Category Archives: Opinion

Stay Woke

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The night is black
Our skin is black
Yet the world flashes
With lights
That are red and blue
As the world wakes up
To an orchestra of sirens
After the introductory
Boom boom boom.
And your son or your daughter
Your brother or your sister
Your nephew or niece
Comes to you and says,
“I heard the fireworks.
They woke me up.
I see the reds
And the blues in the sky,
But I don’t see the big boom.
Where’s the spark?
Where’s the explosion?”
And you look that child
Deep in their eyes
And you realize
“Baby, that’s exactly
What I’m trying to find.
That’s the thing I ask myself.”
And you aren’t feeding him lies.

You truly think to yourself
When will people see the spark?
When will they hear an explosion?
When will my brothers and my sisters
Wake up and see the red and blue hues
For what they really are?
Those alarms don’t mean
Music to my ears.
They make opportunity
For my fears.
The fact that the badge to me
Is more of a warning
Of the devil in blue
Than an angel on earth
Means we need to wake up.
We have to rise from our slumber
And make our own explosion,
Our own thunder.

Now why is it that our children,
Who can’t even vote,
Are dying in the name of America?
Why are they dying in America?
And why is it
That when they die
Our protests are seen
As hyperboles and jokes?
Why must they die
For our people to wake up?
For their people to wake up?
Because if I wear
A black hoodie and blue jeans
That means
I’m the director
Of the city’s crime scenes?
Because “protect and serve”
Can be exchanged
For “project and slay”?
Why is there a new case each day?
At least that’s how it seems
With the most recent of things.
There’s always a new one.

Hashtag rest in peace my angel.
Hashtag you got your wings.
Hashtag never forget.
Rest in peace
Because we haven’t found it here.
Rest in peace
Because we’re still restless.
Rest in peace
Because dying is the only way to get it.
That’s the price of peace?
Death?

The irony of the land of the free
And the home of the brave.
Where our people
Fear the youth
And dark skin.
Where the new slaves
Are still shackled in chains.
Where our leaders
Pray we stay sleeping.
Land of the free
And home of the brave.
One nation under God.
One nation together
As long as we stay divided
From bottom to top.
One nation united
As long as you stick to a curfew,
Walk on sidewalks,
Stay away from skittles,
And find a way to hide
The melanin you inherited
From your dad and/or mom.

Now call me selfish,
But with a father who looks Arab
And a brother who knows he’s black.
My father is named Martin.
My brother is named Martin.
I’m just grateful
I’m not hashtagging
Rest in peace to my Martins.
Because I know all too well
No one is safe
Unless I have the right friends,
Know the right places,
And disown the ancestors
Who make up my faces,
I’m not safe.
My family is not safe,
My friends are not safe,
My fellow Americans are not safe.
All college educated,
All clean records,
All good people,
But no one is safe.

Officer, what was my crime?
Was it the fact that I was out at 1am
With my brother
On my way to Taco Bell
Because I was hungry?
Or was it the fact that my skin
Blends more into the night than yours?
And I can’t deny it
My roots aren’t from the land of the free
And the home of the brave.
You’re right about that, Officer.
I’m no Native American
Because I can’t trace my ancestry
To the Iroquois or the Cherokee.
I just know I was born on U.S. soil
That was stolen from the Spanish
In a war I had no part in.
And, on this night,
That I choose to get a quesadilla
And nachos with guacamole on the side
I see five patrol cars pass by
And I tell my brother
“Junior be careful I’m scared.
Something doesn’t feel right.”
And I didn’t feel safe
‘Till we were both
In our home.
I didn’t hear any boom boom booms.
There were no fireworks tonight.
No rest in peace tweets,
But a friendly reminder
To stay woke.
.

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A Boricua’s Frustration

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In 1898, during the Spanish American War, the United States acquired several different territories from Spain, including my native island of Puerto Rico. For the past 100 plus years or so, the island has remained a U.S. territory as a commonwealth. I’ll admit being a U.S. territory has its perks such as being born with U.S. citizenship and not needing a passport to visit my hometown, but that doesn’t mean the debate over Puerto Rico’s status has in any way been stifled.

Most people are content being a commonwealth, mostly, because they’re used to it, but also because they don’t care enough. There are many other people who want statehood for the island. Statehood would mean we would get all of the benefits as the current 50 states, the U.S. government would fully have our back, and we would have a voice come Election Day. On the contrary, there are some Puerto Ricans who would love to see the island as an independent country. Seeing Puerto Rico be its own country is definitely a romantic idea and being able to see the island accomplish things without America’s “help” would be a proud moment, but it is also very unrealistic and there are cons to each of these situations.

