Public School Story Telling

WorkersWrite engaged in a project with City Lore called “A Life Well Crafted” to engage students in three New York City public schools to explore contributions of community activists and artists to their neighborhoods and city.

The program was inspired by the Clara Lemlich Awards given each year by Labor Arts and the National Writers United Service Organization, otherwise known as WorkersWrite, honoring women activists. The award is named for Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian Jewish immigrant who as a leader of the massive strike by shirtwaist workers in 1909, and by City Lore’s People’s Hall of Fame, honoring individuals who jave made a lasting contribution to cultural life.

Students worked with teaching artists to interview Lemlich and City Lore honorees, created portraits through song and spoken word poetry with some public events for families and neighbors.

Some of the songs and poetry are captured here and there is more information for teachers here

The project helped our organization to establish a partnership with City Lore that enabled us to achieve our goal of bringing our Clara Lemlich honorees and other community based activists to the city’s public schools. It also helped us to achieve our goal of raising students’ awareness of the important roles that artists and local activists play in community life and how the arts can be a powerful tool for civic engagement and social change. Students also learned about their guests’ career paths and how they used their art to serve a greater good.


This is What Race and Gender Discrimination Looks Like

By Yvette Butler

I am a single mother of three children. I was hired by Coca-Cola in 2003 as a production mechanic at the Maspeth, Queens (New York) plant. I was the only female African-American mechanic until my termination in 2008. For five years, I faced constant racial and gender discrimination, unfair work assignments and sexual harassment from supervisors and co-workers. My complaints to managers and the Human Resources Department were ignored.

Throughout my employment, I was denied essential training on machines alongside my co-workers while white male mechanics were given this necessary training. I was constantly harassed on the job by male co-workers and supervisors who made comments like, “What is it? That time of the month?” A white female co-worker refusing an assignment went unchallenged when she openly said in a meeting and in my presence, “What am I, a Nigger?”

A maintenance manager persistently asked me for dates and made sexual jokes as I worked on the machines. The harassment and abuses escalated after I refused his advances. He told supervisors to assign me to dangerous and hazardous jobs alone, jobs that are normally done by two or more mechanics, thus jeopardizing my safety. None of my male and non-black counterparts had to work alone on these jobs. Another supervisor even instructed me to use a cigarette lighter to heat and soften up a hose in a room full of flammable chemicals. Instructions I fortunately did not follow and found another way to fix the hose.

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Women’s Writing in the Philippines

By Marivir R. Montebon

New York City – My women writer sisters in the Philippines have given birth to a new news website, and I share their happiness and triumph. I have been in touch with them scarcely but as what women say they will do, the website is born, on March 7, a day before International Women’s Day! Here is to profound, fun, and quality reading to all people all over the world. Thank you to my friends who think outside the box, Diana G. Mendoza, Pinky Serafica, and Diosa Labiste. Welcome to our brave and safe writing space.

Dear Diosa Labiste, this is a long time coming. I miss reading you.

Diosa Labiste writes on

This social news site emerged out of despair by some writers, feminists, activists and, (as they call themselves), witches rolled into one. Some months ago, a news site where we honed our skills as writers and which we continued to support, through falling revenues, readership and enthusiasm, had closed down. Its demise was inevitable for reasons that we rather keep to our sad selves. It’s safe to say that it reached a cul de sac and the barrier was quite high to hurdle. But as the ink has started drying, we grew restless. We wondered if we could live without writing as women and for women. How do we recreate a community of women writers and connect with new ones. Is a community of writers still relevant in the age of social media when one can easily have a platform for airing one’s views and assemble followers who could click, like, tweet, retweet one’s words? Fake news sites, for example, would buy bots to make their accounts viral.

However a community of women writers is a different space. First, it is a space for teaching and learning. We learned that long ago when we were starting out as writers. We watched how seasoned writers polished our stories, taught us the basics, and tempered our idealism with reality. Second, it is a space of resistance. For example, our editors helped us make sense of the women’s movement in the Philippines and convinced us why writing about women crucially contributes to strengthening the struggle for equality of women and men. We allowed our stories to reveal various forms of sexual and structural discrimination as a function of societal differences like gender and class. Third, it is a space for empowerment. Through our writing, we enacted our politics and registered our protests against injustices and gender oppression that we saw and experienced in our lives.

Having experienced that kindness, it became apparent to some of us, younger writers, that perhaps it is our turn to do the same.

