Massacre Day

I find it interesting that I have not written about this until now. Perhaps I wasn’t prepared in the best way to really voice my opinion on Columbus Day. Over the past years, I haven’t given the attention that it needed. I usually just ignored it all together because there is no reason to celebrate such a day. However, while learning about things from Black in Latin America, I realize that this day should be addressed on this blog.

Lets talk about this often romanticized word called discovery. A dictionary defines discover as “to be the first, or the first of one’s group or kind, to find, learn of, or observe.” Christopher Columbus is talked about as this explorer that discovered the free world. I wont talk about how he got lost or that he thought he found the other side of China, but I will talk about how he wasn’t the first to the free world. That is not to claim that someone else, like the Vikings as an example, beat him to this. It means the simple fact that no one can discover a place that is already inhabited.

To believe that he discovered something means that one would subscribe to the European-Anglo version on the world. That leads me to the second definition of discover, “to learn about for the first time in one’s experience.” This is the state of history being shown from Anglo side. This was a new thing for Spain at that time. Clearly this was a discovery to them. It is very much like when an astronomer finds a new planet. It is new to them, but just because you find a penny on the floor does not mean you discovered money.

From the way it was explained to me in High School, today is very much a celebrated day. There was no mention of the subjection. There was no mention of the massacre that ensued. Absolutely no mention of the raping and the pillaging of a people that were deemed worthless. History books often show that Native Americans were on the opposite side. They are viewed in history as the people that Americans had to defend their livelihood against and making it seem that peace treaties were made to maintain a very delicate peace that was consistently broken.

Columbus day is constant reminder to those, like me, who “discovered” the truth about this day. One could say that this day was created by the establishment as a subliminal message to those who were and are victims of Colonial Imperialism. I recently heard the term Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome which deals with the mentality of always thinking, as people of color, we are not worth anything. The images of what we were and what we are only make us self destructive. So is there a similar term for Native Americans? Post Traumatic Columbus Syndrome perhaps? I am not yet versed in these terms.

I call this day what it is, Massacre Day. That may be a tad harsh for some people but I think I am being very generous with this title. I could have called it Genocide Day, or Rape a Heathen Day, or Give Small Pox to a Native day.  Please understand, when talking about the effect of Columbus in the new world there has to be that knowledge that entire peoples were wiped away. Their histories are gone and for the most part, can never be told. These are people that are, quite potentially, my ancestors.

More importantly, I bring this up as a constant reminder to those people who talk enough garbage about  “Homeland Security” and the protection of our borders from illegals. Mexicans were here before any of were here as well. The Manifest Destiny gave people this notion that we as “Americans” own this land and should push the natives as far as we can from it. Of course, now, the land belong to the corporations but that is another blog post.

Discovery is a big word and like most words in the dictionary, most people have very little concept of what it means. Sure Columbus found something that was new to him and his side of the world and yes it was a big deal. He was the reason why two land masses are now connected, but at what cost? I often wondered if my teachers in grammar school knew the truth about this day. Were they forced to just stick to the book? It is our responsibility to teach both sides of History so that we understand where we have been and where we are going.

10 Years (@SyracuseU)

Today marks ten years since I have been in Syracuse. I came here looking for a career and I certainly found one. I left right after 9/11 and it was such a blessing to have an escape from all the death and sadness that was in NYC at the time. What I do not mention is that before that fateful day, I didn’t have a career, I had a job that I did not like. So still being here after all this has been both a blessing and curse.

2004 Fiesta Latina

I learned early in my twenties that being laid off is not just something that happens to older people. I worked at Deutche Bank back in the late 90’s when they acquired Banker’s Trust. When the merger was complete, I watched my supervisor get laid off and then a few weeks later, so was I.  As an admin assistant,  I was getting paid pretty good right out of college. I had gotten my own apt in the Bronx and was living with my girlfriend at the time. So when I go laid off, it was a shock and I had finding a job was incredibly hard.

I landed in a place called MHN (Mental Health Network) and it was job that I liked at first, but it became repetitive. However, I loved the area in which I worked. It was right on Wall St. The World Trade Center was right there and so was the South Street Seaport. I could buy anything and eat anywhere. The job itself was boring to the point that I restarted one of my older blogs and I taught myself HTML. One day, in August 2001, I get a call from my buddy (@panthbro). He tells me that department I worked at when I was enrolled at Syracuse was hiring and I needed to jump on it.

