Mid-Februray Free Write

Let me just cut to the chase. I have been busy taking classes and reading. Work has always been the same and I am also taking the time to go to the gym. I will also mention that I have been making the best of efforts to change my diet. Much of this takes up large amounts of time and yet, I still manage to find time to do things like see my awesome girlfriend for a weekend. I am very proud of myself.

Which brings me to this free writing type of update. While I have not written in a while, I have been busy making sure that Afro-Latinos have a voice this month. On Twitter, there was a broad discussion about 2 weeks ago hosted by #latism. The subject was the racial mosaic that is Latinos. I am glad to have been apart of that because the timing seemed to be right for me to be interviewed by Voxxi. It is not all the time that I get to interviewed by an online magazine.

Then, Team @beingafrolatino was invited as guests on the Vanessa Oden Show which is a internet radio show based out of Oakland, California. Along with fellow co-founder, Bianca, we talked about Afro Latino identity and how other people view us. The show was so successful that we did a part 2 this past Monday where we talked more about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In these instances there are so many things to talk about that you cannot begin to squeeze into 2 one hour shows. I was told that the podcasts for those shows will be available soon and once that comes out I will share it.

I am also excited to be able to see yet another Salsa Artist come to Syracuse University. One of the groups that I advise called La LUCHA manage to get enough funding to bring up India! This is yet another thing that I have on my plate in my on going quest to promote Latinos. I want to point out here that while I champion the cause of Afro Latinos, I still consider myself to first and foremost a Latino. We all share the same culture although I cannot say the same about social standing within the community.

I also feel that there is just not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. The problem with not making anymore excuses is that free time becomes limited. The reading from this class alone takes up so much time that I can barely watch television. While that is not a bad thing, it just amazes me how I can just forget to watch shows that I am normally used to. I can say thank goodness for the DVR but I barely watch that either because I have so much to read.

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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.

Celia Cruz: The Queen of Salsa

It has been such a long week for me and yet the days keep flying by. After the last post, I started searching for pictures of Afro Latinos and I came across the one above. I cannot believe with all the posting that I did last February that I did not write anything about the great Celia Cruz.

Growing up in my house would have never been the same without hearing music from Celia Cruz. It seemed like every family cookout we were serenaded by her various albums. I feel like she had a greatest hits album when I was just a kid. There were so many songs that I could sing when I was kid that I had to search for them when I was adult. I could remember my father making tapes from vinyl and her music was always on heavy rotation.

When I think about the golden age of salsa, which is clearly before I was born, one of the people I think about was Celia. What struck me the most about her music was seeing her perform on tv. I was not used to seeing someone who looked like they could be a member of my family performing salsa on television. I was awe struck almost expecting someone who looked completely different. After all, from what I saw from on Univision, Telemundo, and any album covers were light skinned Latino men with light skinned Latinas.

While I am not too educated on her entire life I do know that she was born on October 21, 1924 in Havana, Cuba. She spent most of her life performing and has earned 23 gold albums. She has won 7 Grammys and while that is impressive in itself, I can only imagine how many she would have one if they recognized her contributions to music early on. I counted over 60 albums to her name and in my research I hear that number could be as high as 80. In any case, she a woman that loved music deeply.

I think about that. Over 60 albums! I personally have 45 of her songs. That is a mere fraction of her collection. That can be so hard to fathom when I think about all the other artists I follow in which I have all their albums. Not to mention that I have none of her recent songs because most of what I have is from what I remember hearing as a kid.

Celia died of a brain cancer New Jersey on July 16, 2003. Her title has not been and will never be revoked. She is the Queen of Salsa.

Salsa Lessons?

My appreciation of music has been increasing more by the day. During my drive down to New York City I listened to a playlist that I created that morning. I usually put together songs that are upbeat combined with new songs and old favorites. I never stick to one genre as it. So in a particular playlist of mine you can hear house music, hip hop, rock, and bachata.

I had a feeling that I should bring my laptop just in case. I find myself in situations where no one has good music and it seems to be left up to me to provide music. But, I decided to leave the laptop behind anyway and just deal with the music I had in my iPhone. The funny thing is that I do not use my ipod much anymore although it is fully updated with all my current music. I think I need to look into doing that more because my music appreciation skills were needed at the family barbecue.

My mother and aunt, who live together, have the old school salsa hits. I have no issue with this because I LOVE the old school salsa. The problem is that this is they have blaring from a Radio/CD player. That is just no bueno because after 12 tracks we need to hear the CD all over again. So, one of my cousins brings her Bose iPod player and rocks out her music. But, still this is just not good enough for me (although I really do love her – in case she reads this lol). Toward the end of the night I decided to use my iPhone to blare my collection in which I am so proud of!

