Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Moment in Blackness at Walgreens

The following is a copy of a complaint I sent to Walgreens in response to sub par treatment I recently received from this business. I would like to dedicate this post to my friends who believe we live in a post racial society. Yes, even your friend Francesca gets discriminated against. And now a moment in blackness...

Dear Walgreens,
I have been as patient as a customer can be with the pharmacy at your store on Church Avenue and E. 21st in Brooklyn, NY (11226.)
On June 26th I dropped off several prescriptions to the pharmacy. My dermatologist prescribed a few items that were not 100% covered by my insurance. I was fully aware of this and more than prepared to pay for the items necessary for my wellness. During my first visit (Wednesday, June 26th) a young female attendant (fairly young, looks like a West Indian of East Indian descent) scanned the prescriptions written by my dermatologist, typed data into the computer, and gave me the grand total. She was really nice, warning me that most of what I needed would have to be ordered so it would take a while to arrive. This was completely acceptable, since your pharmacy is small and one of the products I needed is fairly new and isn’t widely advertized.
On Friday, June 28th, my second trip to the pharmacy,  I dropped off another prescription from another doctor and went in to pick up my first order. On this day the young lady was accompanied by a tall, thick man with a lab coat. He had dark hair and light (not white skin.) I assume he is Latino or of Mediterranean ancestry.  While she input my new prescription, the man glanced at the screen, made a surprised face and said something to the tune of, “That is expensive. You sure you have the money to pay for it?” I was taken aback and responded, but calmly responded “Yes, the young lady here discussed the cost with me the other day.” I smiled and walked off, but deep inside I was fuming. How dare you ask that question to a customer, especially with the tone accompanying his statement? I really didn't have time to call him out on his lack of professionality; I was already late for work.
On the 30th I entered the store with every intention of picking up my remaining order. My third trip to Walgreens, however, was as unsuccessful as the one before. A tall, Asian man assisted me on this day. As he finished scanning my order I saw that it came up short of what the young lady told me it would be. Instantly I knew what happened because the “expensive” treatment didn't show up in my order. I ask why it was not ordered. I turned in the prescription and saw her scan it. What was going on? He replied, “It must not have been ordered because of its high cost.” I snapped at him, “If I ordered it, I can afford it,” swiped my card, grabbed my items, and left. Same treatment, different day, different associates. Is this the Walgreens way: make assumptions about affordability to clients based on physical appearance?
I visited Walgreens once again on July 3rd. Knots began forming in my stomach as I approached the store. My temperature began to rise as I walked to the pharmacy in the back of the store. I was relieved to see a black, female face (one that was relatable to mine) behind the counter. I asked her to check for my prescription. After reviewing my history she informed me that I had no pending orders. I repeat, after three visits the prescription was still not ordered! This last visit confirmed my suspicions of being discriminated against. I expressed my frustrations to the woman on register at pharmacy, going out of my way to assure her that I was just venting and was in no way attacking her personally. She assured me she understood. After speaking with the pharmacist in the back she told me my order would be ready for pick up on Friday, July 5th after 2 p.m. Feeling like the issue had been resolved I thanked her kindly, wished her a good day only to have her cut me off and ask it I was aware of the price. Did I not just go through this whole explanation of how everyone I spoke to didn’t put my order in because they didn’t think I could afford the medication? Surely this twisted way of dealing with customers, the lack of listening skills, professional courtesy, and blatant discrimination seems to be rampant at the Church Avenue and East 21st Street branch of your store. This is highly unacceptable and I do not have to tolerate it.
The contents of my pockets were assumed based on my color and my geographic location. After I fill this prescription and exhaust my refills I will take my business elsewhere, not even to Duane Reade, as I am aware of your recent merger. I do not deserve to be treated like a second class citizen based on the ignorant assumptions of others. I do deserve an apology. Walgreens, I’ll wait, but I won’t hold my breath. In addition to sending copies of this letter to the Church Avenue store, headquarters, and filing a complaint online, I have also posted this letter to my blog, as well as to,, and to in hopes that sharing my experience improves the service your employees provide to customers, especially in Flatbush, my neighborhood.
FHB, MS Urban Policy (The New School)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Olodum:Outreach Evaluation & Diasporic Grassroots Coalition Building

I'm taking a really awesome class called International Black Social Movements.One of the class assignments is an "Outreach Evaluation & Diasporic Grassroots Coalition Building Strategy." Sessy and nerdy at the same time, I know. Basically, it is a 20 minute in-class multi-media presentation that requires the explanation of the political philosophy, mission, program, constituency, leadership, and outreach strategies of the assigned organization, in addition to the evaluation of the effectiveness of the organization’s outreach strategies and suggestions for improvement. On top of this we had to find a counterpart organization for coalition building. It was a lot of work, but I must admit I had fun doing it! I gladly put my PDR (Professional Decision Report, "AKA" my Capstone Project) to the side and dug in deep.