Without hesitation, I did just that. I get an interview, which included a presentation and meeting with several people, and I knocked it out the park. The following tuesday was 9/11 and I knew that this was going to be my last month in NYC.

Making sure my students work lol

I get to Syracuse in October and it was all trial by fire. I worked a concert on the very first day, which turned out to be a 14 hour day. The group was called Everclear. Never hard of them and barely hear about them now. That weekend was a dance party. A fight broke out that practically clears the room. I ran right into the middle of the brawl to grab students, who work for me, out of harms way. This was when I felt pepper spray for the first and only time.  At that time, our Public Safety Officers didn’t carry guns like they do now, they had cans of pepper spray. That was fun to say the least. No one who worked for me got hurt.

I worked hard to get to know the students. I specifically looked out for students in La LUCHA. This is when I met @theJLV. By the end of the 2002, I was their advisor, thanks to him. I had also noticed that Black History Month was being celebrated the way it should be, but nothing was really being done about Latino Heritage Month, outside of La LUCHA.  So, I tried my hardest to bridge the gap between Latino students and faculty/staff because there weren’t many of us then (and there still aren’t many of us now). I created the Latino Listerv to start building those bridges. I worked with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to generate a calendar for Latino Heritage Month. I also started Fiesta Latina in a conference room when it was just a mixer in 2003.

I even met Rakim!

Over the years, I have seen many things. I have seen students come and go. I have seen staff who have been hired, fired, retired, and just plain lose their minds. I have witnessed change from inside and out. There were times in which I wasn’t sure I was going to have a job anymore, but I endured. I have seen Syracuse University at it best and at its worst. I have seen blatant racism that has but tears in the eyes of my students and I have seen the election of the first Black President.

I have made sacrifices. I got married and divorced in those 10 years and I have endured. I have seen how successful I can be when I can out aside my issues and just be me. I have worked hard on my image and continue to peruse a path that is better for me. I have gained weight and lost weight. I have taken classes and started this blog that has allowed me to rediscover myself. I have created and presented workshops that benefit the student body. I have cultivated student leaders and have been a psychologist to others (some of them call me dad…I swear I am not that old…right?). I try to be the best supervisor I can be. I teach them to be the best they can be in a thankless environment.

I support my students! 

The most important thing is that I do love my students. I want to be the person that should have been there for me when I was in their shoes. They have taught me so much and it is because of them that I have truly learned how to be humble. I do my best to follow those who have graduated. I know that I have made it public knowledge that I want to return to my hometown of NYC because I feel it is time. Yet, something keeps me here. Whether it is the economy or just fate, I will continue to strive for something better for myself and the student who are in my lives.

In the end, I am just glad that I have maintained my sense of self and…my sense of humor.

Latino Student Apathy or Entitlement?

I wanted to the last two posts about Black in Latin America to ferment in the minds of my readers. I think it is a lot of information to take in even if you have seen the series before. This is middle of Latino Heritage Month and I have been on that steady mission of educating people on how” our rich culture is.

Sure, I have focused my energy on Afro Latinos. That is to be expected. I know that is the buzz word now and almost the “in” thing to do for most. But, I take this seriously because I feel I am learning with everyone else. More importantly, Latinos come in all colors and shapes and that is something that we need to hold on to.

What frustrates me is the lack of interest that I see amongst Latino students. People want to just call it apathy but, I want to call it entitlement. I realized after seeing fellow Syracuse University alums this past weekend during Coming Back Together 10, that our past cannot be ignored. The struggles of our people before us cannot be overlooked because it is because of them that our brightest youth are where they are. Yet there is this sense of entitlement because there is nothing for these students to fight except for each other.

I wondered how these same students at Syracuse University felt if we just stopped celebrating Latino Heritage Month. I am sure there will be complaints about how unfair it is because there would be no programming exclusively for them. But, would they really complain outside of missing our annual Fiesta Latina? Sure, I personally fought to have this month celebrated years ago, but it pains me to see these same student take it for granted. I know how Moses felt when he broke the commandments after seeing the Jews break every last law and take their freedom for granted.

So where does the sense of entitlement come from? The fact that these students have everything they need. Social Justice takes the shape of canned food drives and tutoring students as part of a job or a Fraternity/Sorority philanthropy. While those maybe important, the idea of education of their own culture becomes less important quite simply because they don’t have to. It is not their core curriculum.

