MPIPersona Project
Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com

Ida

Portrait of Ida
Age
27
Race
Black
Hometown
Born in the Gambia, raised in the Bronx
Now lives
The Bronx, New York
Job Title
Social Worker
Income
$45,000
Education
BA, MA (Social Work)
Group
Routine Local
Occupation
Community & Social Service
Industry
Local Community & Civic Organizations
Artifact: College Graduation Photo

Artifact: College Graduation Photo

It shows that America has endless possibilities. I was able to be the first person in my family to graduate from college. I walked across the stage at Fordham University. Had I been back home, this would not be possible.

Driven social worker, fighting on the frontlines of poverty
“I think America, to me, is a place where there’s hope and doors are open to you. You just have to figure out how to navigate within those doors to find out where’s your destiny.”

America

My parents came here from the Gambia 24 years ago with one suitcase and their hard work. I was able to get the American Dream that my parents came here for. My parents always worked hourly jobs. I’m the first one in my family to get a salary job, to know what a 401(k) is, to have medical benefits that are separate from Medicaid. I remember so clearly holding my first paycheck, a salary paycheck. It was a proud moment for me because I was able to do something. My hard work paid off. I went into T-Mobile and I bought my first phone, a Blackberry. Then I went to Old Navy and went on a shopping spree. You see, this is the bad part about being American. It makes you a consumer. You want everything. No. You just need it!

Shopping mall sale Wolffgang/EyeEm

Work

I’m a full-time social worker. I grew up going to Immigration Court a lot with my mom and I witnessed how it was going through the immigration proceedings. How my mom felt like the lawyer always had to fight for us, to say why we should stay in the country. So, when I went to college I wanted to be an immigration lawyer. But I missed the human side of things and I decided to go into social work. I work with youth that have been incarcerated for committing low-level offensives like shoplifting or jumping the turnstile — quality-of-life offenses. Many of them are inner-city youth getting arrested for crimes of poverty. Maybe they didn’t have money for the train so they jumped the turnstile or they shoplifted something. Some of them lack in decision making. Some of them lack in positive role models. Some of them lack any support in their lives. Our system’s not working with them. What I try to do in my assessments as a social worker is to highlight their strengths, which we often forget, and show how they’re a person. Otherwise, we’re criminalizing poverty and creating a horrible cycle.

“I was able to get the American Dream that my parents came here for. My parents always worked hourly jobs. I’m the first one in my family to get a salary job, to know what a 401(k) is, to have medical benefits that are separate from Medicaid.”

Race | Spirituality

I’m a New Yorker. I think New York City is a big place, but we’re a melting pot of different people. Even though we have our issues, I think we can live freely here as a person of color. I went to the South, to Atlanta, in April, and you can tell it’s different. Seeing the Confederate flag was not something I was very pleased about.

I mean, I’m a Muslim female. My religion is important to me. I don’t cover up fully. I just cover up when I choose. I think I’ve been fortunate that I’m an African American and many people don’t know I’m Muslim until I tell them. In the Bronx, we live in a community where we have four mosques around us. The people around us treat us respectfully. I think we’ve been privileged within the Islamic community.

Driven social worker, fighting on the frontlines of poverty
“I think America, to me, is a place where there’s hope and doors are open to you. You just have to figure out how to navigate within those doors to find out where’s your destiny.”
kids colouring in a classroom huePhotography/iStock

Education

When it comes to education, there are not many resources from when a child is young, especially if you don’t speak English. You get lucky if you get a good teacher or if there’s a translator. Remember, school’s the one stable place some kids have, where they can just be a kid. I had one amazing teacher. I was raised speaking my native language at home, but she took time out to help me, giving me writing classes, looking at my essays. She would stay after to tutor me, give me opportunities I could do on the weekend. She helped me with immigration when I had to go see a lawyer, helped me find a summer job when I didn’t have a Social Security number.

“The change that happens in Albany is going to impact my neighborhood. It impacts what kind of funding we’re getting for the neighborhood, how much police will be there, the garbage disposal, all the little stuff that relates to my quality of life.”

Politics | Government

I’m not a big political person. I feel like what happens in Albany impacts me quicker than what happens in Washington. The change that happens in Albany is going to impact my neighborhood. It impacts what kind of funding we’re getting for the neighborhood, how much police will be there, the garbage disposal, all the little stuff that relates to my quality of life. My sister is 19 and she does not want to go register to vote because she believes her vote doesn’t count. But I told her that people went through a great fight to get us that right to vote so I’m going make sure I use that right. Even though I’m sometimes not a big fan of the politicians, I’m going to use that right to vote.

People voting Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com

Community

I want to live a life of comfortability. I want to have my own family. I want to live a life where I have a purpose. I want to be working around my passions, around youth and around social justice. I want to be making a difference in my community. I think that’s my key thing. I don’t want to merely do something for a paycheck and just be burnt out and upset.

“I want to be working around my passions, around youth and around social justice. I want to be making a difference in my community. I think that’s my key thing.”
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