MetroFocus

FULL EPISODE

METROFOCUS: January 12, 2021

The Executive Director of CityMeals On Wheels, Beth Shapiro and and their Senior Director of their volunteer programs and corporate engagement Vivienne O’Neill join us to discuss their harrowing work in this time of crisis. Also, the Executive Director of Muslim Community Network Aniqa Nawabi joins us for the 2nd installment of our special 3-part series with PBS’ American Portrait.

AIRED: January 12, 2021 | 0:28:35
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> THIS IS "METROFOCUS" WITH

RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND

JENNA FLANAGAN.

"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY

SUE AND ED WACHENHEIM III,

BERNARD AND DENESE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG AND BY

JANET PRINDLE SIDELER, CHERYL

AND PHILIP MILLSTEIN FAMILY,

JUDY AND JOSH WESTIN, DR. ROBERT

C. AND TINA STONE FOUNDATION.

>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO

"METROFOCUS."

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

YOU KNOW, DESPITE THE ARRIVAL OF

THE CORONAVIRUS VACCINE, MANY

NEW YORKERS ARE STILL FACING A

VERY UNCERTAIN AND ANXIOUS

WINTER.

THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE FOR THE

CITY'S HOME-BOUND SENIORS WHO

REMAIN THE MOST VULNERABLE TO

THE VIRUS.

NOT ONLY THAT, BUT MANY OF THE

PROTOCOLS PUT IN PLACE TO

PROTECT THOSE FROM THE VIRUS PUT

SOME OF THE SENIORS AT AN

INCREASED RISK OF GOING HUNGRY.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THE

CHALLENGES OF SERVING OLDER AND

POORER NEW YORKERS AT A TIME OF

CRISES ARE BETH SHAPIRO, THE

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CITY MEALS

ON WHEELS, AND VIVIENNE O'NEILL,

CITY MEALS SENIOR DIRECTOR OF

VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS AND CORPORATE

ENGAGEMENT.

THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US

TODAY FOR A VERY IMPORTANT

TOPIC.

>> THANK YOU.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING

US.

>> BETH, LET ME START WITH YOU.

YOU KNOW, I THINK IT IS SAFE TO

SAY MOST NEW YORKERS HAVE HEARD

ABOUT CITY MEALS ON WHEELS, AND

MOST OF US KNOW THAT IT HAS

SOMETHING TO DO WITH DELIVERING

MEALS.

BUT BEYOND THAT, I THINK MANY OF

US, AT LEAST, DON'T KNOW REALLY

HOW YOU FUNCTION, WHERE YOU

STARTED, ALL OF THAT STUFF.

I WONDER IF YOU COULD BRIEFLY

GIVE US A HISTORY OF THE

ORGANIZATION, WHAT YOUR MISSION

IS AND HOW YOU ACCOMPLISH THAT

MISSION ON A DAILY BASIS?

>> SURE.

I WOULD LOVE TO.

AGAIN, THANK YOU.

SO CITY MEALS ON WHEELS WAS

FOUNDED NEARLY 40 YEARS AGO TO

MAKE SURE HOME-BOUND ELDERLY NEW

YORKERS HAD FOOD EVERY DAY OF

THE YEAR.

OUR FOUNDERS HAD READ AN ARTICLE

IN THE NEWSPAPER IN NOVEMBER OF

1981 WHERE OLDER NEW YORKERS

WERE GOING FOUR DAYS WITHOUT

FOOD BECAUSE THE ARTICLE WAS

WRITTEN RIGHT IN ADVANCE OF

THANKSGIVING, RIGHT WHEN THE

CITY WAS CLOSED DOWN.

SO THE CITY FUNDS MEALS MONDAY

THROUGH FRIDAY AS LONG AS

THERE'S NO HOLIDAY, AND OUR

FOUNDERS BELIEVED THAT PEOPLE

NEED FOOD EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR,

JUST LIKE YOU AND I DO.

SO THEY RALLIED FRIENDS IN THE

RESTAURANT COMMUNITY WHERE THEY

WORKED AND RAISED MONEY, CALLED

THE CITY AND SAID, "WE'LL DO THE

NEXT HOLIDAY," THINKING IT WAS A

ONE-TIME THING, AND THAT WAS

CHRISTMAS.

THEY DELIVERED 6,000 CHRISTMAS

MEALS WITH $35,000 THAT THEY HAD

RAISED.

SINCE THAT TIME, CITY MEALS HAS

NOW DELIVERED OVER 63 MILLION

MEALS TO OLDER NEW YORKERS TOO

FRAIL TO SHOP OR COOK FOR

THEMSELVES.

THEY'VE HAD ACTIVE, PRODUCTIVE

LIVES AND ARE NOW JUST OUTLIVED

THEIR ABILITY TO CARE FOR

THEMSELVES, WHETHER IT IS

PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL

DISABILITIES.

