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Express reporter is honored

Ajhani Ayres, a former reporter for the Hunts Point Express, accepts the Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.

A reporter for the Hunts Point Express won this year’s undergraduate honor from the James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism for her story about three women who have lived on Kelly Street for decades, keeping the community spirit there alive.

Ajhani Ayres, who graduated from Hunter College in January, won praise from the award judges for her story, “Watching the block: Three women look back – and ahead – on Kelly Street” published in the Express last May. The story chronicled the nearly six decades that sisters Carolyn Waring and Jennifer “Hopie” Foster, and their neighbor Lonnie Brice, have spent living and working in Longwood, in the curve of the block that is known as Banana Kelly. All three women have lived there since their teens in the mid-sixties, and have seen the block nearly destroyed in the ‘70s, struggle through the ‘80s and ‘90s, and begin something of a resurgence now in these past two decades.

“We’ve got gold here on Kelly Street, and we’re holding tight,” said Brice in the story. “I have security here and I have convenience here. I feel the most safe and comfortable here. I wouldn’t trade that for nothing.”

In her acceptance speech, Ayres recollected that in meeting the three women, she felt accepted and at home in the neighborhood for the first time.

“They opened their homes to me and they were very real with me about the issues in their community, and how much they really loved Hunts Point,” Ayres said at the award ceremony. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who really appreciates where they’re from – they made me want to live in Hunts Point!”

Calling herself “just a little girl from Jamaica with a dream,” Ayres said it is hard to constantly give yourself encouragement, to “carry your own flag,” as she said. But she said the women of Kelly Street made it easier, at least on this one assignment. “Because of their truth, because of who they are, this article is what it is.”

Ayres is now a reporter at the Republican-American in Waterbury, Conn.

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