Ok, full disclosure: Someone actually reminded me that it’s Latino History Month. I forgot that today was the official kick off until a homegirl sent me this really sweet Buzzfeed article. I was on the site earlier today but missed the piece because I was dumbstruck by Urban Outfitters latest low, the hawking of a “vintage Kent State” sweater with red stains reminiscent of splattered blood. I was like WTMF?! They are already known for allegedly cold-jacking young and lesser known designers, but this?! Wow.

Back to Latino History Month. I don’t think our history should be crammed down students throats for a month year. And, you know, the stories are all the same one-note narratives about how the Latino/as who found true success here in North America did so by the grace of total assimilation and acculturation into the perceived mainstream. We are way more complicated than that, yo. Latino history is American history. I mean that literally. The New World as we know it began in Santo Domingo, for better and for worse. I wrote about it in my book Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina. Do yourself a huge favor and buy it. Even if you don’t identify with my personal coming-of-age story, I guarantee that it will be the most illuminating thing you learn during this Latino History Month(2) 2014. My word is bond.

Inspired by the #WhatLatinoMeansToMe hashtag partay, I decided to join in on the fun and make my own signpost because, really, shouldn’t we meet folks where they’re at?

(PS: Shout out to my homeslice, author and educator Jose Vilson for helping me getting my site back up yesterday after I was alerted that it had been down all weekend: couldn’t do it without you, bro!)

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Honoring Those Who Perished on September 11, 2001

by admin on September 11, 2014

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Light, peace and progress to the spirits of all those who perished on September 11, 2001. I would like to think we are honoring the dead by living life to the fullest: by approaching everything with an open heart and clean hands; by not sweating the small, petty ish; by eating clean and moving our bodies every day in order to extend our lives here on earth; by being the change we want to see in the world; by being caring and responsible global citizens. I’d like to think we’ve done that to our best abilities.

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I Remember Yusuf Hawkins

by admin on August 23, 2014

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The savage murder of Yusuf Hawkins in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, is one of those watershed moments of my youth I recall almost every time someone asks me what it was like to grow up nonwhite in New York City during the ’80s. Hawkins was only 16 when Keith Mondello rounded up a mob of bloodthirsty white boys armed with bats, golf clubs, and guns, all feigning like baseheads to unleash their rage on Hawkins and a couple of his friends. What were they doing in Mondello’s ‘hood on the evening of August 23, 1989, in the first place? They were looking to purchase a used car. That was it.

Hawkins was less than three months older than me. While the Reverend Al Sharpton lead protests (and at one point was stabbed in the chest for taking a stand), and the press coverage on the racially fueled murder made for prime time media fodder, I went on living my life riding on a tidal wave of nervous energy. I felt, intrinsically knew, that the people in my community, the grownups in my city (at least those running things), didn’t place to much value on whether we lived or died: our lives were dispensable.

Twenty-five years later and one Black president richer, not much has changed in our pre-post-racial-society. Young Black and Brown men and women are still being hunted down and sacrificed like animals. People still mobilize, continue to rage and protest, amplify the issues on social media, and eventually return to relative normalcy until the next unjust murder occurs.

It’s excruciating to watch these events unfold time and time again. It’s painful to see our children’s lives and potential wasted over nothing (or because of the lack of social capital). It’s incensing as ever to see people argue in circles and soundbites on television about something so clearly wrong and waste time debating shit that is so clearly one-sided. What’s worse, at least from where I stand, is that we are still mostly looking at race in America through a binary Black-and-white lens, further alienating and dividing groups of people—e.g., Latino-/Hispanic-Americans and other Diasporic folks—from the national conversation. Divided, there’s little we can conquer.

On my train ride back uptown from sparring this morning, I tried not to think about the bigger picture or most of what I wrote above. I took those moments on the A train to become still, to fall in line with the rhythm of the vibration underneath my feet, and direct all my intention to one person: Yusef’s mother, Diane Hawkins, who continues to suffer the senseless and tragic loss of her son every single day. A mother’s pain is abysmal, it’s deeper than a bottomless ocean, a thousand lashes on one’s soul. It’s totally fucked up.

Light, peace and progress to the spirit of Yusuf Hawkins.

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We had been in the lobby of our hotel in Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, for only a few minutes when the Dutch territory’s Arcadian “One Happy Island” front was shattered by a desk clerk whose petulance hit me like a left hook straight to the temple. As she delivered the rules and regulations like a stern lecture, scolding my daughter and me for the simple offense of standing before her, my mind drifted back home to New York City. There I was, at Mendez Boxing gym, and there she was, standing in place of my favorite heavy bag.

Eventually, spurred by my husband, Sacha, she produced a set of room keys. But when we finally made our way down the spare beige hallway and into a room facing the busy boulevard (with dingy beds smaller than advertised), I realized I was relieved to have seen the front desk clerk’s vitriol. It countered the tourism board’s Stepford-ian remake of Aruba. And that was a good thing.

CONTINUE READING THE STORY HERE. 

BELOW ARE SOME PHOTOS FROM OUR TRIP, MOSTLY TAKEN BY DJALI BROWN-CEPEDA.

COPYRIGHT, 2014.

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The God Hour

by admin on August 12, 2014

Every early morning, on my way to the gym, I take a few moments to thank the Forces of Nature and our Supreme Friend for the major and seemingly minor things in life. Today, as I was walking up the block and praying for our global family in Iraq, Gaza, Missouri, and West Africa, for Michael Brown and all of our endangered Black and Brown boys and girls, I didn’t expect to see this sight when turning the corner. THIS picture doesn’t capture the majesty of what I saw hovering above me. What I took away from this sighting was not to give up on my global and local community. For every thug, every terrorist, every dirty racist cop, every unjust soul in the world, there will also be beauty and peaceful moments we can harness aché from.

Photo by Raquel Cepeda, copyright 2014

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Rest Easy, Robin Williams. And Safe Travels

by admin on August 11, 2014

I was saddened to read that our national treasure, the actor, comedian, social activist, and my favorite alien, Robin Williams, died in an apparent suicide earlier today. According to his publicist, Williams had been battling severe depression, and yet another bid at a rehab center for substance abuse. I’m not going to eulogize him because you already know all about his work and how freaking funny the guy was. And if you don’t, then it doesn’t matter anyway. What I will say is that depression is a serious issue I’ve seen affect friends and acquaintances over the years—yes, even those with saccharine Instagram and Facebook pages. Social networking is great but on the flip-side it makes it too tempting for people who need help, a shoulder to cry on, or some serious intervention, to make shit up. You know folks like I do that inflate their personas out of desperation, wanting to make themselves believe they are as slap-happy as they want you to believe they are. I’m not encouraging you to pull the rug out from underneath someone you suspect is fronting. I am, however, suggesting you take a few moments to reach out to your friends and loved ones on the phone or, preferably, in person, and ask how they are doing—Really, how are you doing? Also, if this person is you and you want to talk to someone anonymously, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

 

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New York Boxing Tournament -> #winning

by admin on July 28, 2014

It’s been a crazysweatycool summer so far! I’ve been on the low and working crazy hard this summer. I’ve been juggling production dates for my current documentary, SOME GIRLS, which we recently received a National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) grant for. I’ve been working hard on a book proposal for a subject I’ve been passionate about since the 1990s (more later), and training like a beast for the 5th annual New York Boxing Tournament. Man, it’s been nuts, but hard work, eating clean and dedication pays off! I won my first belt over the weekend, beating out a heavier fighter (in her home gym, no less!) in the women’s masters division. It was a remarkable night, especially with my kids, huz, and friends cheering me on! Check me out, below, with my amazing coach, Moises.

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