YOU KNOW, THEY'RE TOO FRAIL TO

WALK TO A MARKET AND CARRY FOOD

HOME WITH THEM AND WE MAKE SURE

THEY'RE GETTING A MEAL EVERY DAY

OF THE YEAR, WEEKENDS, HOLIDAYS,

AND PARTICULARLY TIMES OF

EMERGENCY.

>> ALL RIGHT.

SO, VIVIENNE, THAT'S WHAT YOU

HAVE BEEN DOING FOR FOUR DECADES

NOW.

HERE COMES COVID, THE COVID

PANDEMIC.

HOW HAS THAT IMPACTED OUR

TRANSFORMED THE WAY YOU DO

BUSINESS OR THE KIND OF BUSINESS

YOU DO?

>> WELL, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT

HAS OCCURRED WITH THIS PANDEMIC,

WE HAD NEARLY 8,000 VOLUNTEERS

WHO HAVE GIVEN US OVER 29,000

HOURS OF SERVICE TO MAKE SURE

THAT OUR SENIORS, OUR FRAIL

SENIORS ARE NOURISHED ON A DAILY

BASIS AND ALSO CHECKING IN ON

THEM.

THE PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED THE

WHOLE LANDSCAPE OF WHAT WE DO AT

CITY MEALS ON WHEELS, AND WE HAD

TO PIVOT ON THE DROP OF A DIME

TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR SENIORS

ARE TAKEN CARE OF.

AND WE DID THIS BY FOLLOWING ALL

OF THE PROTOCOLS THAT WERE GIVEN

TO US, MAKING SURE THAT

VOLUNTEERS HAVE MASKS AND

GLOVES, TEMPERATURES ARE BEING

CHECKED, AND WHEN THEY GO TO

MAKE THOSE DELIVERIES, WHICH ARE

CRITICAL DURING THESE TIMES, TO

HAVE THAT FACE-TO-FACE DELIVERY,

THAT THEY KNOW THEY HAVE TO

STAND BACK AT LEAST SIX FEET AND

TO MAKE SURE THAT THE SENIOR IS

HOME TO RECEIVE THE MEAL AND

CHECKING IN ON THEM AND LETTING

US KNOW IF THERE IS ANYTHING,

ANY CHANGES IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT

SO THAT WE CAN REACT TO IT

IMMEDIATELY.

>> SO, BETH, I READ RECENTLY

THAT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HAS

CHANGED SINCE COVID HIT US IS

THAT MANY MORE SENIORS ARE GOING

TO YOUR ORGANIZATION FOR FOOD.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT COVID THAT IS

RESULTING IN MORE SENIORS

NEEDING YOUR SERVICE?

>> YEAH, I MEAN I THINK WE'RE

ALL FEELING THE EFFECTS OF

ISOLATION IN A WAY THAT WE NEVER

HAVE, AND WE'RE DEALING WITH

OLDER NEW YORKERS WHO ARE

VULNERABLE.

PRIOR TO COVID, YOU KNOW, THEY

WERE HOME BOUND, AND NOW WE ARE

SEEING OLDER NEW YORKERS WHO

SHOULDN'T BE GOING OUT TO THE

GROCERY EVEN WITH A MASK OR

GLOVES ON.

THEY RUN THE RISK OF GETTING

EXTREMELY ILL FROM THE VIRUS

SHOULD THEY GET IT, SO WE HAVE

SEEN OUR ROLLS INCREASE.

I AM VERY PROUD TO SAY WE HAVE

NOT MISSED A SINGLE DELIVERY.

IN FACT, OUR NUMBERS HAVE GROWN

SUBSTANTIALLY.

WE'VE DELIVERED OVER 2 MILLION

MEALS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF

MARCH.

800,000 OF THOSE ARE EMERGENCY

MEALS.

SO WE ARE FEEDING, OF COURSE,

THOSE WE WERE ALREADY FEEDING.

WE'VE ADDED OVER 2,000 NEW

RECIPIENTS TO OUR REGULAR

DELIVERIES, AND WE FED OVER

40,000 OTHER OLDER NEW YORKERS

WHO, AS YOU SAY, ARE INCREASING

NUMBERS OF PEOPLE NEEDING FOOD.

>> SO, VIVIENNE, YOU ARE

RESPONSIBLE FOR VOLUNTEERS AND,

AS I UNDERSTAND IT, CITY MEALS

DEPENDS GREATLY ON VOLUNTEERS.

FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS THE RATIO

BETWEEN VOLUNTEERS AND PAID

STAFF ON CITY MEALS?

SECONDLY, HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC

AFFECTED THE RECRUITMENT OF

VOLUNTEERS?

