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Photograph by Tezarah Wilkins for WURD Radio

It’s like back in the slavery days when you had to guess how many jelly beans were in the jar to have a right to vote and they still wouldn’t let you. Banks don’t want to help us, and they will look for ways not to fund us.

— Damon Hopson, founder of Hopson Cleaning Services, Inc., explaining the difficulty in obtaining a loan to start his business

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Hi everyone,
 

S. Mitra Kalita here, co-founder of URL Media and publisher of Epicenter-NYC. 


Photo by Nitin Mukul

"Vamos, Leylah!"
 
The cheers at the U.S. Open earlier this week for 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez are still ringing in my ears not just because they pierced the elite, polite sport of tennis but because they did so en español. Another remarkable sight in the stadium: the Filipina-Ecuadorian-Canadian-Peruvian rooting section of family, friends and coaches, all crammed into a box, visibly Brown and immigrant and loud and proud.

Every time Leylah scored, they were on their feet, and soon, so were all of us fortunate enough to watch history being made. To get to Saturday’s final—a match against Emma Raducanu, the British 18-year-old born to a Romanian father and Chinese mother—Fernandez had to beat three top-5 players, which hasn’t happened since Serena Williams in 1999.
 
It’s been a week of looking back in order to look forward. Twenty years ago, I was living in a studio apartment in Queens and had a Tuesday morning dentist appointment. It was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. I was already in the chair when the hygienist put the TV on after hearing there had been a second attack on the World Trade Center. I ran out to begin reporting and didn't have to go far. Bangladeshi butchers and shopkeepers were closing shop in fear of revenge attacks. They were not overreacting: anti-Islamic sentiment set the seeds for the anti-immigrant rhetoric that became official U.S. policy. 
 
Once, I was trying to explain what it was like to be a reporter on and after Sept. 11, 2001 and I told my friend: "We thought there'd never be another story we cover. It felt like this day would basically be the rest of my career."

To that, she said, "Well, hasn't it been?"

(You can read some other New Yorkers’ recollections of 9/11 here.) Before launching Epicenter and URL, I spent two decades in the mainstream media in the middle of every major news event of the 21st century so far: the Great Recession, immigration, globalization, terror attacks, school shootings, the election of our first Black president, extreme weather and climate change, racial reckonings (or the promise of them), and, of course, the Trump years. 
 
Which makes Fernandez, her family and all the Black and Brown power on display at the U.S. Open all the more uplifting. The theme of this year also happens to be “Be Open,” a commitment to racial justice, diversity and inclusion that tennis’ fans and players have been demanding. The U.S. Tennis Association partnered with Black-owned businesses for the program. 
 
Putting money behind the message feels key. Check out an extensive report by my fellow Assamese-American journalist Madhusmita Bora. In our latest work for Lively-HOOD, she lists the billions pledged by big banks to advance racial equality and economic opportunity for communities of color over the next few years. So, one year after that pledge, where are we now?  
 
“The problem that I have is that the money hasn’t reached our communities,” said Jamie Lee Storms Jr., owner of Lee Jr. Entertainment, a Philadelphia event management company. “That’s a huge concern of mine. If they are giving to people, where is it going? How is it being allocated? Who is using the money?”

We’ll keep following the story—and the money. 


Peace,
Mitra

 

Photo: Leonardo March for The Haitian Times
 

Embracing Our Diversity on Labor Day

New York's official West Indian Labor Day parade was cancelled but that didn't stop folks in Brooklyn from taking to the streets to dance, perform and revel in a pre-Carnival celebration. Haitian Times' Leonardo March was there for the festivities

In case you missed it, WURD hosted a Labor Day Music Special. You can listen here to Pastor Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist discuss faith and the soundtrack to his life.




Photo: Nadria Todres for The Haitian Times


Uplifting Each Other in Crisis, Past or Present

The Haitian community continues to pick up the pieces after a devastating earthquake that took the lives of more than 2,000 people. The Haitian Times discusses how the earthquake has affected more than 250 schools and hospitals

Both The Haitian Times and WURD have offered resources on how to assist those recovering from the disaster. Onz Chery goes in depth with telecommunications company Digicel on their efforts to match relief donations


Hurricane Ida's remnants continued to create havoc and devastation with intense flooding in the Northeast. A majority of flooding deaths can be attributed to unsafe and unregulated basement apartments in NYC. The Haitian Times and Epicenter covered the aftermath and a renewed call for legalizing basement apartments to increase safety standards.

Many of our partners are offering deep-dives on the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The Haitian Times featured a profile of Paul Eliacin, a lighting and rubble removal volunteer at Ground Zero on 9/11. Decades later, he still suffers from physical and emotional trauma as a result.

 


Photo: Da'Shaun Harrison, provided by Scalawag
 

Art Appreciation Every Day

Scalawag interviewed author Da'Shaun Harrison on their book, "Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness" on drawing parallels between weight discrimination and racial discrimination and how they uplift Black bodies of all shapes and sizes. 

Epicenter's featured artist is David Benjamin Smith, a third-generation immigrant of Ashkenazic descent whose textile art has been featured in the MOMA. 

Finally, Saida Rodríguez Pagán for Palabra examines how to increase Latino representation behind and in front of the camera. One possible solution is creating tax incentives for production companies for diversifying their hiring.

 

What we're loving this month from our partners

+ Another shoutout to the first WURD Radio / URL Media collaborative deep-dive report that tracks the pledges that have been made to support Black and Brown businesses after the racial justice protests last year. The story captures the vision of trying to hold all corporations accountable for what they've promised. We are starting with the banks but keep an eye out for a series of reports that highlight other industries.

+ Epicenter is guiding its readership on how to talk to loved ones about COVID.

+ Documented recently covered how undocumented workers can apply for a relief fund. They've also done a deep dive into how former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's last pardon lacks transparency

 

The URLs on URL 

"It’s hard being tiny on the internet.” Our co-founder S. Mitra Kalita’s words (and a driving impetus of URL) lead this roundup of Google’s first community news summit

 

URL Media's own S. Mitra Kalita was a featured guest at the Society of Professional Journalists' annual conference last week. She was on a panel during the super session on "Objectivity: Bridging the Growing Divide." Mitra had a lot of insight into this topic, so definitely check out the replay.
 

Join URL Media Events

Documented is partnering with The Intercept for a conversation on "How 9/11 Changed Our Immigration System." The event is at 3 p.m. ET Sept. 13 and features award-winning journalist Azmat Khan and several experts for a candid conversation about how the United States' national security apparatus has drastically changed.

You can catch URL Media on The Laura Flanders Show on select PBS stations. Click here to check your local TV listing. Here’s how you can watch our latest

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