In the aftermath of Sandy, Irondale Ensemble Project turned their Gala into a benefit for their neighborhood, aptly titled Brooklyn loves Brooklyn. A former Irondale student, whose life was turned upside down by Sandy, told PxP what it felt like to witness a local theatre transform into a center for recovery efforts.
On October 29th at 9:23 a.m, my father sent me a picture of the alleyway behind the house I grew up in, in Roxbury, New York. The water surge had begun and had already submerged our neighbor’s gardens and potted plants. I looked at it, shrugged my shoulders and went back to my breakfast with my Aunt. We’d seen flooding before. At every high tide, my Aunt is pumping water from her basement. It’s the small sacrifice you make when you live on the water. We've survived through hurricanes before Sandy. Irene was a bust, and Sandy would be too. My aunt didn't even unpack, because she figured she would be able to go home the next day.
My aunt and father are still camped out in my living room. My childhood friend who lives upstairs from me has her mother, two aunts, uncle, and grandmother seeking refuge from the storm. Let’s not forget about their family friend sleeping on an air mattress in the closet.
I've always been taught that charity begins at home. But what happens when you have nothing to give? What happens when your home doesn't feel like your home anymore? People have said “It’s just stuff.” Yeah it is. But it still SUCKS. It’s just one mess after the other. Sometimes it feels like there’s no hope in sight. There’s been looting, landlords hiking up rents for temporary housing, people claiming to be volunteers and then stealing from you. And the constant question everyone keeps asking “Where the hell is the Red Cross?” But then you see grassroots organizations coming together, coming to help you, and they want nothing in return. And that’s where the majority of our strength comes from. There’s one group in particular that hits very close to home: The Irondale Ensemble Project.
I first came in contact with Irondale when I was a sophomore at the New York City Museum School. The following year I interned for Irondale and learned how a small ensemble group stayed afloat with grants and fundraising. After high school my relationship with Irondale began to expand and flourish. From Irondale, I learned the fundamentals of creating solid ensemble work. After college I wrote and performed my one-woman show, Go Ahead…Laugh, at various clubs and theaters throughout the city. After three years of performing it, I decided to put it on the back burner and perform it one last time. The only place that seemed right was Irondale and their beautiful space in Fort Greene. My father even showcased some of his Roxbury Beach-inspired paintings on their second floor. Irondale has always been around for love and support.
When I received the invite to [Irondale’s] Brooklyn LOVES Brooklyn on Facebook, I jokingly wrote, “Do refugees get in for free?” and immediately got a message from Damen [Irondale ensemble member] basically saying, “We’re here to help.” And help they did. All of the proceeds they made from selling their album, Color Between the Lines, that evening would go to my family. When my father and I walked into Brooklyn LOVES Brooklyn, we were completely dumbstruck by the amount of people who had shown up to raise money for the Red Hook Initiative and the Coney Island Community Outreach Center; over 500 people and 30 arts organizations. As of now they have raised $7,456 for these groups and are still collecting donations. After days of feeling helpless and broken, this fundraiser gave us hope.
This is my life now. Our lives. But we deal and we rebuild. We’re down, but we’re not out. We are too salty for that.
– Mary Ann H.
The recovery efforts continue. If you are interested in volunteering to help victims of Sandy, please check out: Occupy Sandy
Here are some links to help the Breezy and Rockaway areas: www.rockawayhelp.com (local website for donation centers and ways to volunteer) www.wepay.com/donations/523899310 (for Rockaway WISH) www.graybeards.com www.breezypointdisasterrelief.org
A link to help in Red Hook: www.rhicenter.org (this is for the Red Hook Initiative they work primarily in Brooklyn)
NYC Service is the nyc gov website to link up people to volunteer opportunities - http://www.nycservice.org/pages/pages/8
A national site with more links to places to volunteer - http://www.serve.gov/sandy/ New York Cares - http://www.nycares.org/ World Cares Center - http://www.worldcares.org/ Habitat for Humanity - http://www.habitat.org/getinv/volunteer_programs.aspx
More local efforts: A grassroots non-profit: Rockaway Emergency Support Team (REST) - http://restny.org/ Ready Rockaway - http://www.readyrockaway.org/ Respond and Rebuild - http://www.respondandrebuild.org/ Queens Congregations United for Action - http://www.qcua.org/