October 1, 2008

Cab Ride From Hell

“The Night of the Cab Ride from Hell” or “How Papo Lost the Job That He Loved” or “The Excuses Men Make” a Personal Essay of Truth * by Jesús Papoleto Meléndez

Everything always begins a few days before it actually happens…

We had come from East Harlem, New York City, to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; an historic journey to an historical institution. This was the university system that was built by Thomas Jefferson, with the hard work of all his slaves, and where Edgar Allen Poe had attended, before dropping out after a year. Through the Universal Preparatory Program of Spanish Harlem (UPPerSPaHa), we had endeavored to bring a group of 18 high school students, nine boys and girls each, to study and otherwise hang out on the university campus, to live and work, for the first two weeks in July. We then were to go back to New York City where we would continue the program for the next three-weeks…

We had already accomplished quite a bit. With a staff of seven men and two women, made up mostly of teachers and professional artists, we had prepared a program wherein the students would be able to experience “college life” in a real university setting. We had classes in English and math, as well as studying video-making, photography and poetry.


PapoletoMany fantastic field trips were planned, like going to King’s Dominion, a whole amusement theme park that had these great rides that would scare the shit out of you and make you pee in your pants; and we were going to ride inner tubes down the James River on Saturday. We had visited Thomas Jefferson’s sprawling plantation and had toured his wonderful mansion, Monticello. It was really a marvelous home full of his great inventions. Jefferson was quite a guy, and I couldn’t help walking away with the notion, “Look what this guy built with our bare hands!” But, still, one could objectively appreciate what the man had accomplished, and the struggle of contradictions with which he had to grapple everyday of his early American life. We had also taken the students to a Confederate cemetery, where, through an iPod speaker system we played Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” blaring from the pedestal of a Confederate Soldier’s statue, while the students listened and contemplated, standing over the graves of soldiers who’d been dead for over a hundred and thirty years, then made journal entries on their thoughts and feelings. It was extremely emotional as the students somehow related the cemetery to the death of their ancestors. Yeah, we were having quite an educational experience with these kids in Virginia.

It was a great trip so far, and Mary Magdeline, the Director of Programs, who had arrived on Tuesday from New York and was joining us for the last few days of the trip, was quite impressed with how well we were working together, and what we had achieved.

Strange Fruit
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees;

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh;

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Songwriters:
Lewis Allan (Abel Meerpol);
Maurice Pearl;
Dwayne P. Wiggins.

video – Billie Holiday performs “Strange Fruit”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4ZyuULy9zs

video – Nina Simone performs “Strange Fruit”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVxVa3D11n4&feature=related


So, this was it; I, a famous poet, was out and about in Charlottesville, Virginia, all by myself. Since we had visited the plaza earlier in the day with the students, in order to conduct the gentrification interviews, I had heard that at the end of the plaza there was a performance stage, where every Friday night they have bands play live music for free. So, I wanted to see this…

The moon was full and there was a planet, just to the right, Venus or Mars, I didn’t know. I remembered the previous night, where I lay on my back on the grass with a small group of the students in front of our dorm, as we looked up at all the stars we never see in the city, and picked out constellations and other celestial forms. It was just so mellow, everything. I thought that perhaps tomorrow, we could bring the kids down to hear the concert. That would be something…

Needless to say, a few days after we returned to New York, I was fired; Buñel was let go the day after that…

Other firings soon started occurring at the UPPerSPaHa headquarters.
Regarding myself, I had never been fired in my entire life, not from anything, so it came to me as quite a shock. I’m still in shock.

That’s why I began writing this in the first place; as an exercise in expressing my narrative voice; as well as for its catharsis. Thank God for Literature! I wanted to flesh-out the ill feelings that I was left with from this sour experience; to talk to myself about it, and clear some things up in my head as well as in my heart. I wanted to attempt to be as honest with myself as I could possibly be.

Nevertheless, I’ve not been pleased with how I’ve been treated by this organization. I found my dismissal rather brutal, and dismissive of all that I had helped to accomplish, in addition to being meted out quite disrespectfully. They wanted to impose a condition to my exiting, whereby I would sign a “Termination Agreement and General Release”
contract, which would have denied this narrative expression; thus proving what I enjoy saying, that “denial is always the first indication of the Truth.” I refused. They had wanted to financially short-change me of the compensation due me for my work-effort up to that point, which was quite substantial. And, as of this writing, I have yet to retrieve my personal, professional and archival belongings, which during the course of my employ as Poetry Consultant, I had brought from my home in order to better serve our students, and which I had left at my desk area when I was “let go.” Many of these articles include rare and irreplaceable signed publications and poems by the late Rev. Pedro Pietri, and others. They can’t keep these things; they don’t belong to them. They’ve refused to allow me to return to retrieve them, and have informed me that they’ve boxed them and will return them to me, just as soon as I return their laptop computer. But, I will not – not until I have seen with my own eyes what’s in those boxes. Otherwise, what’s missing will be lost. They do not have a right whatsoever to exact such a condition, when they have breached my respect for them by their aforementioned actions. I don’t trust them anymore, and, quite frankly, that pains me.

And this is actually what the most troubling issue is here. A Scepter of Insensitivity is haunting El Barrio, some mystical arrogance of administrational prudery. Perhaps, the gentrification of El Barrio, and of El Barrio’s institutions and programs – housing, educational, social, and political, et al, and etcetera – might have something to do with this? Maybe there’s something going on? Of late I’ve witnessed, as a whole slew of our people, who have dedicated their entire professional lives to the education and welfare of our children, are now questioning whether or not they have made the right life-career decision; if they’ve not squandered their lives, forfeiting instead more lucrative ventures in a capitalist system. Several such people, unassociated with this incident, have also been dismissed recently from UPPerSPaHa. They are, for the most part, Professionals in their fields with many years’ experience, now out of work, and looking for new employment, hopefully with medical and dental benefits.

Throughout the long and distinguished history of El Barrio, earlier residents of all ethnicity and cultural backgrounds have always sought to improve their living conditions. To this end, they organized themselves and have developed and sustained programs including the study and expression of the arts and culture, as well as having founded a myriad of social serving institutions. The proud residents of El Barrio acknowledge every service that’s extended them and their children; and arts and education programming are no exception to this appreciation.
We have always been well capable of administering, with love and caring, the daily services and operations of such programs and institutions.

