East End Stories

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East End Stories is a photo essay featuring people who live and work in the east end of Newburgh, NY, within the area where the FBI conducted a major gang takedown in May 2010. The series is intended to collectively show the love, pain, hope, and resilience that lives there. The portraits and candid images feature people who are both direct and passive victims of gang violence; people who are providing art, academic, and athletic programs for the city’s youth; religious leaders of the community who are working hard to provide both physical and spiritual refuge; business owners who are trying to keep commerce in Newburgh; and finally, people who simply call it home.

The exhibit is comprised of 17 portraits that were created by combining images with photos, letters, or drawings and each is accompanied by a caption telling a story about the individual and a piece of the rich fabric that makes up the east end. The portraits are accompanied by candid images. The series is currently exhibited at the Ritz Theater Lobby in Newburgh, NY. An 86 page soft cover book was also created featuring the exhibition portraits along with candid photographs. 10% of proceeds from sale of this book will be donated to organizations dedicated to providing alternatives to street violence for the city’s youth. You can order a copy online at CreateSpace.

Craig Smalls has lived in Newburgh for over four years after spending time in the service. He says there are no gangs here, only drugs, and that’s what’s killing the neighborhood. According to Craig, the gangs referred to in the newspapers are just scared kids trying to stay safe by hiding behind drug dealers. He wants to go to school and study physical education.

Hide Oshiro is an artist who moved to Newburgh 12 years ago. He draws and paints while his wife Catherine volunteers in the community. Born in Tokyo one hundred years ago, he wanted to come to the United States when he first saw the word “Liberty” on an American coin. When asked about the violence in Newburgh, he said young people need to learn that the breath of life is all that matters.

Billy Ford was born in Newburgh in 1947 and has lived here his whole life. He traveled a bit when he was younger—but says he’s like a salmon, always wanting to find his way back home. There are some streets he avoids completely now because of the violence. He’s one of the original tenants from the Hotel Newburgh, once a drug infested welfare hotel before it was converted to the Cornerstone Residence.

Juanita Williams is a single mom, sister, singer, poet, artist, granddaughter and a waitress at The Wherehouse. Her children’s father was arrested during the FBI gang raid in May 2010. Juanita takes care of food and rent for herself and her children. Their father used to pay for clothes, school supplies, games, music, and almost everything else. Juanita takes care of those now too.

Ray Rivera moved to Newburgh in 1996 and soon after that his 16 year-old son, who had remained in the Bronx, was killed in the streets. He opened the Newburgh Boxing Club two years later so that kids would have a safe place to get 
off the streets, learn discipline, and compete. He is open 6 days a week and anybody who shows up can come in. He asks for a monthly donation of $50, but less than 10% contribute. Last year Ray spent $15,000 of his own money taking his team across the country to matches.

Dewey Bozella (left) was an amateur boxer when he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. He spent 26 years in prison where he earned a masters degree in theology. He met Ray Rivera while there and now volunteers as a coach and mentor. He’s been working with Tre’Sean Wiggins (right), a young boxer who turned pro this past summer. Tre’Sean found his way to Ray’s club 8 years ago when he was 12 and running from a gang that wanted to beat him up.

Cathy Castillo
’s son John was living on the streets of Newburgh when he was shot and killed. Cathy and the rest of the family kept trying to get him to come home, but he wouldn’t leave the streets. He told his younger brother Caylin that he was sorry he ever left home. His nickname was Tarzan because he called himself “King of the Jungle.”

Jan Murchison’s son James was killed on May 18, 2008. He was 16 years old. Jan says he loved to dance, eat, and make people laugh. He was out with friends on a Saturday night and got stabbed while breaking up a gang fight, trying to help a friend. Jan now works at The Center for Hope, a community center that serves as a refuge from street crime for 11-21 year-olds.

Jo’Van O’Neal (aka Babylonian Phoenix, Arch Poet) is a senior at Newburgh Free Academy and a poet. The middle son in a family with five boys, he is proud to be from Newburgh. He wants to go to an HBCU (Historically Black College or 
University) when he graduates—but then return home after college to help the city realize its creative potential. He says the talent in Newburgh is vast and what happens here is a catalyst for creativity.

Jimmy Gagliano acting as FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent led Operation Blood Drive and Operation Black Crown in May 2010. 77 gang members of the Bloods and Latin Kings were arrested. For the past 10 years he’s coached boys basketball in Newburgh. He teaches his kids basketball—but also about having a plan for what they want to be when they grow up–something besides being a gangbanger.

5 Responses to East End Stories

  1. mac says:

    Humanizing the difficult conditions in Newburgh is essential for change and understanding. I beleive you. Hudson Valley resident: Mac

  2. Julia Chiesa says:

    Wonderful photo essay! It is a story common among many people in all different places around the world. But a story that is never told too many times, as the hope and growth that exists in these struggles can bring great exapansion for a people, as long as there are some working on one side of something, there will be the balance of some others on the other spectrum, on opposite spectrums of decisions and ideals…that is. Mostly, I have seena nd discussed with social workers, that people seem to fall into lifestyles of drugs, gangs, violence and occasionally murder because they are filled with fear… and someone elder than them that has cool things such as money or a neat car in a gang may show support and embrace some of these young people, and they may feel they have no where else to turn if they are not getting necessary attention or love at home, they will look elsewhere, wherever that love may come from, or it will find them in places that their mothers have no understanding of how. But in the root of it, is love. You were able to capture those victims of lost sons and husbands, and you captured those that see that something must be shown to these young beautiful people, these seas of potential, and those that find they can have a part in changing a course of someone’s life. And you also captured those who are spectacles of the happenings, those that also see that change is needed and are yearning for the space and time to bring something wonderful back to the place they call home. So awesome! It made me want to visit Newburg and see these shining people and congratulate them for pushing on through hard times. Gratitude is another word that comes to mind…

  3. Lindsey says:

    Awesome! So glad to see your work in this issue Eileen.

  4. Mike Figliola says:

    Hi Eileen:

    Love this piece – I recently did a 3 part gang series on the radio show I produce and we included Newburgh as part of our coverage – this nailed what we reported on

    you truly captured the faces and sentiment of those who call Newburgh their home –

    look forward to checking out more of your work

    m

  5. ravyn rivera says:

    This really shows the art of newburgh. yes, our town has been overlooked because of everything negative that has happened; but what people really don’t realize is what good comes out of newburgh. My dad’s gym was forced to close down and no one did anything about it. what the mayor has to realize is my dads gym was a place where anyone could go when they needed help. that gym is his life and all those kids have no where to go. thank u for reckoning my father in your article.