Things That Matter

Puerto Rico Is Completely Flooded And Could Go Months Without Electricity. Here’s How People In The U.S. Are Uniting Beautifully To Help

Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico on Wednesday, inundating its towns with mudslides and floods and leaving the entire island without electricity. With poles and lines collapsed over many of the island’s streets, it could take half a year to restore power to its 3.5 million inhabitants, and that’s for those whose homes weren’t completely destroyed. Photos and videos keep pouring into social media of demolished residencies, roofless homes and windowless apartments. At least one person has been reported dead.

At 155 miles per hour, the category 4 hurricane was the worst to hit the country in more than 80 years, and it came as the Caribbean island is grappling with its years-long debt crisis. “The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there,” an emotional Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of San Juan, told NBC. With trees toppled, roads flooded and buildings shattered, the same can be said of most of “La Isla del Encanto.”

The people of Puerto Rico, the same ones who after getting slammed by Hurricane Irma earlier this month aided other Caribbean islands in need, are in dire need of our help. For those who are able, we urge you to donate money, goods or even blood to the folks of El Borikén. Below, we’ve listed funds, drives and events occurring on the island and across the country where you can help out.

Puerto Rico

To best serve the people of Puerto Rico, it’s crucial to support and donate to the organizations and funds doing work on the ground. Donations to Hurricane Maria Community Recovery Fund will go to people on the frontlines, those supporting low-income communities of color that are often hit hardest yet see the slowest recovery. There’s also ConPRmetidos, a nonprofit based on the island, that started the Puerto Rico Real-Time Recovery Fund. They are hoping to raise $150,000 to provide immediate needs like food, water and shelter to the people as well as assist in long-term recovery efforts. Also, Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico is a nonprofit organization with a history of providing direct services to the people of Puerto Rico. They don’t currently have an online fundraiser but donations can be sent via mail at: Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico ​P.O. Box 191914 San Juan, PR 00919.

New York

In New York, Defend Puerto Rico is partnering with two local organizations on the island, Nuestra Escuela and Taller Salud, for a LOIZA Hurricane Relief Fundraiser. The Bombazo-style event, which takes place at the Julia de Burgos Art Center in East Harlem on Thursday, Sept. 21 (today) from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., will include music, dance and art. There’s a $5 suggested donation fee, with all of the funds going to the two Puerto Rico-based organizations. If you can’t make the event, but still want to donate, you can do so at its YouCaring campaign.

Also in Nueva York, Barrio Poetix will host a hurricane relief event on Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The evening, hosted by Puerto Rican poet Mariposa, will include several poetry and musical performances. Organizers are asking for a $10 suggested donation.

For those in the city who can’t attend events but want to send items to Puerto Rico, El Maestro, located at 1300 Southard Blvd. Bronx, New York 10459, and Casabe Senior Houses, at 150 East 121 Street in East Harlem, are taking clothing, non-perishable foods, personal hygiene items, baby supplies, first aid kits and batteries between the hours of 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. from Thursday (today) until Sept. 23.

Florida

Throughout Florida, there are several events and donation drop-offs. Starting Sept. 21 (today), there will be donation drives in Orlando, Greenacres and Tampa. Similar drives will also commence on Friday in Miami and Sept. 29 in West Palm Beach.

For those in Central Florida, the Lake Nona Run Club will host a Re-Building Puerto Rico 5K in Orlando on Saturday, Sept. 30. There’s a suggested donation of $10, with all funds going to assistance on the island. Also in Orlando, Centro Borinqueño, located at 1865 N. Econlockhatchee Tr., Orlando, Florida 32817, will have a blood drive on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24. On Oct. 1 in Lakeland, instructor Rosa Garcia will host a 90-minute Zumba session dedicated to Puerto Rico relief.

Chicago

In Chicago, The Puerto Rican Agenda is hosting an emergency fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 22 at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center. The event, which will take place from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., will include live performances, a silent auction and more. There’s a $25 donation required to get in.

Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, UnidosPa’PR will host a meeting and press conference on Thursday, Sept. 21 (today) to introduce the group and provide information on how to get involved. The same organization will host a donors reception on Sunday, Sept. 24 at Fairhill Square Park from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Also in “The City of Brotherly Love,” Norris Square Community Alliance, a community development center operated by women, is taking donations on Thursday, Sept. 21 between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. They are collecting water, batteries, candles, bleach, powdered mills, baby formula, diapers and canned goods.

New Jersey

Puertorriquenos Asociados For Community Organization (PACO) is holding a drive in Jersey City. Locals can donate water, bleach, canned goods, batteries and senior/children’s diapers at the drop-off location on 390 Manila Ave. Jersey City, NJ. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Saturday. On Sept. 29, New Jersey’s DC Social Club will throw a hurricane relief fundraiser from 6 p.m. till closing. A $20 donation will get you indoors for drinks, food and music by Jay La Musica.

