Sunday, September 25, 2011

Franky Benítez....Breaks it Down

What Puerto Rico Can Learn from President Obama’s Policy on Palestinian Statehood

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Chupacabras Thoughts On National Hispanic Heritage Month by Papo 'Swiggity' Santiago

In response to a question asked by George 'Urban Jibaro' Torres:
''Are special months like Latino Heritage Month helpful or confining to us as Latinos?'

My dos centavos:
Usually around concepts like this, we hear comments like " I am Latino all year!" or "I am Black all year!" and I get that... I really do. I hate that we have to bottleneck our accomplishments through the space of 4 weeks. But that's indicative of a much larger issue around the fact that we still don't control enough of the media (B.E.T. ain't even black-owned anymore, and there's no large scale networks catering to American Latinos in the mainstream, they still treat us alot like we're all of one culture OR another- like we speak English OR Spanish by some old world dichotomous notion that we can't be rich in bicultural qualities... we are in fact at every level of the American social, political and economic strata while many simultaneously maintain ties to our countries of origin, but this is a story for another day). With the exception of George Lopez's sitcom that showed Latinos in a middle class home environment (though oddly still tied to factory work), alot of America  believes the Hollywood hype that we are uneducated, oversexed, drug crazed and gun crazy as an entire people. If you had to judge us solely by how we are portrayed on TV, what other conclusion could you come to? Seeing this over and over, some of our own have come to internalize the hegemony and believe it. Worse... promote it.

So here's my take on the issue at hand. We celebrate these "Heritage" months to celebrate our historical contributions in American society, and yes, show them off to the mainstream. Why? Identity. So many kids go through a period of identity issues, questioning externally and internally... this is universal but it gets even more complicated when it comes to children of color who want and deserve a real idea of who we were, how we came to be in this society and where we stand today, so that they can lead the conversations about where we will go tomorrow. The information isn't out there like that- it ain't in the public classrooms.  You have to know where to find it and often that means you have to be lucky enough to have someone in your life aware enough to let you know there's even something to find. This has always been true... how many of our own folks that we know (they may even be our parents and grandparents) do not appreciate their own people because they don't have a thorough understanding of our accomplishments? They see their own communities as a negative, as a hurdle to be overcome to get that nice house in the white part of Queens. They were never taught the success we are capable of,  that we can be proud of. In fact they were systematically socialized to believe the exact opposite- that we are IN-capable.

As we know, an accurate account of our own history is not reflected in mainstream classrooms and culture, so these months allow us an opportunity for corrective reframing of our significance in American History. Usually Heritage Month events are run by leaders of the community... we get the mainstream spotlight to highlight our cultural happenings and heroes who often still "don't appear on no stamps" (shout out to Public Enemy!).

Do I wish we didn't need them? Yes. But...

Until the country adopts true transformative educational programs that embody stark real facts about the local Black (African-American), Native American and immigrant cultures within the framework of American culture, Heritage months are important for pedagogy and posterity.

PaPo Swiggity
The Nuyo Chupacabra
Capicu Poetry & Cultural Showcase