.  That is what I’m going to do while I'm Coming Out plays in my head or is vibrating between my lips. 

About Me

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Sandra Proto debut poem at the age of twelve was entitled, The Late Great April, giving homage to the first time it snowed in April. She wrote Late Great April as an English class assignment and her teacher was so impressed by the poem that he tried to get it published. After this experience, Sandra became a "Bedroom Poet" who composed Blackberry Beauty,Light, Compositions, and many others. Blackberry Beauty (her signature poem) was featured in SaSi's Production of Identity @ Space at 24 in 2000. Sandra has performed with the funky, folky, reggae rock band Hudson’s Hope. Her poetry is featured on VAMPIRE LESBIANS and ALL I CAN SEE IS HER EYES tracks of their demo CD. Sandra is also, a fiction writer, playwright, and an essayist.

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