I shake my head at the students who tell me that they didn’t know what was going on which is just an excuse. We should all make it our business what is going on either on the campus or in the world in general. There were plenty of Latino Heritage Month calendars going around, but I am quite sure that students know when the next NPHC or NALFO party is. I am sure they know when the next party is on Marshall Street. I am quite sure they know when Jersey Shore comes on MTV. They will plan their social time and studies around those.

So what now? I will continue to do my workshops and promote workshops because they are important because if one student is positively effected by our programming, then it is worth it.

LHM: Black in Latin America – Dominicans/Haitians

Out of all the four documentaries in this series, I knew this one would be the most popular. In this series, this place called Hispaniola or Quisqueya is the only place that two cultures are compared in such a way. Black in Latin America: Haiti and the Dominican Republic is billed as the story of one culture in denial and the other in love with its independence.

I was so excited about this workshop, which was last Saturday, that I invited a very special guest, Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant. He is the intellectual that appears in the 13th minute of the episode. Dr. Torres-Saillant is a professor at Syracuse University that always amazes me with his intellect. The other person with this particular subject was fellow blogger and SU Alum, Jose Vilson who lives in both worlds being Haitian and Dominican. I figured I had my bases covered. Little did I know that Dr. Torres-Saillant was about to bring it.

First the highlights:

  • The people of Hispaniola have shared the island for over Five Thousand Years
  • Hispaniola was the first place to import African as Slaves.
  • Dominicans are proud to a mixed raced society and Haitians are proud to be black.
  • Santo Domingo was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus.
  • Most Dominicans consider themselves Inido.
  • The motherland for Dominican Republic is considered Spain
  • Sambos represent what being black means.
  • One of the first sugar plantations was in the Americas was in Nagua.
  • Sugar production did not last long in Santo Domingo within Century the production was centered around Brasil. Cattle Ranching became means to survival
  • Cattle Ranching plantation worked differently than other plantations due to the nature of the work. The master/slave dynamic was different. There was almost an equal footing.
  • The collapse of the Sugar Industry lead many whites to leave Santo Domingo. This left people of color to basically fend for themselves. They maintained loyalty to Spain.
  • There are some musical customs that contain African Roots and have been around for 500 years.
  • Haiti occupied Santo Domingo in 1822
  • The Haitian government had a profound effect on the Dominicans such as trying to change the language from Spanish to French and making changes to religious practices.
  • The Dominican Republic gained independence on February 27, 1844
  • Dominicans reject everything that was considered Haitian, including, in many ways, their skin color.
  • Dominican elite tended to “whitetify” historical figures if they were too black.
  • Years later, Haitians become migrant workers who did jobs that Dominicans would not do. This gave many Dominicans the notion that they were in a higher class than the Haitians. The imported tens of thousands of Haitians.
  • Blackness became a Haitian trait and a negative term in the D.R.
  • Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was a dictator who did more to harm relations between the people on the island than any propaganda or slanted education did. He declared Santo Domingo to be a white nation and hid his own dark features. 

At this point the documentary begins to focus on the Massacre River and how over 15 thousand Haitians were slaughtered there. So to expand on this point I simply looked it up. Dr. Gates mention this happening in October of 1937, which is true, but the event itself was across the island and lasted a week.

Trujillo did order what is known as the Parsley Massacre or, in the Dominican Republic, as El Corte (The Cutting), in which the Dominican Army killed Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border. They massacred 17,000 − 35,000 Haitians between October 2 and October 8 of 1937. To avoid leaving evidence of the Army’s involvement, the soldiers used machetes rather than bullets. The soldiers of Trujillo were said to have interrogated anyone with dark skin, using the shibboleth perejil (parsley) to tell Haitians from Dominicans when necessary; the ‘r’ of perejil was of difficult pronunciation for Haitians. (I got this from Wikipedia)

This fact alone was not thoroughly explained in this episode and becomes a unique point with Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant. He explained that although he enjoyed this episode and being a part of it, there is only so much history of a country that can be explain within an hour (24 minutes for the Dominican Republic to be exact). He goes on to explain that he Dr. Gates had a story to tell which slants this view of Dominicans not wanting to be black thus making Haiti this proud race of people. Dr. Torres-Saillant makes evidence of this when he points out that Dr. Gates refers to the Haitians in having a “extraordinary rich and noble history.”

