Article Reviews

Living at Home in My New York Neighborhood Essay

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Quoting an excerpt from “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” by Mary Kay Blakely, “…the neighborhood I was moving into was teeming with Others – accented immigrants, hyphenated Americans, single moms, low income families…” (Blakely). The excerpt is a clear and precise description of the populace of the neighborhood I live in, particularly my building. Although there are many persons of varying backgrounds, Hispanics are more predominate in my neighborhood. Almost every morning and evening, as I walk the hallways, I inhale the strong aroma of boiling red kidney beans. It is also common to hear an utterance in Spanish after taking a few steps outside my apartment. It is same at the ever-busy laundry mart and the highway-robbery grocery store right on my block – on Tiebout Avenue. Previously though, African – Americans prevailed more in my environs. My neighborhood is not a safe place to be at any time of the day even with swarms of police patrolling the area daily. We recently made the news for a shooting on the corner of E 184th Street. There is always a drug bust by the police, a robbery or a car break-in every other day. An apartment of a “prewar” building – so called because it was constructed between 1900 and 1940 – is my home.

My home is therefore a whole lot spacious as compared to other apartments here in New York. It has three roomy bedrooms occupied by my host with his wife, his first daughter with her twin daughters and his young son with me. There are also an enormous hall and a large kitchen. Quoting Judith Ortiz Cofer, “Having come from a house designed for a single family… – my mother’s extended family home – it was curious to know that strangers lived under our roof and above our heads and that the heater pipe went through everyone’s apartments.” (Cofer) It was also unnerving for the first few months of living in my now home apartment. I always became frantic when I heard the occasional squeaking of the roof of my apartment as my neighbors above went about their daily lives. Eventually, I have become accustomed to the mentality of a beehive life and the intermittent squeaking of my apartment’s roof. I call my apartment my home because of the love, the respect, the support, the understanding and the tolerance present here. My host’s dear wife makes all the aforementioned things, which I enjoy immensely, possible. This is because it is her natural responsibility to provide a home for her family in their area of residence. You might think this is a sexist ideology but it is a traditional demand of a mother and wife of a family back in Ghana.

Even bell hooks does not dispute it as she says, “…women have resisted … domination by working to establish the homeplace. It does not matter as that sexism assigned them this role.” (hooks) This traditional demand helped our ancestors to push through slavery and colonialism to achieve for the nation freedom from oppression. I think it also a contributing factor to the everlasting peace that has reigned in Ghana since independence. I, therefore, can safely say that my home is a matrilineal home. My apartment is my home. It is where I escape chaos of the outside world. In my home, I find peace and security. There, I do not have to be tense and vigilant about being a victim of some sort of malice, such as robbery, as I do normally on the streets of my neighborhood, particularly after dusk. There is law and order in my home unlike the streets of my neighborhood. My host’s wife enforces it and my host backs it. I appreciate the presence of law and order because it makes me feel secure. At home, I can speak what is on my mind and be heard and understood. I have the privilege to speak without any interruption. I easily relate with my host and his family. Here, my “new” family loves and appreciates me. These things are hard to find outside my apartment being a minority, an accented immigrant of a low-income family.