In terms of having statehood, there’s a big concern in regards to Puerto Rico’s culture. The island has a distinct culture, which brings together African, Spanish, and Indigenous influences that is unique to the Caribbean. This includes food, music, dance, architecture, artistry, and simply the way of life. There’s a fear that if Puerto Rico becomes a state, then that culture could fade into the past and, eventually, be lost. If not completely lost, then the island’s culture would at least be altered by being fully absorbed into the United States. This Americanization is already noticeable in highly touristic areas like San Juan and beach resorts.

On the other hand, if Puerto Rico were to completely separate from the United States and become its own independent country, then who’s to say it won’t follow the same fate of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, or other West Indies Isles that have faced or are still facing extreme poverty, mass violence, and tyranny? There’s no guarantee that Puerto Rico can survive on its own, especially considering its current state.

Puerto Rico is $70 billion in debt and the island’s unemployment rate is a ridiculous 15%, doubling the U.S’s average 7%. Businesses are closing left and right, universities are on the verge of losing accreditation, and most of the people I know there are being forced into entry level jobs because there’s nothing else. I know that if I would have been raised in Puerto Rico, I would never have gotten the opportunities I got in the mainland.

Not to mention Puerto Rico’s homicide rate, which is on par with countries like Mexico, at 26.2 murders per every 100,000 residents. To put this in perspective, the United States has an average homicide rate of 4.7 for every 100,000 residents. A few years ago, I was at a concert in a nearby town and there was a shooting. Thankfully, my brother, my cousins, and I were unharmed, but it was a fatal shooting and the fact that I was just visiting and witnessed something of that nature shows how prevalent these things are becoming.

Add in other factors like the current drought Puerto Rico is experiencing and it’s no surprise why 55,000 people have been migrating to the mainland every year since 2011. Throughout the entire history of Puerto Rico, the millennium has seen the greatest migration of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. since the 1950s.

Personally, I haven’t quite decided if I want Puerto Rico to be a state, become independent, or stay as a commonwealth. It would pain me to see Puerto Rico’s culture be Americanized following statehood, but it already pains me to see how Puerto Rico is changing for the worst. Although I love my island, I’m grateful that I don’t live there anymore. Whenever I go there, I’m reminded of just how bad things are. Statistics aside, I even look at my street and most of the houses look abandoned and unkempt, which is heartbreaking to say the least.

In all honesty, I’m not sure Puerto Rico could be independent. I think if the island is going downhill even as a commonwealth, what’s going to happen when it’s completely on its own? But, then again, I have to ask what is the U.S. doing for Puerto Rico right now? Puerto Rico can’t declare bankruptcy and, although the island can apply for help, such as for the current drought, nothing has really been done, so far. If the situation found in Puerto Rico were going on in any state in the U.S., then it would be considered a state of emergency and the federal government would immediately get involved.

Why is it that Puerto Rico is technically a U.S. territory, but must act like an independent country without all of the rights of a sovereign country? I see Puerto Rico slowly killing itself, while the U.S. watches for the sake of allowing the island to make its own decisions, but as it still hangs on to its position as owner of that land. This is where I’m torn. Would I rather have Puerto Rico become a state and receive more American support, but risk losing our identity? Or would I rather have Puerto Rico become independent and continue its negative path on its own?

I wouldn’t have a problem with Puerto Rico remaining a commonwealth, mainly because that’s what I’m used to, but only if it meant more than citizenship and a title for Puerto Ricans. As a Puerto Rican living in the U.S., I see the notion people have of us. We’re envied by many other Hispanics because of our citizenship and the belief we have it easier, which is true to some extent. Although our situation on the island is progressively getting worst, escaping those hardships is somewhat easier because immigration isn’t necessarily an issue. While for many Americans, Puerto Rico is just an easy escape to an exotic paradise, but they don’t quite see past the tourist attractions.