Which got me thinking that night, as I downed my endless bottles of Corona, I really need to take Salsa lessons. I mean, I am ok, but I could be better. I realized that dancing is yet another thing that has suffered over the years because of my lack of confidence. To be perfectly honest, I would rather dance any form of Latino music before I do hip hop, R&B, or house music.

I think this would be a perfect way for me to come back to NYC. I should take these lessons to get really good and just dance my weekends away. Besides, I can dance Bachata and Meringue because quite frankly, they are pretty easy. But, I grew up with Salsa music and I use to love to watch my dad dance and if you give me a few drinks, I think I can come close to emulating him…lol

This is all sparked from my cousin Karen, who has deemed me as her official dance partner. She took lessons and gave me a few pointers and I thought to myself…I need to do this. My brother/cousin has also taken some lessons and I have seen his improvement as well. So I think this will be a good investment of my time and money. I must admit that I kinda thought of getting Salsa lessons as being a little embarrassing since I am Latino and my parents have been dancing for a lot longer than I have been alive.

Yet, I consider the whole notion of me having to know how to dance Salsa in the same way I should know Spanish. My parents never really taught me. I would assume they either thought that I would learn through osmosis or that I simply wasnt interested. I can remember being dragged to dance with my mother or my aunts, but I never once remember being told my foot work was wrong or being shown to do whatever it is I needed to do.

However, I must have picked up something by the time college came around because when La LUCHA did a banquet at Syracuse University and the music came on…I was dancing with a hot chick. So, I must have been doing something right. However, I have seen real Salseros do there thing on the dance floor and I truly cannot mess with those. One day, I hope at least get close enough to dance with any woman.

Proud Latinos in Syracuse? Really??

I look at my collection of blogs I see when I log on and there are a bunch of posts that are in draft mode. It goes to show how busy I have been. So, tonight I had the honor of trying to figure out which “draft”post to complete, but in true Gemini fashion, I realized I am bored with all those subjects for now. Then I realized that there was something that I wanted to write about…

This past weekend was the first time in a very long time that I was able to just chill at a festival and listen to salsa. The city of Syracuse had yet another Latino Americano Festival this summer. Being from New York City, I feel that perhaps it is unfair judge this festival in year’s past. But, I have to admit that the festival in year’s past has been lack luster to say the least.

It would be 2 days of just all day mess. Sure, they served food from the limited amout of Latino owned restaurants, but the entertainment would be lacking. Don’t get me wrong, there would be live entertainment via the stage. The acts were middle level at best. So for the most part we would stand around looking at the vendors who came up from New York City to make the extra money. The number of booths would just not be enough to hold any attention. But, surprisingly enough, the Latinos up here thought that this was dope. I guess you take what you can get from a city that considers us practically invisible.

However, this past Saturday, I was so pleasantly surprised by this festival. For starters, they made a 2 day festival and turned it into one big day. This made the crowd larger than normal. Now, if you have ever been to the 116th street festival then you know that large crowds make for a great time. While the crowd was not that large, to see people dancing to the various Latino music was great too see.

There were a lot of food vendors. Many more than I recall from previous years. Let me tell you, wack or not, I make sure I eat at these festivals. The vendors from NYC were out in full force, even selling La Mega CDs (which was a first). The weather perfect and I could not help but notice the large amount of Afro-Latinos in the crowd, which always makes me smile. Let me also not forget the serious games dominoes that occured.

So what could make this night better? How about a live performance from Frankie Negron? This was the only reason I came to this festival. The rest was cake. I love good salsa music live! The atmosphere was completely electric. People dancing in the streets and everything! Frankie, of course was off the hook. He did his thing. The best part was being able to be backstage and see the show close up. Josie is the Vice President of the Spanish Action League (La Liga) and was able to make sure that a bunch of us got a better view. Thus the picture above.

I will say that this is the first time the city of Syracuse made me really proud to be Latino.I hope they can do it again during Latino Heritage Month…

Latinos Are Black!

I have had something on my mind for the last few days and it feels like it falls in line with somethings that I have written about over the last several weeks. I know that I have talked about Black Latinos and how we fit into the world and one of the things that really bothers me is the ignorance of other Latinos to the fact that we are indeed Black. Not exactly of another way to put it. But it is true we are. Not just Afro-Latinos, all Latinos.

