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I love New York City something awful. I still want to wake up in this place every day. The tourists are gone, the stores are closed, and sirens are our permanent backdrop. And although the city is sleeping momentarily, it’s far from dead. The real New Yorkers haven’t budged a bit, we’re still here, awaiting its imminent return.

I love New York. More specifically, The Bronx.

I’m from a place of Chinese stores, Dominican hair salons, and bodegas on the corner. The birthplace of hip hop and the Yankee Stadium down the block. Pianos by the water, beautiful gardens, and Edgar Allen Poe.

A diamond in the rough. The Bronx has long been donned “the bottom” of whatever scale we use to identify neighborhoods in this country. But I love her. The thing is, she doesn’t paint you a wondrous picture to make you feel good. It’s not her style. She’s known for her honesty and bluntness. She doesn’t lie. Her story remains the same and she says, “The world is a crazy place, but you got this.”

She can be rough sometimes. No doubt.

Still, she taught me a lot. She taught me love. She taught me resilience. She taught me to abandon rules and labels. Taught me that it’s not always about me – everyone is essential.

While the others continue to flee the city, I look about my hood and I feel grateful. She continues to be her essential self. From the cashier at Food Bazaar, the Habibi at my favorite spot, the neighbor blasting bachata, to the boys hanging on the corner – I appreciate you.

You give me life in this madness.
You give me hope that we’ll bounce back.
We always do.

The Bronx prepared me for this moment. She trained me to find the beauty in the struggle, and I discover it every morning. I’m indebted to her. I’m glad to be in her company.

She told me to tell ya’ll, we got this.
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