British milliner Julia Knox looks at her to-do list on Sunday, October 15. The hat maker owns and operates East Village Hats on East Seventh and First Avenue, where she handmakes hats for women and men on premises. Customers can pick up a pre-made hat or have one custom made. “About 40 percent of customers will get them custom,” Knox said.
At East Village Hats, headwear from straw hats to fascinators (or headpieces) to felt fedoras line the walls and the shelves. Knox, who was trained in millinery at the Fashion Institute of Technology, makes most of the hats in the store. She prefers to make casual hats, instead of the fancier statement pieces popular in her home country of England.
Knox sews in a ribbon to what will become a felt porkpie hat using a sewing machine from the late 1800s. Felt is Knox’s favorite material to work with due to its versatility and flexibility. “Felt is really easy to work with, it’s really sculptural, it holds its shape, whereas straw is more fragile, you’ve got limits,” Knox said.
Knox takes a blowtorch to a felt fedora in order to create a distressed look that she says is in fashion. The heat creates a light discoloration to the dark blue felt and ribbon, making it look as if the material was bleached.
After working for a few hours, Knox stops at nearby taqueria for a burrito. East Village Hats, which was known as Barbara Feinman Millinery before Knox took over and renamed and relocated the shop just down the street, has been an East Village staple since 1998.
Leaning on a stack of Panama straw hats, Knox talks to a customer about the merits and history of Panamanian straw. Throughout the day, a steady stream of people wander in, attracted to the hats in the window, and wander out without buying anything. But Knox welcomes regulars with open arms as well, offering up hats she thinks they’d like and chatting easily.
In the entertainment industry body image is an issue that many actresses are hyper aware of. The woman in this film explain the body image issues and eating disorders obstacles while working in a field that is constantly pitting them against one another.
In a secluded corner of Prospect Park, Tzvi Levine, a 22-year-old resident of Kensington, Brooklyn, ground some weed, made a joint, took a puff, and began strumming his guitar while improvising a song. The sinking-sun shone golden on his clean-shaven face, the trees cast long shadows, and Levine’s Nike sneakers tapped to a beat. He looks like an average Brooklynite: jeans, a white t-shirt, Buddy Holly-glasses frames. He sat on a fallen tree trunk crossed diagonally over poison ivy and rotting foliage. A plastic shopping bag beside him contained a cucumber and iceberg lettuce. Levine often brings raw foods with him to enjoy their “pureness”, and occasionally, he’d take a bite. Perched next to him, Yoni Krakauer, Levine’s friend of only a year, removed his kippah before reaching for a smoke. The two meet here to unwind. There are no rules to follow, and they can speak freely. Levine notes that it’s a place where he can feel in-touch with nature.
During the day, Levine spends time with his nine siblings in his parents’ Jewish Orthodox home: he sings on the couch, plays games, or reads books when they return from school. He currently has no day job, and is largely supported by his parents by means of food and housing.
At night, Levine is a hip-hop performer, attending open mics in Brooklyn, making connections, and hoping to gain popularity as a white artist in a predominantly black community that created hip hop as a reaction to oppression from white people.
Levine was raised Orthodox, but decided to forgo his religion after being expelled from his mesivta, or Jewish high school, at the end of 12th grade for poor attendance. “I didn’t like authority there,” said Levine. “I hated the way that the rabbis had power and I hated the way that they knew more than you. There were ten-hour school days and at one point we slept in dorms.”
As Levine grew up, he encountered a disconnect between the strict laws of Orthodoxy and his own interests. Levine had grown up in a musical family, and had taken interest in non-Jewish music that he heard away from school and his home. “When I was in 9th or 10th grade, I felt repressed from the school and the class I was in because they forbid us to listen to non-Jewish music, even if it was “clean,’” Levine said. During this time, Levine discovered hip hop music. “A friend of mine put Not Afraid, an Eminem song, on my iPod Nano,” said Levine. “He found some way to not make it show up unless you searched for it.”
Not Afraid was the catalyst to Levine’s interest in hip hop. He became interested in the technicalities of rhyming to rhythms and spent time trying to compose his own similar work. As his interest in the non-Jewish world increased, Levine spent less time attending classes, and thinking more about life outside Judaism.
After leaving school and choosing not to continue the path to yeshiva, Levine’s parents became increasingly unhappy, ultimately banning him from their home. Levine was sent to live with his grandparents in the neighborhood, picking up a telemarketing job after being encouraged by his grandfather. Levine has no current intention to attend college. He has held a series of part-time jobs since leaving school, but is currently unemployed.