My organization was Olodum, a Brazilian samba school and social activist organization. I was familiar with them before research  I just didn't realize it. They are the drummists in Michael Jackson's hit ”They Don't Really Care About Us,” one of my favorite MJ songs! Aside from musical accomplishments such as creating samba reggae, having one of the largest and most renown samba schools in Brazil, and kicking it with the King of Pop, Spike Lee, and Paul Simon, Olodum has an activist and social service component that makes me admire them even more. They are an exemplary organization, capturing the attention of the world through creative cultural expression.

I selected the Backstreet Cultural Museum as a counterpart organization. The similarities (Carnival based, cultural manifestations and pageantry, humble beginnings, and disenfranchised communities) between the two organizations were numerous and would create a really create partnership.

Below you will find my presentation. Don't judge. It's my first Prezi. Hope you enjoy!

Paz, poder, e amor (peace, power and love)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Frozen (East) Flatbush

Posters at Kiki's Memorial
(taken by yours truly)
In the dead of March, on the cusp of spring I get news that East Flatbush is ”frozen.” Jack Frost is not the culprit. In fact, he hasn't been much of a burden this winter. Smack in the middle of Brooklyn, a ”freeze” was put in effect by NYPD due to recent protests in the name of police injustices towards Kimani "Kiki" Gray and all young, black men. Never in my lifetime did I believe that I would live so close to the implementation of ”Marshall law,” a temporary lock down of civilians in order to control the flow of people, especially protesters and media. 

This comes to a surprise to me, for obvious reasons; this sounds like the stuff movies are made of, a policy of far away lands!!! Also, because after Hurricane Sandy ('AKA' Frankenstorm) I recall a conversation I had with my friend "J" pertaining to this very issue. We spoke about NYC's preparation and response to the storm in terms of effectiveness and equitability. J's concern was more about how the distinct boroughs were locked down so quickly. Guards were placed at bridges to deter people from getting on and tunnels were closed almost instantly. These plans were implemented for public safety, of course, but J was concerned about other circumstances that could warrant such treatment.  The City could lock us down anytime they pleased, specifically during protests and uprisings. I was a bit dubious, but here I am five months later with a live example 30 blocks from my home. {Sorry I doubted you, J. Soy necia, ya tu sabes.}

The corner where "Kiki" was shot seven times,
murdered by undercover NYPD cops.
(taken by yours truly)
I will admit I found out about the protests via Facebook. My timeline, the ultimate informant of what's happening in my 'hood and beyond featured links from RTPolicy Mic, Gothamist, and Kreep NYC (this link would not load on my computer or cellphone.) A Google search didn't yield any more information than Facebook provided. No coverage from any major news source, only from the Indy news circle, bloggers, and YouTube.  If it weren't for these sources I'd be completely in the dark about last night's riot and arrests

More cops than people on Church Ave and E.55th St.
(taken by you's truly)
Tonight "D" and I went to the vigil on Church Ave. and 55th Street. Police were in full effect for a 30 block span, dressed in riot gear. Helicopters swarmed overhead. Media vehicles from Univision, CBS, and other major news outlets were present. So much for the lock down! (There are even doubts floating around about Marshall law ever being implemented in the past few days.) There were so many young people there...and no one engaging with them. From the memorial we headed to a church for a meeting, only to meet people leaving with disappointed looks on their faces. From what we gathered, there were two factions present: cop huggers and justice seekers. Consensus building is one of the biggest barriers to creating change and both sides proved this to be true. 

Tonight in my Black International Social Movements, one of the major topics of the night was levers of social change. My professor, Robin Hayes, explained the 6 steps in finding balance and eventually shifting power.
  1. Cognitive liberation- spread awareness about an issue.
  2. Coalescence building- creating community with people who have similar awareness and action plans.
  3. Identification of targets- who can make the changes you want to see?
  4. Fulfillment- mark achievements (and failures) of plans.
  5. Repeat- move on to the next issue, beceuae we know there are lots more to cover!
  6. Adaptation- everyone isn't on the same page, so change is constant.
We are lingering somewhere between steps one and two. It is time to complete these steps and move on to the next one.  NYPD has been stopping  frisking, imprisoning, and killing youth of color for way to long. We should have had our shit together by now. I fear how long it will take, how many more lives will be stolen, how many more vigils will we have to hold before we can coalesce on a rudimentary level and progress toward some form of positive change. Who is down for putting an end to this issue? Do you know of any organizations that currently seriously are working on this issue? If so please share below.