>> WELL, WE HAVE HUNDREDS OF

STAFF OUT THERE WHO ARE

DELIVERING MEALS, AND WITH THAT

WE -- WITH THE THOUSANDS OF

VOLUNTEERS THAT WE HAVE

RECRUITED THROUGHOUT -- WE HAVE

NOT MISSED A DELIVERY.

THE IMPACT ON RECRUITMENT DUE TO

THE COVID, IN THE BEGINNING

PEOPLE WERE NOT COMING OUT.

HOWEVER, OUR APPLICATION,

VOLUNTEER APPLICATION HAS

DOUBLED SINCE THEN.

SO WE'VE -- NOT ONLY DO WE FOCUS

ON MAKING SURE THAT THESE VITAL

MEALS WERE GETTING OUT, BUT ALSO

DOING THOSE CHECK-INS.

WE HAVE VOLUNTEERS NOW WHO

MOBILIZE USING ZOOM AND USING

PHONE CALLS TO CALL IN AND CHECK

IN ON THE SENIORS.

WE ARE WORKING WITH VOLUNTEERS

WHO LEFT NEW YORK TO GO TO

MONTANA OR PENNSYLVANIA AND

THEY'RE STILL IN TOUCH WITH

THEIR SENIORS, TALKING TO THEM

ON THE PHONE.

>> WOW.

SO, BETH, YOU KNOW, AS YOU GUYS

MENTIONED, YOU HAVE TO INCREASE,

YOU HAVE HAD TO INCREASE AS A

RESULT OF COVID THE SECURITY,

THE PPEs, YOU'VE HAD TO MAKE

SURE PEOPLE HAD THE RIGHT

PROTECTIVE GEAR.

ON TOP OF THAT, YOU ARE SERVING

MORE PEOPLE.

HOW ARE YOU PAYING FOR THIS?

>> WE'RE SPENDING AN IMMENSE

AMOUNT OF MONEY FROM MARCH UNTIL

JULY ALONE WE PENT $4 MILLION

MORE THAN WE HAD BUDGETED FOR

THE YEAR BEFORE.

WE ARE SO GRATEFUL TO EVERYDAY

NEW YORKERS, INDIVIDUALS,

FOUNDATIONS, BUSINESSES WHO

RECOGNIZE THE NEED FOR FOOD AND

THE INCREASED AMOUNT OF FOOD

INSECURITY OF OLDER PEOPLE BEING

HUNGRY, AND WE HAVE BEEN

BLESSED, QUITE FRANKLY, TO BE

ABLE TO COME CLOSE TO COVERING

OUR ADDITIONAL EXPENSES WITH

THIS.

WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL, BOTH, OF

COURSE, FOR OUR VOLUNTEERS BUT

FOR THE DONORS WHO ARE

SUPPORTING US AND RECOGNIZING

THE NEED AS NEVER BEFORE.

>> WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST -- FOR

YOUR WHOLE OPERATION, WHAT IS

YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF FUNDING?

IS IT THE GOVERNMENT?

IS IT FOUNDATIONS OR IS IT

INDIVIDUAL DONORS?

>> WE HAVE ABOUT A $21 MILLION

BUDGET NORMALLY.

WE ARE PROBABLY TOUCHING CLOSE

TO $30 MILLION THIS YEAR.

WE GET ABOUT 12% OF OUR FUNDING

FROM THE GOVERNMENT, FROM THE

CITY OF NEW YORK.

THE REST IS INDIVIDUAL DONORS,

AND THAT'S WHERE, YOU KNOW, YOU

LOOK AT 30,000, 40,000, 50,000

INDIVIDUALS COMING OUT TO

SUPPORT CITY MEALS, PARTLY

KNOWING BECAUSE 100% OF EVERY

DONATION FROM THE GENERAL PUBLIC

WILL GO TO MEAL PREPARATION AND

DELIVERY.

I THINK THAT IS A POINT OF

DIFFERENCE FOR US AND REALLY

CRITICAL FOR PEOPLE WHEN THEY

WANT TO DONATE.

THEY KNOW WHERE THE MONEY IS

GOING.

>> YOU KNOW, I READ THAT.

HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

>> OUR BOARD.

OUR BOARD IS INCREDIBLY GENEROUS

AND THEY ALLOW US TO USE THEIR

DONATIONS FOR OUR ADMINISTRATIVE

COSTS, AND WE DO ALSO GET A

GRANT FROM THE CITY.

PART OF THE MONEY FROM THE CITY

DOES COVER ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS.

>> VIVIENNE, YOU TOUCHED ABOUT

HOW YOUR VOLUNTEERS STAY IN

CONTACT ON THE PHONE WITH YOUR

RECIPIENTS, BUT THE FACT OF THE

MATTER IS THAT COVID HAS IMPOSED

THESE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND

SEPARATION.