However, now we find that many of these are being taken over by “interlopers” of one sort or another, who come into El Barrio with their classroom textbook-tested theories to try out on us – like a brand new dress for the poor, little girl of ethnic extraction – “One-Size-Fits-All” philosophy. . All that they know about “us” and the problems within our community – and how to solve them – is what they’ve read somewhere in a book. In fact, these people, whose total life-experience amounts to the adventures portrayed in the last novel they’ve read, manage to get themselves installed into executive positions of power, where, with a congenial condescension, these pedagogy “experts” dismiss our ability to identify, and our willingness to address our own needs. Their Superhero-Alta-Egos will not allow them to recognize or acknowledge our own medicinal remedies.

Haven’t they’ve stripped away enough of our community and parental rights? Haven’t they’ve done so, and then forced blame upon us when our children have lashed out against society – for lack of parental guidance and discipline? Do we really need someone else to come in and teach the village how to bring up a child?

Now, while we may express gratitude for the funding and resources provided us, it is essential to realize that we, as Human Beings, prosper further through the actionable vision of Empathy, rather than by the stagnant, albeit sincere and well-intentioned, narrow-minded charity of Sympathy. I believe that the only things that these professional interlopers know how to do are count pennies and decipher the whereabouts of the bottom-line – and that’s exactly what they’re here for. It seems like that – and to buy a newly built Condominium on one of our blocks – preferably far away from us, although still in the neighborhood, and walking distance to and from the subway.

It is with these strings attached, that these munificent souls dictate not only how the funds that they provide should be distributed (or otherwise utilized or squandered), but what can be taught, and how.

I’ve seen enough Hollywood films dealing with this “do-the-right-thing”
notion, to know what happens next. So it is that if “They” feel that our children will not benefit from the arts, then they need not be exposed to them. And, so far as I have seen of what goes on within some not-for-profit programs, it seems a Board of Directors must be established for the purpose of legitimizing the program’s mandate to “Funders” and the “Banks.” And then these Boards do everything in their power in order to prevent the staff from achieving its altruistic aims and goals. It’s like, the Board says, “Let ‘Our Program’ help your child get into college – just not Harvard, or Princeton, or Yale, or Stanford…”

So now that it is possible in El Barrio to purchase tofu and wheatgrass in the local bodegas, the questions become more relevant, rather than racist, to our survival in our own neighborhood: “Will the Gentrifiers improve the quality of our local schools by enrolling their children? Or will they devalue our property and schools’ programs, by divesting their children’s enrollment?” The truth of the matter is thus; if you’re not involved in your community, somebody else will be…

In the end, of course, it will always be our resilient kids who’ll suffer the most…

I personally know of many artists who devote themselves to their art, while diligently dedicating themselves to the work that they perform with the youth of today. Our community is replete with such natural resources as artists who are educators as well, and each of them waits patiently to be tapped before their life-assets run out without appreciation. That’s why the community must always be involved with arts and education programs, and what’s going on within their walls – to assure that our teaching artists are among the artists teaching art and culture.

Unfortunately for UPPerSPaHa, what was lost in the mayhem of the controversy was what we had undeniably achieved; we left New York City with eighteen frightened teenagers, and returned with eighteen young adults who had gained a vastly different outlook on the world around them, and by extension, American history came closer to their reality.

This is probably truer for them, than it might be with a great many of their fellow students and neighbors. We had finally “gotten to them.”
Finally, they saw us as “cool.” The obstacle that makes education difficult – “Resistance to Knowledge” – was removed from their attitude of “knowing it all” and we were able to dialogue like scientists of human nature. It was okay now, for students interested in creative writing to sit down with the poet and discuss the Universe, from micro- to macrocosm, for instance…

*Names have been changed to protect whoever believes in their innocence.

Posted by Jose at 10:27 PM

August 31, 2007

Artist Housing? - Give Me a Break!

East Harlem, September 1, 2007. East Harlem, September 1, 2007. I just received an e-mail from our beloved state senator, Jose M. Serrano, praising the Governor for signing a bill which provides assistance for artist housing needs

Here is the text of the e-mail verbatim:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New York, NY - Senator Jose M. Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx) today applauded Governor Eliot Spitzer's decision to sign into law a bill that would provide much needed assistance for artist housing needs.

The legislation, introduced by Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-Brooklyn), would provide grants over a two-year period of $12,000 for individual artists, or $22,000 for a group of artists who share live-work space.

"This legislation is long overdue for the artists in our communities," said Senator Serrano. "Artists, in so many ways, provide the cultural vitality and the economic machinery that our growing communities need. Governor Spitzer recognizes this fact, and I congratulate him for supporting this legislation."

The Governor signed the bill with the expectation that the state legislature would provide the funds to support the grants in their next budget. "In the past, our legislature's support for artists has been abysmal at best. I will do all that I can to ensure that funding is provided in next year's budget for this critical program."

As Chair of the Senate Democratic Task Force on the Arts and Cultural Affairs, Senator Serrano has been a vocal proponent of the arts as an economic engine - one that can help spark the Upstate economy, and empower working class communities in New York City.

This past month, the Senator hosted the Fourth Annual East Harlem Arts Festival, which has emerged as a diverse and popular venue for local talent. In his yearly legislative grants, the Senator has consistently funded respected cultural institutions - both large and small - in East Harlem, Roosevelt Island and the Bronx.

Serrano concluded: "By putting in place the affordable infrastructure for artists to live and work, we are ensuring that New York - both city and state - remain the Cultural Capital of the World."

Now, what could possible be wrong with the governor singing this legislation into law? There are a few problems with this idea. For instance, why do artist get this special treatment? And why housing aid? The response one is likely to get to that question is that artist by virtue of being artist do not make much and therefore need assistance, right?

But why are we subsidizing those who (1) choose to become artist and who then (2) do not obtain regular employment until their art takes off and sustains them? A lot of actors work waiting tables until their careers take off or until they are discovered. They are self supporting while they pursue their art. The way it should be done.

But being asked to use tax money to provide for those who wish to pursue their art is a bit over board. Artist who choose to live solely off their art are more than welcome to do so. But they should not expect the good people of the state or city of New York to support them in their decision not to seek employment that could sustain them while they pursue their art careers.

They can choose to work doing anything else that can support them. Or they can choose to live off their art. But this is a choice they make. This choice has consequences, that being of probably not making much of a living. But why should the tax payer be FORCED to pay for their career decisions; their housing in any way shape or form?

