Rina Risper, President & Publisher of The New Citizens Press
(Pandemic photo 2022)
By Rina Risper
Manifesting peace is one thing that I learned that helps me to know that I can only be accountable to and for myself. I do not not deal with funerals well. My ability to empathize and accurately grasp how others are feeling is deep. I weep and fall into a place where I cannot emerge easily.
We live in such a fake world, where people will say anything to make you believe that they are “true.” But the truth is raw and painful sometimes. There are some people who do not function well at funerals. It is a struggle. If we think about those who are not able to share their feelings or those who drown in the preoccupation of their own right, it can make us feel beyond stressed. That is what happens when others inflict guilt because you did not visit at the hospital or go to a funeral.
I wanted to attend Antonio “Tony” Benavides funeral but I would not have been able to separate myself from the feeling of grief and sadness from others. The feelings that belonged to me would have been traumatic enough which was why I could not write in my last column. Lansing’s former and first Latino mayor taught me a lot as I was just starting the newspaper in 2002. He was appointed as mayor in 2003. I was excited because he knew my name. He would joke about my double carriage and play with my three children that I took with me everywhere.
When I think about love and mutual respect, I saw between Tony Benavides and his wife Carmen. They put each other first equally from what I saw. They actually were the first two people that I witnessed the bridge between two separate beings. They had communication skills that were unspoken. When he became ill, the light in his eyes was still there and he communicated through his smile. Carmen was always by his side.
He was the first mayor that I met and the kindest most genuine. I am not going to expound on his political career because he was Tony Benavides. Honestly, I was paralyzed by the notion that I would not be able to function.
I wanted to remember his light and the love that he had for everyone. From my experience with him, I learned very quickly that people will bring up race in a New York minute when you are not placating to their needs. They will also blame you for issues that were there before you were probably born that were not brought to light until you reach a certain position.
I also learned about betrayal and forgiveness. Through all of it, Benavides continued to give and volunteer until he could no longer.
Benavides never showed egocentrism and was responsive to the people’s needs. He taught me to be the kind of public figure that listened to people. There are those who are now too embarrassed to tell the story of how Mayor Benavides helped them. He did not project his authority on others but instead used it to help correct injustices.
He also created a roundtable that consisted of people of different cultures and religions. I learned so much about the Sikh community through him and made many friends that I still have contact with today. He brought people together regardless of socioeconomics and race. This current race division in our city between Latinos and African Americans was not evident to me while he was in office.
I was happier because I could always count on him to have integrity.
Please love yourself. Take care of yourself. Be kind to people. There are despicable people in the world but Mayor Benavides taught me that we don’t have to be like them. He was and always will be Mayor Benavides to me and holds a special place in the history of The New Citizens Press’ beginnings. I will forever be grateful. His obituary from Estes Leadly is printed on Page 3.