Living in the basement of his grandparents’ house gave Levine the freedom he lacked in his own home. “That’s when I was able to do whatever I wanted,” said Levine. “I really got into hip hop then because I was free to listen to non-Jewish music. I also started watching porn and smoking weed.” Growing up in an Orthodox community, Levine sheltered from the outside world. “I grew up without a TV or movies, and no non-Jewish music whatsoever,” said Levine. “All of these rules would have stayed with me forever, but I just stopped following them.”
Levine would sneak out the back door at night, unknown to his grandparents, but made sure to be home for Shabbos each week, putting on a kippah before entering his home.
Levine’s telemarketing job allowed him to save money to buy recording equipment. After being allowed to move home over a year later, Levine took over the empty garage in his backyard. He began to create his own music inspired by the hip hop he had listened to. “I made a song, and it was like a white-boy knockoff of Eminem,” he said. “It was about being different.” Songwriting and performing was easy for Levine. “I grew up singing, and I taught myself to play guitar,” he said.
After posting the song to an online hip hop forum, Levine was contacted to attend an open mic. He continued to write songs inspired by artists like Kendrick Lamar and MF Doom, often with explicit lyrics that contrasted the tenets of his upbringing.
Levine chose to tell his father about his interest in hip hop, but not to his siblings. “I told my dad that I could write rap really well,” said Levine. “But he just asked what my back up plan was going to be.” After showing his father the music he had written, he started to take his son more seriously.
Levine’s father, who recently graduated from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work, has been supportive of his music and non-Jewish interests. “I think my dad is sort of proud of me as a hip hop artist in certain ways: he’d show non-Jewish people what I’m doing,” Levine said. “He even brought me into his class once to lecture about weed.”
Levine’s mother takes a more hands-off approach to her son’s diversion from Orthodoxy. “My mom doesn’t say much about what she thinks of me because she’d rather not learn about what I’m up to,” Levine said. “She’s going to get hurt by what I say or what I do with my life because she’s afraid.”
After establishing himself back at home, Levine started to attend open mics in Bedford Stuyvesant or East New York. He became enamored with the community. “I was able to meet a lot of people who encouraged me and gave me connections,” Levine said. But even as he tries to be an optimist about his experience, he’s also had trouble fitting in. At a hip hop party in East New York, a woman took the stage to criticize Levine for being white. “She singled me out and started talking about me saying that I was coming there to take their culture,” Levine said.
“Most people who don’t like me aren’t interested in seeing me as a person, but then they realize I’m respectful, and that I grew up in Brooklyn just like them,” Levine said. “I’ve had a lot of bad experiences, but the good ones outweigh them.”
Levine has found an expanding group of people who accept him and hope to help him gain recognition within Brooklyn’s hip hop community, but when he returns home to Kensington, he is happy to blend into the crowd. “Kensington and Borough Park are like Manhattan,” said Levine. “It’s so diverse there, and nobody cares who you are. Sometimes if I want a favor, I’ll make it known that I’m Jewish by saying something in Yiddish. Otherwise, everyone minds their own business.” Even Levine’s siblings have become used to him. “My baby sister just thinks that I sleep all day,” he said. “When I’m not at home spending time with my family, they don’t question where I am.”
Living a double-life between hip hop and family life has helped Levine evolve his musical style. “My music doesn’t usually discuss being Jewish, but the sincerity in which I sing is reflective of my upbringing,” said Levine. Levine realized that hip hop could include more than rap: he heard performers sing at open mics and soon adapted that style to fit his own voice.
At a Bedford Stuyvesant open mic that Levine hadn’t attended before, he approached the crowd with a song that predominantly relied on vocals and chorus, rather than rap. At the end of his song, Levine was accompanied by a loud ovation.
Moments like these encourage Levine to continue writing and performing. “It’s a life direction, not a money-making career,” said Levine. “I don’t see it taking me anywhere, but if it does, I’d love to get enough recognition to allow me to work with Kendrick Lamar or Anderson Paak. I enjoy collaboration because I want other people’s influences. It’s about community.”
