Humans of New York posts are known for eliciting emotional responses from its viewers – it’s how the photo project has garnered 16.8 million Facebook fans, spawned hundreds of imitation documentary photo projects, and even inspired Barack Obama to comment on a photo. But although hitting people’s heartstrings through stories of our shared humanity is the bread and butter of HONY, sometimes there are stories that have special resonance.
This week, HONY featured an image of an unnamed man in a hard hat, who told an uplifting story of how Bronx lawyer Ramón Jimenez helped him turn his life around.
“I don’t know why he cared so much, but he sat down with me and tried to map out my life,” the man said. “When I tried to start selling drugs again, Ramón came out and stood on the corner with me for three days straight. Here’s this 72-year-old dude, shadowing me wherever I go, screaming at anyone who tried to walk up to me.”
While the unnamed man overshot it with Jimenez’s age (he is in his late 60s), his story is just one testament to Jimenez’s importance to the Bronx community. In 2014, Jimenez was profiled by the New York Times, which described him as a “radical, Harvard-trained lawyer for whom causes and people were more important than billable hours and prestige,” and detailed his work safeguarding Hostos Community College from getting shut down by the city.
Though he was born in Brooklyn, Jimenez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, has been working in the Bronx since the 1970s. During New York City’s fiscal crisis in 1976, the Harvard Law School grad helped lead a protest that stopped the city from shutting Hostos down. While the city pumped money into Yankee Stadium for renovations, Jimenez saw that it was the poor who were going to bear the brunt of the fiscal crisis. He joined a group of community members to save the college, and one day, they even sat in freezing temperatures on Grand Concourse in protest.
“Any reward I get for what I did, it’s because of the people I was around,” he said. “We have too many leaders who want to rise from our people, not with our people. Even good people get hypnotized by power.”
After helping save the school, Jimenez opened a law office in the Bronx. And he is still active. In 2013, his law firm helped investigate the nonprofit group that organized the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. An investigation revealed that the company had been mismanaging funds.
In 2014, Jimenez ran on the Green Party platform for attorney general – something he decided to take on after he was diagnosed with cancer.