Blacks And Jews Lead American Revelation In New York
By Olivia Braccio
Is there anything comparable to the warm, glowy feeling in your soul when you see the Statue of Liberty come into view as you’re traveling on the I-78 through Jersey City after the long ride up from Pennsylvania? I’ve been shooting the anti-mandate protests in New York City regularly for six months now, and I think it’s safe to say that there is not.
Our Statue was a beacon of hope to both my relatives when they sailed over on the ship from Italy in search of a better life a generation ago, as well as the immigrant friends I’ve just recently made during my visits to New York. Everything Lady Liberty represents is under assault from a tyrannical government, the likes of which we thought were impossible in a capitalist nation. Whenever we’re gathered in the city, I picture the Statue gazing down upon us from her island in the Hudson Bay, weeping both tears of pride at her citizens who are willing to fight for thepersonal rights and freedoms that constitute the very essence of America, and sadness at the fact that we’re in the position of having to do it at all.
Vaccine and mask mandates in New York are drawing to a close. However, now that the government has found a way to effectively manipulate the masses, we don’t know what else may be in store. But it is possible to look to the future with an impending sense of doom while feeling immense gratitude for the here and now. It was great to be in Crown Heights on Sunday, Feb. 27, photographing a rally in support of medical freedom for all New Yorkers. I meet more interesting people each time I visit the metropolis. I did not expect to be so warmly welcomed into the city, having come from out-of-state and randomly inserted myself into the situation largely for photographic purposes at first. I love everything about New York City. Everything. But the cultural aspect? Oh, that’s the very best part of all.
Although it is a geographically small microcosm of the United States, it’s the city that most closely represents the melting pot that is the backbone of American society. You can almost meet people from all 195 countries in 302.6 square-miles. And as I participate in these beautiful displays of unity nearly every week, I feel like the epitome of what it means to be an American has finally been revealed to me. Which sounds strange coming from a person who was born here and has lived here her whole life. But up until these past several months, if someone had asked me what it meant to be an American, I would’ve answered, either someone who was born on American soil, or someone who immigrated and obtained their citizenship. And both those definitions are true. But now I understand it in a deeper and more palpable way. It’s people, from each nationality, each continent, Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, gays, straights, young, old, various socioeconomic classes behaving as though those differences don’t exist and coming together in an effort to preserve the liberties on which their beloved nation—either native or adopted—was founded.
Since we were in Crown Heights, we were joined by many members of the Hasidic Jewish community, wearing their traditional wigs/hats, skirts, and of course yarmulkes. Our rallies are wonderfully diverse; we also had members of the African-American community along with the Jews, per usual. This is why it irks me to no end when people call us white supremacists, when in reality, the two ethnic groups leading the resistance in NYC are the black and Jewish communities. I actually wish more people from the surrounding suburbs would join us so they could see the camaraderie for themselves. I do sometimes tell people down here in Pennsylvania about what I see in NYC and they look at me skeptically, as if in disbelief.
One of the fantastic speakers at this event was Kevin Jenkins, a pastor and probably one of the most gifted orators on the planet. I like when he tells us to “inhale God, and exhale fear.” He also told everyone to hold hands, so I let the camera dangle from my neck and grasped the hand of the black woman to my right and the Jewish woman to my left. It’s not something I normally feel comfortable doing, but no one is a stranger when you’re at a freedom rally. Then he asked us all to give each other a hug. “Come here, girl!” said the woman to my right, enveloping me and the camera in a delightfully bone-crushing embrace. And then I wasn’t mad anymore at the people who insult us and make us out to be something we’re not. I was sad. On their behalf. For what they’re missing.