The best way to help "self-starving" artist is to have a state and city economy where jobs are plentiful, where everyone can obtain employment. That way artist can be employed (yes not as artist), but at least they are not living off the rest of us. Yes, artist should pursue their hearts vocation, but not at the tax payers expense.

Struggling married couples with children are much more in need of housing assistance. As are the poor or anyone else who finds themselves in a situation, not of their choosing, where they need housing assistance from their fellow man.

Some artist do provide for a more vibrant economy, but so do a lot of other work people, construction workers, policemen, firemen, shoe salesmen, etc... They are not asking for a free ride. No one else should either.

Remember, the state has no money. It does not create anything. The state is a steward of the tax payer's money. I ask our state representatives to be good stewards of our tax money. The middle class can't keep taking assaults on their wallets. At some point they will revolt. And this writer will be fighting along side them. Let the Over Taxed Revolt Begin! What do you think?

Note: This writer loves art, art that edifies and that is understandable. If the layman can not understand the art, then the artist has failed to convey the meaning of the art and has just failed period. Abstractions are not art. JBR

Posted by Jose at 9:16 PM

October 28, 2006

Julia de Burgos's Beautiful Mosaic

East Harlem - October 27, 2006. The likeness of Julia de Burgos now occupies East 106th Street creating not only new and wonderful art for our community, but also a place, a landmark to visit and honor our great Puerto Rican poet.

Photo of Manny Vega waving to the crowd at the Mosaic's unveilingJulia de Burgos, was an internationally known poet, whose heart longed for freedom for her homeland, for independence from the United States. But she died young and broken on Fifth Avenue in 1953.

She is remembered in the beautiful mosaic created by East Harlem artist Manny Vega and through the contributions of Hope Community, Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase, Congressman Charles Rangel, East Harlem State Senator, Jose M. Serrano, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Mt. Sinai Hospital Center, El Museo Del Barrio, Manny Vega and the hard work and persistence of local community activists, Marina Ortiz (East Harlem Preservation) and Deborah (Debbie) Quinones. We are Blessed by this mosaic.

The Mosaic was unveiled on Friday, October 27, 2006 11:51 AM. And it is striking and bigger than life. Artist Manny Vega did an excellent job in creating the mosaic. He is truly one of the most gifted artist of our community.

The mosaic is made from a type of glass tile and should last a long time. Manny Vega said it should last a least a thousand years.

Photographs of the Mosaic are quite stunning, but nothing takes the place of actually seeing it for yourself. So this writer encourages you to do just that. Come to East 106 Street between Lexington and Third Avenues (a lot closer to Lexington Avenue) to gaze upon a mosaic which honors both Julia de Burgos and the community by its very presence. I million thanks to all those who contributed and worked hard to add this heavenly art to our community. It's good to receive something so wonderful every once and a while. Thanks Marina,thanks Debbie, and thanks Manny. JBR

Posted by Jose at 7:33 PM

April 23, 2006

Garden Naming Unfair to East Harlemites

East Harlem, April 20, 2006. In a letter to Councilmember Mark Viverito dated April 20, 2006, well known and loved community activist, Marina Ortiz states her opposition to particular naming the family garden at East 114th Street.

Melissa:

As you may know, www.eastharlempreservation.org has been involved in drafting plans for the district-wide dedication of local streets and parks honoring East Harlem residents. My interest has been fueled by a combination of cultural/historical pride but also by concern over the lack of community input into the preservation and restoration of local landmarks and resources by outside agencies. Such is the case, I believe, with the planned memorial in the Family Garden on East 114th Street honoring the late Broderick John JB Hehman, who was killed on 125th Street.

As per your recommendation during the recent monthly meeting of Community Board 11, I have researched the effort by WiredNewYork.com and the New York Restoration Project. According to WiredNewYork.coms User Remembrance Flyer (see: http://www.wirednewyork.com/jb/TLOZ.flyer.pdf) the first location is in the 500 Block Association of 149th Street West, (Maggie's Garden), although their memorial web page (see: http://www.wirednewyork.com/jb/garden.htm) lists both the Family Garden in East Harlem and Maggies Garden in Harlem.

WiredNewYork.com also directs contributors to the donations page of the New York Restoration Project (see: https://www.nyrp.org/joingive.php?action=donate) with instructions to enter in the "Comments" area: Restricted to JB Hehman Project. However, I found no such information on NYRPs website to indicate that they have publicly sanctioned this effort, and I am therefore curious why they have not yet made the fact that they are taking in donations for this particular effort a matter of public record.

Finally, I would like to direct your attention to some of the more offensive comments made by members of WiredNewYork.com regarding Mr. Hehmans death (see further below). While the majority of posts on this issue were quite intelligent and thought-provoking, the idea that any one of the people noted below might have anything to do with renaming a park in East Harlem leaves quite a bitter taste in my mouth.

I would therefore appreciate your assistance in helping to facilitate local participation and decision-making regarding this matter. Thank you.


Marina Ortiz


EXCERPTS FROM WIREDNEWYORK.COM

MidtownGuy
April 10th, 2006
I am sorry, but I personally am not able to discuss forgiveness yet. Those "kids" aren't kids the way a 15 year old in the year 1800 was a kid. They are elements dangerous to society, as evidenced by the murder of our dear friend. They knew right from wrong. They knew it was wrong to gang rob somebody. A fierce, uncompromising response to "juvenile" crime is necessary to set an example of intolerance. Perhaps I need forgiveness for thinking," Too bad it has to be these worthless thugs. Their parents are probably as messed up as they are, and I don't care if they rot." That's how I feel right now. Maybe it is the anger talking. I'm familiar with the soft stance toward juvenile crime in Brazil, and look at the result. Kids literally get away with murder every day. http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8889&page=7

BrooklynRider
April 10th, 2006

...I see this afternoon that the Daily News -- to their shame -- has once again trotted out the old "Wolf Pack" headline in bold red print...

Yet, I believe the comparison is perfectly logical. None of these kids would have attempted this alone. What was Kipling's line? "The strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf." http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8889&page=8

MidtownGuy
April 10th, 2006

I am dreading the lame excuses the families will make for their children's behavior.

