To empower their communities through difficult times, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Queens, New York, are running a new “Poder Popular” (People Power) program bringing fitness, food, and much more to working-class New Yorkers. The program runs every other week— all are invited to attend upcoming events on Oct. 11 and 25 at the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows, Corona Park.
The past six months have brought immense difficulty to Queens, especially working-class communities of color such as Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst, which quickly became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic when it began in New York City. From the loss of loved ones to livelihoods, lack of financial and food insecurity, and looming threats of eviction, everyday people in Queens have been hard hit.
The launch of Poder Popular took place on Sept. 13, and has continued every other week since. PSL members safely provide free direct services to the people of Queens, including: dance and self- defense classes, healthy food, bags of school supplies, personal protective equipment, and also connect participants to political struggles such as the recent fight against unsafe school reopenings.
Much of the food at Poder Popular has been provided by the Black Chef Movement, a community organization dedicated to supporting movements for justice in Black and Brown communities through the provision of food services. They graciously provided the event with delicious, healthy, vegan friendly food and beverages, widely accepted by park goers and attendees of the events. Black Chef Movement volunteers helped the program properly hand out the free food and beverages.
Dance classes taught by Gabriela Silva, of the Queens PSL, brought dynamic energy to the event. Families and people of all ages and skill levels gathered around to learn dances to songs like “Pa’ La Cultura” by David Guetta. These dance numbers definitely have brought out the best of the attendees, who, with the patience and teaching style of Silva, are able to learn dance numbers quickly and stay active.
The same rings true for the self-defense classes facilitated by Cathy Rojas, also a member of the Queens PSL, alongside her training partners. This exhilarating class provides an extensive workout and also equips working people with important self defense. essentials. Rojas, a public school teacher, uses a fun and engaging teaching style, and her session was well equipped with proper boxing gear.
Participants appreciated the need for physical activity during extended lockdowns without regular access to exercise facilities or recreational centers. Free fitness classes have been crucial in this initiative to keeping our communities physically active.
Through budgeting, preparation, and planning, Queens PSL members have fundraised to prepare bags of school supplies for families. These bags contain pencil cases filled with writing utensils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, markers, and hand sanitizers. Notebooks and loose leaf paper is also provided.
Given the danger and uncertainty around school reopenings in NYC, PSL members also provided families with a list of demands for safer school reopening as well as ways that they can get involved in this struggle. Many families were open and willing to hear the demands and engage in conversations on what their primary concerns are regarding the unsafe reopening of schools. Organizers guided parents and guardians through the Department of Education’s survey for opting into remote learning, and provided information on the importance of remote learning to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Program will continue through organizing and community support
Poder Popular continued on Sept. 27 and is planned to be an ongoing initiative, with the next events planned for Oct. 11 and 25. The program plans to evolve as times, seasons, and movements change. Organizers intend to keep building relationships and serving their communities through future events such as a coat drive for the winter, and more political education for the working people of Queens.
The Poder Popular initiative was set up to support our communities through these struggles, but itself is only possible through the disciplined organizing and generous donations of community members, loved ones, and fellow comrades.
Organizers give a special thanks to the Black Chef Movement for their continued support in providing free food and volunteering services for Poder Popular and the community.