In the meantime, rest in peace Kimani.

Memorial for Kiki on E. 55th and Church Ave, Brooklyn
March 14, 2013
(taken by yours truly)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vote for "Can't Hold Me Back" as the 2013 People's Choice Winner

I had the honor of befriending Betty Bastidas when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. She was filming "DreamTown," a piece that speaks to how Afro-Choteño youth rely on fútbol ("soccer" for you crazy Americans,) a one in a million opportunity, as their only way out of poverty. I admired her talent for capturing the voices of people who were often overlooked by society. Her new piece, "Can't Hold Me Back" is yet another reflection of this talent.

Set in Detroit, MI, this documentary "follows Fernando Parraz as he becomes the first in his family to earn a high school diploma — his ticket out of the struggles of inner-city poverty and violence. With a mountain of roadblocks stacked against his educational achievement, Fernando finds support from an unlikely figure: his father — a former gangster who has suffered the costs of his own mistakes."

I hope you enjoy this piece and vote it as 2013 People's Choice Winner at

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One Year Anniversary of Trayvon Martin's Death

Trayvon Martin (Source: Ebony)
Yesterday, was the first anniversary of Trayvon Martin's murder. Our modern day Emmit Till, was shot by George Zimmerman on his way back home from a trip to a local convenient store because he was black (in a not so black neighborhood), outfitted in a hoodie, and, therefore, was deemed "suspicious" by the assailant.  Zimmerman's defense is based on the Stand Your Ground law, which basically says individuals have the right to self defense (even murder) when they are in a threatening situation. In reality Trayvon was only armed only with a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea. One year later Trayvon's death brings few changes to self-defense laws. (Also, check out 5 things to know about the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin saga.)

Last year I was at the rally in Union Square, thinking that closure would soon follow. Throngs of people attended, arriving early to engage in dialogue about the senseless murders of black and Latino youth by racists. Tears were flowing hugs were shared, candles were lit, and signs for justice held high. Everyone was outraged, not only at the rally, but around the world. This senseless tragedy sparked the creativity of many artists who used their respective mediums (canvas, canvas, and more canvas, spoken word, and music) to make sure this story would never be forgotten. (Check out my friend's tribute on YouTube.)

While Trayvon, and many others like him had gone to heaven, the living found solace knowing that we all were aware of these injustices and we weren't going to accept this behavior as normal.
Me and friends at the Trayvon Martin Rally in Union Square in 2012
However, a year later Trayvon Martin's parents held a hoodie vigil on the anniversary of his death and the energy was different. Not many people attended. And those that were there weren't 100% focused. People were talking during the prayer and moment of silence, being disrespectful. I was particularly angry at a group of people behind me who complained about the fact that it might rain and how they wanted people to lower their signs to see Jaime Foxx's face. I had to check them about why we were out there in the first place. So there I was in Union Square, one year later, more outraged and angrier than even ever not only about the rate justice was being served, but also about the attitudes of "brothers and sister" who were supposedly down for the cause. This did not sour my evening completely since I did have the opportunity to meet and speak with some great people. (Side note: I sure was glad Occupy didn't take over this year!)   
Me and friends at the Trayvon Martin Rally in Union Square in 2013
I can only hope justice prevails in this case. Hopefully Trayvon's parents and loved ones will get closure by this time next year and we will get better legislation to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. Until then...
Cut-N-Edge Cartoons on Facebook

Hoodies up!

"10 Phrases Progressives Need To Ditch (And What We Can Say Instead)" By Elisabeth Parker