YOUR MAIN MISSION CLEARLY IS TO

FEED ELDERLY WHO WILL MIGHT NOT

HAVE THAT FOOD AVAILABLE

OTHERWISE, BUT PART OF YOUR

MISSION, NEARLY AS IMPORTANT,

HAS TO BE THE FACT OF BRINGING

COMPANIONSHIP TO YOUR RECIPIENTS

WHO ARE, YOU KNOW, LONELY IN

MANY CASES.

HOW HAS COVID AFFECTED THAT

ASPECT?

>> ABSOLUTELY.

THE COMPANION SERVES AS A MAJOR

PART OF IT, AND WE HAVE A DEEPER

UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT SOCIAL

ISOLATION IS AT THIS POINT.

BETH SPOKE ABOUT THE CORPORATE

GROUPS THAT ARE WORKING WITH US,

AND THEY GIVE TO US FINANCIALLY

BUT THEY ALSO PROVIDE THEIR OWN

TEAM OF STAFF TO HELP US MAKE

THOSE WELLNESS CALLS, THOSE

CHECK-INS ONCE A WEEK, TWICE A

WEEK, 15 MINUTES TO AN HOUR JUST

TO CHECK IN ON THE SENIORS, TO

MAKE SURE THAT THEY'RE OKAY.

SO WE'RE STILL ABIDING BY OUR

MISSION.

IT IS JUST THAT RIGHT NOW WE'RE

NOT DOING AS MUCH FACE-TO-FACE.

WE ARE STILL DELIVERING THE

MEALS, WHICH IS PART OF THE

FACE-TO-FACE, BUT WE HAVE

MOBILIZED MORE VOLUNTEERS TO

MAKE THOSE CALLS, MULTIPLE,

MULTIPLE CALLS.

>> AND, BETH, YOU KNOW, AS I

SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, THE

VACCINES ARE ALREADY BEING

DISTRIBUTED, BUT AT THE SAME

TIME WE'RE BEING TOLD BY EXPERTS

AND ELECTED OFFICIALS THAT IT

WILL BE A BAD COVID WINTER, MORE

CASES, MORE HOSPITALIZATIONS,

MORE DEATH.

AS A RESULT, MOST CLOSING UP OF

THE CITY.

HOW ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THAT?

>> WE HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH AS AN

EMERGENCY PROVIDER FOR THE CITY

OVER THE PAST DECADES.

WE WERE HERE FOR 9/11.

WE WERE BOTH HERE FOR HURRICANE

SANDY, AND WE WERE READY.

I MEAN WE WEREN'T PREPARED FOR

THE LONGEVITY AND SCOPE OF THE

PANDEMIC, BUT WE HAVE HAD FOOD

ON HAND IN OUR WAREHOUSE.

WE HAVE EIGHT MORE MONTHS OF

FOOD READY TO GO AT A MOMENT'S

NOTICE.

SO WE ARE PREPARING FOR THE

WORST AND HOPING FOR THE BEST,

AND REALLY WE WILL MAKE SURE

THAT OLDER NEW YORKERS GET A

MEAL EVERY DAY THAT THEY NEED.

THEY NEED IT.

>> DO YOU THINK THAT COVID HAS

TRANSFORMED THE WAY YOU DO

BUSINESS PERMANENTLY?

WILL IT BE DIFFERENT AFTER

COVID?

>> I DO.

I THINK THERE IS A LOT OF

LEARNING THAT WE HAVE GONE

THROUGH THROUGH COVID.

I THINK THAT WE'RE MORE

EFFECTIVE.

WE ARE MORE EFFICIENT IN HOW WE

DO THINGS.

WE HAVE CHANGED THINGS AT OUR

EMERGENCY MEAL DISTRIBUTION

CENTER.

VIV AND HER TEAM ARE ORIENTING,

DOING VOLUNTEER ORIENTATION JUST

LIKE THIS, VIA ZOOM.

I THINK THOSE ARE THINGS THAT

WILL HOLD INTO THE FUTURE TO

HELP US EXPAND OUR REACH,

BECAUSE I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW,

AS YOU SAID, THE VACCINE IS

HERE, BUT IT IS GOING TO BE A

LONG TIME BEFORE EVERYONE GETS

THAT VACCINE, BEFORE PEOPLE FEEL

SAFE AGAIN.

I THINK WE WILL BE WEARING MASKS

FOR A YEAR OR TWO TO COME, AND

WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE

NOUR

NOURISHING THE OLDER NEW YORKERS

WHO BUILT THIS CITY FOR US.

>> WE HAVE ABOUT 15 SECONDS LEFT

AND I HAVE TO ASK YOU THIS.

IF OUR VIEWERS WANT TO

VOLUNTEER, WANT TO DONATE OR

BECOME RECIPIENTS, VIVIENNE, IN

15 SECONDS HOW DO THEY GET HOLD

OF YOU.