Before I continue, I need to mention that we did watch the entire episode. Due to time constraints and the point I want to make here I wont go into the Haitian side of the story because quite frankly, it was not discussed largely because we talk more about the racial views of the Dominican Republic. Of course I talk about being amazed by this episode and how it shows racial views as how we know it. Jose Vilson comments about his own struggle of racial identity before being comfortable with the term Afro Latino. However, it was Dr. Torres-Saillant that made everyone in the room what to read more about the extraordinary rich and noble history of Santo Domingo.

Now where in the documentary does it state about the numerous rebellions of the Dominicans Slaves. He begin to explain about the first major slave revolt in the Americas occurred in Santo Domingo during 1522. He talked about how many of the slaves managed to escape to the mountains where they formed independent maroon communities. This was something that I did not know. I was floored by this. Dr. Torres-Saillant said he mentioned this to Dr. Gates, but this was not included in the episode.

It comes down to this, and this is a summarization, it is not whether or not Dominicans say they are black or not. They know that come from Africa. It is in the culture. It is in the religion. It is in the music. There is a part about about voodoo being practiced in Haiti, but many of those same things are also practiced by Dominicans in very similar ways like we saw in Cuba. Dr. Torres-Saillant points out that he is not interested in what people say but rather he is interested in what people do. Dominicans do black things. However, it is a type of “black” they are rejecting. They are rejecting the negative types of black that has been instilled in them.

When I had a chance to talk to Dr. Torres-Saillant afterward, I mentioned to him that although I am not Dominican, it seems that my family rejects this notion of blackness too. I told him how my grandmother once told me I should not date a black woman. He is response was eerily similar to my fathers. He said to me that it is not an issue of weather your family is racist, it is more the fact that image of blacks in this country is so bad, she doesn’t view you in the negative way that black people are being portrayed.

He then gets technical and says that in reality we are all the same. Skin color is based on the human body’s need to adapt to different conditions around the world. Culture is what people really fight about but they connect culture with skin color in America. Black is not viewed in the Dominican Republic or even in the Caribbean the same way it is viewed in the United States. It is only when you are forced to identify yourself do you reject or accept the choice given to you. That made me realize something else, this episode never talks about American influence in Santo Domingo. Trujillo was an American backed dictator… again, very similar story to Cuba.

Yes, Haiti was the first black independent commonwealth in the Americas and it is very inspiring to many black people, but this idea that Dominicans just accepted the assimilation of the European ways is completely false. More importantly, the 22 year rule of Santo Domingo by Haiti give many Dominicans this notions that the two people were completely different. In realty, two sides of the same country split in half by two different ruling countries sparked divides that exist today.

LHM: Black in Latin America – Cuba

As I mentioned earlier in the month, I am hosting four workshops on the PBS series called Black in Latin America.  This was a documentary that was ground breaking in the way it showed the rich history of Afro Latinos in the Caribbean and South America. Last night, I hosted the first. I showed the the episodes on Cuba and although the audience was small, it was well received. For those who did not see it :

I took some notes of interest that stuck out in my mind when viewing this. These we also discussed when the viewing was done.

  • Cuba received over a million slaves from Africa. That is double the amount than the United States
  • The Haitian Revolution caused a shortage in sugar production in which forced Cuba to fill thee gap that lead to hundreds of thousands of slaves being shipped in order to meet demand. Whites feared a possible revolution in Cuba and because of this, plantations were operated like prisions.
  • By 1825, all of Spain’s colonies were independent with the exception of Puerto Rico and Cuba. The sugar industry was too profitable for Spain to lose
  • Carlos Manuel de Cespedes made the “Grito de Yara” on October 10, 1868. He declared his slaves free and this started a 10 year war.
  • Antonio Maceo and Jose Marti believes in a Cuba for Cubans and the Spain was trying to break Cuban unity by making race an issue in war.
  • Cuba abolished Slavery in 1886, 21 years after the United States

The documentary does not get too much into the Spanish American War. But it it interesting to point out the United States influences when it comes to racial policy. That can be seen with political cartoons of Cuba being defined as the “black child” of the United States.

It was at the mid way point when showing this documentary that students really got into this. When we wrapped it up, there was a mention that this type of information is not readily available. How else could they learn this information because history class is certainly not providing that.

