“It used to be our neighborhood. Now they are taking over.”

Tony is an Italian-American college student from an old Italian-American neighborhood. I am his writing tutor. His assignment is to explore an issue affecting his community. He has chosen to write about the changing demographic.

New York City: the womb of America. It is a place that roils with possibility and uncertainty, shudders with the deepest of terrors and glimmers with the heaviest of hopes. At its shores, huddled masses yearning to be free strike the soil and grope through the dark to find their footing. They build ladders and bridges, and their children climb up and away.

New York City is a landing space for refugees. It catches people who are fleeing and seeking, who live in a journey between worlds.

I was born into this primordial soup. Like a tadpole peeling away from the mass of its brothers and sisters, I have peeled off to swim away to find somewhere empty and unmarked. I left to find a world beyond extreme humanity.

I smile at Tony. I smile at his attempt to cling to a world that is fading away. I empathize with his fear of the unknown, with his frustration at his powerlessness to prevent change.

An old wisdom comes up through my roots, sprouts from my bones, and spreads through me. It is a deep knowing that extends backwards into history, tucked into my genetic inheritance.

“It has always been that way,” I said. “Every neighborhood here is merely an incubator. Our part in the story of this place is ephemeral.”

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