Where was this sparked off? Well, I was told by one of my students that in a meeting, of an Student Organization that I advise, one of our members made comment about why should we help an African American Organization since we are not Black. I wasn’t there. So I would only assume that she would not have made that comment if I had been there. But, then again, maybe she would have. This girl is a typical looking Latina. Long strait black hair and, is of course light skinned. I don’t consider that light, but she would fail the Brown Bag Test.

So here, again, is my issue…why the denial? The last time that I spoke about this issues, I used history as an example. This time I will use Musica Latina. Salsa & Merengue both heavily use drums to supplement any song. Some of the best song are have heavy drum beats. I would suggest that you listen to Hector Lavoe’s “Aguanile“. The introduction to this song alone is African based. The beat is very African and I could imagine any African Dance Troupe getting down to this song. I believe this song, as well as Hector Lavoe, was ahead of the times.

Again, as I mentioned before, my father has a substantial music collection when it comes to Salsa. Every time I go and visit him in Florida, I make sure that I swipe some music. On my last visit, I copied the CD collection that I am still rocking, Salsa: Fania All Stars. What impressed me the most about this album is the informative interludes which talk about the history of Salsa. On interlude entitled Slave Ship this is what the narrator says:

“The first roots of Salsa were African; across the ocean on slave ships filled with misery and human degradation, the hard driving tribal sound of African music had somehow survived. But shortly after it reached here, in the Caribbean, it started to evolve into something different. It was still African in flavor but the music had become unique.”

I was floored when I heard this. Not because I didn’t know, only because it was said on a this CD. Many old school Latinos don’t want to admit they have some African blood. I would assume they thought that they were either strictly indigenous or Spanish. However, the music is a dead giveaway.

Music is a link to our past, all you have to do is listen.

Blame It On The Boogie…

I struggled with a topic to discuss tonight. Depending on the day, it does take me a while to unwind from work. So, today being one of those days, I thought to myself maybe I should play some music to focus because I have come to the realization that this is what music does to me. I cannot explain it, but I can to school work or write a novel, all to music. Right now I am listening to some house music as I am writing this. Daft Punk to be specific.

Some of the students make fun of me because when they come into my office it is almost like a party. I normally have my itunes on shuffle so that I can listen to pretty much anything I have at any point during the day. I laugh because I had a meeting with a colleague today and we are having a serious conversation and in the background you can hear, “Brooklyn, We Go Hard”

It reminds of my days when I lived on South Campus when my roommate, Pop, would wake me up with music. That man would not let me sleep past 9am. So sometimes he would walk in to my room dancing to some new beats he got from one of his friends. I never considered myself much of a dancer. I mean I can do a mean chair dance. I have always been one of those people that would just bob my head to the music in a club. Unless, you put on some Salsa or Merengue, then it is on. Then I can cut it up!

Then there is the whole karaoke craze. I am not crazy about humiliating myself in public. However, I have been persuaded to sing a song or two. But, of course to me the Karaoke places that I have been to don’t really have the selection that I would like. Because I will admit, that if they have certain Michael Jackson songs…then may just have me jamming. I am talking about black Micheal. I am down to sing P.Y.T., or Off The Wall, or Billy Jean, I may even hit you up with Blame it on the Boogie or better yet, Dancing Machine! (I have a whole routine, I just need 4 brothers…)

I love music. If it has a good beat then I am all over it. So much so, that I have started a music collection that I am pretty sure that is so broad and I will never complete. I feel that my music collection is journey of my life. My parents would always playing music when cleaning, cooking, and driving. So, the music I heard as a kid is always something I have been interested in and will always look for. The tricky thing is that I am dealing with so many genres.

My father, to this day, is a gadget person, so back in the day, he had vinyl, 8 track, tapes, and even like old school reel to reel. I, of course, was not allowed to touch any of his things because I would destroy anything I touched. I do remember the number of records he had of Salsa. So many albums form Fania Recording Artists. So, he would make these tapes with El Gran Combo, Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, and I could go on. I am still looking for all those songs now!

My mother, while she was into Salsa. She loved Motown. So one minute I could be listening to Marvin Gaye and the next Diana Ross. I can never really prove this, but I think my parents went clubbing in the 70’s. Someone was playing Disco, because that is just another genre I cannot get enough of. Not to mention that I was an 80’s kid and was around to hear the birth of hip hop. My brother had a boom box! He loved him some Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, and Run DMC.

