Long Island City fundraiser, under Trump countdown clock, benefits families separated at border

Courtesy of Brandon Stousy

A fundraising event will take place on the Long Island City waterfront this Sunday benefiting an organization that helps reunite families separated at the southern border.

Dining for Justice will take place at the Sound River Studios beneath a giant clock that counts down until the end of President Trump’s first term in office.

“You know it’s kind of funny, but I didn’t think about it,” event organizer Jonathan Forgash said. “But yeah, it couldn’t be more fitting.”

The Astoria resident was driven to help Immigrant Families Together, an organization founded by Long Island City resident Julie Schwietert Collazo, which raised money to release a Guatemalan woman from an Arizona ICE detention facility and bring her to the city where she could be reunited with her three children who had been separated from her at the border.

“I was in Court Square last June when Julie brought Yeni Gonzalez-Garcia to New York to be reunited with her children who had been taken from her,” Forgash said. “I held a successful fundraiser at Sound River Studios where they gave us their gorgeous event space for free and they were so pleased they offered the space again for Sunday’s event.”

Forgash, the co-founder of the Queens Dinner Club, organized Dining for Justice as a food tasting event featuring dishes from M. Wells, Queensboro, Kurry Qulture, John Brown Smokehouse, Alewife, Sugar Freak and charcuterie master Rodrigo Duarte among others.

“Chefs are big hearted people,” Forgash said. “It is from this place that they donate their skills and efforts to help the families that are being detained, and separated at the border.”

Immigrant Families Together (IFT) has responded to the family separation crisis caused by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy and immigration detention by raising and posting bond for more than 70 parents, grandparents and other siblings. IFT provides ongoing support to families, ensuring that they have the resources that they need to build a safe, healthy and stable life while they are pursuing their asylum claim.

“This fundraiser has enormous symbolic significance,” Collazo said. “By coming together to share food, to build the beloved community of which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, or to create a radical welcome, as poet Elizabeth Alexander has said, we are not only engaging in the most basic and beautiful human exchange. We are also raising funds to create opportunities for these families to build a new life, and to quite literally feed themselves in this new land.”

The event is Sunday, April 14  at the Sound River Studios, located at 4-40 44th Drive, from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are still available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dining-for-justice-food-hall-tickets-57288871557 and children 12 and under can attend for free.

The countdown clock was installed in 2017 after Trump’s election by Long Island City artists Matthew Barney and Brandon Stousy in collaboration with Jane Lea, the architect who designed it, Jade Archuleta-Gans, who largely built it and Kenzan Tsutakawa-Chinn, the light designer and fabricator. The artists no longer do interviews about the piece, but Stousy did send a statement.

“We see it as a civic project, like the national debt clock, and we don’t want it to become about who made it,” he said.

Forgash said the Trump countdown clock will make a fitting backdrop to Sunday’s event amid reports the White House is considering putting the family separation policy back in place.

“It absolutely makes an awesome background,” Forgash said. “Look, I’m a patriot who loves my country, but I’m also a father and to me it’s nauseating that anyone would do this to families.”


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