Fierce

She’s Not Running For President, But Oprah Did Just Donate Two Million Dollars for Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico

@IRislasque / Twitter

Still recovering from Hurricane Maria, arts and culture programs in Puerto Rico have received millions from media mogul, Oprah Winfrey. In the fall of 2017, Hurricane Maria claimed the lives of 3000 American citizens, in the US territory of Puerto Rico. However, disaster relief from the government has been slow to arrive. Fortunately, celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Anthony, and Bethenny Frankel are willing to give financial support.

For her part, Winfrey donated to The Hispanic Federation and The Flamboyan Arts Fund, one million dollars to each. The Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS Disaster Relief & Recovery Program assists in providing basic needs to Puerto Ricans.

The Flamboyan Arts Fund is, according to People Magazine, “focused on continuing the island’s rich heritage of arts, culture and creative development.”

Meanwhile, President Trump who stated publicly that Puerto Ricans “want everything done for them,” is still insisting, as recently as April 2, that Puerto Rico has received 91 billion in relief aid. In fact, only 40.7 billion dollars of relief have been approved by Congress. Furthermore, FEMA officials have gone on record saying only a fraction of the 41 million has made it to the island.

In a tweet that followed his announcement about the 91 million in aid, the president said that he is the best thing to ever happen to Puerto Rico.

Winfrey said, in a statement, that she was inspired by Hamilton creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to donate.

Miranda recently brought his Broadway play to Puerto Rico to help the island heal and to bring attention to the oft-forgotten arts in the recovery efforts after a disaster. Celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon and Quest Love mingled on opening night of the Puerto Rican production. Miranda, whose father is a native to Puerto Rico, reprised his role as Alexander Hamilton for the island. Oprah Winfrey attended the Puerto Rican production at the Bellas Artes in San Juan.

Winfrey’s donation has been covered by many news outlets and many on Twitter are praising Winfrey for her good deed.

This twitter user was quick to praise Winfrey after the news broke.

CNN and Telemundo contributor, Ana Navarro-Cárdenas praised Winfrey too.

Navarro-Cárdenas also noted the irony of the Trump administration’s suspect support of Puerto Rico in light of Winfrey’s donation. You may also recognize Ana Navarro-Cárdenas as a co-host on The View.

Some, however, have called Winfrey’s donation a publicity stunt.

Publicity stunt or case of no-good-deed-goes-unpunished?

The dead man referred to in the tweet is Michael Jackson. It appears Winfrey is being criticized for support of the portrayal of Michael Jackson in the recently released documentary Leaving Neverland. In her special Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Leaving Neverland, Winfrey interviews
James “Jimmy” Safechuck and Wade Robson who accused Jackson of sexual abuse in the documentary. The interviews were taped before an audience of sexual abuse survivors. Those criticizing Winfrey appear to devoted Michael Jackson fans, but Winfrey is also being accused on Twitter of protecting Harvey Weinstein. Connections to Weinstein remain unclear, especially in light of her acceptance speech for the Cecile B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes in 2018. The speech focused on racism, violence against women, and the #MeToo movement.

Only time will tell if Winfrey is being punished for her good dead, or if any revelations about shadowy allegations will be made. For now, her generosity towards Puerto Rico does seem to be infectious.

Florida Senator, Rick Scott is donating too.

Just one day after Oprah Winfrey announced that she would donate to the Puerto Rican relief efforts, Florida senator, Rick Scott made a similar announcement. Rick Scott has pledged a portion of his salary to aid Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria who are now living in Florida.

Good deed or publicity stunt, it appears that Oprah Winfrey’s donation is inspiring others to give. The donation also appears to be keeping the spotlight on Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico, American citizens, many of whom have just recently had their electricity restored are still waiting for all 40 billion dollars of the aid committed by Congress to find its way to the island. They’d probably like to see the 91 billion that the president keeps talking about.

Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Entertainment

Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Flamboyan Foundation / Facebook

Maintaining funding for the arts is a challenging enough task during the best of times. For Puerto Ricans, those “best of times” have long been gone. A backlog of corruption scandals coupled with the most devastating natural disaster in the island’s history has exacerbated the arts organizations resources. Two years after Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Puerto Rico, hope for maintaining the culture and arts of Boricuas has arrived.

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeffrey Seller, the play’s producer, have partnered with the Flamboyan Foundation to establish an art fund for struggling arts organizations in Puerto Rico.

The Flamboyan Foundation was established just earlier this year, funded by ticket sales from “Hamilton.”

@theatermania / Twitter

Even better, the $14.7 million that was raised for the fund were all raised by Puerto Ricans. The “Hamilton” cast and crew up and went to Puerto Rico for a 17-day run. The Flamboyan Foundation, named after the flamboyán tree native to Puerto Rico, established the arts fund in 2018. “The Flamboyan Arts Fund is an extension of our deep commitment to ensuring that Puerto Rico is thriving economically and socially,” Flamboyan Puerto Rico Executive Director Carlos J. Rodríguez-Silvestre said in a statement. “We cannot be more excited to partners with our 12 inaugural grant recipients as well as the new grantees that we will welcome following this round of applications.  This is just the beginning!”

So far, at least 12 grant recipients have been named.

