The NYPD ‘Third Jihad’ film flap: Perpetrating Islamophobia

Text and photo by Ted Regencia
Written for an Opinion Writing Class at Columbia Journalism School

In light of the revelation that New York City’s top cop, Raymond W. Kelly appeared in a film depicting American Muslims as extremists out to dominate the U.S., it will serve the world’s most diverse city, if Mayor Michael Bloomberg terminates police spokesman Paul J. Browne, orders an independent probe and revisits police actions towards the city’s Muslim population. Left unresolved, the issue poses a corrosive effect on the fragile relationship between the city and the many marginalized minority groups here.

The screening of the film within the confines of the NYPD was wrong. It perpetrates Islamophobia and could elicit more discriminatory acts against American Muslims.

Prejudice and hate towards the Muslims have been on the rise since 9/11, said Prof. Craig B. Futterman, a civil rights professor at the University of Chicago. That should stop. Spreading inaccurate stereotypes and playing upon fears using those kinds of videos only reinforces those prejudices.

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Stimulus money creates green jobs in South Bronx

Text and photo by Ted Regencia

In the borough where the unemployment rate hovers around 12.3 percent—the highest in the state–“green-collar” jobs in heating, cooling, and window retrofitting are still experiencing modest growth. That’s due in large part to 2010 federal stimulus money earmarked particularly for the environmentally friendly industries, according to the Hunts Point-based Sustainable South Bronx advocacy group.

“We are at 70 to 75 percent of people getting jobs,” said Annette Williams, training director at Sustainable South Bronx. “Within the last month, we have gotten 13 people hired.”

Williams’ organization advocates environment-friendly solutions to the chronic joblessness endemic to the South Bronx. Eight years ago the group initiated a green jobs program that trains unemployed and low-income residents in building maintenance, urban forestry, landscaping and hazardous waste cleanup. In 2010, the organization received an extra $150,000 windfall from President Barack Obama’s $396 million federal green technology stimulus funds for New York State.

To read the full story, please visit BronxInk.org

Despite controversy, nun still calls Hunts Point home

Text and photo by Ted Regencia

NEW YORK — On a warm and sunny morning a few Sundays ago, Sister Thomas found herself resting on a chair while overseeing the weekly rummage sale at the garage next to the red brick St. Athanasius Catholic Church in Hunts Point. The cramped structure serves as a storage facility for donated items that her group sells every Sunday. At 78, Sister Thomas is still as involved as she was 49 years ago, when she first arrived at the South Bronx neighborhood.

Only now, she’s no longer welcomed by church’s new pastor.

On July 1, 2010, the Rev. Jose Rivas of the neighboring St. John Chrysostom took over following the death of Rev. Bill Smith. Immediately after taking office, the Colombian-born priest dismissed long-time staff and informed Sister Thomas that her services were no longer needed.

To read the full story, please visit BronxInk.org

Yemenis in South Bronx can’t forget the turmoil they left behind

Text by Ted Regencia and Mahmoud Sabbagh/Photo by Ted Regencia

NEW YORK — “Papa, take me with you,” Abu Hamad recalled his five-year-old son pleading with him on the phone from Sana’a last Oct. 10. The Hunts Point shopkeeper’s half smile could not hide the worry in his dark round eyes. His three young children and wife are still living in the capital of Yemen, he said. And not even his American citizenship could help them out of the mountain city that is reeling from an increasingly violent civil uprising.

On Sept. 24, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s president for the past 33 years, returned to his homeland after a brief medical exile in neighboring Saudi Arabia. He was forced out of the country after an assassination attempt. The departure raised hopes for reform in the Arabian Peninsula nation of 24 million people. But his abrupt return has sparked fresh violence, which has already claimed close to 2,500 causalities since February. On Oct. 16, 18 more people were killed and 30 others were wounded in clashes between Saleh’s troops and his rivals, according to news reports from the region. (With reporting from Mahmoud Sabbagh)

To read the full story, please visit BronxInk.org