Sujatha Fernandes is an associate professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and the author of several books, most recently, Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation. She is currently working on a new book about storytelling and immigrant social movements. She can be contacted via her webpage.
It’s 11 a.m. on a brisk Friday morning. In the middle of a short block of 40th Road, just off Main Street in Queens, where colorful signs stand out against the densely packed four-story buildings, a handful of Chinese delivery workers dismount from their motorbikes. The dry pavement here is a welcome sight; much of the downtown area was buried under a foot of snow earlier in the week. The men, dressed in sneakers, blue jeans and puffy jackets, gather in a circle at one of the few empty parking spots.