Get Out – The mad late review.

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Before we all die I just want to say…

I saw Get Out the weekend it came out. I posted my review on Facebook and I figured I should put my reaction to this movie on here with a few additional remarks. I think it’s amazing that this movie is doing so well at the box office and while it’s not a perfect movie (very few movies are), it perfectly illustrates a feeling that many people of color have when navigating white spaces.

Light spoilers ahead.

Racism is scary. Bottom line, I learned early in my career I needed to be careful of who I can trust. I remember being at work receptions at Syracuse University where it was me and a few brown folk and we would look relieved to see each other.

Sure it wasn’t a look of… “did they get you yet?” but more of, “you still here?”

There’s a certain familiarity I took from this movie, particularly the way Chris was able to call his friend which allowed him code switch from one reality to another. This allowed him to stay true to himself and it quite possibly saved his life. Which leads me to think about my friends or lack there of. I may need to friend someone who works for TSA. That’s not awkward right? To ask a someone to hang out after they patted you down at the airport? lol

When someone asked me why I felt the need to become a Latino representative at SU,  it was because I didn’t want to lose myself. I didn’t want to fall down that rabbit hole (see what I did there?) of not remembering where I came from. As a young person of color working at PWI, there were so many things going on that it was hard to maintain myself worth and my self identity. Sure, I had self esteem issues, but who doesn’t? The point is that my identity became real important really quickly and that is what lead me to connect with so many students.

I often relate these experience to my time in Syracuse because New York City is different. The racism is still there but it gets hidden in the lights. To be honest, most of us are so busy just trying to pay rent that searching out passive racism is not the top of our lists. However, NYPD choking out a black man on the street for selling loose cigarettes will remind us the type of world we live in.

Syracuse snuggly fits right into Central New York and if you ever take a trip there you wouldn’t notice much is out of place. But, travel to near by Cooperstown (as I did last year) by way of the small roads you will see that America Trump is talking to. Yet, Get Out represents the progressive, almost color-blind, liberals who say they want to create change but want to be in the front of that line when change happens. They are the ones ordering $6 coffees and $8 chopped cheese sandwiches.

This isn’t just a movie about how scary passive racism is, this is about losing our identity to American assimilation of black and brown bodies and gentrification of our cultures and spirits.

Trust me I feel more comfortable in the South Bronx than I do in Skaneateles, NY.

So when someone asks if I will ever move back there…

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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.

Everything is Marketing

IMAG1225It seems like one of the golden rules in any business is that you need money to make money. Sure, talent helps if you want people to believe in your product but without capital to invest, selling anything becomes an uphill battle.

Of course there are ways around things and that’s usually what Public Relations is all about. I did a brief internship in a Public Relations firm in Syracuse when I thought that was what I wanted to do. I learned about press releases and how to represent clients without blatantly advertising for them. To be honest, I liked it but I was not mature enough to be committed to the work. However, one thing that stands firm is that no publicity is bad publicity so anything I do in the public eye is book marketing.

At the end of the day it’s all about getting my name out there. Sure I can tweet and instagram the hell out of my book, Hanging Upside Down. I can post on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn all day. I know 90% of those people and they know me. The real challenge is to step beyond that circle into a larger sphere. I knew that from the jump.

Let’s be real, if 90% of the people I knew and follow me on all those social websites actually bought and read the book I would be golden. You would probably see me on Huffington Post Live talking about Self Publishing or better yet, I may be on my way to an actual book deal. But truth is, books are hard to market whether you know your audience or not. People will only buy if they see other people buy. Thus I need to market the shit out of my book. lol

That is why I make sure whatever appearances I make that I have my sharpie and an extra book if possible. I think about the last two appearances I made:

SomosI was on NPR last week for LatinoUSA (click picture for link) where I talked about how I identify myself as Afro Latino. It was a great time for me because this is a show that is narrated by the great Maria Hinojosa. While I was not interviewed by her, I did meet her in person. I made sure that I did give Daisy (my interviewer) a copy of my book with the hopes that she will read it and spread the word on how good it is. The best result for me was my book being said on air to potentially 1000 people. You cannot buy that type of marketing.