In an era where people are communicating more than ever it is important that we use vocabulary that accurately conveys our ideas and feelings. Elisabeth Parker's article on "10 Phrases Progressives Need To Ditch (And What We Can Say Instead)"(copied below) features phrases we must replace with more effective ones.
10 Phrases Progressives Need To Ditch (And What We Can Say Instead)
By Elisabeth Parker
(1). Big Business: (Also referred to as: Corporate America; Multinationals; Corporate Interests)When we use any of these words, we automatically sound pie-in-the-sky liberal. People think, “what’s wrong with that?” After all, they’d like their own businesses to get “big” and have no negative associations with the words “corporate” or “multinational” — which actually sound kind of exciting and worldly. Instead, try: Unelected Government. This puts them in their proper context as unelected entities with unprecedented powers, whose actions have immense impact on our lives, and which we are powerless to hold accountable.
(2). Entitlements: I keep hearing reporters from National Public Radio and other liberal news outlets use the word “entitlements” and it makes me froth at the mouth. They’re not “entitlements” — which sounds like something a bunch of spoiled, lazy, undeserving people irrationally think they should get for nothing. Instead, try: Earned Benefits. This term not only sounds better for the progressive cause, it’s also more accurate. Programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment are all forms of insurance that we pay into all of our working lives — via a percentage of our income — and then collect from when the time comes.
(3). Free Market Capitalism: (Also referred to as: Capitalism, Free Markets, and Supply-Side Economics) Like “Fascism” and “Communism,” “Free Market Capitalism” is a 20th-century utopian ideal that has amply been proven an unworkable failure, and damaging to society. Instead, try: Socialized Risk, Privatized Profits. This best describes the dramatically failed experiment in unfettered capitalism, as practiced in the late 20th century and early aughts.
(4). Government Spending: (Also referred to as: Taxes, Burden, and Inconvenient) Conservatives talk about “government spending” like it’s this awful thing, but the fact is, communities across America benefit from U.S. tax dollars, especially supposedly anti-government red states, which receive way more federal tax money than they contribute. Instead, try: Investing in America. Because, that’s what our federal tax dollars do. They invest in education and infrastructure that wouldn't prove profitable for businesses, but which still benefit society in the long-run.
(5). Gun Control: Yikes! That sounds like you want to control people, and all those “freedom loving” folks who want to bully gays and people of color into staying in their place will use that word against you. Instead, try: Gun Safety. It sounds so nice, non-coercive, and reasonable … plus, it’s true. Most of us aren't against guns, we just want them used safely.
(6). Illegal Aliens: It’s easy to support draconian laws against people we refer to by such a scary and impersonal term as “illegal aliens.” It’s way harder to act against our neighbors, friends, the families of our children’s classmates, or the nice lady who sells those plump, fragrant tamales on the corner. Plus … are they really “illegal?” If Big Business … Ooops … I mean “Unelected Government” … didn't want them here — for their easily-exploited, low-cost, skilled labor (yes, our neighbors from south of the border do offer specialized skills for which U.S. agribusiness refuses to fairly compensate) — they’d be gone. Instead, try: Undocumented Residents. Why not? They already do much of what we officially-recognized U.S. citizens do, plus they’re having more kids than Anglos are. Seems like immigration provides an ideal way for us to avoid the demographics crisis hitting Western Europe and Japan.
(7). Pro-Life: Ugh. They are NOT pro-life. Once a child takes its first breath, these supposed conservative “pro-lifers” couldn't care less about the quality of life for the child or mother. Let’s call them by their true name for once. Instead, try: Anti-Choice. Because, that’s what they really are about. They don’t care about “life.” They only seek to deny choices to women. Not just the choice of whether or not to have a child, but whether a woman can — like a man — embrace her full sexuality without having to worry about pregnancy, and whether she can make related choices about her body, her career, and when to have children, as men always have.
(8). Right-To-Work: Who came up with the phrase “right-to-work” ANYway? It’s total B.S. and doesn't give you the right to do anything, unless you want to reject unions and earn less money than you would in a pro-union shop. In “right-to-work” states, non-union workers in union shops can decline paying union dues. Which sounds fair, but is not, because union shops pay better wages to their employees, and hence should receive dues accordingly. Instead, try: Anti-Union: It’s far more accurate, and — as unions increasingly gain favor — will make conservatives look bad. Because “right-to-work” really does mean: Right to choose amongst sucky wages and benefits packages. Several readers have also suggested: Right-To-Fire (without just cause).
(9). The Environment: When people talk about “the environment,” they often sound annoyingly self-righteous, as if lecturing people with dubious hygiene practices. Unfortunately, you can’t count on people to make environmentally friendly choices — especially when people are struggling financially and these choices cost significantly more. Instead, try: Shared Resources. That makes way more sense. We may not care about some factory dumping crap into the ocean, but we dang-well care about our neighbors up the river not properly maintaining their septic tank.
(10). Welfare: When conservatives talk about “welfare,” they make it sound like this pit people wallow in forever, rather than a source of help that’s available when we need it – and that we pay for through our taxes. The majority of us need help at one time or another. Instead, try: Social Safety Net: When people think of a safety net, they’re more likely to think of a protection of last-resort, and one that they can instantly bounce out of like circus acrobats. And if we continue to grow the middle class — instead of cutting taxes for the rich and allowing companies to pay sub-living wages — perhaps the latter will be true again.
Of these which are your favorites? I already use "undocumented residents," but I will soon add "earned benefits," "anti-choice," "shared resources," and "social safety net" to my vocabulary starting today. Which suggestions do you agree (or disagree) with?

Monday, February 25, 2013

MTA Fare Hikes...They're Baaack!