>> CITYMEALS.org.

YOU CAN ASK FOR MEALS, TO

VOLUNTEER, TO DONATE.

>> ALL RIGHT.

AND THEN WE WILL TRY TO PUT IT

ON OUR WEBSITE AS WELL.

BOTH OF YOU, THANK YOU SO MUCH

FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT

THIS VERY IMPORTANT TOPIC.

THANK YOU.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING

US.

>> OKAY, BYE-BYE.

>> BYE-BYE.

>>> FOR THE PAST YEAR PBS HAS

BEEN ASKING PEOPLE ACROSS THE

COUNTRY TO SHARE STORIES ABOUT

THEIR LIVES, TO GET A PICTURE OF

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO BE AN

AMERICAN TODAY.

THOUSANDS OF STORIES HAVE COME

IN AND GIVEN LIFE TO "PBS

AMERICAN PORTRAIT."

THE CROWD-SOURCED STORY TELLING

PROJECT WE'VE BEEN TELLING YOU

ABOUT RECENTLY, FEATURING VIDEOS

SHOT BY VIEWERS LIKE YOU, THE

PROJECT IS NOW A FOUR-PART

DOCUMENTARY SERIES FOCUSING ON

EVERYTHING FROM THE WORK WE DO

FOR A LIVING TO TRADITIONS AND

VALUES WE HOLD AND WHAT IS BEING

DONE TO CREATE AN ANTI-RACIST

AMERICA.

NEW YORKERS ARE SHARING THEIR

STORIES, TOO.

THANKS IN PART TO SEVERAL

COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS THAT

HAVE PITCHED IN AND HELPED US

HERE AT "METROFOCUS" AND THE

WNET GROUP GATHER VIDEO

SUBMISSIONS.

IN JUST A MOMENT WE'LL INTRODUCE

YOU TO ONE OF THOSE

ORGANIZATIONS, THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY NETWORK, WHICH IS

WORKING TO SHAPE THE PUBLIC

NARRATIVE ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO

BE A MUSLIM IN THE U.S. TODAY.

BUT FIRST, HERE IS A LOOK AT

SOME OF THOSE SUBMISSIONS.

>>> WHEN I STEP OUTSIDE MY DOOR

AND WALK A COUPLE OF BLOCKS IN

QUEENS, NEW YORK, I SEE STORIES.

>> HOLA.

>> I COME FROM NEPAL.

>> FROM INDIA.

>> HI, I'M ELVIS FROM ECUADOR.

>> ALL RIGHT, GUYS.

>> I WAS RAISED TO BELIEVE THAT

EVERY LITTLE BLACK GIRL AND

EVERY LITTLE MUSLIM GIRL IS

POWERFUL.

>> THE TRADITION THAT I CARRY ON

IS BEING RESPONSIBLE, BEING A

PROVIDER, AND ALSO BEING A KIND

PERSON.

>> AT THIS POINT IN MY LIFE I

HAVE REALIZED SELF-CARE IS SO

IMPORTANT.

>> I WAS RAISED TO BELIEVE IN

OUR FUTURE LEADERS, FUTURE

SCIENTISTS, DOCTORS, TEACHERS,

LAWYERS.

I WAS RAISED TO BELIEVE IN YOU

AND ME, IN EVERYONE.

>> NOW IS THE TIME TO BE ASKING

YOURSELF, WHAT CAN I DO.

>>> JOINING US NOW AS PART OF

OUR ONGOING PBS "AMERICAN

PORTRAIT" COVERAGE IS THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY NETWORK EXECUTIVE

DIRECTOR, ANIKA NUWABI.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH, JENNA.

REALLY GLAD TO BE HERE.

SO VERY QUICKLY FOR ANYBODY WHO

MIGHT NOT BE SURE ABOUT WHAT

EXACTLY YOUR ORGANIZATION'S

PURPOSE IS, ITS MISSION, WHAT IT

DOES, JUST TELL US A LITTLE BIT

ABOUT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY

NETWORK.

>> OF COURSE.

SO MCN, MUSLIM COMMUNITY

NETWORK, WE ARE A NONPROFIT

ORGANIZATION THAT'S WORKING IN

THE AREA OF DEVELOPING THE CIVIC

LEADERSHIP OF MUSLIM-AMERICANS.

WE FOCUS SPECIFICALLY ON YOUTH,

AND WE WANT TO EDUCATE THE

LARGER AMERICAN, YOU KNOW,

COMMUNITY WHO WE ARE AS MUSLIMS.

BECAUSE ONCE WE ARE ABLE TO

DEFINE OUR CIVIC ROLE IN THIS

NATION, WE ARE ABLE TO HELP

SHAPE THE NARRATIVE, WHICH FOR

SO LONG HAS BEEN ALMOST

HIGHJACKED BY, YOU KNOW, LIKE

THE MEDIA AND POLITICS ABOUT WHO

WE ARE AS A COMMUNITY.