Amen to that. Much of the blame rests with them- they are probably the kind of parents that shouldn't be allowed to raise a fish let alone a child. Absentee fathers and skeezer mothers don't generally raise saintly children. http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8889&page=9

Jennifer in Harlem, April 12th, 2006

You're right. That is the question I'm asking. Reports have stated that these guys hesitated to go after another potential victim because they saw a patrol car. I would hope to hear that there had been more foot patrols instigated around 125 / Park -- as cops on foot can be far more effective in deterring incidents on the street than the occasional passing of a patrol car.

Hi, I live in the neighborhood where JB was attacked. Police foot manpower and the lack is a major complaint with this precinct. Also, Metro North has state police manned at the 125th location. They are never visible or posted in the very corners that JB was running for help. When the cops are around, they deter crime. In the last recruitment, this area received less than 10 new recruits to cover 62,000 square miles. The real culprits in JB's death is the community board, the local politicians and community leaders that continue to substandard police protection.
http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8889&page=11

MidtownGuy, April 14th, 2006

They didn't call an ambulance. They didn't call for help. Rather, they stood on the street corner and laughed as he lay in the road.

No bleeding-heart routine for these creeps, please. Now, since the robbery wasn't completed, and they're juveniles, they'll go free after what amounts to a slap on the wrist. Think that will discourage future mugging/killings? An example should be made of them. After the trial, their pictures should be posted in the neighborhood, detailing what they did, and what the punishment will be. And, their families should be billed for any money the state spends on housing and feeding the little monsters they raised. Zero tolerance for this stuff. If it was up to me, they'd be pilloried. A teenager knows right from wrong unless they are retarded. http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8889&page=12


Posted by Jose at 4:01 AM

December 13, 2005

AHA Awarded 250K by UMEZ

(Press Release)NEW YORK, N.Y., December 7, 2005 - The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone today awarded a $250,000 grant to the Association of Hispanic Arts, Inc. (AHA). AHA will use today's grant for organizational capacity building. Specifically, it will begin an inclusive strategic planning process; further develop its board of directors; expand its staff; and, enhance the programs it offers East Harlem constituents. Programs available will include, but not be limited to, technical assistance workshops, grants, marketing assistance, and advocacy.

The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone aims to strategically nurture and grow cultural resources through service organizations such as the Association of Hispanic Arts Inc. that demonstrate a commitment to sustaining and supporting the local community and attracting new artistic talent to live and work in Upper Manhattan.

"Our support for the cultural industries of Upper Manhattan extends from the largest museums down to the individual creative people who make this one of the most expressive communities in the world,"said Kenneth J. Knuckles, the president and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. "We know that Upper Manhattan's unique cultural abilities, history and reputation are strategic economic advantages, and we will continue to support the cultural industry in the years ahead."

"We are grateful for the Empowerment Zone's help and proud that it has entrusted us to serve East Harlem's artists and cultural groups," said Nicholas Arture, AHA's executive director. "This is another sign that the robust cultural community of El Barrio is gaining further recognition in the region and beyond."

ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION OF HISPANIC ARTS, INC.
Founded in 1975, the Association of Hispanic Arts, Inc. is an East Harlem-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of Latino arts, artists and arts organizations as an integral part of the cultural life of the nation. It facilitates projects and programs designed to foster the appreciation, growth and well being of the Latino cultural community.

Since its founding 30 years ago, AHA has become a model for Latino service organizations throughout the United States. Providing technical assistance, funding, and advocacy, it has worked to foster the appreciation, growth, and sustainability of the Latino cultural community. Among its achievements, it has incubated organizations including the New York chapter of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP), the New York Latino International Film Festival, and Teatro Circulo. The Association also encouraged national booksellers to include Latino titles among their offerings. AHAa's offices are located at 161 East 106th Street in the heart of East Harlem's 106th Street Cultural Corridor.

ABOUT THE UPPER MANHATTAN EMPOWERMENT ZONE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to sustain the economic revitalization of all the communities of Upper Manhattan through job creation, strategic investment, workforce development and small business assistance. It offers financial assistance to businesses and nonprofit groups through low-interest loans, grants and bond allocations. In addition, businesses located in the Empowerment Zone are eligible for certain tax benefits. The Development Corporation is financed by the New York Empowerment Zone, which was established in 1994 with a $250 million commitment shared equally by the United States government, the State of New York through the Empire State Development Corporation and the City of New York. The New York Empowerment Zone also finances the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation.

The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and the New York Empowerment Zone work together to reinvigorate the distressed communities of Upper Manhattan by using tax incentives and public funds to attract meaningful private investment. Both organizations work to stimulate economic growth and create jobs in the communities of Central, East and West Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. For more information about the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, visit www.umez.org.

For further information contact: Christine Ferguson at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone at(212) 410-0030, ext. 211

Posted by Jose at 4:47 AM

June 12, 2005

3rd Avenue Festival 2005

East Harlem - June 11, 2005. The Annual Third Avenue Festival was another huge success. Thousands particpated in an event which featured singers, song and dance, politicians, extra-ordinary people on beautiful riding contraptions and beautiful people taking it all in.

Violetta Galaraza poses with a group of her KRT3 dancers.The event was dominated by music and entertainment from several bandstands throughout the day. Both sides of the street were packed with those who purchased 'booths' from which to sell their products, mainly food, drink, tee-shirts, trinkets and other assorted cultural and mainly Puerto Rican pride type items.

The politicians showed up in mass, especially those seeking another term. Those present included Felipe Luciano, Melissa Mark Viverito, Democratic District Leaders Harry Rodriguez, Candy Maldonado, Carmen Quinones, and John Ruiz. To his credit, newly elected East Harlem/Bronx State Senator Jose Serrano, pitched a tent from which to speak to his constituents.

A music video was being taped during the event at East 112 Street. It was surreal walking along Third Avenue and suddenly finding yourself on camera. Only in El Barrio!

The young ladies were out in full force. Many shedding as much clothing as possible, some because of the heat, but most to create some heat. Obvious, right! Ahhh, to be young again. And let's not leave out the young men. Gawking, and making snide remarks to the young ladies who sometimes acted offended, but who were loving every minute of it. Nature continues with its various mating rituals. Its a dance which never ends.

The festival lasted until the rains came near sundown and even then a few brave soulds continued to enjoy themselves, what's a little water?

All in all, it was a very successfull event, for those who attended, for those who sold their products and mostly for those who sold the festival to all of the above.

To see more photos of the event, goto the photo gallery located at this web site.