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Marivir has a blog at



On the Power of Faith

By Angelica Ingunza

There are some people you admire for something.  Sometimes it is for their courage or for their work, for their honesty or for their will to live.  That I will call “faith.”

That is the case of my friend Gabriela.  She got lupus before she was married.  She was really sick, but she always believed that God would help her.  Her boyfriend proposed marriage to her even when he saw her with no hair or nails, and all her body covered with bruises.  I give a  thumbs up to this guy.  Another one in his place would have left her as many that I have known did.  He demonstrated for her a real love.  He worked in the Air Force, and he gave her his health insurance.

She got treatment for her illness and one year later, she felt better and then the unexpected happened.  She was pregnant. The doctors had told her that because of her illness, she couldn’t get pregnant.  But she always thought that a miracle could happen.  All her doctors said that she had to abort the baby or she would die.  She took the risk.  She knew that God would help her.  Five months later, her family took her to the emergency room.  The doctors said that they couldn’t feel the baby’s heart.  They had to do surgery because maybe the baby was dead, and they would try to save Gabriela’s life.  She had only one percent chance of living.

What was the miracle?  Both lived!  The baby weighed only 700 grams, and she was put in an incubator.  Now that baby is 20 years old, and she is adorable.  Currently she is studying to be a doctor.

This isn’t the finish.  Eight months ago, Gabriela had an accident.  She broke her hips.  The doctors said that it was going to be very difficult for her, and maybe she would never walk again.  But her willpower and her faith made sure that she did walk again.

How much I admire her!

ANGELICA INGUNZA came from Peru 20 years ago after graduating from university in Peru as a graphic designer.  She lives in in Flushing, and studies English in the Consortium for Worker Education/Workers United Education Program.  Her teacher is Jackie Bain, and the program director is Sherry Kane.

On Happiness

By Marie Sainta Desravines

I am happy when I get paid.  I am happy when it is Sunday and I go to church.  When I buy a new dress, I am happy to put it on me.

I am happy when I speak English, and they know what I am talking about.  I am very happy then.

On my way to work, I am happy to buy my breakfast to eat before I start work.

I am very happy because my son is going to have a new baby.  I can’t wait to see what my baby girl is going to look like.


Marie Sainta Desravines studies English in the Consortium for Worker Education/Workers United Education Program.  The program director is Sherry Kane.

Mission To Haiti

By Eugene Salomon, Taxi Driver, New York City
One of the little side-benefits of driving a cab in New York City is that you occasionally have a window presented to you through which to gain an insight into major world events. For example, to go way, way back, I once had a military man in full uniform get in my cab who was en route to New York’s Sloan-Kettering Hospital. It turned out he was a general in the army of the overthrown Iranian government who was going to visit “His Excellency” in the hospital. “His Excellency” was the Shah of Iran who had been overthrown by the Islamic revolution and was at that time receiving treatment for cancer at the hospital (from which he died shortly thereafter). I didn’t have a conversation of any substance with this military man, but his seriousness, his stiffness, his continuing to wear the uniform of an army that no longer existed as a show of respect for the deposed Shah, and his use of the term “His Excellency” have remained with me all these years. An abstraction had been given some mass, a face. Whenever the Iranian situation was mentioned after that I could think back on this ride and get a feeling for the way it was, just based on the way this general in my cab carried himself.

I had a ride like that a few days ago.

I picked up a young man in Manhattan who was headed for Kennedy Airport, and from there he would be flying home to London. New York was a stopover in his journey from his original point of departure – Haiti, a place that, of course, is very much in the news these days. He told me he is a photographer and had donated his services to record some of the relief effort that is in progress on the devastated island.

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Why Your Cab Driver is So Cranky

By Y.C., Taxi Driver, New York City


There’s a good reason your cab driver is so cranky: His livelihood might be teetering on the edge of default. According to a recent presentation prepared for Capital One Financial Corp. investors, some 81 percent of its $690 million in loans for taxi medallions are at risk of default.

Medallions, the small metal shields affixed to the hoods of taxi cabs, are issued by the local taxi authority and effectively allow the cabs to operate legally. Owning one used to be akin to owning a gas-guzzling, money-printing machine. Medallions in New York City traded at more than $1 million in 2014, but today’s prices are about half of that.

Now the share of taxi medallion loans Capital One thinks its borrowers won’t be able to repay in full has nearly tripled over the past year, to 51.5 percent. (Another 29 percent of loans are to stressed borrowers who could be in trouble soon.)

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