HENCE, WE AS MCN, WE WANT TO BE

ABLE TO OWN THIS NARRATIVE AND

TELL OUR SIDE OF THE STORY, OF

WHO WE ARE AS MUSLIMS, WHICH IS

A VERY DIVERSE COMMUNITY, WITH

DIVERSE OPINIONS, WITH DIVERSE

LEVELS OF, YOU KNOW, CIVIC

EDUCATION AND SO FORTH.

SO OUR ORGANIZATION, WE LIKE TO

TEACH OUR COMMUNITY ABOUT THE

AMERICAN NARRATIVE AS WELL AS

OUR ROLE IN THIS SOCIETY AND HOW

WE HAVE TO HELP DEFINE THIS

NARRATIVE IN THE COUNTRY.

>> OF COURSE.

AND I AM SURE IT IS NOT AN

ACCIDENT THAT YOU SPECIFICALLY

CHOSE TO USE THE WORD

"HIGHJACK," BUT WE WILL COME

BACK TO THAT IN A MOMENT.

BUT JUST TO FOCUS ON THE

DIVERSITY OF THE MUSLIM

DIASPORA, IF YOU WILL, I

UNDERSTAND YOU ARE A QUEENS

RESIDENT, AT LEAST ARE FROM

QUEENS, WHICH IS KNOWN TO BE ONE

OF THE MOST DIVERSE

NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE COUNTRY.

LIKE SO MANY PEOPLE IN QUEENS,

PART OF WHAT MAKES IT SO DIVERSE

IS THAT IT HAS A LARGE IMMIGRANT

COMMUNITY.

I UNDERSTAND YOU WERE -- YOU ARE

AN IMMIGRANT YOURSELF, COMING

FROM BANGLADESH.

I AM WONDERING, WHAT WAS IT LIKE

TO GROW UP AS A MUSLIM YOUTH IN

QUEENS?

>> WELL, A GREAT QUESTION.

SO, YES, I WAS AN IMMIGRANT.

I MOVED TO QUEENS, AND QUEENS

HAS BEEN MY HOME FOR THE PAST 20

YEARS ALMOST.

YOU KNOW, I CAME HERE AT 13, AND

WHAT I SAW WAS ESSENTIALLY THE

INCREDIBLE DIVERSITY OF THE

BOROUGH.

IT WAS MY FIRST TIME THAT I

ACTUALLY EVEN, LIKE, MET A

GUYANESE MUSLIM.

I HAD NEVER MET SOMEONE FROM THE

COUNTRY OF GUYANA BEFORE.

ESSENTIALLY WHAT IT SHOWED WAS

THAT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY HERE

IN NEW YORK CITY, THE MOST

GLOBAL CITY IN THE WORLD, AND,

QUEENS, THE MOST DIVERSE

BOROUGH, IT SHOWED HOW, YOU

KNOW, THERE'S SUCH A MULTITUDE

OF CULTURES THAT PEOPLE BRING TO

THEIR FAITH, THE MUSLIM FAITH.

THAT'S WHAT KIND OF ALWAYS DREW

MY EXPERIENCE IN WANTING TO DRAW

ALL OF THESE MULTITUDE OF

STORIES TOGETHER AND BE ABLE TO

TELL A UNIFIED STORY OF HOW

BEAUTIFUL WE ARE AS A COMMUNITY,

YOU KNOW, WITH OUR DIVERSITY.

WE ARE NOT JUST ALL ARABS, YOU

KNOW.

WE ARE SOUTH ASIAN, WE ARE

EUROPEAN, WE ARE SOUTH AMERICAN,

YOU KNOW, WE ARE AFRICAN, AND SO

THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE AT MCN

HAS REALLY ALLOWED ME TO PRODUCE

A VISION WHERE I CAN KIND OF TIE

IN ALL OF THESE DIFFERENT

STORIES TOGETHER.

AND, AGAIN, IT IS TO DEVELOP OUR

LEADERSHIP AS MUSLIM-AMERICANS,

YOU KNOW, SO THAT WE CAN TELL

OUR STORIES AS WELL.

YOU KNOW, THERE ARE LANGUAGE

BARRIERS, THERE ARE ECONOMIC

BARRIERS THAT WE ALL FACE, BUT

AS AN INSTITUTION OUR ROLE IS TO

HELP OVERCOME A LOT OF THESE

BARRIERS BY THE MULTITUDE OF

SERVICES THAT WE PRODUCE, AND AT

THE END OF THE DAY BE ABLE TO,

AGAIN, PROFESS OUR STORIES IN

AVENUES LIKE THE MEDIA, IN

PUBLIC OFFICES, IN SCHOOLS, YOU

KNOW, IN PRIVATE OFFICES AS

WELL, SO THAT WE ARE A PROUD

COMMUNITY OF MUSLIM NEW YORKERS,

YOU KNOW.

