I will always be shocked at how society has grown in violence. And I will always be stunned by the triumph of the human spirit, of the sense of community to rise above it all.
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — As New York crept into another night of brazen cold on Monday, family and friends of theater journalist Randy Gener gathered for a press conference and prayer rally for his healing. It was poignant and heartwarming, with his husband Steve Nisbet and younger sister Jessica Dreissler, representing his family, at the Philippine Consulate on 5th Avenue.
Holding back tears, both had profusely thanked the overwhelming support for Gener who was attacked by a still unidentified assailant on January 17 in midtown Manhattan. Police are looking at the possibility of bias crime and have released a cartographic sketch of his probable assailant.
A week after the unfortunate incident was revealed through Gener’s Facebook account by his sister, Gener’s friends and colleagues have actively responded to seek justice for him. They also raised $38,000 from donations for his medical expenses. He had brain surgery after the attack and is now confined at the St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital.
Dreissler told members of the press that they are open to any possibility as to the NYPD findings, if it was indeed a hate crime. “Regardless, we are touched by your help, especially on how to go about all these. My brother is the eldest and the rock in our family. Now, he is not that rock. As the youngest, I am used to be at the receiving end in the family. It is difficult. I deal with this day by day. And thank you for your help.”
Nisbet, Gener’s partner of 19 years, says he remains touched by the Filipino community’s outpouring of love for a ‘friend and a colleague’. “I am stunned and grateful. I know the prayers that you all do have a profound effect on his healing. When he squirms in pain, I hold him and the injured part of his skull, and he gets relaxed. Your prayers gave him energy to fight (for his life),” he said in a quick conversation after the press conference.
The public prayers and press conferences were put together by the Filipino-American Press Club of New York (FAPCNY), which Gener is an active member. FAPCNY vice president Momar Visaya said in his testimony how everyone was shocked. “All we could wish for is for the monster who did this to be pinned down.”
Philippine Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. acknowledged Gener’s active involvement in theConsulate’s cultural and education programs. “Even at such a short notice, he would readily be of service to share his talent.”
De Leon said that the Filipino community seeks justice for Gener, regardless of the motive of the crime, in order to live in a safe and secure environment.
Gener, 45, is a writer, drama critic, editor, playwright, and visual artist. He wrote for Village Voice and had written numerous scholarly essays, including anthologies Theater and Humanism in a World of Violence in the encyclopedia Cambridge Guide to the American Theater. His reviews and essays have been published by the New York Times, New York Magazine, The Star Ledger, Time Out New York, The International Herald Tribune, among others.
Gatherings with Gener had always been joyous. Perhaps having gone a long way in theater, literature, and journalism, he was easily funny and fun to be with, as all his friends say.
I encountered this multi-talented fellow just twice. The first time was when he read poetry in Filipino to commemorate the national language month in October 2013. He was remarkable – giving justice to works of national poets Corazon de Jesus, Alejandro Abadilla, Corazon Alma, and Jose Lacaba – as he read their poems to the audience. He also read his own composition (both in Filipino and English), The Toilet is My Paradise and In Memory of My Grandfather who Loved Guava.
His poems revealed that this man is a social critic, somebody you would love to quote and listen to. It was an unforgettable night. In fact, I wrote a poem about the national language month, instead of a report. Unknown to me, he twitted it…Marivir Montebon wrote a poem, not a report on the national language week. I never knew about his twit, and I am yet to thank him for that.
The second time I met him was at the most recent Christmas party for the Filipino American Journalists in New York which he emceed lightheartedly. Then the horrible news broke in mid-January.
My daughter read it aloud from her Facebook account. Holy macaroni…wt…., omg, I said, as Nikki and I were courageously on the last leg of packing up our things to move to a new apartment.
I had to straddle between relentless packing and emailing, with concerned media practitioners, in the following hours. This is so disturbing, I thought, for nothing was stolen from his possession. Thus were born activities, media statements, follow-up stories. We seek justice for Randy Gener, a talented generous member of society and a wonderful friend to many.
Like everyone else, I will always be shocked at how society has grown in violence. What is the antidote to this? A pastor, Gener’s friend and colleague in the theater, had said during the prayer vigil, “There has to be love. Love is better than tolerance.” Indeed. And I will always be stunned by the triumph of the human spirit, of the sense of community to rise above it all.