Posted by Jose at 8:58 AM

Galeria 106 in 2005

June 4, 2005. East 106 Street from Park to Third Avenue was transformed into one big art gallery. With artist featuring and selling their wares to all who attended this marvelous event.

New upcoming artist, Linda Alicea poses next to her artThe event was laid out on wooden walls which spelled out "106" across two city streets. Which were spaced out enough not to crowd. Artist always have a good sense of space, and this event was not different. There was plenty of room and plenty of time to walk around and look.

There were new artist like Linda Alicea (see photo at left) and well established artists like Olga Ayala and Yasmin Hernandez. Fernando Salicrup was present with his computer generated art.

Other's sold fold like Abuelita's Pique. Erisbelia Garriga was selling her new book, "Homestyle Puerto Rican Cooking". From the way it was selling, it's a hit with many who wish to recreate those yummy dishes which are parents cooked up so easily.

There was music to listen too while browsing the art and eating food. There were lots of old friends there too. It was a nice sunny day which ended with native Mexicans paying homage to the harvest with dance.

Galeria 106 gets bigger and better every year. Can't wait to see what next year's event.

To see photos of this event, please go to this web site's photo gallery, look under Events.

Posted by Jose at 7:29 AM

January 27, 2005

La Casa receives 225K from UMEZ

East Harle - January 25, 2005. La Casa De La Herencia Cultural Puertorriquena received $225,000 for a two year stabilization project. The ceremonial check presentation was held at La Casa's home on the fourth floor at East 104th Street and Fifth Avenue.

La Casa De La Herencia Cultural Puertorriquena receives a check for 225K from Mr. Kenneth Knuckles, President and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone's charasmatic President and CEO, Mr. Kenneth Knuckles presented the check to Otilio Diaz, Director of La Casa De La Herencia Cultural Puertorriquena. Also present were some of members of La Casa's Board of Directors, various UMEZ staff, and members of the press. As were Kathy Bensen of the Museum of the City of New York and Mr. John Rivera, of Congressman Charles Rangel's office.

The infusion of money will allow La Casa to have paid staff and to stabilize the organization so that it may substain continued growth. La Casa seems to be the only local organization dedicated to the preservation of Puerto Rican heritage.

Mr. Diaz has been toiling for years keeping La Casa's many documents and photos in good condition and accessible to all. The collection is a great resource for those looking to document the Puerto Rican migration to New York City. The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone should be congratulated for their support of La Casa and for helping preserve an important part of our Puerto Rican heritage.

Posted by Jose at 6:13 AM

January 22, 2005

Raices receives Lew Collection

Preserving the Memory of a Renaissance Man
Raices Latin Music Collection Receives Ralph Lew Collection
By Nina Olsen

New York, New York -- Renaissance man Ralph Lew, will long be remembered for his outrageous sense of humor and love of people as well as for his long career as a Latin dance instructor, producer of dance shows, choreographer, record producer, writer, emcee, and producer of those famous Salsa weekends in the Catskills. All these contributions will be documented for future generations as a result of a gift to Raices from Ralph's dance partner and wife of thirty-one years, Lucille Lew. The gift includes photographs, historical documents and records, dance costumes, and plaques received in recognition of his talent and contributions to dance.

Born in Cuba of Jewish heritage, Ralph, or rather Rafael Levd, as he was named, began dancing as a young man, with the sounds of clave luring him onto the nightclub dance floors much to his mother's disapproval. He immigrated to New York in the late 1940's and later joined the army in 1951 where he coordinated dance shows while stationed in Germany. Upon his return to the United States he taught dance lessons and performed at Catskill resorts such as the Pines and Grossingers. In l957 he began teaching for the famed dance team of Tony and Lucille and later opened his own dance studio. It is his development of dance shows, with elaborate costumes, elegant sets and intricately choreographed routines that elevated Ralph from "dancer" to show man extraordinare. His great "ear" led him to produce records with such musical luminaries as Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Machito, Miguelito Valdes and others. Beginning in l984, Ralph and his lovely Lucille established his famous Salsa in the Catskills weekends.

The Raices Latin Music Collection is a program of the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, a division of Boys & Girls Harbor, Inc. Established by Ramon Rodriguez, Louis Bauzo and Joe Conzo, Raices is an early stage museum and serves as the nucleus for the first museum for Latin music. Raices is an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and an Official Project of Save Americas Treasures. Located in East Harlem, a primary birthplace of the music, Races is engaged in four distinct areas of programming: preservation and expansion of its Collection, public education and outreach, and capacity building for access by national audiences.

THE HARBOR CONSERVATORY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS is a division of BOYS & GIRLS HARBOR, INC., and is now celebrating 35 years as a pre-professional performing arts institution offering high caliber, low-cost training in music, dance and theater to over 1,300 students annually. For more information regarding performing arts classes, you may call 212/427-2244 ext. 573 or visit our website at www.harborconservatory.org

Boys & Girls Harbor was established in l937, by Anthony Duke, and is recognized as a leader in youth development in New York City. The Harbor focuses on the intellectual, physical and emotional development of youngsters ranging in age from six months to twenty-one years through education, cultural awareness and social services.

Posted by Jose at 11:21 PM

December 12, 2004

PS 117 Renamed after Tito Puente

East Harlem, December 9th, 2004. Public School 117 located at East 109th Street between Second and Third Avenues was renamed the Tito Puente Educational Complex in honor of the legendary latino musician Tito Puente.

Photo of the Tito Puente Family as they pose for photos with Congressman Charles Rangel

The event was held out doors and attended by Gov. George Pataki, Congressman Charles Rangel, New York City School's Chancellor Joel Klein, Borough President C. Virginia Fields, and a representative from Councilman Reed's office.

Everyone of Tito Puente's children except for a daughter who was in California attended the event. Also in attendance was his window.

Gov. Pataki spoke about his friendship with the famous mucician and Tito Puente's son spoke about how honored the Puente family were to have the school named after his father. Tito Puente attended school across the street from PS 117 and even has East 110th Street named after him.

The Puente family was quite warm and gracious. They were accessible to photographers and other media. Most importantly, they were happy about having a school named after Tito Puente. So often in life families of famous personalities are cold and inaccessible. Not so for this family.

Before leaving for another appointment Gov. Pataki pulled the string which revealed the new school name affixed to the school. He did this with the help of all the other dignitaries on hand.

It was a nice event for a great man whom East Harlem is proud to have called a son of the community.

