That Amazing Video

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That video is kinda crazy. I say crazy because I guess I had no idea it would get as many views as it has. Of course, I’m not sure why because it IS the Huffington Post and I know that the amount of daily traffic they get must be off the charts to a low level blogger like myself. But when someone tells me that this video was played at a workshop about identity? Yeah, that is kinda crazy.

That video is kinda cool. It’s also pretty funny because I forget that I cannot go into these video shoots with any type of expectation. I was fully aware that I wasn’t the only one in it. In fact, I saw Dr. Marta Moreno-Vega walk out of her session when they were done taping. In fact, two of my fellow Syracuse Alums (Janel Martinez & Ghislaine Leon) were outside of the recording room with me talking how great it was to see each other on that snowy ass day. What is interesting is that we all must have spent 20-30 minutes in our sessions talking about what it’s like to be Afro Latinx. So for the final product to be slightly over 2 minutes was just perfect.

We filmed this on cold February day, the day after Valentine’s to be exact. I wondered how long it would take to produce a video with all of us and it wasn’t until I was in New Orleans in late March that I had an indication it was published. My phone blew up when I was sitting in a conference session I was attending. That is when I knew.

I saw the video for the first time on my phone in a hotel lobby. Headphones in. I was smiling. This, of course, would be the first view of many. I just never thought that I would have so many people tagging me on Facebook. Friends and family were one thing because those who support alway support, but to hear from people I haven’t spoken to in awhile saying they saw that video, took me by surprise.

Many people agreed with the message and cheered it. I never dared to look at comments (unless tagged) because I know better. Other people saw it as a chance to just say hi and catch up. It was a really great time for me. It meant a lot. I’m glad I did it beyond the fact that it means free advertising. lol

I just want to thank Melissa Montanez for bringing us together. Another Syracuse alum that believes in the work we do. So, I do hope that this video continues to get as many views as possible and inspires people to tell their story.

At the end of the day, no one can really define who we are except for ourselves.

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Protect & Serve? I Have Some Answers.

10599415_10101795369337306_5780719047339870187_nI wrote an article for the Huffington Post asking some questions about Police Brutality in this country. After looking at the events in Ferguson last night. I might have some answers to my own questions.

Are we at war? Yes we are. It is very apparent that the lives of Black people are not valued. We have become targets, actually we always were.

Although the real question is what kind of war is it? Are we talking about the war on guns? Are we talking about the war on crime? Or are we talking about the war on drugs? None of the above. We are talking about a war on Black people. A war on the oppressed. There has been a lot of rhetoric over the past year about people wanting to take back their country. There is no other way to express this and don’t think for a second that because we have a Black President that it changes the status quo in the country. The Civil Rights causes in the 1950/60s never went away.

Did we somehow get transported to District 11? Are we now giving up our youth as tribute so that the rest of the country can feel safe? I was being sarcastic when I asked this but it certainly does not seem far from the truth. I’m tired of seeing lists of all the black people that die unnecessarily in the country. I’m tired of seeing police (or people who think they are above the law) get away with atrocities. I’m tired of our people getting criminalized.

Is it normal for law enforcement in Los Angeles to beat a Black woman on the side of the road? The definition of normal is conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. The sad thing is that none of what we are seeing is all that surprising. It is shocking but almost expected because we are used it.

Are we being dehumanized? Absolutely. It’s like an older version of cops and robbers where you don’t really care about the criminal. As long as we’re viewed as animals then we will subjected to this kind of brutal and unrelenting behavior from police officers who are heavily militarized. There is no way this happens in the streets of Apple Valley or The Hamptons. We are seen as less human which makes us easier to kill.

The motto of many police departments across the United States is “Serve and Protect” right? Who is being served and who is being protected? Someone commented on my article saying: Police are not here to protect you. There is no legal obligation for the police to protect you. Isn’t that the damn truth. I knew this already because we will never see these scenes in suburbia. A man can shoot up a theater in Colorado and be given the chance to live his life in jail where he gets three meals a day and be deemed as having mental issues. I can tell you right now, the police are not here to serve or protect us, or as another commenter would put it: Protect the 1% and their possessions and keep the 99% in line, very simple.

Mike Brown. John Crawford. Eric Garner. Marlene Pinnock. Ezell Ford. Dante Parker. Rosan Miller. Denise Stewart.

Halloween: The Death of Cultural Sensitivity

tumblr_mvf6t2i0UC1r0jlbgo3_500Consider this a follow up to Blackface is the New Black?

