Hi everyone, I’m Dara (pronounced like Sara). Though, if you looked at my birth certificate you’d see that my real name is Dar, which in Hebrew means ‘mother-of-pearl’ and in Spanish means ‘to give,’ and represents the duality of my background. My father was from Israel and immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s and my mother was born into a Puerto Rican and Colombian family in Jackson Heights, Queens. My mom, however, wanted to Americanize my name and had people outside of my family call me ‘Dara.’
I was born in New York City, where we lived in Washington Heights until I was six. After that, I was transplanted to Jersey, where I would sit in front of the window for hours, looking for people. Once, I spotted someone and started to scream with joy and exclaimed, “MOM! COME QUICK! THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE LIKE IN NEW YORK!” My grandfather always used to say, “people need people,” and I couldn’t live in a place where I couldn’t easily interact with people. Needless to say, I always missed city living and after I graduated from the University of Michigan, I headed straight back.
In New York, I first worked for a legal services non-profit as a legal advocate, representing low- and no-income New Yorkers on issues tied to their ongoing receipt of public assistance, Medicaid, food stamps, and housing subsidies. Then, I worked for a non-profit supportive housing developer, coordinating the rent-up process for their newest building in Brownsville, Brooklyn. In the middle of it all, I went to Turkey on a Fulbright Fellowship, teaching English at a university in a rural town and getting plump for Thanksgiving — it was gravy! (chuckle? I think I may be cringing)
I am currently a second year student in the city planning program at MIT and my interests lie at the nexus of housing and economic development. I am excited to take this course and work with community organizations in the Boston area to help them develop narratives around issues that are important to them through different forms of media!