Tag Archives: united states

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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Remember, But Remember to Grow

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Thirteen years ago today, the United States fell victim to a series of terrorist attacks, which most notably changed the New York City skyline forever. This led to a full on war with Iraq abroad and a dose of prejudice toward Muslim Americans. Today, over a decade later, we are still facing the effects of those attacks. Unfortunately, there is no doubt about the tragic scenes that have taken place on U.S. soil, but, instead of using those hard times to bash those we believe to be at fault, we should work as a unified country to lift ourselves back up as a whole. If the United States is trying to coin its cultural diversity, then why not embrace the differences amongst ourselves to help us learn?

It’s not fair to hold all Muslims at fault for what happened on September 11, 2001 and it’s not fair to the generation of Americans growing up in a post-9/11 United States either. It’s time we move on from the stereotypes this tragedy has sparked and prove we are a better country because of it. We have to prove that we’ve grown, we’ve learned, and we’ve unified our country. The soldiers and civilians who gave their lives as a result of 9/11 shouldn’t have died in vain. So let’s take today as an opportunity to remember America’s past, but also as a chance to honor the fallen by proving we have become better people.

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.

Happy Independence Day!

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Today we celebrate the 13 colonies’ victory against the British in the American Revolution. It was the victory that sparked an overflowing need for freedom, justice, and independence. Along the way, America had to make some adjustments and changes to make sure that the country was sticking to it’s priority of freedom. It’s true that when the United Stated was formed not everyone was free and not everyone was sharing the same joy that the revolutionaries were feeling, but it’s also true that, without the American Revolution, I wouldn’t be a free U.S. Citizen and that rings true for many other people in this country. At the end of the day, all Americans share a mutual history that has affected our current situation in one way or another. On the same tip, all Americans share a mutual responsibility for the future of this country. So, as we celebrate the independence that this country achieved in the past, let’s remember to continue the path to freedom for everyone.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

50 Years of Civil Rights

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Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, a law that called for an end to discrimination based off of race, gender, and religion. 50 years ago segregation was the norm, using derogatory terms toward minorities was acceptable, and having a minority in a position of power was blasphemy. Now, 50 years later, diversity is celebrated in most institutions, censorship has virtually eliminated the use of racial slurs in mainstream media, and the United States has a president who is half black. Those are just a few examples of the great strides that this country has made in such a short time because 50 years truly isn’t that long of a time period.

Personally, I’m grateful for the fact that I don’t have to deal with racism on a daily basis and that I am not continuously being discriminated against because of my skin color, gender, or birthplace. Have I experienced discrimination and racism? Absolutely! But the severity of my experiences is minute compared to that of the 1960’s activists who fought for the passing of the Civil Rights Act. With that being said, our civil rights still have some room to grow and improve.

Among the most debated topics in civil rights is same sex marriage. Progress is already being seen as it has begun to be legalized in several states; however, it is still very much a work in progress. Not to mention the stigma that the South has in terms of their hospitality toward minorities. I’m not saying that this is true for all Southerners, but the fact that such a reputation exists is problematic. Yes, we have made tremendous strides in the last 50 years, but that doesn’t mean this generation can’t continue with that progress in the next 50 years.

With tomorrow being Independence Day, let’s make sure to do our part so that each and every American citizen can feel the notorious American freedom and pride. Let’s do our part to make sure our country’s progress doesn’t slow down and instead makes us all proud.