Photo courtesy of Make The Road New York

“For some communities, mutual support networks have always existed: It’s something that they had back home, and it’s something that they brought with them here.”

Ojiugo Uzoma, a Brooklyn-based organizer who serves African immigrant populations

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“I want to spend my last days in Puerto Rico. I want to be buried there,”  my mother explains calmly but pleadingly.

Hello friends,

Nearly a year ago, on Halloween, my sister called to let me know that our 78-year old mother suffered a stroke and after being admitted to the hospital a COVID test revealed she was also battling COVID. Those were dark days as we all waited to learn her prognosis. 

My mother, who was already in fragile health, was battling on two fronts and we weren’t sure how she would pull through. And to add to my anxiety, I now live across the country in San Francisco. And due to COVID, I had to make very real calculations about whether to travel back East; a year ago we were still months away from a vaccine and I have two boys under 12. 

It was a lot to process and part of me just wanted to be back home - near my family - in New Jersey. Thankfully, after an agonizing two weeks, my mother’s prognosis was miraculously good considering the stroke and COVID (it took her a whole month to get a negative result). 

A year later, I find myself thinking about home often. How do I define home? Where do I feel most at home? And how do we best honor my mother’s desire to spend her final days back on the island - her home? My boys, six and ten, often ask me about going back home because I ripped them from the only home they’ve ever known -- New York City. 

But more often these existential questions about how to define home are triggered by video images of migrants camped out at the border or news reports describing a “flood” of immigrants at the U.S. border.

As a longtime journalist, when I’ve reported on stories about immigration I’ve always insisted on context and connecting viewers or readers to the universal themes of belonging and home. 

Why would anyone leave the only home they’ve ever known to start anew in a place where you don’t know anyone, you don’t speak the language, and even worse don’t have extended family nearby to help support you? I moved last year, by choice, and thinking about our big move as an adventure. I am privileged to have that choice and move across the country pretty comfortably and easily. 

As Puerto Ricans, my parents didn’t have to overcome the citizenship barrier, but like many immigrants, moving to New Jersey was about finding steady work and putting us, their kids, on a path that would open us up to more educational opportunities, to find a career and better paying jobs. 

Our URL Media partners, The Haitian Times, Documented , The Sahan Journal, TBN24, and palabra, are often balancing the news of the day with reporting that is rich in context, explains the nuances and showcases the root causes and complexities of immigration. 
“I’d say it’s as simple as putting yourself in other people’s shoes. Approach the stories with empathy (not sympathy) and real curiosity about what each step of the journey (literally) entails,” explains Macollvie Neel, the Managing Editor of The Haitian Times. “That approach can tease out key questions and illuminate interesting facts and tidbits to reveal those nuances of each person’s journey that can really capture your audience’s imagination.”

In the spirit of walking in someone else's shoes, my mother's request to be buried in Puerto Rico tells me that if she had the choice -- she never would have left the island. Puerto Rico is home to her. She misses the island - its warmth, the people, the language, the sounds and the landscapes. She sacrificed comfort to find a better future for us - her children.  

So when I see the images of families at the border my mind flashes to the future they envision for their children when
they embark on a very perilous journey to a place that might reject them because of their accents and what they look like. In spite of all of those personal risks and sacrifices, the idea of a better future always outweighs the danger of isolation, loneliness and rejection. 

Each week we aim to showcase reporting that uplifts and respects our communities and we encourage you to read on.

With gratitude,
Leonor Ayala
Head of Audience & Partnerships
URL Media 

Q&A with Macollvie Neel
How does The Haitian Times distinguish their coverage from other media outlets? 

In our coverage of the influx of immigrants from Latin America, we centered it around the idea of journey, knowing that getting through the border was really the beginning of a new path in the U.S., starting with meeting basic needs for shelter and food, then navigating the immigration system. Immediately, we looked for where/how to talk to Haitians from the camp and followed them around.
That closeness to the community comes through in our reporting of Haitian immigrants. That’s why we were the first to report that Haitians were being released in the US, for example. It’s why we produced lists explaining basic facts about these Haitian immigrants, namely that they were not coming directly from Haiti because of the recent crises.

It’s why we’ve been publishing regular profiles of the immigrants settling in, talking about the journey in their own voices in Creole. It’s why we reported on the fact that other countries are following America’s lead in returning immigrants to Haiti as a regional trend.