At Prospect Park the following day, Levine brought a cucumber to enjoy alongside music and weed. Krakauer, who has known Levine for only a year sat beside him. Krakauer isn’t a fan of hip hop, but still supports Levine. “He has beautiful melodies and chord progressions, so I wonder why Tzvi even raps at all,” Krakauer said, suggesting that Levine’s talents lie in the “jam-sessions” he and Krakauer engage in. Levine plays guitar, and the two of them sing together.
“It’s very difficult for me to figure out how hip hop and Judaism mix because I don’t see it very clearly,” Levine said. So, Levine uses this time to find contentment and reason in a segmented life. Despite no longer being a practicing Jew, Levine remains spiritual on his own terms. “My spirituality is happiness, and from playing guitar,” Levine said. “It’s contentment from being grateful for everything you have.” For Levine, happiness comes from enjoying the things around him in their most natural state: nature, raw food, air. “I don’t connect to a specific god anymore,” he said. “The world is perfectly made for us to live in.”
When Levine returns home, he sleeps on the bottom bunk of a room shared by three of his siblings. He drapes a blanket from the rim of the top bunk, creating a closed-off space for him to relax. “This is the only private space I have in my home,” said Levine. He has no plans to move out of his parents’ house, and has no intention of quitting hip hop anytime soon. “I’m a very simple person,” said Levine. “I sleep and eat at home, so I don’t need much money.”
JK Kim has been practicing tattoos for years, but only in the last six months has she considered herself a real artist. See what tattooing and her clients mean to her as she finished one of her last tattoos of the year – JK was 8 months pregnant at the time!
(Baby Hunter was born on January 3rd, 2018, but JK tattooed all the way up until December)
“I’ve always dealt with climate change issues and the aftermath of climate change, but now that it’s in Puerto Rico it makes everything that I work hard for 10 times more important,” said Angel Morales, a 16-year-old community organizer for the United Puerto Ricans’ Organization of Sunset Park (UPROSE).
The organization partnered with the Climate Justice Alliance and the larger Puerto Rican community to establish October 11 as a National Day of Action and host a rally in Union Square Park to command Congress to create a federal aid package to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. “This is my people under attack–this is my people not being able to survive,” Morales said.
Morales and other protesters and speakers called for the repeal of the Jones Act, which requires that goods transported between two United States ports are shipped by vessels built in the U.S. and controlled by Americans and thus limits Puerto Rico’s ability to receive the necessary provisions.
“Right now our people are hungry,” Morales said. “They have no water, no medication. They’re lacking all of the basic necessities of life right now. So our number one concern is sending stuff out there so that they can survive.”
“My 60-year-old grandfather who is legally blind is still, all these days later, MIA,” Morales said while telling her story onstage at the rally. “I remember watching the news reports as they were coming in and thinking, ‘There is no way this is really happening.'”
Continuing as raindrops wilted her speech, she said, “You see what they don’t know is that when it matters most, we come together and everyone magically becomes family,” she said. “As horrible as this is, we will get through this together.”
Protestors and passing park goers listened under dripping umbrellas as Morales concluded her speech with a call to action. “That’s why tonight we are here to demand a just recovery and build resilience in Puerto Rico,” she said. “We need all of our people to make it through this climate crisis and set up measures so that we are prepared for the next disaster that hits. Today and everyday, we stand with Puerto Rico.”
Shielded from drizzles by a yellow umbrella displaying “CLIMATE JUSTICE” painted in large red letters, Morales released high-pitched cries in support of the rally. The congregation raised flags, banners and fists all across Union Square Park and loudly chanted, “Puerto Rico is under attack. Stand up. Fight back.”
“Of course I’m Puerto Rican, so all of my family’s out there in Puerto Rico. I still haven’t been able to get in contact with a lot of my family out there, so that definitely affects me personally but not in a bad way as you may think. This makes me even more determined. It makes me even more persistent, more strong. I’m doing everything in my power stateside so that my people in the island, they can get what they need.”
After the protest, Morales connected with a rally participant about their common struggles with being in New York while their families remain in Puerto Rico. When the participant finished voicing her concerns, Morales simply said, “Don’t worry–we got this.”
Morales stood quietly as journalists interviewed a demonstrator.
“We’re not just gonna fix what was broken. We’re gonna start something new from the ground up. We’re gonna make sure that we’re not kicked out of our homes like in other disasters where, after disaster hits, somehow people come in that had no business there in the first place and our people get kicked out. We don’t want that in Puerto Rico. We will not let that happen in Puerto Rico.”
