African American Studies
African American Studies
Summary by Jocelyn Defex.
This interview for the Bronx African American History Project was with Maria Aponte, a Non-profit organization founder, educator, author, poet, performance artist, and community arts activist. A Fordham University alum, Carlos Rico, interviewed her for the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project.
Aponte discusses her childhood; she grew up in “El Barrio” (Washington Heights, NY) and moved to the Bronx in the late 70s. Before becoming an activist, she was a theater actress, and she felt that her role helped to break down Latino, women, and person-of-color stereotypes in the theater. At the same time, she acknowledged how her roots connected her to her generation’s struggles, and she reflected on current protests and movements. Moreover, she explains how she is an advocate for young people. In the interview, she urges people to vote, or their protests will not have the outcomes they want.
Then, the conversation transitions to the COVID-19 pandemic. They begin talking about the impact that COVID-19 had on the Bronx community. Aponte describes the devastation the world feels, the unimaginable loss of lives, and how COVID has impacted low-income communities in worse ways than others. For example, the sounds of the ambulance and sirens reminded her of when she was a child; the world during COVID sounds the same as when parts of New York City were burning. Despite these challenges, she highlights the strength and resilience of Bronxites, emphasizing the community efforts and available resources.
Afterward, Rico asked her for her opinion about New York City's “re-opening” since there were fewer COVID cases or deaths than at the beginning of the pandemic. At this, Aponte expressed uncertainty because no vaccine was available yet, and she did not know if New York residents could behave appropriately on public transportation.
Towards the end of the interview, Rico asks her if she had anything to say about herself. Aponte shared that her nonprofit organization, Latina 50 Plus, honors Latino women over 50 in various fields and discussed upcoming projects and workshops.
Finally, to end the interview, Aponte reads a segment of her book South Bronx in Black and White to describe what life was like for Bronxites during the fires and how they moved on from such tragedies through peace, hope, love, and trust.
Naison, Mark, "Maria Aponte Interview" (2024). Oral Histories. 361.