As a Puerto Rican, I know that we pay American taxes, but our votes don’t count in elections. We can attend U.S. universities to avoid the failing education system in Puerto Rico, but we would still have to pay out of state tuition and are ineligible for several scholarships and grants. We can join the U.S. military and fight in American wars, but receive virtually no help from the U.S. when it comes to the violence on our island. There is an imbalance that I don’t like. Puerto Rico belongs to the U.S. when it is convenient for the U.S., but, when the territory becomes troublesome, it is independent. At least that’s how it feels and it doesn’t seem fair. It feels like a modern form of colonization, which is something that the U.S. fought hard against during its own revolution.

It’s interesting how history repeats itself, yet it goes unnoticed because people don’t think those circumstances still exist. The same goes for piracy, slavery, gender inequality, and other “things of the past.” They still exist just in slightly different ways that allow people to believe they’ve died. Take racism, for example. It is still very much an issue, but it has evolved to become a silent issue. (However, this is starting to change given the situation in Ferguson.) It is to the point where mainstream America chooses to believe it doesn’t exist just like they choose to believe that American colonization no longer exists.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the U.S. is gravely oppressing Puerto Ricans, but I am saying that it seems like they only have their best interest in mind with the exception of whatever extra territories they acquire along the way. I’m saying that it’s questionable how helpful they have been to Puerto Rico, which makes it more difficult to formulate an opinion on the matter of citizenship. So who knows what’s going to happen because this debate has been going on for over a hundred years and nothing has changed. This is the ongoing frustration for every Boricua.

Rihanna is a Modern Icon

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Last week, Rihanna stirred up quite a commotion with her sheer dress that she wore to the CFDA Fashion Awards. Some people thought her look was completely inappropriate and tastelessly provocative, while other people thought this dress solidified her place as a fashion icon and that “it was everything.” What do I think? I thought she looked gorgeous. Yes, you could see her pierced nipples and, yes, her nude was clearly visible, but I thought she was still tasteful, elegant, and fashionable.

I respect that some people might have been “offended” by her visible parts, but why are nude maternity pictures socially acceptable? Why are so many historic nude paintings revered as masterpieces? Why can Christina Aguilera pose naked on the cover of Rolling Stone? But Rihanna can’t be considered artistic for this look? Now, I’m not saying you need to join in and wear sheer dresses, too. I’m not even suggesting that you have to agree with what she wore. I’m just saying you can at least respect her for it and try to understand the reasoning behind it. I understand that each person is entitled to their own opinion, but ignorant opinions are among my biggest pet peeves. By all means, believe what you want, but make sure that you have some valid points of support for those thoughts.

During the height of the debate over Rih Rih’s dress, she went on to tweet “Happy birthday to the late Josephine Baker! You have and will continue to inspire us women for decades to come!” alongside this picture:

Rihanna Slays

Now, I’m sure Ms. Fenty did want to wish the late icon a happy birthday, but she was also proving a point. She wanted to show people that her look was more an homage to an inspirational woman than excuse to flaunt her sexuality. Josephine Baker was a pioneer in the Black community and the entertainment industry. The similarities between her and Rihanna’s appearances are obvious, but people can only seem to focus on a pair of nipples (which everyone has).

Later on, Rihanna went on to retweet a woman who captioned a photo of the Bajan star on the red carpet with “Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise that I dance like I’ve got diamonds – At the meeting of my thighs?” from Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” Maya Angelou was a respected writer, seen as an inspiration for women, and considered a much needed voice for the Black community. Ironically, this phenomenal woman’s words fit Rihanna perfectly, yet she is the one receiving all of the backlash.

I guess the question I’m asking is what is so wrong about what Rihanna did? What she did has already been done before and then some. Just look up Cher, Jennifer Lopez, and Lil Kim for starters. Yes, they all created some scandal with their risqué fashion choices, but you would think our society would’ve evolved to be more open-minded. Plus, it seems pretty clear that Rihanna had some of the most accomplished women of our past serving as her inspirations. These women who were considered role models, exemplar females, and respectable characters, yet, when Rihanna puts her own spin on what they’ve already done, she’s trashy, too sexual, and unworthy of being a fashion icon.

I understand that these “revealing” looks can be considered shocking, but it’s 2014. Women are independent now, so why can’t they express themselves in different ways? Women shouldn’t have to ashamed of their bodies or the ways they choose to express themselves through fashion. Besides men show their chests and go shirtless all the time, but there never seems to be an uproar about that. It is society who chooses to sexualize a woman’s body, not Rihanna. She wasn’t twerking, poking her booty out, or accentuating her breasts on the red carpet. She was simply posing and walking like she wearing a normal dress at a fashion event.