Branding and Millennial WomenI also moderated this lovely panel last week. Here are four great young women who are doing amazing things in their fields. I know them all from Syracuse so we have a bond that allows us to have an honest conversation about how they are successful. Now, again, this panel was not about me. I never said one thing about my book or how people should buy. However, there was someone in attendance who had a copy of my book that wanted it signed (I had my orange sharpie that I always carry) and another person who wanted to know if had any extra copies.

These are great ways for me to stay true to my marketing scheme without breaking my bank and to be honest, I haven’t spend the money that I really want to on marketing…yet.

So it makes me laugh when someone tells me that my marketing game is strong because I’m not sure it is. If I can get out of the little cluster of friends and acquaintances I think I have a real shot at my goal of 500 sold this year. We will see.

30 for 30: Books & Autographs

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All of this is hard to explain. To see the table that has a card with my name next to a small stack of books would have been hard for me to fathom a year ago. Yet, to see people drop by that very table to get my signature and a copy of my work is hard to put into words. I’ve barely gotten used to the idea that I wrote a novel but seeing more than one person hold it in their hands is just awesome.

I wont lie. I have intentionally made it difficult for people to get advanced copies of the book. The fact of the matter is that as a self published author, I have to do much of the work from marketing to setting the price to creating actual invoices. I wanted to create a buzz within my circle of friends and family that would expand into other people feeling excitement about this. So I emailed people in phases with explicit instructions to not share the book link with anyone and the only favor I asked was to post a picture of the book on social media.

The results worked better than I ever thought they would. Those who did not receive any emails wondered how to get the book and when they asked me where they can purchase it, I would then send them a link with the same instructions as the previous person. Of course, if you follow me on any of my social media platforms you will know that I promote pretty regularly but not heavily. I don’t want to drown my audience with this novel either, which is why it’s better when other people do it.

2014-09-20 10.20.07Which brings me to my book signing in Syracuse this past Saturday. I ordered thirty books for this, which is the standard from I was told. I was fully prepared to come back to NYC with an extra 10-15 books that I could essentially sell out of the trunk of my car. But before I really knew it, people were buying the books that were on display that the SU Bookstore the day before the signing. But still, it was a game day and despite it being a reunion weekend for Black and Latino Alums (Coming Back Together), I thought I would still have extra books left.

Well, I have always been told that I sell myself short because all my books were sold out and I was shocked. It was definitely a highlight when I told people who asked if the book was still available and I had to break to them. Just like I can say that I’m happy to admit that I’m working on a deal with the SU Bookstore to have more copies available. Although, after while, I do feel generally bad that not everyone was able to get the book when they wanted it.

All of you have been so supportive of me and I cannot express how grateful I am. The book hits Amazon and Ebooks on October 1st. I’m happy this journey has taken me here.

The Next Chapter

writingAs I literally write my the next chapter of my novel, I am thinking about the next chapters in my life. My first school year is coming to a close here at Barnard and I have set certain goals for myself that will be set in motion before school starts back up in the fall.

I have the prefect opportunity to start school again and I would like to take full advantage of taking course at Columbia University. The process may be slow since classes are not free and I do work full time but I owe it to myself to get my Master’s Degree. I frequently tell people that I ultimately didn’t want to get my Master ‘s at Syracuse because I was tired of the SU point of view of the world. The other reason is that I would still be there right now if I went all in on that program.

Now that I have an idea of what my work schedule is like, I can plan to take classes accordingly. This will effectively change my life to be able to attend an Ivy League Institution. I had already investigated the possibility of this happening last summer when I was getting ready to be interviewed for my current position so I know what CU has to offer. I think going down this road will allow me to turn the page to the next level of my career.