How MTA feels about fare hikes

How I feel about fare hikes

And yes, I'm referring to the lil guy on the right.
Animated GIFs from Buzz Feed

I remember when an MTA fare cost $1.00. Yes, in exchange for a dollar you received a token which would give you access to the underground network of tunnels we know as the Subway. Times have changed since the late '80s. Tokens are an afterthought, while MetroCards reign supreme. The cost of travel has increased substantially; "A History of MTA Fare Hikes" provides a list of all fare increases from 1904-2009. After reading this exhaustive list do not forget there have been increases since then. On March 1st 2013, we will experience yet another hike, the fourth one in five years. Single ride fares will increase from $2.25 to $2.50, weekly passes will increase $1 to total $30, and my beloved monthly unlimited ride will jump from $104 to $112. That may not seem like a lot, but money is tight all around.

And what about the Pizza Principle?! Oh God don't let the cost of my slice increase in conjunction with this hike!!!!!!! Ok. Back to the issue at hand...

Two summers ago I remember having real trouble getting to work. I was living off my student loans and part-time income. (Still my life story, but anyway...) After paying my bills I barely had enough to get me to my job and my unpaid internship. So I'd put on my pitiful face and beg for a swipe into the Subway. I got many responses; compassion, from some, but more often I got looks of disgust, especially since I was dressed in business and business casual attire. Their looks translated to "why don't you swipe me in, Miss Thing?" I had to wake up earlier and get to the station and pray that someone would swipe me in so I wouldn't get to work late. Sometimes things went according to plan, other times it didn't. Where was The Sunset Park Peoples' Transportation Program (PTP), the most organized "free ride" project in NYC when I needed them? (This great organization is now defunct, btw.) On top of all this add the disapproving stares from MTA workers and the NYPD. It was a truly humiliating experience, one that many New Yorkers face daily. Imagine having your budget planned out to the last cent then a hike comes along. How do you manage? Ask for swipes (AKA subject yourself to humiliation) or hope the turnstile (AKA become a criminal and pay MTA/NYPD more for money via a summons)? 

Costs are increasing everywhere but wages are not keeping up. We are (unfortunately) too far away from the reality of a living wage, but what about putting some type of restriction on how much and how often MTA can increase its fare? I realize it is expensive to run such an extensive operation, but I simultaneously feel robbed knowing how much money is paid into the system by straphangers, yet we don't even have reliable service. Dare I say it...maybe the fat cats are making too much? Since MTA is a monopoly in NYC boycotting will never work. Too many people depend on this one service and there is no legitimate substitute, unless you live, work and shop near Flatbush or Utica Avenue (insert my Caribbean accent here...wa'gwan dollar van drivas! And no, gentrifiers and new comers, the cost to get in isn't $1, although it used to be when they first came to BK. Their price always remains at the whole dollar amount rounded down from the current MTA fare.)

