Photo by Michelle Garcia
Baker Ripley Community Center bustles this Thursday morning since many activities are being organized around campus for a national reporter site-visit.
I drop off VBB’s Associate Director Ana Laurel, who’s helping me, to the front of the building so she can set up the sound system, and I loop around the street to find a relatively close parking spot. The weather hasn’t changed much this week; temperatures dip lower than usual for this time of year and thin drizzle slants across the street.
Despite the cold temperatures, Westbury High School students Kali, Purnima and Suk arrive, clad in desi dress-up attire while Hemangi and the boys – Sagar and Barun – are in western clothes. As the morning unfolds, some of the women from the workshop walk through the drizzle, ready to hear students read not just their own narratives, but also the stories of women workshop participants.
In one corner of the lobby, tax consultants help residents with their paperwork, on a nearby computer employee Khalid enters data, while on the far side of the long room is another gathering of women.
Ignoring the noise, I step forward, turn on the microphone and introduce the project. One by one, the students step up to read their stories. Once finished, they narrate the women’s stories. At the end, they stand together to bow and are met with resounding applause.
The morning ends with a rich meal from an Afghan restaurant, giving performers and guests ample opportunity to dine together and exchange more ideas. There will be another gathering at Los Arcos apartments where most of the students live, and the afternoon ends with me giving the women workshop participants a ride to their apartments behind the mosque, and with one of them promising to host a tea for all of us at her apartment.