@ElNuevoDia / Twitter

“It’s the first time that we have funds guaranteed for the beginning of the year so it’s been very important, Lolita Villanúa, executive director of Andanza told NBC News. Andanza is a dance company and school that has been giving back to Puerto Rico since 1998, but not without struggles. “The search for funds has always been very difficult,” she said. One year, the government gave Andanza just $8,000 for a full year of operations.

Villanúa felt the grant “was like a big prize on our 20th anniversary because we [have been] working tirelessly and intensely for the country.”

The trickle-down effect goes to benefit young scholarship students.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

One Andanza dance student, Paola Morales López is just 15 years old and wants to make a career out of dancing. “I feel super grateful because I see that they support me and that they believe in me,” Morales López told NBC News. “Andanza is like my second family.” Another 18-year-old ballet student, Gabriela Arroyo, said that, “Dance has helped me. It’s a form to escape reality, and it’s also a way to stay healthy.”

Of course, the “Hamilton” funds will also go to help local theaters stay open.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

Another grant went to a collective of seven artists who started the San Juan theater company, Y No Había Luz (“And There Was No Light”) when they were just students at the University of Puerto Rico. For the last 15 years, the group has continued to stay open, using their literal theater platform to advocate for social change and to humanize Boricuas.

Without the grant, Puerto Ricans may have never witnessed a play centered around an ancient tree that fell during Hurricane Maria.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

Y No Había Luz created the play “Centinela de Mangó,” which retells the experience of the town of Orocovis, which survived Hurricane Maria only to find the tree that symbolized the island’s identity had fallen. The company has been able to bring the play to New York City, as well, where many Hurricane Maria victims were directed by FEMA. The company wants to turn the story into a children’s book, forever immortalizing the tree’s meaning into words that will be passed down for generations.

With rent paid, the art grant recipients can dream even bigger.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

“For three years I can plan and create a healthier structure for my team. I can make dreams more long-term,” Yari Helfeld of Y No Había Luz told NBC News. She added, “My dad always told us that we should do what we wanted and not let anyone tell you what to do.” Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and the “Hamilton” family, dreams are being made a reality for art directors and young children alike. The arts will have a safe home in Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future.

READ: Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

realdonaldtrump / Instagram

When Donald Trump began his campaign for president, one — if not the most important — promise he made was that Mexico would pay for the border wall. Trump’s border wall, which would extend throughout the south as a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, has been his No. 1 mission as president of the United States. Now, four years after making this promise, Mexico has still not paid a single cent for the construction of any such barrier that has been built or will be built. 

In order for Trump’s border wall to get constructed, he’s still very short on funds, and since Mexico is obviously not going to pay, the president is taking money away from Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery budget. 

Credit: @Nicolemarie_A / Twitter

Trump has allocated $400 million to go toward building the wall and will take it directly from funds that were intended to help Puerto Rico and their hurricane recovery. The Department of Defense announced that several hurricane-related projects in Puerto Rico would be halted because their funding would be diverted to building the border wall. Some of those projects include a National Guard Readiness Center, a Power Substation/Switching Station Building, and an Aircraft Maintenance Hangar in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

According to NBC News, a senior Defense official said that people shouldn’t worry because these projects in Puerto Rico will get done, eventually. “We don’t see ourselves delaying those projects. We’re fully committed to that recovery,” the official said since many of them wouldn’t begin until 2020.

The president still needs billions more for the wall, at least $25 billion more, so he’s taking money from various military sources in the U.S. and its territories. The total amount he’s diverting is $3.6 billion.

Credit: @ChrisLu44 / Twitter

Aside from Puerto Rico, 117 other military construction projects will be halted and/or delayed now because of funds. People might assume diverting funds away from Puerto Rico’s recovery or other sources isn’t a big deal because it doesn’t seem like tangible needs. However, people familiar with the military centers and operations know that it is a huge deal and almost appears like robbery by the highest level office. 

“I visited the current RPA training facility at Holloman earlier this year. The building is falling apart, with some equipment being held together with duct tape. To say this facility, which supports training for 100 percent of the Air Force’s MQ-9 crews, urgently needs to be replaced would be an understatement,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a statement, according to NBC News. 

Other projects losing funds include $160 million of construction projects at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; $85 million operations facility at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico;  $40 million for an information systems facility at White Sands Missile Facility, and much more. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is planning to file a lawsuit to prohibit Trump from taking $3.6 billion away from Puerto Rico and the rest of the country and territories. 

Credit: @ACLU / Twitter

“The fact that the government sat on these so-called ’emergency funds’ for seven months further confirms that this is nothing but an unlawful power grab,” ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a statement, according to The Hill. “We’ll be back in court very soon to block Trump’s latest effort to raid military funds for his xenophobic wall,” he added.

Despite claiming that Mexico would pay for the wall for years, Trump already said that he didn’t mean that literally. 

Credit: @realDonaldTrump / Twitter

In January, the president tried to backtrack four years of declarations that Mexico would pay for the wall by insisting that he wasn’t speaking in direct terms but indirectly. We know, it makes no sense.

“When — during the campaign, I would say, ‘Mexico is going to pay for it.’ Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a check. I said, ‘They’re going to pay for it.’ They are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made, called the United States, Mexico, and Canada USMCA deal.”

Yes, the president said he never said what he said. We feel a headache coming on. To illustrate how many times Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall, Factbase Inc. listed each of them. He has referenced the border wall at least 456 times

READ: New Border Wall Is Being Constructed In California But It Is Not The Same Border Wall Trump Promised His Voters