Now again, I have no problem with people expressing their opinions. This entire blog is biased to an opinion. I just wish people wouldn’t form their opinions through ignorance. It’s not a good look. So, if you’re going to hate on Rihanna for what she wore last week, then be sure to also hate on all of the inspiration women before who gave her the courage to be herself. But, more importantly, be sure to also hate on society that has made being comfortable with and proud of your body something to be ashamed of.

English Major Doesn’t Equal Education Major

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I graduated from a four year university with a degree in English. During my time as an undergrad student, I took several creative writing courses, journalistic writing classes, and a poetry class. I also learned about developing theories, different research methods, and analyzing literature through a more critical lens. On top of that, I got to study about British Victorian literature, American minority literature, and happiness in literature. Those are just a few of the English courses I can think of off the top of my head.

The funny thing is I never once took an education class and I can’t recall my professors ever implying that any of us, myself and my fellow English majors, would be teachers, yet, every time I mention my English degree, people automatically assume that I’m going to be a teacher. While in college, as an English major, I was encouraged to be a journalist, do research, or get published, never to be an educator. So to respond to past and future assumptions… No, I don’t want to be a teacher and, no, I will not be a teacher.

I don’t understand how the English course selection can be so diverse, but education is all the average person can muster up as an appropriate career. Yes, being a teacher is a possibility, but there are also so many other possibilities that English majors can pursue. We can be editors, screenplay writers, copy writers, theorists, journalists, biographers, translators, novelists, poets, or essayists just to name a few. Personally, I want to be a published author, specifically, in creative writing, which I’m already pursuing. If I wanted to I could be a blogger for an online magazine, a copy writer at an advertising firm, or I could even translate books from Spanish to English and vice versa. I don’t have to be a teacher.

The other day, I ran into my high school advisor and, after continuously dropping comments of how I should be a teacher, her words of wisdom to me were that the only way I will have a successful writing career is to get my book in the hands of Oprah or Tyler Perry. I laughed it off and thought to myself about how I can’t wait to send her a copy of the first book I get published.

The American Dream

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I was born in Puerto Rico and I’m from a small town where hardly anybody leaves. You never hear of a sabaneño doing big things on the island or anywhere else. People accept their lives for what it is and they’re content with that. They live in their island style cement homes, go to work, pay their bills, and go on with their lives. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary there. Nobody steps out of their comfort zone. Nobody dares to think outside of the box.

Thankfully for me, my parents left Puerto Rico and we’ve been living in the U.S. ever since. I’ve gotten a good education and have gotten great opportunities. I’ve been exposed to different kinds of people, places, and cultures. I live in America for goodness sakes. Anything is possible. I can live the American Dream. I can make my dreams come true, be successful, and be encouraged by the optimistic, ambitious Americans who surround me, right? Well, not so much. It turns out that most people I’ve met are still stuck in the mindset that there’s only one way to be successful and live the American Dream.

The formula is you have to go to college and preferably graduate from a Master’s program or more, make sure that whatever you’re doing is in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math are the way to go in America), and find yourself a stable job with benefits. In about 10 years, you should be making the money you want with a nice family and a house under your name. That’s the formula. That’s what works. That’s how you live the American Dream.

How else do you explain young females who once hated school pursuing nursing or individuals who didn’t know what to do going into computer programming? But what if you hate anything under STEM? What happens if you have an idea bigger than climbing up the corporate ladder? How can a creative mind secure success if they don’t fit into the American Dream formula? Well, just how they would do anything… By thinking outside of the norm.

It’s hard for a person with a real passion to live the life that another person has paved for them. It’s too confining. It’s frustrating. A nine to five kind of job is just not for the creative types. We can’t do it, so we make our own way. We make art, we create businesses, we make something out of what we truly love… our passion. That’s when something magical happens. The motivation, ambitions, and drive are all unstoppable to the point where success is inevitable. That’s how you get billion dollar businesses, Pulitzer Prize winning novels, and legendary records.

If the creative minds had given up on their passions and decided to follow the leader, then there would be no Andy Warhol, no Pharrell, or no Langston Hughes. Fortunately, they all chose to pursue their own American Dream and pave their own way in the ground. They all gifted us the art they’re notorious for and proved that you don’t need STEM or a doctorate to be successful. You simply need dedication, ambition, and passion.

