PROGRESS REPORT: Victory at 75 Morton, but still much work to do

Keen Berger. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY KEEN BERGER | Years ago I chose three issues to focus on, as careful readers of The Villager know. One local (public education in our neighborhood), one city (Election Day process) and one national (immigration). The election of Trump has made me add a fourth — doing my part to mitigate that disaster.

First: Celebration! We finally have our new middle school at 75 Morton St. It will open at that site this fall — in a stunning new building.

Even better, of course, are the students who are learning there. We have a great new principal, Jackie Getz. Students in Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, the West Village, some of Soho and Battery Park City are zoned for it, so it is ethnically and economically diverse. No tracking, just high standards and lots of joy.

I know about the standards and joy because the school is being “incubated” this year: Its sixth grade occupies a floor at The Clinton School, at 10 E. 15th St. I have friends among the parents whose children are there. They love it — because their children do.

Second: No celebration on voting. I am trying to accomplish many reforms, among them, split-shifts for poll workers and early voting for the public. Cuomo said he was for early voting (finally) but he didn’t push the budget to allow it. Now that we have, at last, gotten rid of the Independent Democratic Conference, I hope we can improve the election process. I keep hoping.

Third: Immigration. I wear a button that reads, “The Bible says Sanctuary for Immigrants,” because I want to wake up the evangelical Christians. As a supporter of the New Sanctuary Task Force at Judson Church, it is clear to me that “welcome the stranger” is central to my faith, and that baby Jesus would have died if his parents had not emigrated to Egypt. But Jean Montrevil was deported to Haiti, the Dreamers are in a nightmare, and millions of immigrants suffer when they should thrive — as did my immigrant grandparents. There is one piece of good news: Ravi Ragbir was brought back from deportation jail, and ICE keeps postponing his case. I think they are afraid of me and the thousands of others who say, “You can’t deport a movement.” 

Now for Trump. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, the deaths of J.F.K., M.L.K. and Malcolm, the Vietnam War, the first Pride March, and much more. Memory makes me resist, not despair. I am supporting several people (including state Senator Brad Hoylman and Congressmember Jerry Nadler) whom I trust to protect our nation. I am doing my part to stop voter suppression (via Let America Vote) and flip the House and Senate.

To counteract the evil that Trump is tweeting, I look out for the most vulnerable among us. I was taught to befriend, not provoke, and I want to make a big stand for justice — but only one small occasion appeared. I share it with you, hoping you also might find a moment to befriend, not provoke, and thereby limit Trump.

I was on an F train in Brooklyn. Near me were seated a young woman and her father, an old man dressed as a devout Muslim. A man walked by and said to her, “What are you wearing that scarf for?”

He kept walking, she did not answer. I made eye contact with the father, who circled his finger near his head to signal he thought the man was crazy. I nodded and smiled, but I thought he was minimizing the insult.

Then that crazy man came back and was about to say something more. I got up, stood right in front of the woman, and said, “You are my friend. I am happy to see you. I am on my way to the library.” I kept talking, saying nothing consequential.

The crazy man was angry. He said, “She is not your friend,” and aimed insults to me.

I remembered: Don’t provoke, don’t confront, just befriend. So I spoke to the woman again, “I am happy to see you. You are my friend.” And then she replied to the man, “Yes, she is my friend.”

He shuffled off. I am waiting for Trump to shuffle off, and for Nov. 6.

Berger is the female Democratic district leader, 66th Assembly District, Part A (Greenwich Village)

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