Hello, hello!!!! It has been a while since I have posted text versus image. I find tremendous value in both, given the amount of imagery we are bombarded with daily, whether by a commute, a web page or even a coffee cup I believe the surge of image drive journalism is no coincidence. As I write this post, I remember days posting from a small desk in West Harlem surrounded by a square of vaseline in fear of any bed bugs returning while I listened to the Mexican Herbal shop in the basement play ridiculously loud music. I remember nights being woken up by a helicopter because some fugitive ran on top of the buildings and couldn’t be found.
I remember lifting my air mattress to use the rest of the space I rented to paint because that small room was where I slept, wept, ate, and dreamt. I love music, however the Mexican Herbal Shop turned into a suspicious ‘night club’ at night. We’re talking loud music at 4AM and I’m an early riser. So I have this beautiful memory of counteracting this music with loud Puerto Rican beats at 6AM while they were trying to go to sleep. I knew the majority of neighbors who were having a cafésito benefited form the experience as I heard their music too. What I loved about the community was an unspoken level of respect. If you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you, and everyone would come outside to their stoops.
In my present neighborhood, neighbors keep to themselves, and you’ll see the occasional beer pong. When I walk down stairs with my roommates, all of us, women of color we recently had an awkward moment where our neighbors turned down the rap as soon as they saw us because well, they are all white wearing neon bro gear. It’s OK to like hip-hop bro, just have the decency to say hi to your neighbor outside of this awkward moment. I miss the loud music of West Harlem, the fruit stands, but I don’t miss the lack of air quality and barriers to adequate housing. I am still seeking a neighborhood and feel like I occupy that space at Cambridge Community Television where the staff and fellow producers know my name.
I struggle with housing in the Cambridge/Somerville area, but I can breathe well. I don’t have to use Clorox to scrub my floors anymore. While I played loud music to bug the basement neighbors, I never had any one follow me up the stairs. In reality, I was really the one enjoying this music. When two young men tried to enter the building saying they had to see their cousin, but didn’t know what apartment he lived in, I slipped into the Pakistani grocery next door and told the guy what happened. He in turned looked out for me, and told one of his customers to look out. There was a mutual level of respect, but non the less there was still violence blocks away and sometimes just steps. I find it very common in my present neighborhood that people don’t look at each other anymore, it’s a survival for the fittest attitude and the fittest are the elite with mortgages. We live in self-serving people-hoods versus neighborhoods.
I recently had an experience in the local coffee shop that bothered me. I never went into this space, and there was a visible difference between the service given to me and the service given to the man behind me. We ordered the same drink, it was served in two different cups, and when I had a question about the size, the woman at the counter went downstairs. These are moments of racial discomfort. I’m in a cafe with all white people, and even though my skin is light by virtue of my features and clothing, I am not easily categorized, and I know now as an adult that it makes people uncomfortable. I know by virtue of my presence I have made peers, classmates, and predominately White people uncomfortable. I don’t fit into a box, and Puerto Rican was taken off the census in the 50′s. So by a carefully calculated choice, we are being threatened as a population in regard to representation. The largest Hispanic populations in the America are Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. However, I am not an immigrant, I am a migrant with a multicultural identity. This is hard to understand, not talked about, however I have felt it all my life with stares and exclusion. I am proud to say I am a bullying survivor.
Community is rare in a growing society that bases itself on primping online personas. I am guilty of such a task, however not in a deceiving way. I am extremely selective of the material I place on Facebook and I don’t tweet, yet. The impetus for both is professional background checks. If you tweet, regardless of your account status, your tweets remain their forever. My life and identity transform while there is a core essence of who I am that remains consistent and illuminated brightly when I feel safe. In a highly competitive environment, and in a world where violence against women is still a global crisis, I am OK with being the most authentic in person and living my purpose at my job and in the Cambridge Community Television Studio when I tape Café con Cass. The Executive Director of the station values free speech and knows her first amendment rights, and that makes me feel incredibly safe. They know I’m different, and they love it and gave me a space to express it. I am so grateful to their fostering a sense of community.
I want to die a natural death where my spirit transforms and my body returns to ashes and the oceans, not where I’m locked on a Twitter feed. This may be controversial for professional reasons, however I do not see myself as being on a platform that will outlive Coca-Cola. Not yet at least. In the digital age, I have found the generation who first developed the Internet to be unforgiving with content. If we are held to the standard of our actions at 13, then what room is there for growth? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of schooling? We no longer die at 35 thanks to modern medicine and health regulations. I have personally felt this paralysis in the job search. Given my talent artistically, I am often asked what am I doing in an office. In an interivew, you can’t say – paying my damn bills because I’m a single woman whose first generation making my own history. You have to say something more applicable to the function of a job like, the opportunity to grow. I recently however, give my show Café con Cass, crossed the Internet thresh where I am now googleable. I am very proud of the content I have chosen to make public and I am proud that I am starting to explore race in a new way as it relates to my identity. I am Puerto Rico USA, from an island where race is only noticeable by shades, not by countries. We are a port, and Commonwealth but no man including American came to conquest the island with women and children. Of course, there is a bit of America in all us, Africa, Spain, Ireland, and so-on.
As I reflect on the events of Winter, I also send blessing for the Spring. Happy Spring Equinox. The change has brought many transitioning thoughts and reflections. Of all the races and countries, we still orbit on the same planet Earth and can see the Sun and Moon from every angle in the world.