Protesters gathered outside of Trump Tower on October 3rd to shed light on the dire situation in Puerto Rico after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Unsatisfied with the current administration’s relief efforts, protesters demanded they do more. The protest occurred on the same day that President Trump made a visit to Puerto Rico, where he drew criticism for insensitive comments. Below are pictures from the event.
The 45th president is great for business. Blonde wigs, “Yuuuge” shades, Troll dolls titled “Hair to the Chief,” masks, and hats are among the Trump merchandise displayed at Halloween Adventure in the East Village.
Two passing shoppers laughed as they took pictures and held some of the merchandise. To them, the items provided an amusing joke, but to the store’s employees, the appeal of Trump bashing has provided a needed boost for sales.
Halloween Adventure, on Fourth Ave., is New York’s largest costume and accessory superstore, open year-round in the East Village. Despite more than a decade of popularity since it opened in 2002, the store has suffered from increasing competition from Amazon. This season, President Trump, along with pop culture icons like Wonder Woman, have helped to attract passersby, and potential buyers.
Amazon’s speed and low prices are major factors the store’s employees blame for dropping sales. “Amazon beats us all the time,” said Tony Bianchi, 72, the manager of Halloween Adventure, and he continued, “This store is an experience to walk through, but people don’t want to go through the hassle. Even my grandchildren buy costumes through Amazon Prime.”
Online searches account for roughly 35 percent of shoppers’ costume inspiration compared to about 30 percent from retail stores, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween survey. In addition, while only 22 percent of customers will exclusively buy online, that number has consistently grown over the years since 2006.
Despite the growing online trend, some employees are confident in Halloween Adventure’s appeal. “There’s an accessibility to thousands of items you can actually see and touch,” said Michael, 26, a store employee, and he continued, “There’s always uncertainty with the product you’re getting when you’re buying online.”
The store takes full advantage of its many displays, especially that of President Trump, creating an experience that ties in with the news cycle. “The more Trump brands himself by sparking controversy, the more merchandise we can put on display,” Bianchi said. “Good news or bad news, it’s great for costume sales.”
After decades of legal battles, gay and lesbian couples were granted the constitutional right to marry in all 50 states in June 2015; one year after that, a gunman opened fire on a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando, killing 49 people.
Despite the tragedy in Orlando, members of the LGBTQ community enjoy more rights and public acceptance than ever before. AIDS is no longer a death sentence and pride parades are held in every major U.S. city. For the first time, a majority of Americans (55%) support gay marriage, according to the Pew Research Center.
The following piece is a multi-part journey through the hardships of a gay black man, a transgender woman and a bisexual woman living in New York City in 2017, all of whom currently attend or once attended New York University. The photographer, Jesús Ian Kumamoto, followed each as they went about their lives and asked them what it truly means to be queer in 21st-century America. The black-and-white format of the photography attempts to capture the raw essence of the subjects’ emotions.
Although these are young LGBTQ New Yorkers finding their bearings among the chaos of youth and city life, their experiences differ vastly. What they have in common, however, is overwhelming: they all feel, in one way or another, forgotten by their own community and the larger discourse on LGBTQ people.
Victor Leonard: Black and ‘Unwanted’
Alex Hoffman: Transgender, but Human First
Patty Boutin: Bisexual, but Not Your Sex Toy
CLICK HERE to view the full story
Yesterday, thousands gathered around Stonewall Inn to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community and other marginalized groups whose civil rights are currently being threatened by President Donald Trump’s administration.
In the few weeks following President Trump’s inauguration, dozens of protests have erupted around the globe in a collaborative effort to combat the leader’s oppressive executive orders. Now, New Yorkers are flooding the streets of the West Village in a vibrant sea of rainbow to support the LGBT community and urge for a peaceful call to action.
“I am a student. I am queer,” said Bonnie, 21. “I am very opposed to the Trump administration and I think it’s important for us to stand in solidarity with other communities that have faced oppression.”
“We are facing a fascist regime that has taken political power,” said Steve, a member of the non-profit, RefuseFascism.org. “We cannot allow this regime to consolidate any more political power.”
“I’m a woman. I’m gay. I’m intersex. I’m trans and I’m a disabled veteran. Trump and his program go against me on more levels than I can count,” said Danie. “He is an extremely dangerous man, but he is a man of a very frail ego. Protests really bother him. The more bothered and unhinged he is, the more obvious it will be that he needs to be removed.”