Ooooo Mama Hawa
Posted by sebastianbrown on March 24, 2010
Last night, over 30 Essex House residents gathered to really begin the process of transforming their apartment building into a community…where neighbors truly got one another’s back; where neighbors know each other by name and favorite food and always have an extra minute to chat to find out what’s new in each other’s lives. A community where neighbors watch out after their neighbors’ kids playing in the parking lot as though they were their own. We’re not there yet but if nothing else, last night showed us all that we’re well on our way.
After Loretta and Emily expressed frustration around not being able to find a job despite having apllied for dozens of positions, Bundu, with a college degree in writing, explained that she’s be more than willing to help anyone strengthen their resume. She also said that she’s struggled to find affordable childcare for her two young children. Immediately after, Sharon said she had plenty of free time and would love to watch after Bundu’s kids during the day. Both Jaquette and Jacob offered tutoring help, Jaquette with math and Jacob with French. As a group, they all suggested that together they should coordinate using the community center–which remember, hadn’t been used for 3 years before last week’s meeting–for after school program for kids; even if it’s just a few residents watching after the kids for an hour or so each day.
In addition, nearly every resident expressed frustration at what they see as an extremely unfair and unforgiving towing policy, which has cost many of them hundreds of dollars just in the last month. They hope to spend the next couple weeks organizing themselves and developing a clear message that they can then present to the Property Manager Jeff in a clear and respectful way. While Jeff wasn’t able to make the meeting last night, at the previous meeting he said he was eager for the formation of a tenants group that he could be in open communication with around residents’ concerns.
Perhaps the most powerful moment was when Najma Shire stood up to introduce herself. Probably over 80 years old, at first she appeared nervous to speak in her broken English. When some in the group said she only spoke Somali, she interupted and said “They call me mama Yeye.” After Ronnie asked why, the whole group responded “Because she’s the mother to everyone in the apartment.” Several times within a span of a few minutes the whole room erupted into applause out of pure respect for the amazing amount of wisdom and positive energy that emanates from this woman in everything she does. Embraced by an Ethipioan on her right and a younger African American mother on her left, she is visibly the bedrock of this community. As Sara said afterwards, words weren’t necessary to communicate with mama Yeye. Her spirit does all the talking.