The Halloween shenanigans are not just about blackface. They are about the caricaturization of other cultures. The amount of blackface is appalling as it is because there is a stark realization that cultural sensitivity is just about dead. Along with that death comes a very real lack of understanding as to why certain things might be viewed as insensitive. I get the excuse that people don’t know and regardless of understanding that excuse, there is no tolerance for it. This is 2013–the age of information–which means you should know the history.

212909_v1The fact that I can read an article about offensive costumes and have people question why a guy dressed as a taco with a sombrero is considered offensive is insane to me. It brings home the point I’ve made time and time again that most people think that all Latinos are Mexican. Not only that, consider that the immigration debate and how Mexicans are viewed as “aliens” (something not human) in this country. Put it all together in your mind and realize that there’s a lack of respect for the culture.

I personally don’t understand it and maybe because Halloween was not all that fun for me as a kid. I was always at the mercy of what my parents got me for a costume. I would have the cheap, full-bodied, plastic onesie of what ever superhero and a plastic mask with slits for the mouth and eyes. I really had no choice as to what race of superhero I wanted to be because they were all white. Yeah, I could have been a Thundercat but I wanted Mumra but that was a just horrible looking costume. I would’ve loved to be Voltron but none of the stores in the Bronx sold these things. Anyway, the point is that Halloween was always a day to dress up like cartoon character or a hero and score some serious candy. Sure, people dressed as monsters and stuff but never did I see anyone come dressed as Michael Jackson with their face painted. More importantly, people would dress up as Mike for the fashion of the jacket with a thousand zippers and a glittery glove.

o-ZIMMERMAN-HALLOWEEN-COSTUME-570However, as I mentioned in the article above, maybe blackface and cultural insensitivity is something that has always happened and with the advent of the internet, we are just noticing it more and more.  I suppose there are people in this country that have never seen a person of color up close. So there is very much this “alien” view of us. I’m pretty sure there are photo albums of a some suburban family that contains pictures of them in some sort of blackface because they liked The Cosby Show, or The Jefferson’s. I’m also willing to bet some serious money there are old photos of people attempting to look like Speedy Gonzalez.

The questions are, where is the sense in any this? How do people think it is ok to paint their skin? It’s almost like there is some sort of desire to be Black or Latino. Here is the issue, (as Paul Mooney once said) everyone wants to be Black, but nobody wants to be Black. People of color have a rich culture that looks so good on the outside but try catching a cab, or being followed in department store. Try finding positive role models in the media, try walking down the street without having someone wanting to touch your hair. It seems all good until your child is shot for no other reason than being Black. Now imagine seeing pictures of idiots dressed as your dead son pop up all over the internet. Sounds fun right?

Halloween has become a dark day for many of us because people’s stupidity is out there for the world to see. This is a coming out party for the closeted racist and we all know it. I don’t feel bad for those people who have lost their jobs and who’s lives have been turned upside down because Black Twitter went in on them. This is 2013 and people are tired of having to teach others civility when none is shown to us.

Rules of Engagement

HuffcommentOne of the best things about writing in a public forum is the instant feedback. I can create a blog post that may or may not create a dialogue between me and the reader. I have seen more successful blogs in which the audience just talk amongst themselves. Media outlets have adopted this model that allows their readers to talk about any article. This can be both good and bad.

Most blogging sites will tell you that a great way to build up readership is to connect and be active with your readers. Several ways of doing that is to have questions on your blog and respond to any comments you may receive. Now, I am one who tries to be very engaging when I can, however, I don’t get many comment on my blog posts (and I am ok with that). There’s also a lot to be said about post on other people’s blogs. I believe that if you’re going to post a comment anywhere..then do not to it anonymously. Own up to your comments and people will be willing to read more about you.

I think that engaging folks can be a double edged sword that has to be wielded correctly. While there may be people who may like something I have written, there are people who don’t. Most people tend to not voice their opinion either way, but those who do will have no problem with praise or disapproval. None of these bother me because it is always good to know that for good or bad, they read what was posted. However, there are people who comment for the sake of commenting. They may say things to get s response and those are the people that need to be treated with caution.

It’s one thing to be accosted on Twitter because I can choose to just ignore very easily, but when someone writes a negative response on a blog I have posted then it becomes very hard to ignore. Negativity is not someone disagreeing with me, it is when some crosses a line. That is why I also try make a habit of just responding to everyone that may comment on this blog. However, with the Huffington Post having much more readership, responding to someone can be tricky because some people just want to say something in order to get a response.

So I think the a rule of thumb, for me, is to not be particularly agitated or excited when responding to someone. That is hard for me because I can be a very emotional person that goes on either side of the gauge. Secondly, keeping the length of a response to as short as possible is key. Think about it, if I wrote 700+ words on something, I’m pretty sure you know where I stand on something, so there is reason to go into another blog type of reply. You don’t want to be the person in any comment section that has 3-5 paragraphs because it is not getting read.