>> WELL, YOU SPOKE A LITTLE BIT

ABOUT -- FIRST OF ALL, YOU SPOKE

VERY BROADLY ABOUT, OF COURSE,

WHO MAKES UP THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY AND THAT IT IS SO

VARIED AND DIVERSE, BUT I AM

WONDERING WHAT SPECIFICALLY IS

IT THAT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY

NETWORK IS DOING FOR THE

NON-MUSLIM POPULATION SO THAT

YOU CAN RECLAIM THE NARRATIVE,

THAT -- USING THE WORD THAT YOU

USED EARLIER WAS HIGHJACKED FROM

YOU?

HOW DO YOU GET THE REST OF

NEW YORK AND, I GUESS, AMERICA

TO UNDERSTAND AND PERHAPS, YOU

KNOW, BETTER SEE OTHER MUSLIMS

AS JUST OTHER AMERICANS?

>> ABSOLUTELY.

THIS IS A HUGE PART OF OUR WORK.

IT IS TO FOCUS ON THE NON-MUSLIM

COMMUNITY, AND THE WAY WE DO

THIS IS THROUGH THESE, WE HAVE A

COMMUNITY EDUCATION PROGRAM

WHERE WE GO INTO SCHOOLS AND WE

PRESENT ABOUT MUSLIMS.

INSTEAD OF HAVING THE TEACHERS

PRESENT ON MUSLIMS, WE HAVE

MUSLIMS BEING ABLE TO TEACH A

CLASS ON MUSLIM HISTORY AND

ISLAMIC HISTORY, WHICH STARTS

FROM A VANTAGE POINT OF REALLY,

YOU KNOW, A LARGE CIVILIZATION

THAT STARTED AND EXPANDED

GLOBALLY IN MANY WAYS.

SO IT DOESN'T START FROM THE

VANTAGE POINT OF 9/11, LET'S

SAY.

IT STARTS FROM THE VANTAGE POINT

OF THE CONTRIBUTION THAT MUSLIMS

AND ISLAM HAS MADE ON THE WORLD.

SO DIVERSITY AT EDUCATION IS ONE

OF OUR MOST IMPACTFUL PROGRAMS,

AND WE'VE HAD REQUESTS FROM

HOSPITALS RECENTLY BECAUSE THEY

WANT TO UNDERSTAND MUSLIM

PATIENTS BETTER.

WE HAVE PRESENTED IN PUBLIC

OFFICES AS WELL AS PRIVATE

OFFICES, AND REALLY THE SCHOOLS

BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE STUDENTS

AND YOUNG PEOPLE GET TO FIRST

LEARN ABOUT MUSLIMS.

SO THAT'S A LARGE PART OF OUR

WORK.

THE SECOND PART IS A VERY

PRACTICAL ASPECT OF OUR WORK,

WHICH IS TO COMMUNITY SERVICE.

WE RUN AN INTERSTATE SOUP

KITCHEN AT THE CHURCH OF THE

HOLY TRINITY EVERY MONTH.

WE DO A NUMBER OF VOLUNTEER

ACTIVITIES.

WE ENGAGE MUSLIM VOLUNTEERS TO

ESSENTIALLY PHYSICALLY SHOW THAT

MUSLIMS ARE REGULAR NEIGHBORS

AND REGULAR AMERICANS WHO WANT

TO DO GOOD FOR THEIR SOCIETY.

SO THOSE ARE THE COMMUNITY

EDUCATION PART AND COMMUNITY

SERVICE PART AS WELL AS ONE

THING THAT I FORGOT TO MENTION

IS THROUGH BUILDING INTER-FAITH

PARTNERSHIPS AND FRIEND SHIPS.

WE ENGAGE WITH THE CHRISTIAN

COMMUNITY, THE JEWISH COMMUNITY,

THE HINDU COMMUNITY, ALL OF THE

DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS GROUPS TO

SHOW, AGAIN, WE ARE ONE OF THE

FEW MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONS WHO ARE

ENGAGING IN INTERFAITH WORK.

IT IS VERY CRITICAL TO OUR WORK

TO SHOW THAT WE WANT TO BUILD

BRIDGES, WE WANT TO BUILD

FRIENDSHIPS, AND BECAUSE ONLY

THROUGH THAT ARE WE ABLE TO

DEVISE A SOCIETY THAT HAS SOCIAL

HARMONY.

IT BREAKS DOWN THE BARRIERS OF

RACE, OF CULTURE, AND REALLY

UNITES US AS HUMAN BEINGS WHO

BELIEVE, WHO ARE FAITH

COMMUNITIES AND WHO BELIEVE IN

REALLY A UNIFIED HUMAN RACE,

RIGHT.