Boston

Boston Boricuas are gathering next week on Tuesday, Sept. 26 for a brainstorming session at La Galería, located at 405 Shawmut Ave., from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The discussion will center on how to better support families and friends en la isla. If you’re Boston-based but can’t make it out that day, you can join the conversation by dialing in to 695-475-4120 (access code: 683*3847).

California

In Oakland, Calif., Taller Bombalele’s monthly Bombazo en la Bahia event will this month help fundraise money for relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The jam session, which will include live music and dance, will be at the AU Lounge (2430 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24. There’s a $5-$7 suggested donation. Next month, San Francisco’s Por Una Causa will host a perreo to help the island recover from the disaster. The “reggaetón for a cause” party happens on Saturday, Oct. 7 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at El Rio, at 3158 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94110. The tickets are $10 presale and $15 at the door.

Cali-based folks who can’t attend the events but want to assist in relief efforts can donate money to a GoFundMe put together by the Los Angeles-based group Puerto Ricans in Action. All funds will be donated to the following nonprofits in Puerto Rico: ConPRmetidos, Iniciativa Comunitaria, Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico, United Way of Puerto Rico.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.-based Boricuas have organized a DCRicans For Puerto Rico relief event to help aid the island following Hurricane Maria’s devastation. The event, which will take place at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove in Southeast on Friday, Sept. 22, will include live Puerto Rican folk music. All funds raised will go to the United for Puerto Rico fund.

Cleveland

In Cleveland, Ohio, Puerto Ricans started a drive to support their island. Starting on Sept. 21 (today) and going through Sept. 24, donations can be taken to the San Lorenzo Club at 3415 Clark Avenue in Cleveland between noon and 8 p.m. The group is currently accepting canned goods, baby food, clothing, water, non-perishable items, diapers and pet supplies.

Read: 9 Hits To Get You Hype And Proud To Be Puerto Rican

Let us know what relief efforts are taking place in your community in the comments and consider sharing them on this disaster relief Google Doc.

Bad Bunny And Marc Anthony Will Rebuild Baseball Parks In Puerto Rico Destroyed By Hurricane María

Entertainment

Bad Bunny And Marc Anthony Will Rebuild Baseball Parks In Puerto Rico Destroyed By Hurricane María

badbunnypr / marcanthony / Instagram

While it’s been two years since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, the recovery efforts aren’t finishing anytime soon. Many people on the island are still trying to put their lives back together, which includes rebuilding homes, churches, and schools. What many might not know is the recovery efforts have also included revitalizing baseball fields on the island where Puerto Ricans once played. 

Among the destruction that both Hurricanes Irma and Maria left in 2017 is more than 300 small league baseball parks that were found inoperative. As a result, many community ball programs were essentially eliminated and youths on the island were essentially left in the dark without fields to play the sport.

Leading the revitalization efforts are Puerto Rico’s own two native sons: Bad Bunny and Marc Anthony. The duo, along with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a U.S. community development non-profit, has teamed up for a new program called Play Ball Again. The purpose of the initiative will be to help rebuild some of those damaged baseball fields and facilitate local programming for 17,500 youth. It is expected that in total, about 300 facilities will be impacted by this initiative. 

The duo hopes the contributions play a huge role in bringing not only baseball back to the island but a place where people can escape from their worries. 

Credit: @laguerradelbsn / Twitter

The initiative is special to both of them not only because they’re helping youth but they hoping these recovery efforts go a long way in bringing back a sense of community. Maestro Cares Foundation, which Anthony owns, is putting money towards the program with a goal of restoring “normalcy” in Puerto Rico.

“Sports and recreation activities help restore a sense of normalcy, in the wake of disasters,” Anthony, who is among the program’s earliest supporters, said in a press release.” Baseball isn’t just a game in this context. It helps young people do better in school and improves family life and health in difficult circumstances.”

Maestro Cares, along with the Good Bunny Foundation and UNICEF USA, will all be putting forth $300,000 of what LISC expects to be more than $1.6 million in baseball field renovations. Joining the efforts is Chicago Cubs second baseman Javi Baez with his Cubs Charities, which will donate an additional $100,000 in support. This also includes the Kohler Company, which made a donation to fund bathroom fixtures for onsite facilities.

“Two years after these devastating storms, the need to rebuild the island remains strong,” Báez, whose family is from the Bayamón area, said in a press release. “Cubs Charities understood the need and has stepped up to the plate to help restore baseball fields and give kids throughout Puerto Rico the opportunity to play the game. This rebuild will make a big difference for the community, and I am proud to continue my efforts to restore the island.”

The recovery efforts in Puerto Rico have been long and tiresome but the fuel behind the revitalization has always been the people. 

 Credit: UNICEF / MAESTRO CARES

While time may have passed, many on the island of Puerto Rico are still trying to get back on their feet. For Bad Bunny, he knows firsthand the power that activities like baseball have on youth. Growing up, baseball was part of his life and much of his time was spent at many of the ballparks that were destroyed in 2017. 