In a perfect world I'd like to see the following list of requests met with MTA funds.
  1. Stabilization of fare hikes. You know, comprehensive legislation that prevents these all too frequent increases in transportation costs for NYC. Increases are understandable, but not so many of them. Four in five years? It sounds like the MTA needs to learn to manage its money better.
  2. All stations need to comply with ADA standards. The Subway was first opened for service in 1904 and here we are 109 years later and handicapped individuals don't have access to all Subway stations.  I find it disgusting, offensive and exclusionary that we even have to use the phrase "handicapped accessible" in reference to Subway stations. They all should be accessible to EVERYONE.
  3. While our transit system is rivaled by many cites across the globe for the expanse it covers and for being a 24 hour system, we must admit that we've lost our shine and push for bring on the cutting edge. Countries such as X, Y and Z are on the bleeding edge of transportation technology.  For us investment in green technology is imperative. While there are sustainability initiatives such as the installation of solar panels in a Brooklyn train station and   water recycling, we can do more. Even if the environment isn't enough motivation to make the change how about ego? Americans, specifically New Yorkers are big on ego. Other countries are incorporating new technologies to make their systems more efficient and less expensive, which reduces environmental externalities. How about using some of these ideas from "6 Ways to Harness Wasted Energy of Trains (and their Passengers)"?
  4.  Countdown clocks are mandatory in all stations, for every train line. They should be installed near the kiosks, visible to customers before they swipe their cards, and also inside the stations in major walk ways and also on platforms.
  5. There should be a reusable MetroCard by now. This would reduce litter in the Subway and also save the MTA money on card production. A pilot program with unlimited users would be a great place to start. Instead, MTA is planning to rely on other technologies, such as rely on tap and go payment systems that banks will provide. MTA, suck it up and create a sturdier card.
  6. At least one escalator should be integrated into high traffic stations. This will help clear smaller platforms more quickly by channeling strap hangers away from the platform.
  7. We need cleaner Subways. Trash and recycling receptacles need to be available for waste disposal. Platforms and seats need to be scrubbed down. While I always see this happening at the Union Square station on the Q line, I wonder how often it is done throughout the system.
  8. We also need an underground that is well sealed. It is quite unfortunate when you need to use your umbrella underground on rainy days. No one likes strange fluid falling on them. This goes for inside the trains as well. People console each other when they get dropped on. "Oh. It's just some rain water,” or ” It's anti-freeze.” I don't care what it is. With my luck it will be some radioactive substance that will give me a superpower my personality and body can't handle. I have too much going on in my life to be turning green and busting out of my clothes every time I am upset or frustrated, let alone underground with rude straphangers. Please fix the leaks!
  9. Rodent brainer. I can't tell you how big of a tourist attraction this is. Do we want to be known as rat city? I guess we already are known as that, but you get my gist. MTA can begin the initiative at the Bedford Avenue stop on the L train. That station becomes a zoo at night, and the critters aren't afraid of people, either. Maybe they've been swimming thought that radioactive water?
  10. Kiosks must accept cash and cards at all times. You can't expect people not to jump turnstiles when your machines (and people) don't accept their form of money. No, I don't want to go back above ground to find a bank to feed into your monopoly. Take it as a loss! 
  11. Improve service on all trains, especially the G, since it is the only train that connects BK and Queens, without having to leave the island they are on. The G is the must pitiful line that exists, so undesirable that someone decided to croon "The G Train Blues." Hilare! When people ask me questions about moving to NYC I advise them to not live where this is the sole line. Poor "G"randma needs to be revived with trains that run faster and further.
  12. Create a vibrant and welcoming space with Subway art. The historic tiles and mosaics (in some stations) are beautiful and provide an aesthetic of beauty underground. Also, there is the possibility to include art in tunnels, as well. Check out "Masstransiscope" by Bill Brand. This moving art is visible on the B and Q train lines between Dekalb Avenue and the Brooklyn Bridge (in the direction of Manhattan.) Isn't it beautiful?  
While I realize these improvements will require capital to make them realities, MTA makes money off an average of 5,284,295 individuals who ride every weekday alone (2011 statistic.) You do the math plus add income from advertising and city and state subsidies. Something has got to give.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This is What rEVOLution Sounds Like

“If you surround yourself with the good and righteous, they can only raise you up. If you surround yourself with the others, they will drag you down into the doldrums of mediocrity, and they will keep you there, but only as long as you permit it.”
Mark Glamack

This is not only true about the company you keep, but is also applicable to the music you listen to. I can't take the lyrically/musically weak, socially reckless, substance-less material that people of today call music. Radio is out of the question, Pandora starts off great, but always manages to mix in something crazy, and downloading music is a thing of the past. Thank God for Spotify

I've created several playlists, but I wanted to share one in particular. With so much injustice in the world I think it is important to always keep the struggle (past and present) in mind as well as hope for a better future. And from this simple idea I created This is What rEVOLution Sounds Like, a playlist of 600+ inspirational songs and speeches (in English and Spanish) that tell tales of injustice, fight and victory. Sample selections include

  • Angela Davis - Who Pays, Who Plays
  • The Cranberries - "Zombie"
  • Los Fabulosos Cadillacs - "Matador"
  • Green Day - "American Idiot"
  • Janet Jackson - "State of the World"
  • Lauryn Hill - "Every Ghetto, Every City"
  • Lupe Fiasco - "American Terrorist"
  • Malcolm X - Ballad of the Landlord
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. - On Viet Nam 
  • Panteon Rococo - "La Carencia"
  • Soul II Soul - "Keep on  Movin'" feat. Caron Wheeler
  • Humanwine - "Our Devloution is Televised"

I hope you all enjoy it and use it as a source of reflection and entertainment. If you have any suggestions for songs or speeches that should be in this collection, please share them in the comments field below. In the meantime, enjoy the playlist. I embedded it on the blog.