SO INTERFAITH BRIDGE BUILDING,

COMMUNITY ED AND COMMUNITY

SERVICE ARE WAYS THAT WE SERVE

THAT PURPOSE.

>> OKAY.

WELL, NO, I THINK THAT'S

INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE

TO ALSO UNDERSTAND.

I DO WANT TO ALSO JUST GET A

BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF, IS THIS

SOMETHING THAT YOU SEE AS LONG

TERM, ONGOING WORK THAT JUST

GOES ON AND ON AND ON, OR

PERHAPS IS THIS SOMETHING THAT

YOU MIGHT SEE AS HAVING AN END

POINT, THAT THERE ISN'T

NECESSARILY SUCH A NEED TO

PRESENT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY AS

JUST NORMAL PEOPLE?

>> RIGHT.

WELL, I THINK AS LONG AS WE SEE

IN THE LARGER -- LIKE, YOU KNOW,

AS LONG AS WE SEE LIKE TARGETED,

YOU KNOW, POLICIES AGAINST A

COMMUNITY LIKE THE MUSLIM TRAVEL

BAN HAPPENING OR TARGETED, YOU

KNOW, MEDIA ATTENTION THAT

MUSLIMS ARE ONLY PORTRAYED AS

TERRORISTS OR AS SOME, YOU KNOW,

VIOLENT ENTITY, AS LONG AS THOSE

CONDITIONS ARE EXISTING, OUR

WORK IS GOING TO CONTINUE AND

OUR ADVOCACY WILL CONTINUE.

YOU KNOW, IT IS BEYOND JUST THE

MEDIA PORTRAYAL OF MUSLIMS, BUT

I THINK IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS

OR SO WE'VE SEEN AN INCREASED

NUMBER OF ATTACKS ON THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY AND FAITH COMMUNITIES,

THE MUSLIM AND THE JEWISH

COMMUNITIES BOTH HAVE BEEN

TARGETED.

SO AS LONG AS THESE, YOU KNOW,

GENERALIZATIONS ARE CONTINUED TO

BE MADE BY THE MAINSTREAM,

WHETHER IT IS POLITICIANS OR THE

MEDIA, WE HAVE WORK TO DO THERE.

>> UH-HUH.

>> YOU KNOW, WE HAVE WORK TO

EDUCATE, WHETHER THEY'RE

POLICYMAKERS, THE COMMUNITY AT

LARGE, AND THERE ARE A LOT OF

STILL COMMUNITIES WHO HAVE

ACTUALLY NO IDEA WHO MUSLIMS

ARE.

A RECENT POLL IN 2015 SHOWED

THAT 58% OF AMERICANS HAVE NEVER

INTERACTED WITH MUSLIM-AMERICANS

BEFORE.

>> WELL, ACTUALLY SPEAKING OF

THAT -- SORRY, WE ARE COMING UP

SO CLOSE ON THE END OF OUR TIME,

BUT FOR ANYONE WHO MIGHT BE

SEEING THIS WHO MIGHT WANT TO

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY AND PERHAPS IF THERE'S

A WAY THAT THEY CAN GET

INVOLVED, WHAT WOULD YOU

SUGGEST?

>> WELL, I WOULD SUGGEST REALLY

GO VISIT OUR WEBSITE,

WWW.MCNNY.org.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWS LETTERS.

WE ALSO -- WE ARE ACTUALLY

CONTINUING OUR FOOD DISTRIBUTION

EVENTS THROUGHOUT THIS WHOLE

COVID PERIOD BECAUSE OUR

COMMUNITY IS IN SUCH A STATE OF

FOOD INSECURITY.

VOLUNTEER WITH US.

GET TO KNOW US BETTER.

YOU CAN REQUEST DIVERSITY

EDUCATION TRAINING IF YOU ARE IN

THE EDUCATION SECTOR, AND WE

CAN, YOU KNOW, START A

CONVERSATION THAT WAY AND

ENGAGE.

>> WELL, OF COURSE.

STARTING A CONVERSATION IS

ALWAYS SO IMPORTANT.

ANIKA NUWABI, THANK YOU SO MUCH

FOR JOINING US AND SHARING ABOUT

THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY NETWORK AND

THE WORK THAT YOU DO.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME.

>>> "METROFOCUS" IS MADE

POSSIBLE BY SUE AND ED GUARD

WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A.

ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SMISK.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG AND BY

JANET PRINDLE SIDE ALREADY,

CHERYL AND MILLER FILLSTEIN

FAMILY, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA

STONE FOUNDATION.

♪AND MILLER FILLSTEIN FAMILY,

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA STONE

FOUNDATION.

♪CHERYL AND MILLER FILLSTEIN

FAMILY, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA

STONE FOUNDATION.