Posted by Jose at 5:21 PM

November 13, 2004

Helio-Chronometer Art or Eyesore?

The Helio-Chronometer
Art or Eye Sore?
Located at East 104th Street at P.S. 72, the Helio-Chronometer (Reloj Solar), Sundail was dedicated on October 1, 2004.

Conceptualized by artist Marina Gutierrez and put together by Architect James Cornejo. The Helio-Chronometer was produced by CITYArts.

Below is the Project Details as published by CITYarts:

Picture of the Helio-Chronometer Project Description
As the sun travels the sky, a central indicataor pole (gnomon) casts a moving shadow along an arc-like path. This shadow path varies from the longest Summer arc, to the middle path representing both Spring and Fall and the briefest arc of the Winter Sun. Each of the three "Seasonal Arcs" are outlined on the wall in steel cable. Additional cables, radiating from the central pole, trace key hours. Six individual "Culture Arcs" are positioned at specific time point on each season track. Each "Cultural Arc" references distinct and in some cases overlapping cultural traditions and is made from 1/2" sheet aluminum, with a permanent (powder coated) color finish.

Concept
To affirm cultural continuity and recall a connection to nature and science in the urban evvironment. Each "Cultural Arc" contains symbolic and aesthetic elements reflecting the ebb and flow of migration in the local East Harlem population. With these references we hope to create a visual metaphor connecting the movements of peoples and cultures with the movement of sun and earch. Inti-huantan, the Native American Quiche word for sundail, literally translated as "sun anchor". With the Helio-chronometer we aspire to anchor the present to our diverse and collective heritage.

Cultural Arcs
Pre-Columbian motif with Mexican "papel picado" style arc.
References the ubiquitous popular cut paper art form used for public decorations and decorative flags

Hip hop arrow & Graphic Arc
This arc reflects the dynamic energy of new graphic forms from graffiti to design.

Andean textile snape with Mimbre pottery motif Arc
Combines pre-conquest indigenous motifs from North & South America

Coqui fron with sugar cane ARc
The iconic symbol of Puerto Rico is paired with an emblem of the arcricultural cash crop that fueled the colonial economy of the "new world".

Rooster with palm frond Arc
An arc of topical palm accompanies a Chinese cut paper style rooster representing sunrise. The rooster symbol occurs across cultures from the African Diaspora to Eastern European.

Egypitan eye with African arc of Indinkra symbols
The shadow of an Egyptian eye falls across an arc of combined indinkra symbols representing learning from history & freedom from bondage.

We strongly believe that "Helio-Chronometer (Reloj Solar) Sundail, CITYarts' 253rd project, will become a "Gateway" to East Harlem and signify community rejuvenation and cultural diversity. The cultural symbols included in the artwork will be integrated into the curriculum of P.S. 72 and the students will be able to futher contribute to the community by fiving guided tours (Tsipi Ben-Haim, CITYarts Executive and Artistic Director)

Many have gazed and wondered, "what is it". Still others hope it is not a permenant community fixture, and then again, many love it. What do you think?
Goto: Helio-Chronometer to voice your opinion about this project.

Posted by Jose at 10:36 PM

May 15, 2004

De La Vega Strikes Back

East Harlem- May 15, 2004. Resident community artist James De La Vega issued at tee-shirt with the words "Free De La Vega" printed on it. De La Vega is selling the tee-shirt to get the word out about his present legal woes.

He was charged with vandalism when he painted on a blank wall in the Bronx. According to De La Vega, he was just trying to create an image which would make people smile, brighten their day. According to Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, Mr. De La Vega was vandalising private property. During a recent hearing Mr. De La Vega decided to have his case go to court rather than accept a deal where he had to admit to destroying public property, which he feel he did not in fact do.

By issuing the tee-shirt, James De La Vega is trying to garner community support and let the authorities know that he is not taking the vandalism charges lying down. De La Vega will use self expression to defend his right to self expression.

Support James De La Vega, by buying his tee-shirt and by writing to the Bronx DA and letting him know that he is prosecuting an artist and not a criminal. DA Johnson is vandalising the justice system by persecuting our beloved artist.

Posted by Jose at 7:29 PM

April 16, 2004

De La Vega Opts For Trail

April 16, 2004. New York artist James De La Vega appeared in court today before Judge Joseph Dawson to face disposition of a case stemming from an arrest on July 17, 2003. Surrounded by his supporters, including his mother Elsie Matos and Bronx Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, De La Vega was faced with the option to accept a years probation for a guilty plea on a graffiti misdemeanor.

Picture of East Harlem Artist, James De La Vega, speaking at a rally on his behalf on Wednesday, April 14, 2004.  The Rally was held at East 104th Street and Lexington Avenue at 3:30 PMMedia Release
Offered Year Probation on a Guilty Plea, De La Vega Opts for Trial
The dialogue between Judge Dawson and De La Vegas attorney Kenneth Gilbert focused on the language of the law regarding intent and graffiti. Judge Dawson was clear in explaining that he could only accept a guilty plea if De La Vega admitted that he painted on the wall with the intent to damage property. After much discussion and thought, De La Vega stated that he would only acquiesce if the language used indicated his admission to intentionally making graffiti-art.

Upon leaving the court room, De La Vega said: Although I was prepared to take a guilty plea and a years probation, I could not accept having to admit to intentionally damaging property. My intent was to share my art in the hopes of bringing a smile or a thought to the commuters stopped at the traffic light.

A court date had been set for June 9.

Posted by Jose at 9:28 PM

April 7, 2004

De La Vega Charge with Vandalism

East Harlem - April 7, 2004. On July 17, 2003, New York (East Harlem) artist James De La Vega was arrested and charged with vandalism in the Bronx. Eight months later, a motion to dismiss the charges was denied and he has been scheduled to appear in court (for the fifth time) on April 16, 2004 for disposition of the case. The prosecutor has offered 30 days in jail, and will not accept any form of restitution that does not include jail time.

Picture of East Harlem Artist, Mr. James De La Vega

Born and raised in Spanish Harlem, De La Vega attended Central Park East and the Academy of Environmental Science. An excellent student, De La Vega was offered a scholarship to New York Preparatory School and later established The Fishtank (a working studio) on East 103rd Street and Lexington Avenue.

De La Vega has worked with many local organizations and has spoken at schools throughout the City serving as a positive role model for today's youth. 30 days in jail for 'vandalism' - this is neither justice nor rehabilitation! Join us to show support and speak out against the criminal justice system.