He amazes me because he still follows hip-hop. I call him the oldest Jay-Z fan alive. His response? The Rock is in the building! (He was a Guy Fan too…so I sing “Groove Me” just to get under his skin)

Name a hot song and I might just have it. If I don’t have, I will get it…

Old School is the Only School

{Originally Posted on Myspace}

I have such a love for music. I realize that more and more everyday. There are several things that I love outside family and friends (and pets); Music, baseball (lets go Mets!), comic books, movies, and to a lesser degree video games. Yet, music bridges the gaps in my life. I hear a song and my mind will flood with memories of either good or bad times in my life. Certain songs will even make me think of a sunny day of when perhaps I first heard the song. I can say that Alicia Keyes first album Song in A Minor reminds me of brisk Syracuse mornings because I played her CD non stop each time I walked to work from Fellows Ave. So there is no wonder that, as I write this, I have 2138 (and growing everyday) on my I-pod.

The music I collect ranges from just about all genres, except country. But, I like to believe that I specialize in the old stuff or what I consider to be old. Sure, you will hear me jam to T.I. in my office but, I love music from the 70s and the 80s. I am talking about Old School Music. I mean I am really talking about when Disco was hot, when rap music was brand new, when R&B was really Rhythm and Blues, and when Michael Jackson was black. I am also talking about when Salsa music was classic!

I really believe I have the best music collection of anyone my age. I can make a play list for any occasion. You need background music? I got jazz for you. You need entrance music? I got music from soundtracks you wont believe. Lets not forget House music and all it forms. Lets not forget old school reggae either. I cant get enough of this stuff and just when I think that I cannot think of any more music to get, I see a commercial that has a song I dont have. Better yet, my father will have CDs of salsa classics I did not even think about before. The world of music, you gotta love it.

Funny story before I sign off. I was in the Bronx the other week (and happy to say that it is rockin) and when I visit my old hometown I make sure I bring new music back up with me because Syracuse isnt on top of all this shit. So I am on Castle Hill. Just got out of eating from a place called Sabrosura. I figured I would stop by a place called S.O.S, which is a DJ Specialty shop. I get all the music I need from this place. So we walk there and I see this small woman cop, who was built like a fucking rock, come out of the store. She doesnt have on a uniform, but you can tell she is a cop because of her gun and her handcuffs. I am thinking, ok she got some music and as I am about to walk in her partner was like, nah man, they are closed. So I am looking around like why the hell are they closed??? This guy, who is sitting on a mailbox next to two of his friends explains that they got shut down due to bootlegging and other illegal shit. Damn! I was so madbut I wont tell the cops how I bought a phat CD in a SHOE STORE near Pelham Parkway! As, I said…cant live without the music (and yes, it was and old school cd).

Love Those Golden Globes…

{Orginally Posted on Blogger}
The count down is almost over. The students start classes on Tuesday and I am so not ready too go full tilt in my job for the next 5 1/2 months. Oh well, not much choice at this point. I realized what the term “being paid what you are worth” means..and I don’t think I fall in that category. So, if everything goes they way I planned maybe I will come close to getting the money I feel I need. Right now, I feel like I am the Assistant Director of Everything Else. What that mean is basically I do everything else (besides my own job) that either people cannot or will not do. So you do the math…

My wife got me watching the Golden Globes (some how that name reminds me of a porn about Wonder Woman) and I must say that Jaime Fox is the man. He won the Best Actor award for Comedy/Musical for Ray. Granted, I never saw this movie, but the it comes out on DVD in the next month so I will be sure to see it then. Speaking of movies, I will defiantly see Hitch. One quick question…something to think about actually, Is it me or does Leonardo Dicaprio look like the most annoying white boy…ever? White people love him, but I despise his ass. He will always be the retard from What is Eating Gilbet Grape?.

If you been reading this Blog for sometime, then you know that I am into Justice League. Well, I have managed to download all 3 seasons. I can see my father rolling his eyes now when he finds out it is cartoon (“cartoons are for kids tonio”). Well, for those who care, January 22nd marks part 1 of the season 3 finale and I all over that shit. As soon as it comes out I am downloading it. I don’t plan on selling them, but Cartoon Network hardly show repeats. If they ever come out with a DVD with all the seasons then I will buy it, but until then…(I may decide to share, but who knows…maybe i show some on this site…)

Titan! Gotta love hearing about one of the moons of Saturn. It took 25 years in making to get that probe there. They are saying that this planet is very eerily similar to our own planet. I bet you they got black people there too getting oppressed (ha ha…Jose that was for you). Seriously, I was just as excited about Mars when that probe sent back pics. I hope to see more soon.

Before I go…I plan on adding some music links to this site to show you what I have been listening to. Thanks to Jose, Rick (Rico to you), and my lovely wife, because of them I have gathered an extensive Salsa collection. This is the stuff you will never find on itunes. I will be working on that shortly as well as more links. I am loving the new Star Wars movie poster. Peace out…