However, most people find it hard to have this vision. They can’t see anything beyond the clear path to success. They think anything outside of that is too risky and simply not worth it. They might say that it won’t work and that your plan B will ultimately be all you have, but I don’t think so. I think that when a person is truly invested in their passion, then success is certain. Living life and finding success in the thing you love most, now that is the real American Dream.

Flawless

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I’m absolutely aware that I’m not perfect, but I am also very hip to the fact that I am flawless.  Yes, I have my questionable characteristics, my quirks, and my rough edges.  I didn’t graduate college with a 4.0.  I’m not the “ideal” height and weight.  I’m horrible at admitting when I’m wrong.  I don’t know how to ride a bike.  I’ve made mistakes.  I have some shortcomings.  No, I’m not technically perfect and neither are you nor the person who lives next door to you.  Perfection is such a subjective term that I’m not even sure if it truly exists.  However, I am flawless.  Why?  Better yet, why not?

Seriously though, I am myself.  I love who I am and I accept the person I am, no matter what.  The fact is no one in this world who can be me better than how I am me.  No one can tell me how to be me.  I will always be the best version of me because I am the only me in this world.  And I will always be the only me to ever exist, but this goes for you, too.  There’s nobody in this world like you.  Yes, there are people similar to you, but there will never be another you.  As long as I’m staying true to who I am, I will always be flawless and as long as you stay true to who you are, so will you.

But don’t misconstrue what I’m saying.  I’m not encouraging individuals to stop learning about themselves and to stop bettering their characters.  No, never that!  Instead, I’m urging people to continue beating their own high scores.  Redefine what your perfect self is and redefine what being a flawless you means.  Being flawless is about doing everything with confidence and to the best of your ability, while not worrying about the limits being placed upon you.  So don’t be the one to limit yourself.  It’s 2014.  Do Better!  Be the best you.  Be a flawless you.  Because as long as we’re real about it and we all understand it, we are all flawless.

Beyonce

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Beyonce, Queen Bey, or however you refer to her dropped her secret visual album on iTunes just last week.  Like everyone else, I’ve been listening to her album pretty consistently, trying to fully digest it and develop a clear opinion on it.  But before I get to the music, I do want to point out how ingenious of a plan this was on her team’s part.  Trust me, I’m no Stan for Beyonce, but you have to admit 17 albums and 14 songs coming together to create an unannounced album that wasn’t leaked is one of the few ways to get even more people talking about a singer who is arguably the top R&B vocalist out right now.  That’s perfect marketing!  As for the music, it definitely doesn’t disappoint.  No, I’m not blasting every song on repeat every time I’m driving in my car, but the album as a whole does have a huge “repeat value” to it that makes you crave listening to it for long periods at a time.

Generally speaking, I appreciate the vibe that Bey is giving her fans on this piece of work.  For example, “Yonce” and “Partition” (what’s currently playing) bring us back to Beyonce’s trill roots that brought us songs like “Soldier” and “Freakum Dress.”  They encourage female listeners to be unashamed of their sensuality, while still hanging on to their power.  Furthermore, “Bow Down B!tches” and “Flawless” does promote female empowerment no matter what other critics are saying.  These songs aren’t meant for women to belittle other women, but instead for women to bring themselves up as individuals.  What woman doesn’t want to think of themselves as a flawless queen who knows they look good?  It’s not about bringing women down, it’s about having a high self-esteem and I’m digging it.

Mixed in with the raw Beyonce, the album also shows a woman in love, which is no surprise being that Bey is madly in love and it’s an R&B album.  With that love come romance, sex, and doubt, showing the different sides of love and relationships.  It’s real.  You see romance in “Superpowers” featuring Frank Ocean, sensuality in “Rocket,” and doubt in “Mine” featuring Drake, but they all emote the love that Beyonce has for her hubby Jay Z.  I definitely appreciate the R&B, old school tones found in the first two and I am a big fan of the modernity brought into “Mine.”  It helps break up the monotony that albums can easily fall into.

Overall, the album was perfectly titled Beyonce because there really is no other way to describe it.  People are multifaceted with different sides, different interests, and different inspirations.  I think Bey did a good job of showing each side in her album, while making it a cohesive piece.  I appreciate the emotion in “Heaven” with her miscarriage in mind, while also loving the forwardness of “Drunk in Love” inspired by her relationship.  It’s an album that her audience can relate to and it came at a time when her fans were fiending for more Beyonce.

If you haven’t heard any of her new songs yet, here’s “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay Z.  Enjoy!