A Day in the Life of Being a Leader

by Eddie Aung

I have been in HarlemLive for nearly two years. But before this summer, I had no idea what the real responsibility meant. Being a group leader can be the hardest job on earth; especially when the success of your whole group depends on your performance. Let me give you a little a short tour of a group leader’s one day life in HarlemLive. Yeah…… It’s just a short tour….

I bet that everyone has thought of what they are doing or where they are going to. Well, that is one of the daily jobs of mine and I want to say that it also should be one of the practices that a group leader should possess. A group leader should most of the time be thinking about something that pertains to the success of his group. 

Ideas are not hard to come up with, the hard part is to turn those ideas into stories and ask your group to actually go out and make those ideas come true. The whole group will have a meeting and everyone will be throwing ideas at each other and it will seem like the meeting was a success. Everyone including the leader learned something new after the meeting and believe that the group members will try hard to turn the ideas into actual stories. Well, you see…., only fairy tales end with a happy ending. 

Most of the problems start from the fact that not all of the people are motivated. So even an experienced group leader “MUST” have Plan B because there is a possibility that something might go wrong such as one of the group members not making an important phone call, missing a scheduled story, or just sitting on a chair and staring at a computer screen Instant Messaging their friends. 

My strategy to overcome those difficulties is to actually do some of the scheduling on my own and be ready with a story on days when there are no stories. I always keep track of what my group members are doing. Stories are important in an organization such as HarlemLive, but not all the members in my groups are writers or reporters. What I do is keep them busy with the work they are interested in. If someone likes to edit video. If someone likes mopping, well, that’s what they will to do. 

Since there are a lot of things going on and there are not enough people to cover all the necessities, I have to assign each person to take care of two different types of jobs such as a writer might take a journalism class or photography workshops. This put a certain amount of pressure on some group members especially when they are new. About 90% of the staff in HarlemLive for this year’s Summer Program are new. There is the trouble there. Some people think that taking care of two things is hard and some think that having two stories on one day is a lot. Well, what can you say? You are the group leader; you have to listen to your group because those are the people that make you the group leader. 

There are times when I feel like a lot of the things that I planned are not going as well as they should be. Managing a group is like a rubber band. If you pull it too hard, it will snap. If you don’t pull hard enough, you will it will not stretch as far as you would like it. You really have to understand people. A good group is the group where all the team members work together and know what they are doing. This will not guarantee that the group will have the most rewards because any group can reach its goals just by depending on a couple of good and hardworking people in the group. 

That is not what I expect from my group. So I try to teach my group to work together. And trust me, that is really hard because you are trying to combine a bunch of minds asking them to reach a certain destination. Everyone wants to choose his own path. 

Most of my hardest moments as being a leader is when my group members do not do things right. It is hard to keep track of what everybody is doing every time. When I don’t know what someone is doing, it is hard for me to plan ahead. Trying to find out what is going on in the group and planning ahead is really challenging for me, especially when things do go as I had expected. Finding right people for the right work is a hard thing for me. However, I’m happy with my position because you have a chance to learn and interact with people. They report to you what is happening and they share their ideas with you which I believe is a great thing. Even though sometimes I feel like there is a big rock on my shoulder, that feeling disappears when I see my group members working.

My Querencia: Randall’s Island

by Samantha Gonzales

My Querencia is at Randall’s Island by the water under an apple tree, by myself. It’s a place where I can think and write my thoughts and poems. I sit near the water by the walls of grass that are all around. I sit under a green apple tree. I look at the waves go by. It makes me think and wonder about things and the future.

Randall’s Island, between N. Manhattan and Astoria, Queens

I remember when I was mad at my friend because we had an argument. I had no one to talk to, so I put my notebook in my bookbag, got on my bike and left my house. Off I went to Randall’s Island to my little spot by the water under the apple tree. I just thought about things to do to make up with my friend. I took out my journal and wrote things I could do to make up with my friend. I wrote down to call her on the phone and talk it out. I really didn’t know what to do. I lay down under the apple tree and fell asleep. When I woke up I decided to just talk to her about it. Then, I rode my bike home.

