Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz distributes 400 laptops to students on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Photos credit: Isseu Diouf Campbell

To Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, it might only be a drop in the water, but for the 400 children selected in the schools with the highest needs in District 9 and 10, a laptop almost a year after NYC public schools shut down, is a blessing.

Hasia Ayinla, a single mother of three originally from Ghana, got the information from her masjid and decided to come for her son Salmon Abubakari.

“We decided to come as early as we could to grab one to help him with his academic work,” said Ayinla.

Her 13-year-old son, who is in 8th grade this academic year, has been studying on a tablet since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s been very hard to navigate on the website my school is using for online learning, because there are stuffs that I can’t do on a tablet that I can do on a laptop or a computer,” said Abubakari. “It kind of limits my access. It’s better this way.”

Of the 200,000 students in the Bronx, the City of New York has distributed only 90,000 laptops.

“I’m here today with mixed emotions,” said Bronx Borough President Diaz. “I’m happy that we are doing this, but damn it, there are still too many kids who are being left behind. Today is not a day off. Today is a day of action.”

“We are giving 400 laptops and next Saturday we are going to give out 100 more,” added Diaz. “That’s the good news. The bad news is that unfortunately we still have thousands and thousands of families in the Bronx alone that don’t have the necessary equipment for their kids to get that distance learning. We believe that in the richest city in the world, we believe that with all the resources that we have, there is no reason why every single child doesn’t have the computer, doesn’t have internet access, doesn’t have the ability to get a quality, sound education that they so deserve, so they can be a bright light to our future.”

Geneal Chacon, another parent of three, appointed by Diaz to the educational policy panel, is also thankful.

“When I got the call to come out and be a part of it, I had to accept, because this is the best thing our kids need right now,” said Chacon. “It’s not the only thing, but I’m grateful as a parent.”

“Dr. Martin Luther King was somebody who believed that education is the way for our communities to progress,” said Diaz. “Our children are the future and without educating them accordingly there is no way that they are going to be able to achieve their full potential.”

So, Ruben Diaz Jr. is calling for help, for the tens of thousands of Bronx students who did not get a computer.

“This is a crying call to anybody, any corporation, any man or woman in business, anybody with the resources, with the money, this is a crying call,” said Diaz. “We need help. Don’t go today and try to recite Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings and words. Don’t go with that empty action. If you really believe in the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., If you have the resources, do what [the] Stanley Flashman family did and help our kids, help our families. Because there is still — unfortunately today in 2021, January 18 in the Bronx, in the City of New York — so many children, Black and Latinos in particular, that don’t have access… They have the civil right to educate themselves.”

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