Speaking of turning the page, I feel the need to say that I have resigned from the Latinegr@’s Project. I know this will come to shock to some because everyone knows how passionate I am about Afro Latinos. I am not going to get into the how’s and the why’s. They are a great group of people that are doing some amazing things. As proof from when I left SU last year, there are times when you just need to move on. I did wish them luck with pushing their agenda and ideas forward into the future. When I think about it, they really don’t need luck, they will be successful with anything they do, I can feel it.

I have also been thinking about the Syracuse University Commencement that just happened last weekend. I truly had mixed emotions about this day. I felt bad that I could not see the students that I’ve been in the trenches with for years. They made it very hard for me to leave and I wanted to show my appreciation. However, this Mother’s Day was the first time I have been with family in a very long time. Graduation weekend has pretty much always fallen on Mother’s Day so I spent 11 years in Syracuse on that weekend.

So it was VERY hard for me to look at all the ceremonious pictures on Instagram and Twitter because there was a part of me that wanted to be a part of that celebration. It reminds me of the discussion and arguments with the knuckleheads. I do miss them. Of course, since most of them live in NYC, I am sure it is only a matter of time until I see them.

I wont even mention that I am turning 39 in less than a month. The big Four-Oh is right around the corner which means all types of cancer tests that I am so not ready for.

The reality of it all is that writing this novel had been a another journey for me. The funny thing about turning the page on an old chapter is that is hard to go back. The story that I am creating draws from so much experience from me as well as the vivid imagination that I was born with. It has opened up some old wounds but also spawned some great ideas for future text. Writing this has been a mixed bag of feelings that has allowed me to think about everything in my life.

One thing is for certain, all this writing has given be a new appreciation for people who do this for a living. I am not even sure what I am going to do about it when I am done, but I suppose I will figure all that out in the next chapter.

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.

Where are the Campus Protests?

hr01I went on a mini rant yesterday on Twitter. Which is not usual for me. Every so often I will have something creep up to the surface of my consciousness that will have me unnerved. This was sparked by the fact that one of my former students is in trouble. As upset as I was about that, it became compounded with previous thoughts coming from a conversation I had with family.

One has to understand that the older members of my family come from a generation of protest. The things that most of us take advantage of in colleges is because they protested to get it when they were in college. I’m not just simply talking about the Civil Rights Movement. There were numerous protests about the war in Vietnam and subsequently protests about college curriculum as it pertained to Black and Latino Studies. Most of my family grew up during the time of The Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.

So the question they proposed to me is, “Why don’t college kids care anymore?” I’m not even sure I have an answer for that. What I do know is that the perception of struggle is different and internalized in a different way. Many of these kids lack the ability to see their own privilege. There is also a distinct disconnect to history and community.

Taking a few steps further, one would have to be more than blind to see the shortcomings of this economy and the short falls of government. The price of education rises steadily every year at a rate higher than inflation. There will a point in time when education is just too expensive. What will happen then? When will the youth fight for their right to be educated on their terms? The availability to education will no longer be a race issue, it will be a class issue — an issue of the haves and the have nots.

Gone are the days of sit ins. I can actually say that I was involved in a sit in during my college days. I believe it was freshman or sophomore year, when there was a group of individuals who lead us to sit in (and thus shutting down) the Tolley Administration Building at Syracuse. During that time, it was the office of Chancellor Shaw and we was not happy to see nothing but students of color sitting right out side his door. What were protesting? The rise of tuition, which at that time was almost 20k.

We saw the writing on the wall then. We knew friends that were not coming back the following semester or year because it was just too expensive. Look at things now. I am still paying off my loans and I don’t owe a fraction of what these kids who graduate now will owe. Yet, what is the outcome of apathy? Debt? When does the amount of a student loan outweigh someone’s life time salary? And yet, some of my students (the males, in particular,) get upset with me because I care too much about their grades. Because (according to them) I do not understand the fraternity life they are living. There is nothing to understand. Graduation is the only outcome especially if you are going to owe that much money.