Note: The above text is not my own, but take from flyers posted around the East Harlem community. I do concur with the message. Please come and support James De La Vega on April 14th.
Jose B. Rivera - Founder, East Harlem.com

Posted by Jose at 7:52 PM

July 29, 2003

Boycott The Music Industry

Graphic of an anti-RIAA symbol.

East Harlem - July 29, 2003. The RIAA and it's band of brothers has decided to bite the hand that feeds them, by suing the music loving public for downloading music. Now while I agree that we should all pay for the music we listen too. I believe that we should only pay once, regardless of the music medium.

Let me explain. I have an Earth Wind and Fire album on LP, which I also had to later purchase on cassette. So I've purchased the same thing twice. Now, if I choose to download it from a peer to peer network sharing web site, I should not be penalized by the music industry because I did not wish to purchase the CD. I already have the darn songs twice.

I also don't agree to the amount of money the music industry is suing the general public for. They can ask for hundreds of thousands of dollars for just one song. A lot more than the song costs at retail. Hell as I said in a letter to the RIAA, "...for $150,000 I could get Mariah Carey to come sing at my house".

I believe that the RIAA is asking for trouble with their law suits against users. One, it will backfire on them. They face what I am now advocating, a boycott against their tactics. Two, some nut is sure to take it out of the hide of some music executive when he/her families' economic future has been taken from them due to a law suite. The law does not protect against some idiot seeing some warped form of justice.

Because the music industry is acting childish, spoiled and stubborn on what is the best selling and distributive model out there. And because they are biting the hands that feed them. I say, feed them no more until they stop their childish ways. East Harlemites, New Yorkers, fellow Americans, stop buying music until the music industry comes to their senses on these lawsuite and just asks those who downloaded music for the regular price of the music they've aquired illegally.

Note: This article is protected by Free Speech, and is my humble opinion, any attempt to make it more than it is, will result in a lawsuite. We have to right not to buy something and to ask others to join our effort. See American History. Hint: Ask the Grape and Lettice people.

Posted by Jose at 4:29 PM

August 3, 2002

PRACA Hispanic Festival

East Harlem - August 3, 2002. The Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs (PRACA) held its annual Latin American Arts & Cultural Festival on East 106th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues today.

The festival featured art, artists, music and loads of people. This event is not a fundraiser, but a celebration of Hispanic Culture. Founder and Organizer Yolanda Sanchez, who heads the organization as it's executive director, sees the day when the festival will grow in size. Below are photographs of the event.

Barbara Brenner of Mt. Sinai Hospital Center

Barbara Brenner and her coworkers man the Mt. Sinai Hospital their tent.

Picture of the Representatives of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, who were on hand with helpful information.
Representation from Puerto Rico were also on hand registering folks to vote.
You can reach the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration at: www.prfaa.com.

Picture of People Dancing
And boy did people dance.

Yasmin Hernandez and her husband were selling beautifully made postcards/notecards with images of cultural, spiritual and political paintings by Puerto Rican artists.
Yasmin Hernandez and her husband were selling beautifully made
postcards/notecards with images of cultural, spiritual and political paintings by Puerto Rican
artists. One example of her cards can be seen here. Yasmin can be reached at yasminhernandez.com.

Event founder and organizer, Yolanda Sanchez insures that all is running well, while enjoying the festival herself.

Posted by Jose at 12:45 PM

June 2, 2002

Mariachi Music Tradition

Picture of Mariachi Band

Story/Article Written and submitted by Jennifer Weil

The five-man mariachi band wearing mustard-colored trajes de charro strolled down a tree-lined path in Central Park. The sound of two trumpets filled the air, and the vihuela, the guitarron and the violin soon joined in. The beat was magnetic, drawing a crowd of parents and young children.

"It makes me feel like I'm in Mexico right now," 10-year-old Stephanie Olivares said during Mariachi Real de Mexico's performance at a children's festival in the park in April.

The mariachi tradition, which has become a symbol of Mexican music and culture, originated in the western state of Jalisco. In modern form, a mariachi band consists of trumpets; violins; guitar; vihuela, a small five-stringed guitar-like instrument with a rounded back, which makes a percussive sound; and guitarron, a six-string larger verison of the vihuela, which provides the bass line.

"It's part of the culture," said Ramon Ponce Jr., a part-time guitarron player with Mariachi Real de Mexico, his father's band. "It's part of who we are. Once you hear mariachi music, especially outside of Mexico, it tends to be emotional. People sometimes even cry. Mariachi music is not only festive, happy music, it's also sentimental and very romantic. A lot of people remember a lot of things from their past and from their childhood."

While growing up in the Mexican city of Puebla, Ponce learned to play the guitarron and to sing mariachi songs from his father, Ramon. When the family moved to New York City in the late 1980s, Ponce and his father noticed that young Mexicans did not have the same musical opportunities.

"In Mexico, parents teach their children," Ponce, 26, said. "Because there are a lot of mariachi musicians, there was no need for school. A lot of people here, they want to learn, but there's no school for kids to learn."

Although mariachi schools have been established in California, Colorado, Texas and Washington, there are none in the Northeast. That is about to change.

Last November, the Ponces helped form the Mariachi Association of New York, uniting 12 mariachi bands to make joint appearances and establish a mariachi school. In June, the Mariachi Academy of New York will begin accepting applications from children ages 9 to 15 and holding auditions for the 50 openings. The first five-month semester will begin in July at 1775 Third Ave. at 98th Street in East Harlem. A second semester is planned for January.

"The school will teach the younger generations about our music, our culture," said Ponce, who also studies music at Queens College. "Maybe some of them are not going to be professional mariachi musicians, but they will appreciate our music, our culture even more. A lot of them want to learn, and by opening this school, this will be a chance to learn the music and perform it."

The number of Mexicans living in New York City has tripled since 1990, to 186,872 from 61,722, according to the 2000 Census. Not suprisingly, Ponce said, the demand for mariachi musicians is growing.

"We have a shortage of musicians, especially during the holidays," he said. "We get a lot of calls, and sometimes people aren't able to get a mariachi band because there are not that many musicians. We need more musicians and the school is going to be a way to do that."

To help start the school, the mariachi association has worked with the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, a Manhattan-based group that develops performance and educational programs for the ethnic groups in the region.

