One or two weeks ago, rtb texted our NYC group chat to let us know that Little Amal was coming to NYC – Little Amal Walks NYC. Amal is a 10yo Syrian refugee and she is also a 12-foot puppet, who has traveled the world in search of her mother. She is walking through all five boroughs in search of her Uncle Samir and the link has a calendar of the 17 days of events.
She arrived at JFK this morning and the second event was a walk through Jamaica, Queens at 3:30pm. Perfect for me – Jamaica is just a 15-minute bus ride away. I figured I’d leave the house at 3pm, be in front of the Jamaica Center of Arts and Learning, and I’d take photos and post them on FB and IG and encourage people to see her, learn more about the refugees, and to donate.
Getting away from my desk was difficult because work is busy. I got out at 3:06, so not too bad. I get to the bus stop and it’s a madhouse. They are working on the el, so there is a series of buses replacing the subway. This bus stop is under the el stop, so I decide to walk one bus stop back, where there will not be any shuttles. The shuttle is a deal because it is free but it does not go as far into Jamaica as I need to go. So I wait. And I wait. The bus finally arrives at 3:45pm and it is packed but I manage to squeeze myself on. The bus driver will not move until the front of the bus is clear. So we push in. She drives past stops that have many people waiting but when someone needs to get off the bus, she unsuccessfully tries to avoid the crowd at the bus stop.
First fight to break out was in the back of the bus. One guy accuses the other of bumping or hitting his son. The argument is loud but ends quickly. The second fight is in the front of the bus. A guy comes on the bus with a bunch of stuff and cannot get all the way in. The bus driver refuses to move. A woman tells the guy to get off the bus since he does not fit. Words are exchanged and then a punch is thrown. The guy in the back of the bus starts cursing at the bus driver and tells her to move. All the doors are closed but I decide to get off at the next stop even though it is 10 blocks from where I want to be.
I walk as quickly as I can. Jamaica Avenue is a straight thoroughfare, so I figure I can see a 12-foot puppet. But I do not see anything. I see some boys with drums coming out of Rufus King Park and I wonder if they were part of it and the event is over. I finally make it to the location and there is nothing to indicate that an event happened or what direction Little Amal walked. It is now 4:15.
I cross the street and wait for a bus home. I decide to take another bus that will leave me a bit further away from home but there will not be as much traffic. But that bus is taking forever also. In the meantime, I watch the young Mormon boys try to get older Black women to join their church. They walk past me a few times. I am not sure if it is the look of complete disgust on my face that is scaring them or that I am not Black.
The bus passes by King Manor Park and I catch sight of some brightly colored cloths around something and I am ready to get off the bus in case it is Little Amal but then I realize that it is a shopping cart filled with a homeless person’s life.
And I realize that the homeless people in NYC are our refugees and decide that instead I will donate to Backpacks for the Street.
There are at least two other Little Amal events that are close enough to me that I may attend during her stay in NYC.
There was a chorus and orchestra to greet her at JFK.
Video of her walk in Jamaica. It looks like she was at the King Manor Museum and Rufus King Park with the drummers and I just missed it. I should have stayed home and watched this livestream.
By Carene Lydia Lopez