On Friday evening, November 30, in the Lunder Arts building, students gathered for an evening of music, art, and poetry in support of Puerto Rico, where people are still struggling since Hurricane Maria hit the island last September. Lesley University’s Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Jennifer Castro, banded together with student Aviva Jobin-Leeds, to host the first of what is hoped to be many “Break it Down Sessions.”
The event, which took place from 6-9 pm, was titled Support Puerto Rico. Much of it was organized and planned by Jobin-Leeds, an Expressive Arts Therapy major. Her hope is to spread awareness, and fund-raise to send money to Puerto Rico to help with the recovery from the hurricane. When asked about why she wanted to put this together, she replied, “I have a lot of family and friends on the island, and I know that they are suffering. There’s just a huge lack of food and resources on the island almost a year after the hurricane.” She said that members of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) who were there to distribute the resources that were on all of the barges, did not do their jobs. “[They] were just sitting there guarding it and partying, but not distributing food and water to my people and so many people died… I just want the people who survived to be fed and have the resources to reconstruct their homes.”
People who attended the event said it was a huge success: there were many beautiful works of art, as well as t-shirts, for sale. There were also indigenous foods, as well as poems, and musical performances both in English and Spanish. The night could not have gone more smoothly, and everyone came away with more insight into what still needs to be done in order to help and support Puerto Rico. Jobin-Leeds plans to go to Puerto Rico this December, to see more of what has been going on, and to get an update on conditions and systems of mutual support that have been put in place.
Following the event, she later explained about the status of what is happening back home. “There is food in the grocery stores, but [everything is] still very expensive; the hospitals have significant problems due to under-resourcing; the electricity is on in the cities– it goes out sometimes, but it’s on. The electricity has yet to reach parts of the countryside.”
With this event now completed, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Jobin-Leeds don’t plan to stop here; they have other collaborations in mind, and intend to organize future events. As Jennifer Castro said, “We hope that this is the start to bring more awareness about other countries where the U.S has backed policy that affected [them] negatively.” And Jobin-Leeds told me, “Next semester we’re going to be hosting a fundraiser for Flint, and the following semester we’re going to be hosting a fundraiser for Palestine.”
Aviva Jobin-Leeds hopes that people who were in attendance at the Puerto Rico fundraiser will become more aware that “we are all connected, and we need each other. That is what we can do from here, to rally our resources for the people who are suffering, and we can support each other and lift each other up.”
I wanted to conclude with a link to the website that was shown and given out at the fundraiser. Feel free to check it out and donate money in order to help support the effort in Puerto Rico. The money will be going to food and reconstruction.