One very deliberate decision we made in the thick of it all is to refer to the Haitian immigrants as “asylum seekers” instead of “migrants.” The latter conjures an image of Latin American immigrants coming directly from Spanish-speaking countries. Haitians are essentially seeking refuge both from Haiti, which they cannot go back to, and from the Latin American countries, which won’t welcome them back. So where do they go?

Opting for asylum seeker might hurt our search rankings, but it was more important to be accurate. We’ll continue to update the language used as people’s statuses are updated.

Stay tuned for more insight from our partners about their journalistic coverage.

Photo by Noella Williams for Scalawag

Shining a Light on the Untold Stories of the Pandemic

It is often said, and often true, that there are multiple angles to any good story. The recurring narrative around immigration tends to center around desperate migrants fleeing their homeland. But what if Mexican immigration north stopped - even just for a little while? 

Our partner, palabra, reports on one Mexican town whose residents decided to stay rather than migrate north to the U.S.   In "Los Nogales: Two faces of a hard border wall" the closing of one part of the Arizona/Mexican border during the pandemic revealed a surprising twist: the Mexican side of the town is flourishing, as more and more people invest in their own community. The Arizona side of the border is suffering from a lack of Mexican tourists. You can also listen to this story on the podcast "A Better Life?"
And speaking of home, our partner Scalawag, offers a deep-dive on how one Southern community is betting on faux sustainability as a marketing tool to lure wealthy residents. In “New Urbanism sells Faux Sustainability as a Luxury on Florida's 30A”, author Ashira Morris writes “Just past the Redneck Riviera, wealthy developments declare who can and can’t thrive in the face of climate change... As the climate crisis warms the Gulf of Mexico, fueling more intense hurricanes, these picture-perfect planned communities show that with enough money, the wealthy can pay to keep their palm trees, boutiques, and beach cruisers—while everyone else worries about surviving the next big storm.”

Monday was Indigenous People's Day, and WURD Radio explored the issue of safety and space in Philadelphia's Black neighborhoods at the third annual ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit. If you missed it, be sure to catch the recap.

In an effort to help homeowners understand how to find support our partner TBN24 offers this analysis on the landlord assistance program.

And in the ongoing quest to spotlight how to build community and resilience, Documented partnered with The City and The Fuller Project to profile women who are helping their communities pull through the pandemic.

Scalawag partnered with The Guardian for its "Breaking COVID" series to tell the moving story of how an Arkansas pastor encouraged his congregants to get vaccinated and stay vigilant in the wake of the pandemic. 
Finally, Flushing Town Hall is returning to reasonably priced live events and will be overseeing $100,000 in grants for the New York State Council of the Arts. Epicenter is covering the story. 

Hispanic Heritage Month
As we close out Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, we look back on a few stories that celebrate Latina entrepreneurs and activists working to create a more equitable world.

From palabra, Latina entrepreneurs are using equity crowdfunding to help their projects come to fruition. 

And from Documented, activists from Movimiento Cosecha protested the detention of immigrants in New Jersey. 



Photo by Haitian Connection

Thinking Beyond Survival

World Mental Health Day was Sunday, and The Haitian Times spoke with health advocates about how Haitians can only be fully resilient by taking care of their mental health after trauma

When it comes to long-term care, Florida health professionals are concerned about Haitians who still need assistance recovering after the recent earthquake. The Haitian Times has the story on what they're discovering through their research.

What we're loving this week from our partners

+ Minnesotans' viewpoints on media are divided heavily by political lines. Also, people of color want to see more positive stories about them featured in the news. The Sahan Journal has details on this story.
WURD Radio is featuring organizations that are offering free food, clothing and workshops through December 31. Check back with WURD's website every week for more information on freebies.

The URLs on URL

A well-deserved congratulations to Sahan Journal’s executive director and founding editor, Mukhtar Ibrahim. On Wednesday, he was awarded the Emerging Leader of the Year from the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN).

This is the inaugural year for these awards from the INN, which supports 300 independent U.S. news organizations dedicated to public service.

+ Everyone loves a good origin story. You can read more about how URL Media came to be in a recent Poynter interview with Mitra and Sara. 

Join URL Media Events

Once a month, you can catch URL Media on The Laura Flanders Show on select PBS stations for a conversation that centers the stories, issues and concerns that our BIPOC media partners are following. 

Click here to check your local TV listing.

Here’s how you can watch our latest.

This week some of the URL Media network partners connected in New York City for an impromptu breakfast: Left to right - Mazin Sidahmed of Documented, Garry Pierre Pierre of the Haitian Times, Mitra Kalita and Sara Lomax-Reese, co-founders of URL. After months of emails and Zooms, it was great to see our team in real life.
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