  • Pedro Yvonnet and Evaristo Estonez (not mentioned) formed the Independent party of Color in 1908. This lead to the Cuban governmant massacring 3000 Afro Cubans in 1912 when they staged a revolt.
  • Son was considered black music and thus declared illegal but was declared a legal in 1925 by President Machado
  • The Cuban Revolution was on 1 January 1959, when a rebellion army lead by Fidel Castro overthrew the US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The wars lasted 5 years. (much of this detail is not mentioned)
  • Castro declared Cuba to be free of Racism.

There is was a lot of talk after the viewing that Castro is viewed as this evil man, yet healthcare and education is free to everyone in Cuba. He made it a point to wipe out illiteracy as best he could. However, the USA has view of him as an evil dictator who aligned with the USSR when the embargo was placed on them. It is, of course, a matter of perception. It is no secret that Castro’s revolution lead to many White Cubans leaving the island and migrating to Miami.

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union lead to the loss of 6 Billion Dollars to the Cuban economy. That is about 80% of trade and over 50% of the GDP. This loss of money made racial inequality glaringly obvious.
  • Money from abroad (families in Miami send money to families in Cuba) is one reason for racial divide. The other is the currency: the peso vs the CUC.

It has always been my belief that Cuba has always been a racist country. One person int he documentary points out “Prejudice never went away in Cuba, it was just pushed under the table”. The reality in Cuba is the more class issue that has race written all over it. It just so happens that the rich are White and the poor are Black (as it oftens is).

Another thing that was discussed was Hip Hop in Cuba. It is very interesting that music of “Black” people can be under a certain type of scrutiny. I view Hip Hop to be just like Son in because it speaks to the poor and underrepresented.

I enjoyed showing this episode and will be showing another one this Saturday. I expect a larger crowd as we view and discuss Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

LHM – Musica Latina

I will never have the type of music collection that my father has but I try my best with the limited knowledge that I have. When I originally thought about writing yesterday’s blog, I was more thinking about the picture above. I love listening to Musica Latina, which is clearly not limited to Salsa.

I often find myself searching for music that I grew up with while trying to keep in touch with music that is current. The jury is out on which is more difficult for me. I am often reminded that I live in Syracuse in which diverse music gets lost somewhere.

However, as the above picture shows, I am have a pretty decent playlist. The unfortunate thing is that I lost a lot of data and a few songs when my PC laptop died earlier this year. That has not stopped people from asking me to create CDs for them. I have put together some pretty decent playlists together of Latin Jazz, Afro Cuban Jazz, Salsa, and sometimes Merengue. I do have some Reggaeton but that is something that I cannot get used to.

I am a fan of the old school Salsa. I like the big band sound which is why I have a serious appreciation for Jazz and Classical Music. People laugh at me because I love musical scores from movies like Inception and Star Trek (as only two examples) but it has so much to do with the composition and way all instruments come together to sound so amazing.

Of course, I would be remiss to not mention how much I love the drums and the Afro-Caribbean sounds of Musica Latina as a whole. There are several songs above that I could point out as something so groove inspiring that dancing in my seat while listening to it at work is an absolute must.

Even though I do love live music. I have no problem settling for my ever growing music collection. I make it a habit that when I visit my dad in Florida to jack some of his CDs and copy them on my iTunes. More importantly, he as this device that allows him to create a cd from his vinyl collection. I may have to convince him to let me copy a few (like 20 or so) CDs to add to my collection.

LHM – Fiesta Latina

I have to admit that I certainly love salsa music and I am completely psyched that Fiesta Latina is happening this week. This is an event with music and food. I think about my early years at Syracuse University when I noticed that Latino/Hispanic Heritage month was barely a blip on the calendar. I wanted do something that would remind Latino students of home.

When I lived in the Bronx as a kid, my father would often take me to these fundraising dances every year in Co-op City. The funds would go to The New York Emperor’s Stickball League. To say that my dad took me to these events is inaccurate. I worked them. This was probably my first taste of what working events was like. I either served drinks from the cash bar or I worked the coat check. In either case, I was privy to some of the best salsa I have ever seen. More importantly, I realized how much better live salsa music sounded than when my dad played it on his record player.

What never gets old is the bass. The constant beat that you feel on your feet when you are on the dance floor. The rythm that you can practically feel in the airwaves. When I did coat check, I could feel the beat from coat room. I remembered all this when I first came up with the idea of Fiesta Latina. I wanted students to come to an event that they can dress up and dance the night way much like their parents did at one point or another. My goal was to have a live salsa band and, at the time, it really didn’t matter who played.

