Dave Rodney, Gleaner Writer
Despite the dark clouds of despair, a Christmas story embodying the spirit of the season is unfolding in the Rockaways, New York. Tireless Jamaican community activist Michael Duncan from Kingston has found ways to ease the plight of the battered and bruised residents. Duncan, who residents describe in the most glowing terms, has an 18-year relationship with Queens and he's throwing his hat in the race for the city council seat in the 31st district next year.
The Rockaways is a cluster of shore communities located in the borough of Queens, New York City, and a large percentage of the population there are Jamaicans. The area was brutally ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in October. Thousands of homes were flattened, washed away or flooded, and in mere minutes the collective hope, dreams and aspirations of several working-class neighbourhoods had become shattered, lost, amidst the mangled ruins left behind by the deadliest superstorm to hit the eastern shores of the United States in decades.
To add pickle to the punishment, more than 100 additional homes were destroyed in a post-hurricane fire that firefighters were largely unable to quell due to severely curtailed capabilities related to the hurricane, and frightening and mysterious sinkholes have appeared in parts of the Rockaways that have residents screaming for answers.
With the help of community groups, churches, area companies, media houses, artists, local restaurants and good Samaritans, Duncan has created an event called 'Christmas in The Rockaways', designed to bring holiday cheer to the needy. Hurricane victims have been asked to make up Christmas wish lists and each will be fulfilled, as far as possible, from donations of clothing, food items, care packages, toys and other Christmas gifts. This celebration will take place on Saturday, December 22 at the Far Rockaway High School from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
A number of reggae artists have volunteered their services, and New York radio station Irie Jam Radio will broadcast live from the event and DC Digital TV will stream the day's activities globally to smartphones and other digital platforms.
Duncan, who is also founder and coach of the Rosedale Soccer Club in Queens, has enlisted the support of the consulate general of Jamaica in New York for his mission of goodwill. Consul General Herman LaMont has embraced the project, and as chairman of the Caricom Consuls General Committee, LaMont had already been making substantial headway in providing hot meals and essential supplies to the area.
"My office is fully embracing the effort," LaMont declared.