A special panel discussion titled Puerto Rico: Nearly A Year After Hurriane Maria is set for Thursday night, September 6th at Rutgers Express Newark Lecture Hall.
Organizers of the program say it's time to talk about the disparity in how the U.S. responds to natural disasters according to race and class.
Recently, the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria was upped dramatically to nearly three-thousand people.
Thursday's free panel discussion is put together by Ark republic in partnership with Lisa Durden Unlimited Productions. NYU professor and Ark Republic founder Kaia Shivers says the event culminates the story telling initative’s inaugural major collaborative project exploring the three consecutive massive storms that tore through the Caribbean, Central America and parts of the U.S. in 2017.
"We have over two dozen stories, from writing to pictorial cartoons to podcasts. What we say portions of it we see all of it in Puerto Rico, but what the problem is that you're not hearing about these things that are going on, these issues because, in my opinion, most of the people are poor, they are of color, they are people who are considered in developing countries, so they don't get the shine that a lot of these regions that have been devastated by natural disasters or crises, such as California. I think it's important that we have multiple lens on an issue. We have to be more proactive in helping folk. We have to more proactive in pushing policy. We have to be, in my opinion, more accountable and responsible to folk on the ground and not as if they're just helpmaids or helping hands but people with families and lives."
One of the panelists is Khadijah Taylor, CEO of Newark Speaks 2U.
"I'm Puerto Rican, born in the United States, but raised there since I was about 12 years old til I was an adult. Basically, what I have seen after Hurricane Maria are blinds and disabled are losing hope. In the news today came that a thousand schools were closed. Electricity comes and goes. We have been tapping into everything and everybody in the government, not only in the United States but in Puerto Rico and around and it seems like nobody can help us to build back Puerto Rico."
The panel discussion is moderated by television personality and producer Lisa Durden who says the media needs to refocus its efforts on the devastation in Puerto Rico.
"I consider myself a real journalist because I went to Seton Hall for journalism so I think it's important to have these discussions. Journalism today is about everyone is trying to chase that story and sell that story and keep it moving. So, especially when its in a place of color, no one really cares. Even though I'm not Puerto Rican, I'm a person of color so I felt the need to have this conversation and let the media know we're still out here and we need to have this dialogue and they have to be a part of it. Media can play an important role in making sure this stays on the minds and mouths of everyone but again they don't care. To be very real, media is racist, not all, but generally speaking."
Other panelists include the CEO of the New Jersey Puerto Rican Congress, the Manager of the Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Relief Fund of Newark and the Chair of the Unity March for Puerto Rico.
The event begins at 6:30 Thursday night in Rutgers Express Newark, Room 213 on Halsey Street in Newark. For more information you can go to arkrepublic.com.