I wish I could go to my special place everyday but I can’t, so what I do instead is listen to music in my room and write poems. That is my querencia.

My Querencia: In My Room with My Music

by Angel Colon

A few years ago my bedroom was filled with stress and depression. A few years ago my room was almost filled with tears. A few years ago I was sitting down listening to music, hard-core rap music. I know it may sound corny, but that’s where my power is.

Hard core rap music may not be your querencia, but it sure is mine and I’m proud of it, too. Whenever I have problems or I feel down that’s where pride waits for me.

Those few years ago was when my mother was robbed and me, and my brother and my oldest little sister witnessed the horror. We were in the elevator returning home with our bikes after riding around the projects. It was about 8 at night. A man who seemed nice helped us put our bikes in the elevator. I wondered what he was doing because he pushed the buttons to both the third and fourth floor. Once the elevator stopped on the third floor, he asked for jewelry, while he held his hand behind his back. My mom gave him her wedding band and necklace name chain. Then he made sure the door was closed and the elevator went up. I didn’t cry but crying did cross my mind.

Once we saw my father, my mother told him what happen. I went to my room, closed the door and sat down and listened to music and thought about nothing in particular. Music, that is my querencia.

Death Was On Her Face

by Ismael Alverez

They say there are two things in life you cannot hide from, death and taxes. Well, I learned that death is a very real thing at a very early age. I grew up in Astoria, Queens, New York. I lived in the Queens Bridge and Ravenswood projects. To me it seemed like I was the only light skin Hispanic kid in an all black community. Like many kids I knew, I grew up without a father. Mommy was also dad. We were very poor. I lived with my mom and my two older sisters. When I was about six years old, my mother found out she had breast cancer. Through some time and with the proper treatment, the doctors removed the cancer and she was cured.

My mother, Noemi Colon was a fighter. She always did things just to make my sisters and I happy. She worked crazy hours to put food on the table and put my sisters and I through private school. When I was about ten years old, my mom called a big family meeting. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins were there. My mother announced that she got cancer again. I was young, so I really didn’t’t know what was going on at the time. I just knew that mommy had to go away to the hospital again.

My mother fought the disease, in and out of the hospital for many years. At thirteen, I knew what was happening to my mother. By this time, she was very sick. She had been in the hospital for a year straight. Death was on her face, but in my mind mommy would never die. She would always be there for me. I din’t’t go to the hospital to see her for some time. I could not bear to see my mom with tubes up her nose, not being able to talk. My older sister would go everyday. They would tell me that mom was asking for me and I would always say, “ I’ll go tomorrow.”

This one day I remember like it was yesterday. I was going to pick up my friend from school and on my way there I saw my sister Marina heading towards the train station. She told me “Izzy, I’m going to see mommy. She has been asking about you. You should come with me now to see her, plus it’s your turn to watch her.” Something inside me told me I should go, but instead, I told my sister I already had plans and that I promise I’d go the next day. That day I went out with my friends and got home late. As soon as I got home I went straight o bed. Around three or four in the morning my other sister Christina woke me up. 

When I woke up I saw Christina and a friend of the family in the living room where I always slept. Christina had tears in her eyes. He then said, “We have to go to the hospital. Mommy is dead.” I was half asleep, so I was like OK let’s go. I didn’t’t realize what was going on at that moment.

When I got to the hospital, we went straight to room 401. I walked in and I saw my family there around the bed. When they saw me, they all cleared away from the bed so I can see her. When I saw my mom motionless, that’s when it hit me. “Oh my God. My mom was dead.” 

They said I passed out, but I don’t remember that. I just remember going to the bed, kissing her, trying to wake her up, holding her, and touching her. Her body was warm, I remember, I cried and didn’t’t want to leave her.