I also try not to belittle anyone I’m interacting with, even if they are trying to belittle me. Let’s face it, if anyone come on to my blog and tries to belittle me, I’ll probably come out swinging and make them look like an idiot. However, the more public the forum, the more careful one needs to be. Free Speech allows us to say anything we want and not go to jail for it, however, public opinion can really make anyone wish they just stayed quiet.

The fact of the matter is a small amount of engagement is better than none. I think that generally, in the blogging world, the more active a person is the more successful they are going to be.

The Cultivation of My Brand

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This past week I’ve been realized one thing, I am cultivating a brand. I started doing this years ago without realizing it. Once I knew what I wanted to do, I tried my hardest to be as consistent as possible.

I will admit that I had no idea exactly what I was doing but I figured being recognized under one screen name would be the best possible thing for me. This way when someone was looking for my blog they would always be able to find it. That is why my twitter and tumblr are the same. If you play me in world with friends or any game on the iphone, you will know how to find me: latinegro.

It is also that consistency that has also allowed me to have the same message. While, this particular blog tends to get personal at times. I still, for the most part, try to advocate for the recognition of Afro Latinos and to a much larger extent, Latinos. Then there is my overall feeling on the fight against racism and oppression that I have been so out spoken about. I also believe in education and easy access to it. I think that it is our responsibility to help our youth get a better education.10240G Brand Yourself

With that being said, I realize that I never mentioned how I am the president of the Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University (LANSU). This is something that I’m very proud of but I don’t feel the need to brag about it. Quite simply, there is a lot of work to do to get this organization to where I envision it. Last week, we had our first collaborative event of 2013 that was very coincidentally called: Branding Yourself in the Global Marketplace.

While I also knew about branding myself, It was very interesting to see other people’s opinion on it. It made me reenforce what I had done the week prior to all this, which was using my ability to write to create a theme for LANSU that needs to be solidified. Quite frankly, I have never been comfortable asking for money. Even when I was a telemarketer for brief time in the late 90’s, I had trouble asking for money and that was my job! But, I have a passion for my former students at SU and for fellow alumni. My job is to bridge that gap through networking at the fulfillment of the LANSU Scholarship Fund.

I had spent the first few weeks of January really trying to get LANSU’s name out there through twitter, facebook, and Linkedin. I was in a very long meeting with Syracuse University to get what I need established. This almost lead me to forget the other side of my brand: The Latinegr@s Project. This was something that I figured was unforgivable in my book especially with Black History Month. I wanted to create a ripple in the water in a way that I have never done before.

The last time I wrote for The Huffington Post was in July of 2012. It had been weighing on me that I have access to this awesome medium and I was not taking advantage of it. While I had planned on writing my final SU based article in November, there was something about it that just fell through. It wasn’t strong enough.

People ask me all the time “How did you get to write for the Huffington Post?” Well, the answer is networking. I got lucky that I knew someone that knew someone that works for them. When the call went out for new bloggers, my name was given and I was contacted. This is one of those times when being a mentor to a fabulous person like Victoria Chan pays off. I will always be grateful for her because of this and I will always make sure I am there for her when she needs advice.

I was asked to only write about College and Higher Education topics, which I did and struggled with. I have a personal copy editor (my girlfriend) who tears my articles up, demanding I be more clear and concise. I noticed after the 3rd article I posted that there was way for me to submit a blog through Latino Voices (a branch of the Huff). I kept that in the back of my mind knowing that I will have to post about Afro Latinos one day and hopefully they will accept this.

Fast forward to last Friday. As busy as I was, I was debating on if I should even write something or wait until Monday. Most times, I would write a post and it would take a day for me to edit it and go back and forth with how good it may or may not be. I just decided to write something during my lunch hour. It was something really quick and straight forward that was barely 700 words if that. I fact checked it and sent it to my beautiful girlfriend to destroy (I tend to be vague with a lot of typos). She emailed it back with two edits! I was shocked. Later she would tell me that it was the most straight forward article I have written.

I submitted it to Latino Voices around 3pm. I was thinking that, if they do post this, it wont be until Monday. I was almost mad at myself about that because I had waited so long to write it. At 5m exactly…they posted the article. The rest has been a whirlwind of comments and praise that I was not expecting. I did a radio interview with a show out of Syracuse the very next day. It turns out to be the most read blog post I have written ever.

I was asked what was it like to create a brand for yourself? Simply put: Absolutely Amazing.