Community Organizing Responses to COVID-19
Queens Spotlight was launched in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time of incredible hardship and severe shifts in how society functions, we are continually inspired by the resourcefulness, responsiveness and resilience of Queens community members. In this series we highlight community organizing work and hope to provide insight into the vitality of this work within our borough during the pandemic.
May 22, 2020
Mohamed Q. Amin, Founder and Execute Director of Caribbean Equality Project
Mohamed, you founded Caribbean Equality Project (CEP) in response to anti-LGBTQ+ hate violence you witnessed and have been advocating for and empowering the Caribbean-American LGBTQ+ community through a range of cultural and educational programs since. People in the community you serve often already struggle with trauma, marginalization, and access to resources. How has your community and your work been impacted by the pandemic?
As an Indo-Caribbean queer and Muslim immigrant rights organizer in NYC’s most diverse borough, I have been on the frontlines of the LGBTQ Liberation movement in Queens for over 10+ years now, much of which has been in physical and transformative spaces. This year, the Caribbean Equality Project (CEP) is celebrating 5-years of organizing and mobilization in Queens to empower and strengthen the marginalized voices of Caribbean lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) immigrants through advocacy, community organizing, education, cultural, and social programming. Our advocacy work has centered around building community power and holding space for our most invisible and under-resourced Caribbean LGBTQ+ documented and undocumented community members in NYC. In response to the financial crisis emboldened by the coronavirus pandemic, the CEP created a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund (please consider donating here) to provide mutual aid to the most vulnerable black and brown queer and trans immigrants in NYC.
During the past 5 years, we have seen and learned, that our vulnerable community members have always been essential and frontline workers. We have recognized the economic impact on the documented and undocumented people we pridefully serve, many of whom are experiencing food insecurity, as a result of COVID-19 and the related shelter in place order. Many of our low-income frontline workers have lost their jobs or are working reduced hours and have been experiencing difficulty paying rent and meeting other basic living expenses. The coronavirus has amplified the existing racial inequality and is disproportionately impacting immigrant communities of color throughout New York City, making Queens the epicenter of the pandemic.
To donate to the Caribbean Equality Project’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund,
visit this page
Immigrant LGBTQ+ people are facing increased amounts of emotional and financial stress during COVID 19. For many queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming youth, who are living pridefully in the shadows, home is not safe. We know many LGBTQ youth with toxic family relationships will suffer at home or have nowhere to go. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caribbean Equality Project has expanded it’s healing justice work to meet the emotional needs of the Caribbean LGBTQ+ community in NYC. This includes offering FREE culturally competent Remote Mental Health Services and our bi-weekly virtual “Unchained: Caribbean LGBTQ+ Immigrant Support Group.” Our work has meticulously transformed into an online platform where Zoom, Google Hangouts, and even Skype (remember those tools?) are now centered at the forefront of our advocacy and grassroots organizing efforts. Doing so, we have been able to reach even more LGBTQ+ community members (as far away as Florida, California, Canada, and Guyana). Most notable of our online transformation is hosting our 5-year running Unchained program via Zoom, and by doing so, we have also increased the frequency to more effectively serve our population that has been significantly impacted by social distancing and Stay Home guidelines. To date, we have over 80 impacted undocumented LGBTQ+ immigrants who are experiencing food insecurity as a result of COVID-19 and the related shelter in place order. Many of these low-income frontline workers have lost their jobs or are working reduced hours and have been experiencing difficulty paying rent and other living expenses. We have been providing financial relief to undocumented and asylum-seeking Caribbean LGBTQ+ people due to loss of income (e.g., rent, utilities, mobile bills, etc.). Our volunteer-led leadership team has been responding to an increase of housing discrimination and harassment, and connecting community members to legal representation.
Through our collaboration with Shane M. Tull, a Brooklyn based psychotherapist, we are connecting our most vulnerable community members to much needed mental health services at no charge to them. Counseling is being offered every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 am to 4 pm through video conferencing and phone by the licensed clinical psychotherapist.
To book an appointment, call 347.709.3179, email info@CaribbeanEqualityProject.
or fill out this intake form.
Would you share one thing that is bringing you joy right now and helping you cope?
One thing that is bringing me joy right now is the unwavering support of my close-knit family unit, who has been my rock from day 1. The phrase “we’re all in this together” has never been truer. Since many of my favorite local Caribbean restaurants are closed, I find myself cooking transitional Guyanese dishes, which has been comforting.
What is helping me to cope is the resilience of my teammates and the strength and willpower of our CEP family to survive during this time. The Caribbean Equality Project is currently working with a coalition of Southeast Queens community-based organizations on a series of pop-up food pantries to serve the residents of Richmond Hill and the surrounding area. Our partner organizations include Jahajee Sisters: Empowering Indo-Caribbean Women, Sadhana: A Coalition of Progressive Hindus, Chhaya CDC, DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) and the United Madrassi Association. Queens is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, and we know black and brown New Yorkers have been disproportionately impacted. South Queens is primarily comprised of low-income and working-class, South Asian and Indo-Caribbean documented and undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ+ people of color, small business owners, and members of the Christian, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu faith communities of New York City. Because many of the residents of South Queens also work in this community I call home, the shelter in place order has had a severe economic impact on the most vulnerable people in my neighborhood. The partnering organizations collecting and distributing items at these pop-up pantries reflect the diversity of the community and, as a result, each bag features South Asian and Indo-Caribbean staples sourced from local small businesses. The food distributed by our volunteers at these pop-up food pantries helps to address food insecurity caused by this economic shutdown in a culturally responsive manner and directly contributes to community resilience.
The May 16 culturally-responsive COVID-19 relief pop-up food pantry was a huge success. The Caribbean Equality Project and our partners at the Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park COVID-19 Relief Coalition distributed culturally-appropriate groceries and PPE to over 700 impacted families in South Queens. In two days, our coalition’s efforts to combat food insecurity in the Richmond Hill and surrounding neighborhoods supported 715 households with culturally-appropriate groceries for a week. From distributing food to sharing mental health resources and 2020 Census information, we also created an affirming space to support vulnerable undocumented South Asia and Indo-Caribbean families.
What is one way in which you hope that Queens will come out of this crisis stronger? How can we support and strengthen our community?
Simple: by working together to stop the spread and ultimately eliminate the threat that is COVID-19, while loving and protecting each other.
We are the ones that we have been waiting for to address the inequities in our communities. We must take action to hold our elected officials accountable to addressing the COVID-19 magnified injustices in communities of color. More more than ever, Southeast Queens needs resources to empower, uplift, and protect its residents. My community is in desperate need of funding to continue creating sustainable localized community-led infrastructures to heal and support our immigrant frontline workers. We won’t wait for the government to protect us, but we will emerge on the other side of this “invisible enemy” stronger while building community power and holding one another with care and compassion during this era of spaciousness and
We can also strengthen our community power and resiliency by spending 10 minutes to complete 10 questions, which impacts the investment in Queens for the next 10 years. Take pride in being counted, complete the 2020 Census!