Lower East Side
Community organizing, Photography
Please tell us of an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you or inspired you?
I have many artivists that have continued to influence and inspire me. One of them is Arianna Cuesta, who is an Afro-Caribbean photographer from Puerto Rico. Her work focuses on amplifying and showcasing the beauty and resistance of the African diaspora, in particularly the Afro-Caribbean community. It has inspired me to want to connect with my roots and people more, and the importance of curating and telling our own stories.
Please tell us about a place in your neighborhood that is personally meaningful to you, and why?
I am from Loisaida and we are known for the number of gardens we have in our neighborhood. For me, the gardens in The Lower East Side symbolize the power and beauty of Puerto Rican/Dominican/Black people. At that time, The Lower East Side was a safe haven for poor Black/Brown artists/activists (even with the dangers that came along with being in the neighborhood). There were burning buildings, empty lots, and a lot of space that the City did not want to do anything with. Community members gathered together to clean up the neighborhood. They took control of the land and decided to teach young people how to garden, resulting in my hood now having over 40 gardens that community members can access. Though many of the gardens are occupied by gentrifiers now, 99% of the gardens are still named after the Black/Brown folks who built them. For me, it is a reminder of a home I never got to experience; it is a reflection of what my people brought over from the island.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Lee Jimenez is a Afro-Boricua from the Lower East Side who has used the arts as a means of resistance and survival. Whether it’s photographing their neighborhood and friends, busting a good wine and singing to Hector Lavoe and Lauryn Hill on the dance floor, or supporting the work of other Black/Brown artists, they are here to connect and build with community members to create social change.