I also made it a point to make sure the dance floor is big enough to accommodate the hordes of people that will be dancing to our featured guest, Frankie Negron. I feel as if I have promoted this event to no end and I will continue to do so until it is over. The food will be on point, which is something that is always understated.

Now I am less than a week away from seeing the best Fiesta Latina yet. Over the past eight years, this event went from a reception in a conference room to a sold out event with music and dance performances in one of the largest venues at Syracuse University. Sure, I had help. I wont say that it is all me. The Office of Multicultural Affairs has taken this idea from the inception and ran with it. I am just glad to be here to see where it is going.

Latino Heritage Month 2011

It has taken me more time than I am willing to admit to decide whether or not to do another Latino Blog Challenge. The problem is that I haven’t been able to come up with 30 new topics. Not to mention that I am more busy this year as opposed to last year. What I do intend on doing is to post strictly on Latino Heritage related things during this month. This may not be a challenge, but I intend on writing about what I learned this month as well as the various things that are happening at Syracuse University.

First and foremost, I am facilitating four workshops on the PBS documentary Black in Latin America. This was a phenomenal documentary that aired last spring which brought to light many things. I posted a blog about Peru in particular. The workshops are basically viewing each episode and then having a conversation afterwards. I will pose some critical questions about each to engage the audience. The flyer above is something that I want to remember because I do not get a chance to do things like this very often.

I am happy that I do get this opportunity because last year I contributed to this month by being the keynote speaker at Utica and it should only be right that I do something at the very school I work for this year. But this is not the only thing that I am involved with this year. I have been working hard to promote Fiesta Latina coming up on September 23 with our featured guest, Frank Negron. I remember about 2 years ago he came up to a festival that the city of Syracuse was having and he rocked the place out. I had tweeted him if he would be interested ever coming back to play for the University and he said he would. That started the ball rolling in terms of trying to get the funds and the planning down. I am excited that he is performing at the Schine Student Center. He will be our biggest Salsa artist to date on this campus.

This year we have two commemorative speakers that I had the pleasure of selecting. The first is a very good friend of mine Carmen Mojica. She has guessed blogged here before and she currently has two books out. One is Hija de Mi Madre and the other is Odas de la Mujer de Miel. I would suggest everyone support her and her writings. I am looking forward to her lecture. The other woman is Michele Carlo, author of Fish out of Aqua. I read this book in March and it is fantastic, so much so that I needed her to talk about her experiences as a Latina growing in New York City. I will do a book review in the upcoming weeks.

Finally, I am beginning my Being Afro Latino Project. I announced this on my tumblr account. The first stage is looking for a few people who are willing to help with posting on the on that blog as well as on the twitter account. I have come to realize that two people (me and Bianca) cannot represent all Afro Latinos in our works. Opening it up to people is the best way to go. So the message is this: 

Are you interesting in being a contributor to the Being Afro Latino Project? We are looking for intelligent and willing volunteers to post various pictures and articles on the Latineg@s Tumblr account as well at the @BeingAfroLatino Twitter account. If you are interested leave us an inbox message stating why you think you would be a great asset to the team!

This will be a good month! 

Free-Write: Broke Edition.

I am doing a little experiement. It is 11:20pm as I write this and I am going to write for about 20 minutes because I need to just write about whatever. I need to just tap on the keyboard to see what I actually come up with. I think when I am done I will just edit for typos and find a picture that would most likely go with this post. This is something I normally do when I write is find a picture on Google and post it on the top of the post or if I am feeling really creative, I will post several pictures throughout the blog to give it a certain feel.

My stomach is not feeling so great right now because my dumb ass decided to drink just a little bit of soda with my meal. The person who took my take out order just had an extra drink and offered it too me. I barely took 3 sips before my tummy disagreed with it. So the moral of this tiny story is that I need to stick to water. That is the only thing I should be drinking anyway. Although, I am so very much into coffee. I only have one serving of coffee per day, but otherwise it is all about the water.

I know my eating habits haven’t been the greatest, but what I have noticed is that when I work so much, I tend to not cook as much as I should. I am also still not used to cooking for just me. I find that I enjoy cooking for me and someone else. Maybe it has to do with portions or maybe it has to do with the fact that I rather not be alone when I cook a meal. However, as the school year continues (because today was the first day of classes) I should be able to have enough time for me.

