The Bronx is full of activists and people who are always doing things for our beautiful borough, always giving back.
But there’s one special woman who does so much without much fanfare, and oftentimes goes unnoticed by many since fame or fortune isn’t her endgame.
It’s about leaving The Bronx, our beautiful borough, a better place than we inherited it from our previous generation so that future generations can live safely, in an environmentally sound Bronx.
That woman is Nilka Martell.
Before I even continue, it is only right and fair that I fully disclose that I have become friends with Nilka over the course of almost two years now. I am also on the host committee for ‘An Upstream Soirée‘ where she will be honored thus coming Tuesday at the a fundraising event at The Bronx Zoo for The Bronx River Alliance.
She was also one honored earlier this year as one of the 25 influential Bronx Women of 25 years.
That being said, all of that doesn’t impact how I feel about this woman of The Bronx and appreciate all she has done for us without ever even expecting a thank you.
I put my biases aside as best as someone in my position could and asked myself what would I say if Nilka Martell was someone I did not know but knew the work she did?
The answer was simple: It would be the same.
Whether it’s beautifying her neighborhood, planting trees, cleaning up garbage or organizing major cleanups of The Bronx River and our waterways, having over 200 trees planted in memory of our beloved activist, friend, historian, and environmentalist, Morgan Powell or supporting the many institutions that make our home borough a wonderful place, Nilka is there.
In 2010, shortly after losing her job, and after years of volunteering, she decided to start an organization which became known as G.I.V.E. (Giving Involved Virginia Avenue Efforts)
which began small and cleaning up her block in a campaign of beautifying where she lives.
This adventure eventually took a life of its own with the non profit receiving grants and awards to further their efforts.
It became and continues as a way of Nilka engaging our youth and putting them into action while learning and caring for their environment.
In such a short time, she forged alliances with the many organizations and people who serve to protect The Bronx not just with her passion but her charming personality making her someone pretty much everyone in The Bronx knows or has heard of.
To me, she is the type of Bronxite above and beyond, that we should be celebrating for she doesn’t just talk about it, she IS about it by constantly, literally getting her hands dirty doing what many won’t do but it’s these very people she’s inspired to get their hands dirty as well.
It’s for this and many more reasons that Nilka Martell is well deserving of this recognition and many more. She is someone who loves our borough and understands what it means to truly love it.
Loving The Bronx, as she often hashtags her images and even has an Instagram account with that name (not to mention her I Love The Bronx column in The Bronx Free Press) is a complex thing for to truly love our you accept it for what it is and try to help it without changing the very fabric of our borough’s culture.
You love it and bring about socially responsible change that would uplift everyone not displace folks and that’s what she’s about, walking that delicate balance.
I’m proud to call Nilka Martell my friend, I’m proud to join countless others in celebrating this wonderful, selfless woman of The Bronx.
Tickets are still available for this event which will benefit The Bronx River Alliance, an organization that has done so much to clean up our River to the point where we now have the first beavers in NYC in over 200 years and even installing a fish ladder for migratory fish to return to their spawning