Otis Tellez (They/He)
From Elizabeth NJ
by Otis Tellez
Mom, are we going to that office today? The security guard gives me a lollipop when he checks your bag.
Mom, are we going to the supermarket today? When we step out of the office we usually buy lots of food we need to drag.
Mom, my friend invited me to the mall, do you have a 20 to spare
Mom, my childhood home is being destroyed across the street, do you think they’re aware?
Mom, the supermarket is a Starbucks now, would you want some coffee instead?
Mom, I checked it out, it’s gonna be more than just $20 bread
Mom, are we going to the office again? I’m hungry and so is my friend.
Mom, the shower smells of iron and gas again, could you boil up some water for me?
Mom, there was a white guy at my school today, he says we need new uniforms and a charger for my new iPad.
Mom, have you gotten any money from dad?
Mom, why is there an orange note on our door?
Mom, aren’t you going to give me a chore?
Mom, where are we going now?
Son, they just kicked us out of town.
About the Author:
"As a trans-masculine Latino writer, I use my past experiences struggling with poverty in this piece. Growing up with a single mom was never easy, but my community in Elizabeth (New Jersey) allowed me to never feel alone as my friends and neighbors also had their own stories and struggles. As a community of predominantly minorities, I mourn to see the construction of a new train station, an increase in rent, local Hispanic businesses shutting down, and fancy juice places taking over. Gentrification only benefits the rich and unfortunately kicks out those who grew up here and made this town their home. The picture attached to this poem is one of the most recent luxury apartments that most of our working-class families cannot afford, which was built over a Trinitas hospital where most of us were born."
Note from the Publisher:
Elizabeth, New Jersey is a city that, like most during the early 20th century (and beyond), experienced the harm caused by American Institutions building major factories and white own businesses in densely populated areas that are home to non white folks. In cities that experience "White Flight" historically- when non white folks are increasingly able to secure safer housing due to a change in social mobility, white folks then flee the area out of prejudice and fear of sharing spaces with Black or Brown (BIPOC) folks- it shows that a resurgence of affluent white folks show interest in building-again- white owned, inaccessible businesses and economically segregated housing. This is not novel and is a cycle that can be seen repeated throughout American history- i.e. Detroit, Brooklyn, Asbury Park, Coney Island, the list goes on. The thing that changes is the marketing strategy- in the 1930's it was American made cars and pools, in 2023 it is vegan restaurants and rainbow capitalism.
If you or someone you know needs more information on safe housing here are some tips and hotlines:
Find your local safe housing hotline
Locate the public safety buildings and community centers in your area.
Be cautious of the weather- Your town should have safety protocols (i.e. code blue) in which public shelter is provided during extreme weather conditions.
800-799-7233 (National Domestic Violence Hotline)
(photos submitted by Otis Tellez of Luxury apartments built over Trinitas Hospital.)