I am enjoying this free-write because I am just going with whatever comes to mind which is pretty funny because of the name of this blog. I have also thought about changing my description on the top left. I am no longer struggling with a divorce that is long gone. I am sure that I have moved on to the next level of my life and I am better person for it. I think my life gotten better and more enjoyable, I just need to get past the small things that hold me back everyday.

October marks my 10 years here in Syracuse. I was hoping to be somewhere else by now, but fate and the universe deems that I am here for a purpose that perhaps I have yet to fill. This also means that 9/11 is turning 10 years old too. If you have been keeping up with me over the years then you will know that 9/11 was a major reason I left New York City. While I may have taken this job at SU anyway, 9/11 sealed the deal for me. I still think about that day and I long to return to the city that never sleeps. I just need to be patient and wait for me opportunity.

I am also thinking about Latino Heritage Month that is coming up very quickly. I know that I did the 30 day blog challenge last year and I am wondering if I am going to do that again. I am not sure that is a good idea to do the same things over and over. However, I see the value of highlighting different things. I will have to really think about this before I commit to something. These types of challenges do take a lot out of me because I do not want to write crappy blogs.

Which brings me to my other struggles. I am tired of being broke. I need money to make money and trying to get this book of the ground will require money that I do not have at the moment. So there will be many things that I need to think of in order to get this done. In the meantime, I highlighted and wrote up a basis for another project I want to do in regards to @beingafrolatino. It turns out that I am always full of ideas but I just need to execute them.

This was an awesome free-write.

Utica Speech: Small Impacts

(My Utica speech from earlier tonight)

Wow! Thank you so much. I have to admit I am a little nervous right now. This is the first time I am really speaking in front of a crowd like this and getting paid for it! I want to that Anthony De La Rosa for contacting me and making this happen. I would also like to thank the Latin American Student Union for bringing me here.

What I want to talk about tonight, is small and meaningful impacts that we make in life and particularly when it comes to Latino Heritage Month.

First I want to say that I met Anthony last May during a event at Syracuse University. You see, I fill many roles over at SU, but my main role an event planner, so anything major that happens within the student center, chances are that either I know about it or I have had a part in planning it. I also serve as an adviser for two Latino student organizations. One is called La LUCHA, which is an undergraduate organization (much like the Latin Student Union) that tries to empower and educate student on issues involving the Latino community. The other organization is Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity Incorporated.

Anthony is a member of LSU and we met at a fashion show/concert (featuring Fabolous) that was co-sponsored by them and another student organization. One of my former students that I am very close with named Melissa (we call her Meli), introduced me to him at this event. At the time, the whole immigration in Arizona issue regarding senate bill 1070 was just beginning to bubble over and I felt that I really wanted to do something that would make a small but meaningful impact.

Which brings me to what I do when I am not working. I am a blogger/poet/activist. I do not claim to be an expert in either of these three and I use them sparingly. I created the current incarnation of my blog in 2009 called, Inside My Head, as a way to release my creative energies. Any writer will tell you that they feel lost if they do not write and there was a period in my life where writing became non existent.

During my thought process of what the blog could possibly be about, I thought about some of the masters courses that I took at SU that had an impact on me. These course focused on the modern education system and how people of color operated within a system that included institutional racism, segregation, and socio economic issues. So in taking these course I ran into an area of study that I really wanted to focus on and that was Afro Latinos. I found this to be a subject very hard to research because there are simply not many people who write about it. In fact, I think I can count one one hand the amount of people that have published educational literature on Afro Latinos.

So I started thinking that if I wanted to make my impact on the world, it needs to it start here. I chose a suitable name that I came across while researching a paper. Latinegro, one word. Not to be confused with Latin-Negro. I am not sure about the rest of you, but when it comes to choosing a screen name, I want it to be unique. I don’t want to have some ambiguous name with numbers at the end of it and may or may not signify something. I don’t want to be called something like blacktino_2010.

Anyway, my blog is about me, of course, and the experiences I have encountered in my life. I very much aspire to be a novelist and I am actually working on one currently. More importantly, I wanted people to be aware of the plight of the afro-latino in this world. We are not just baseball players. I am certainly no Robinson Canoe nor am I Jose Reyes. I wanted to make an impact with my words. I want to educate people that latinos come in different shades despite that fact that we are invisible in place like Univison.

