Treasure and Trash in the East Village

I followed up on Evelyn and her daughter whom I met at the food hand out in Thompkins Square Park. She agreed to meet me at her refuge housing. Evelyn arrived in NYC seven months ago after fleeing with her two children from Texus, where she lived with her husband who rescued her from the refugee camps of West Africa only to imprison her in the reality of an abusive relationship. Being the only black woman in a white neighbourhood in Texus was an immense set back, especially when the police came by and believed her husbands' lies leaving her in the hands of her abuser. She stayed in Texus as life was finally comfortable, she lived in a large house, plasma televisions and even a maid. Things deteriorated. She was scared for her life but did not know her rights and did not want to leave her children. Finally, one night she met a female police woman who took an interest in her circumstance and helped her get to NYC. 

Evelyn fled Sierra Leone in 1992 when the war broke out. She has a story that is so familiar to us- african corruption, civil war, rebel groups, rape, displacement -yet seldom do we meet an individual who personalises this reality....millions displaced, thousands raped. What do these figures actually mean? To meet Evelyn is to meet the reality of these numbers.  

I entered her housing refuge and to my surprise discovered a modern, clean, spacious apartment. Apart from the basic furniture, a laminex table and a few single beds in the living room there where large boxes and shipping containers stacked precariously towards the ceiling. They were labelled with thick texta- Africa. Evelyn explained to me that on garbage nights she spends the evenings searching the garbage bags for clothes for her, her children and to send back to children in Africa. "It's amazing what you can find in the trash in this city". 

From the grungy East Village to the wealthy Upper East Side Evelyn searches through the trash and states that New York is like a paradise. From coats to televisions, jewelry to shoes, she is both delighted and repulsed by the opportunity and waste that can be found amidst New York trash. She laughed as she tried on the new coat she found on the Upper East Side: "You see if I went out in this people would think I was rich!". 

In a country that is crumbling amidst an economic crisis, Evelyn is finding opportunity in the least likely places.... 

1 comment:

  1. Hey El, thanks for your comment and for inspiring me to start my own blog. I'm loving your insight into the underbelly of New York. Bring on Obama!