Image from

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Response to Michael Richards' Alleged Self Defense

Check out Cut-n-Edge Cartoons on Facebook.
Yesterday I found something really interesting in my news feed on Facebook. It was an image of a black man accompanied by the following text.
Michael Richards makes his point...
Michael Richards better known as Kramer from TV's Seinfeld, does make a good point. This was his defense speech in court after making racial comments in his comedy act. He makes some very interesting points.
Proud To Be White
Someone finally said it.
How many are actually paying attention to this?
There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc. And then there are just Americans.
You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction. You call me 'White boy,' 'Cracker,' 'Honkey,' 'Whitey,' 'Caveman' ... and that's OK.
But when I call you, Nigger, Kike, Towel head, Sand-nigger, Camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink ... You call me a racist.
You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you, so why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?
You have the United Negro College Fund.
Youhave Martin Luther King Day.
You have Black History Month.
You have Cesar Chavez Day.
You have Yom Hashoah.
You have Ma'uled Al-Nabi.
You have the NAACP.
You have BET.
If we had WET (White Entertainment Television) we'd be racists.
If we had a White Pride Day, you would call us racists.
If we had White History Month , we'd be racists.
If we had any organization for only whites to 'advance' OUR lives we'd be racists.
We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce. Wonder who pays for that?
A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but any color can be in the Miss America pageant.
If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships you know we'd be racists. There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US. Yet if there were 'White colleges' THAT would be a racist college.
In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights. If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.
You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you're not afraid to announce it. But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.
You rob us, carjack us, and shoot at us. But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug-dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, you call him a racist.
I am proud. But you call me a racist.
Why is it that only whites can be racists?
I not only shared the image from the friend who posted it originally, I wrote as thorough a response as possible. My amazingly diverse friends all commented, each comment challenging the one that came before. It was truly beautiful. People who never met each other participated in a conversation about race using a medium that most people would use to abuse their anonymity. Sadly, today (only a day after this active participation) my post was no longer on my timeline, nor was it on the timeline of the friend who originally posted it. Since I shared it, if the original poster deletes it, it also vanishes from those who share it. Hmmmm.  While I cannot recapture their comments my friends and colleagues made, I am able to share my original response with you because I drafted it using Word.
Here ya go.

There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc. And then there are just Americans.

You are not even “just American.” All of you cam from the “Old World.” A “just American” would be what some incorrectly refer to as Indians, AKA native Americans. When your ancestors came to the “New World,” they shed national ties from their past to establish a new life here in what we now know as the USA. This is precisely why you don’t refer to yourselves as German-Americans, Russian-Americans, Poland-Americans, Poland-Americans, etc. Although millions made it to the “new world,” representing various cultures, languages and regions of Europe, they all had one thing in common: their skin color. Yes, the heritage of being white was something that brought them together, most often to oppress others who were not white (natives and Africans, initially then Asians) and their own who were of modest means (read low-income, AKA POOR.) Yes, whites even discriminated against whites. Look at your history books. Whoever was the “new” group to enter the country was considered the lowest of low. Think Irish, Scottish, Italian, and Russian. At one point in American history these groups were thought to be the “N-word” of white culture. But through assimilation into higher white society, they “earned” their way to lily white status, forgetting what it was like to be at the bottom of the totem pole, discriminating those “beneath” them.

You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction. You call me 'White boy,' 'Cracker,' 'Honkey,' 'Whitey,' 'Caveman' ... and that's OK. But when I call you, Nigger, Kike, Towel head, Sand-nigger, Camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink ... You call me a racist.
Racism is racism. Name calling is not a good look for anyone.

You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you, so why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?

Ghetto violence isn’t a black red, white, ellow or brown thing. It isn’t a USA thing, A Mexican thing, a Rwandan thing, and Afghani thing, or an anywhere else thing! Ghettoes are an inequality thing, and so the violence develops. People resort to violence due to limited options. If you weren’t prepared academically because your school doesn’t get proper funding to buy supplies, your school attracts C average teachers who can’t relate to the kids and the DOE just passes you along for statistics sake, you will never be prepared for the world. You’ll necer get a job worth a damn so you will steal, sell your body, sell other people, do and buy drugs, and the like just to make it. If you are lucky you’ll wind up in jail.

Police walk the beat to “protect and serve,” but they actually do more harassing than anything else. Some cops also perpetuate ghetto culture by getting involved with drugs, racketeering, etc. because they hold the power…but I digress. You claim the ghetto is violent, are you referring to guns? Question: How do the guns get into our communities? How do drugs get into our communities? We don’t own dope plantations nor do we own planes or boats to transport it. We are ghetto (i.e. low income, remember? How is it getting in? Ask yourself that.
Ghettos are infrastructurally dangerous. Buildings are dilapidated due to absentee landlords and city public works aren’t quick to resolve community issues. If you were paying good money for rent wouldn’t you want to be able to come home to a place where the ceiling wasn’t caving in? Where you could use a working toilet? Have hot water? Heat? I’ve seen these instances not only because I’m in the field of  housing development , but also because I grew up in ghetto, undesirable places. Ghetto folk are made to feel less than human and ashamed because we have lived and some still live this way, yet are without the power to remedy the issue. Public assistance is available, but the government makes you jump through so many hoops to get it that you either just give up or follow through only to find out you don’t qualify because you make $100 more than the SNAP income limit. (A true story, btw.) This is all nothing but a mere glimpse of ghetto life. You must also understand that people who reside in the ghetto are mad as hell without an outlet for their anger. I’m not saying violent acts are justified, but I understand its roots are something way greater than skin color.

