Faces of Kingston: Nardia Bennett

I was driving the other day, passing Antonio Delgado’s office in Uptown, when I saw a protest gathering in favor of closing Trump’s disgraceful border camps. Upwards of 100 people had gathered under non-optimal weather conditions to ask Delgado to not go soft on the issue. Faces of Kingston is a project dedicated to getting to know one another better, so I thought it would be a good chance to not only support a very worthwhile cause (I think ICE should be abolished), but to get to know someone interesting.

This week we are going to talk to Kingston resident Nardia Bennett, a 31-year-old volunteer for Citizen Action who graciously shared some time afterwards to talk to me. She told stories me about seven instances of things she had experienced within our own city she believed to have racist motivations within the past year alone. I wish I could fit our whole conversation but wanted to share as much as I could.  

Morgan Y. Evans: Have you lived in Kingston a long time?

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Nardia Bennett: Yeah, I’ve lived here since I was nine. On and off. I’m also an immigrant myself. 

Do you work in the city? 

I’m a property owner in the city, so I’m a landlord. Kingston is the type of place that’s actually a big immigrant population. I remember when I was a kid and I first came to the States. There were maybe five Jamaican families that I knew. Now there are so many Jamaican families who I don’t even know. That’s how much it has grown from age nine to 31. 

That’s gotta feel good.

It does feel good, but still I feel like we live in two different worlds. New York City, no one really cares if you are an immigrant because someone’s mom or cousin is one. A best friend. Around here there have been people that made me feel extremely uncomfortable to be an immigrant. 

That’s pretty stupid considering Henry Hudson sailed here and there were people here first before his ass. 

Facts. Back in the day when I first got here you could tell maybe there were some people that were racists, but maybe they would give you an attitude because you’re black, which we’ve experienced. Nowadays they are saying it, they are making you feel uncomfortable and going out of their way to do it. I went to Dunkin’ Donuts here famished from walking and long story short a cashier stole my money. This girl stole my money, $20. When I demanded the manager to run the cameras and got irate the manager checked the drawer and said it was good. I said, “Absolutely not. I need my money.” Who was the girl on the phone with? Corporate? 

The police?

Exactly. Basically, luckily I knew the cop from having headache tenants. That could’ve helped that he knew me personally and knew I was alright. But what if he didn’t? That’s a blessing of community policing, which I advocate for. I went to John Jay. That’s my favorite type of policing.

What I have realized with many racist people nowadays, they are overt. However, they aren’t going to overtly always tell you the N-word. They will say you are “on drugs” or “dishonest” (Note: she tells me about a time someone on a trip back here recently insinuated she can’t read as an insult). To insinuate in 2019 that a black woman can’t read, you are being racist. 

And this is supposed to be a liberal part of the country.

It got me so f—-d up, it affected me psychologically. 

Do you feel like that is part of why you came out to the protest today? 

I have to. I came out here today because I care about the kids. I remember Anne Frank, she touched my heart so much when I read that. Whenever I am in an attic I think of that. ‘What would it really be like if you had to hide up here? The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. That movie had me all the way in my feelings. I cried for days. That was crazy but it was deep. I was like, “Lord.” Be careful what you allow to happen to others because it could happen to someone you love. That’s why I came here today. I can’t really comprehend why things happen in human nature. I’m trying to come to grips with that personally. I have a daughter and I couldn’t imagine my daughter being away from me. Not because I am a bad parent. Not because of abuse. Not because an environment is unsafe. Simply because of immigration status and being a person of color. When I saw the girl who drowned with her dad, for me as an immigrant … I love my island. I love Jamaica. It’s a beautiful place but as beautiful as it is it is ugly as well. Violence isn’t everywhere, just like the United States. But the thing is, for me growing up I grew up in political warfare. “Vote for me” wasn’t something happy. Election time was the deadliest time, especially back in the ‘90s. 

It is sad that here in America, Trump wastes 108 million taxpayer dollars on golf, then looks down on people. 

You know how Trump says “Make America Great Again”? I say Make America Great. It’s not like it’s been great for everyone. I can’t hide who I am. “I’m not black today.” OJ, right? (laughing)

(laughing) Oh my God.

(laughing) You know what I’m saying? It’s crazy, dude. But there’s a lot of people that do care around here. When the Mueller report came out they were out protesting and people were lined up. They were talking about making sure love is in the community and hate doesn’t belong here. They were saying Black Lives Matter. That’s really dope. The craziest thing? Most of them were white. I think that’s wonderful. At the end of the day, black people been marching. We’ve been on the frontlines. They need to be out there because it might reach them if they can tell their white cousin, “No. Don’t treat them that way.”

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