The funeral was the next day. We had an open casket for two days. I didn’t’t cry at all at that time. The third day after her death, we buried her. I remember standing there at the ceremony not hearing a word the pastor was saying, just focusing on the casket and thinking of how things were going to be different. When they started to lower her body into the hole, that’s when I broke down. It was like my heart was being lowered with her. It was the worse feeling I ever had. My knees were weak,, I was tired and had my adrenaline rushing at the same time. Tears left my eyes like never before. I got a headache from so much crying. I should have gone that night to see mommy. I could have said good-bye, but I was selfish and didn’t.

After that day I grew emotionless to death. Nothing else mattered to me anymore. I saw people I loved die, but it did not affect me. My attitude now is that people come and people go. You just have to do what you have to do in order to make your time on Earth pleasant. 

Coming To America

by Fairusa Ibrahim

When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to come to America. 

My parents and two siblings were already there. At first, I thought I would come sooner. My father was there before I was even born. I was thinking it’s going to be years before I get to America – the land of prosperity and possibilities. A land where every soul is dying to go. Yes, that land is America. 

My mother came to the U.S when I was six years old and returned to Ghana after two years then came back to the U.S. My father returned to Ghana from the U.S. when I was ten years old and took my oldest sister and brother. My other sister and I were left with curiosity. We were told that we would join the rest of the family very shortly. Very shortly to me was a month or so. I waited and waited but nobody came to get me. 

“Where is this land?” I asked myself. Why is it that everybody who came from that land looks fresh and nice? “Why do they smell like rich folks?” I asked. I would also go there one day and come back just like them. I began to develop so many questions in my head. What has happened to them? Are they still alive? Have they forgotten about us? I know my mother would not forget about me. But why hasn’t she come to get me?

I recall the day my mother went to the United States. I was six years old and didn’t know what was going on. I went to the airport and watched her board the airplane. I began to cry. I cried all week knowing I would not see my mother for a long while. At this thought I said to myself, “What is this thing named airplane? Why does it take my family away and not bring them back?” If I could only find a way to drive that airplane away, I would.I always thought America was up in the sky because the airplane goes up and doesn’t come back. I sat for years waiting for my family to come and take me wherever they were. 

Sometimes, when I was younger, I would look up at the sky and talk to it, thinking my parents were up there watching and listening to me. I used to get confused about one thing: If God is up there (as I was told) and my family is up there, then this means that my family is with God and I know that the only people with God are dead people. “My parents are not dead,” I said, “Then why are they with God?” These questions kept bothering me but I spoke nothing about them. 

After 3 years, I lost hope in coming to America. My hopes died and all I wanted was for my family to came and visit me. I missed my family and I wanted to see them so badly. When I was 14 years old, I was told that my mother was coming to visit us. I was so excited that I couldn’t eat for the whole day. I couldn’t wait for that day to come. I felt like turning the clock forward but I had to be patient and eventually the day came. 

My mother was exiting from the airplane but I didn’t know who she was. Can you believe it? I didn’t recognize my own mother!! She had completely changed from the last time I saw her. I kept asking, “Where is my mother? Where is she?”. Nobody paid any attention to me. They all ran to hug a woman who just came out of the arrivals.

I realized that woman was my mother. I also ran and hugged her. All I heard her saying was “Where is Fairusa? Where is my Fairusa?” I was in front of her but my mother didn’t recognize me either. Of course she would not recognize me. She left me when I was six and came back to see me when I was only 8 years old. I am now 14 years old. “I am Fairusa,” I said. She looked at me rigorously and said, “Oh my God, it is really you. You’ve grown up to be a beautiful young lady.” We spent quality times together and before she left , she said to my sister and I that we would be joining them soon. 

“How soon?” I asked because it was obvious that our parents’ meaning of soon was different from my meaning of soon. “In about a year,” she said. At that point I said to myself that I would never get to America. One year to me felt like ten years.