“Growing up on the island I spent a lot of time in some of these parks that are now destroyed,” says Bad Bunny, whose Good Bunny Foundation is part of the initiative. “In parks similar to these, a lot of great athletes like Roberto Clemente, Yadier Molina, Roberto Alomar, Edgar Martinez, and Ivan Rodriguez grew up. Our commitment is to rebuild these parks so that we can help new athletes grow. This is the first step for the rebirth of sports within the island.”

The rebirth of Puerto Rico is taking time but in that process, there is a sense that an even stronger community will come out of this disaster. While simple things like baseball may not seem significant, it’s a part of the fabric of Puerto Rico and displays the love that is shared playing on a field. This rebirth has already started as construction on the baseball field is underway and most field renovations are set for completion by the 2020 season.

READ: The Death of Four-Year-Old Noah Cuatro Has Rocked the Los Angeles Community As They Come to Grips With the Failure of Child Protective Services

This Is How Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans To Tackle Poverty In The US

Things That Matter

This Is How Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans To Tackle Poverty In The US

Since making her way to Capitol Hill at the start of the year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the most progressive voices in Congress — and her recently-unveiled policy package to tackle US poverty assures that her vision for the country hasn’t gotten any less bold.

“I am both energized and humbled to introduce legislation today to build upon the most transformative programs of the last century,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.

The first-year lawmaker’s legislative package is called “A Just Society,” and it includes six individual bills.

ocasio2018 / Instagram

First, the Puerto Rican congresswoman aims to update the way the US government currently calculates poverty and determines eligibility for welfare. At the moment, a single person is considered “poor” in the US if they make less than $12,500 a year. If someone makes more than that, then they are unable to benefit from programs like Medicaid, even though they could still be struggling gravely economically.  Through the proposal, called the Recognizing Poverty Act, Ocasio-Cortez would prompt the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to modify the equation so that it takes more details into account, including a person’s geographic cost of living, what portion of their income they spend on health insurance or child care, and spending toward utilities. This act would undoubtedly result in a rise in the number of people who live at or below the federal poverty level and would widen people’s eligibility to welfare programs, like Medicaid, food stamps and family planning services.

According to the U.S. Census, about 40 million Americans live in poverty, a harrowing reality that the congresswoman doesn’t think many people in the country know or understand. “If we can acknowledge how many Americans are actually in poverty I think that we can start to address some of the more systemic issues in our economy,” she told NPR.

Her policy bundle includes proposals that could help the country’s most marginalized communities, including immigrants and people who were formerly incarcerated. For instance, her Mercy in Re-entry Act proposes that individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense would be ensured access to all federal public benefits. Presently, many states ban people with felony drug convictions from receiving welfare and food stamps.

Even more, formerly incarcerated individuals often struggle to obtain government-issued IDs. 

ocasio2018 / Instagram

Additionally, her so-called Embrace Act would guarantee federal public benefits access to anyone, regardless of their immigration status. Currently, undocumented immigrants, including DACA holders, are not eligible to receive most federal public benefits, including benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), regular Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). They’re also ineligible for health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and are prohibited from purchasing unsubsidized health coverage on ACA exchanges. Still, these individuals might be able to take advantage of some benefits that are deemed “necessary to protect life or guarantee safety in dire situations,” such as emergency Medicaid, access to treatment in hospital emergency rooms, or access to healthcare and nutrition programs under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). However, rumors that the Trump administration is considering blocking immigrants using public benefits from getting their green cards is currently halting the most vulnerable in these communities from using those life-saving benefits.

“From the New Deal to the Great Society, we have shown time and again that our nation is capable of implementing big ideas and bold solutions that match the scale of the challenges we face,” Ocasio-Cortez, 29, said in her statement. “We must once again recognize the breadth and consequences of poverty in this country and work together to ensure a path forward to economic freedom for everyone.”

Her wide-ranging proposal also considers tenants and workers.

ocasio2018 / Instagram

The Place to Prosper Act would tackle the housing crisis by introducing a 3 percent national cap on annual rent increases, among other provisions. Meanwhile, the Uplift Our Workers Act would prompt the Department of Labor and the Office of Management and Budget to create a “worker-friendly score” for federal contractors.

Finally, the congressional freshman also proposed a resolution dubbed A Just Society Guarantees the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for All that would request the Senate to ratify the U.N. Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

While critics have called Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal a “radical, extreme-left agenda,” the congresswoman believes it could effectively tackle the US’ poverty crisis and help the people of one of the wealthiest nations in the world to live a life beyond destitution. 

“In a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live,” Ocasio-Cortez says in a video introducing her legislation. “That’s what a just society means to me.” 

Ocasio-Cortez’s legislative package is her latest ambitious proposal. Back in February, when the congressional newbie was just one month on the job, she introduced the much-talked-about Green New Deal, a series of proposals backed by leading Democrats to tackle climate change.

Read: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Made A Student Loan Payment During Meeting To Prove A Point About Corruption