You have the United Negro College Fund.
We have the UNCF because we were (and still are) ignored by the US government, specifically the DOE. The fund was created to help more black students on the path to college and provide the financing so students could afford to finish school.

Youhave Martin Luther King Day.

And why MLK day? MLK fought for the rights of everyone! You get the day off the same as I do. On to the next one…

You have Black History Month.

We have these days of celebration because we have been ignored by the majority. (This phrase soon to be outdated because the minority is the majority now.) We have been invaded, colonized, enslaved, freed, then discriminated against and in the process whites have aided in the erasure and underplaying of our culture. You can apply this to the native Americans, enslaved Africans and their descendents, latinos, etc. We have black history month and latino history month because you constantly omit our contributions to American society from your history books. We had to go digging into our own culture to find awareness, and in the process we found our pride and a sense of fulfillment. We aren’t inferior beings. Red, yellow, black and brown folks, too, are scientists, activists, politicians, doctors, inventors, etc. We are more than entertainers. Portray us as such. We have contributed to the world we live in despite constant discrimination, being stereotyped, and thought of as subhuman.

You have Cesar Chavez Day.
You have Yom Hashoah.
I’d like to point out (Hollocaust Rememberance day, for Jew, a marginalized group in white America, as long as they aren’t rich.)
You have Ma'uled Al-Nabi.
You have the NAACP.

You have BET.If we had WET (White Entertainment Television) we'd be racists.

You do have WET; It’s every station that exists. Because your culture is thought of as dominant, white faces, ideas and culture is everywhere. You may see a token person of color here and there or a huge mass of colored folk on TV acting a damn fool (hello reality TV,) like that’s how we really are. Bottom line, it’s all to foster stereotypes. It also blows my mind that in 2013 I can pick up a magazine and still not see a person of color. If I’m lucky to find one, its’s always someone who it racially ambiguous. I get it; you want to cover all bases.

If we had White History Month , we'd be racists.

Your accomplishments and contributions are celebrated on the daily. We live in a white-normative culture. What else do you expect?

If we had any organization for only whites to 'advance' OUR lives we'd be racists.

There are white member of groups such as the NAACP. Why? Because some people have the sens to understand the hegemonic hold that white normative culture has on the world and the detrimental effects it created. Yes, even white people realize this.

We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce. Wonder who pays for that?

I can't and won't.

A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but any color can be in the Miss America pageant.

The Miss Black America pageant was started because we were not allowed to participate in any other pageants because of our skin. Yes, we can participate now, but the wheels are rolling and there is no turning back now. Your standards of beauty are not the same as ours. Blame the media and white normative culture for that. As one of my professor said, “this is why you can look at a Miss Universe pageant and not be able to tell where the contestants are from.” Embrace your own beauty be it nappy hair, almond shaped eyes, or  brown skin. 

If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships you know we'd be racists. There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US. Yet if there were 'White colleges' THAT would be a racist college.

You already do. It’s just not worded so specifically. Affirmative action is a way to atone for racially based sins and the countless institutions that have since benefitted from slaver, segregation, and continued oppression.
No one said that whites could not attend these colleges. They are open to anyone. In fact, I recall a few years back that a white student went to an HBCU in GA and got an affirmative action scholarship. Most whites wouldn’t do this because others wouldn’t value the educational experience earned at an HBCU. For the record, you do have white colleges; most of the Ivy League schools could be categorized as such. They are not only categorized by academic superiority, but also by social elitism (read classism and racism.)

In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights. If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.

You don’t have to march for your rights because you not only have them already, but have the”power” to determine who else gets them.

You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you're not afraid to announce it. But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.

You can be proud of your family. No one will knock you for that. It is important that you understand, however, what your heritage means in the larger scheme of things. How has it affected others?

You rob us, carjack us, and shoot at us. But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug-dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, you call him a racist.

I’ve never robbed, carjacked, or shot a gun in my life, with no intentions to. You act like people of color are the only ones who commit these crimes. Major flaw. Racism is inherent in police and prison culture. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you may want to do research on the prison industrial complex. My fingers hurt. I’m done for the night.

So, what's your take on this issue?

I found this great video on YouTube called Black History Month for White People. Dig in!