Getting back to how I met Anthony. I wanted to take a picture of Me and Meli with a sign that said. “Do I look Illegal?” I had seen other people on Facebook and Twitter do this. I wasn’t trying to start a revolution, I just wanted to make a small statement, to make a small impact on how people saw the immigration issue. Just because Mexicans in Arizona were going through this did not mean it did not effect Puerto Ricans or Dominicans in New York. I was going to post this on my blog and talk about Racism and Latinos. Previously, I wrote a letter to Arizona on my blog protesting this whole ridiculousness. So what ends up happening is that Meli Anthony and another LSU member Josh all get in front of a camera and we take several pictures. I thought is was great. I was going to post it and be all proud of myself. Needless to say, I am still waiting for those pictures. (Josh? -_-)  However, I did take one of myself that I ultimately posted.

But, something happened after that. Josh went back to his campus at Morrisville. Anthony went back to this campus and on facebook about a week later…I start seeing all these videos and of people from these different campuses taking these photos! It turned out the Josh and Anthony decided to do something about it! I was in awe because I could not even get my own students to do this! I could not beleive I made an impact with two people that I did not know very well. (but we are facebook friends and I follow them on twitter too..)

That was my point. I made a small impact that turned out to be something bigger than me. Now, again, I am not going to sit here and take credit for the whole idea that is not mine. I am just glad I made people think because after I saw what they did…I posted their video on my facebook and on my tumblr…just to get exposure. Guess what happened? Other people within my scope of facebook friends were posting these types of pics on their profile. Impact. This is the type of impact we need to make for Latino Heritage Month every year.  Most people may not notice it all that much but it does make a difference to those who do notice.

This year I made my impact when I sent out a challenge to all bloggers on September 14th. A Latino Blog Challenge. 30 Days. 30 Topics. To celebrate Latino Heritage Month…and yes I do say Latino Heritage Month not Hispanic Heritage Month. We do not live in Spain. We are Latinos in America.

Once again I am trying to make a small impact just on my readers and it turns into this thing where 5-6 fellow bloggers joined in on this challenge. Some of which I never met or know until now. They took my challenge and during the height of it, were posting right along side of me. So anyone can read what each one of us had to say about each given topic.For the sake of time I will not list all 30 topics but here were some that made things very interesting.

Day 1 – What I love most about being Latino
Day 3 – Favorite Spanish food (which is Maduros…are they on tonight’s menu?)
Day 6 – A Poem (original or quoted)
Day 8 – Latino Racism
Day 12 – Do I speak Spanish? (uhh…no)
Day 13 – Afro Latinos you see everyday
Day 16 – What I know about indigenous cultures (i.e.Tainos)
Day 20 – Latino Stereotypes I wish I could change
Day 23 – Hispanic or Latino..What do you prefer?
Day 24 – Should Puerto Rico be a State?

Now, those were the top ten that I enjoyed writing the most. The funny thing is that at the end of the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge, I learned that Latino Heritage month was indeed 31 days. (whomp whomp). What still gets to me the most, is that I feel Latino Heritage Month received attention outside of academia. While not everyone finished…I think that attempt was made which satisfied me and ultimately justified my reasoning for creating this blog challenge to begin with, but let’s face it, It is REALLY hard to write for 30 days straight.

So, What does this mean to you? Very simple. Be sure to set your goals in life on what you want to do. Being Latino is simply not good enough. When you try to make an a small meaningful impact in whatever you are passionate about…you will witness how that impact becomes like a snow ball rolled from on top of a mountain that gets larger with momentum as it reaches its ultimate point of impact.

I would like to leave you all tonight with a poem that I wrote on Day 6. I call it:
Negro Mestizo

Yo soy Latino
related to Taino
bred from parents
whose blood line
runs deep
of ancestry
Negro Mestizo
Inca. African. Spanish. Taino.
a combination
of cultures
ingrained in history
a conglomeration
of pride
a beacon into the past
rolled into a man.

A representative
A superlative
without explanation
cultura optimo
taking the best
parts of four
dividing it by two
and passing it down
Afro Latino
Negro Mestizo
Latin Negro
a product of my people
with all parts equal

My Name is Anthony Otero…latinegro you can find me on twitter and on blogspot. Thank you!