"We help them get the grants, get it off the ground, and then they take it on," said Cathy Ragland, an enthnomusicologist, who directs the center's Mexican community culture initiative. "Part of the work now is really trying to get them on good footing and get them with funders that will stick with them."

The mariachi association has received promotional help from the Mexican Cultural Institute, classroom space from the Union Settlement Association and a $45,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Ragland said money was still needed to buy instruments, uniforms and music stands. The organizers hope to offer the classes for free, but a small fee may be necessary.

"It is going to be a small number, in a small space, but that is the idea: to be able to grow in the future," said Ponce, who will be the school's artistic director and teach the guitarron.

Among the five teachers will be Ponce's father, who will give trumpet lessons. Yolonda Leticia, a mariachi singer for more than 30 years, will teach the students how to sing traditional mariachi songs like "El Rey," "Besame Mucho" and "Si Nos Dejan." Violin, guitar and vihuela will also be taught.

"The mariachi music is very versatile," Ragland said. "It speaks to Mexican identity. It speaks to modernity, the urban experience, and it speaks to the experience of traveling from one place to another."

For the past 10 years, Mariachi Real has traveled around the New York area. The band plays at weddings, birthdays, christenings and festivals, and has performed at concerts with Mexican singers like Ana Gabriel and Marco Antonio Solis and Venezuela's Jose Luis "El Puma" Rodriguez. Mariachi Real can also be heard on a CD, "Masterpiece/Obra Maestra: Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri," which won a Grammy in 2000.

And not only Mexicans hire mariachi bands.

"Colombians, Puerto Ricans, all kinds of people; Ecuadoreans, even Chinese people," said Ponce's brother Miguel, who is also a member of the band. "All people like it."

Even the rock musician Bruce Springsteen has invited Mariachi Real to play for his birthday.

"If you are happy, if you are down, if you are sad, if you want to be romantic, there is going to be a song for that special moment," Ponce said. "I think that's why people like mariachi music a lot."

Information about the Mariachi Academy is available by calling (212) 571-1555.


Posted by Jose at 12:34 PM

June 1, 2002

Map Problem

Taxi and Limosine Commission MapThe new Taxi and Limousine Commission maps which highlight communities throughout the New York City Area has short changed East Harlem. It has Spanish Harlem beginning at 86 Street and ending at 110th Street. Click on Map above to see for yourself. It seems someone did not bother to check with anyone in East Harlem about our communities' boundaries. At the very least it is a bad oversight, at worst it is disrespectful.

It' bad enough that our community is constantly being called "Harlem", leaving the "Spanish" out thereby misidentifying us. But now our own borders are misidentified making our community appear as if it starts in Yorkville and ends at 110th Street. Is there something maybe that we don't know? And why does Harlem begin at 110th Street on this map? Can someone please tell me what this is all about?

If you are as troubled by this map as I am please call the Taxi and Limousine Commission at 212-676-1000 or e-mail them here and let them know how you feel about this. - Jose B. Rivera

Posted by Jose at 12:28 PM

March 28, 2002

Reparations: Value or Shakedown?

East Harlem - March 28, 2002. The issue of Reparations for African-Americans resurfaced earlier this week, when attorneys filed law suites in Brooklyn Federal Court against, Fleet Boston Financial Corps, Aetna and CSX Corp, maintaining that these companies "built their empires on the backs of slaves and must now give their heirs past wages and profits gained as a result of the free labor."

Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a 36-year-old Manhattan lawyer who spent five years researching evidence that the companies assisted in the business of slavery said "They earned money through the exploitation of my ancestors." The suits say that "From 1790 to 1860 alone, the U.S. economy reaped the benefits of as much as $40 million in unpaid labor. Some estimate the current value of this unpaid labor at $1.4 trillion dollars."

Other proponents of Reparations say that the affects of slavery still linger to this day and say that money is not really the issue. That the principal of justice, holding someone responsible for slavery is at stake.

But opponents of Reparations contend that it is too late in the day to sue anyone over slavery. The statute of limitations has run out over a century ago. That those affected by slavery are no longer around to make a claim for reparations, and that they are the only ones so entitled to do so. And that current proponents of reparations are only seeking to execute this new get rich quick scheme. Still other opponents point to the fact that the U.S. government has tried over its history to make up for slavery through its various social programs such as President Johnson's Great Society and the Anti-Poverty Programs which sprang from it.

The Problem With Reparations:

1. Those affected by Slavery have long been dead. They were the only ones directly affected by slavery and hence the only ones who should rightfully seek reparations.

2. Most Americans today are are not decedents of those who implemented slavery. Americans today are ancestors of those who immigrated from Europe, the Caribbean or South America. Are they to pay too?

3. Their is a large African-American middle class in America. While Africa is still a struggling third world economy. This is not to justify slavery. But the standard of living is better in the United States. Is this a basis from which to ask for reparations, a better standard of living than in African?

4. Many whites died during the civil war to free the slaves, are their descendants to pay for reparations too?

5. Reparations continue to make African-Americans play the role of victims.

6. Most Americans will not be willing to pay for Reparations.

7. Reparations can open a can of worms unprecedented in American history. What if the Irish, Italian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Danish, etc.. start law suites because of the persecution they suffered upon becoming new immigrants in this country? Will everyone have to pay everyone else?

8. Those pushing Reparations are likely to benefit the most because they will also control who gets it. Meaning their institutions (money will be funneled to their institutions) and not the general African-American public will obtain the money.

9. Reparations is not justice. Justice at this point in time can not be obtained as those affected have long been dead. And they are the only who can bring forth this issue.

10. Reparations is more likely to start another "civil war" as most are not willing to have their hard earned money given over this issue.

11. Why isn't an Apology being request? The request for money has a hint of opportunism with it, not to mention the specter of greed.

12. Everyone is likely to pay the reparations, guilty or not, past, present and future included. Meaning that since reparation money will come from tax money (the people, remember, the government doesn't create anything), all will be part of this great pick pocket scheme. So that even African-Americans will be subject to paying into this tax. Is that justice? And if some are not to pay the tax, how is that decided and by whom?

It's time to move forward. Time for the African-American middle class to start the process of educating all in what it took to get there and how to do it. This writer has a few African-American slaves in his ancestry, but has not desire to use an issue to benefit from that fact. Like everyone else on this planet who struggles daily to make a living, I'd rather do it myself. This writer does not trust reparation seekers to have be sincere in their "quest for justice" especially as money is involved.

Lastly, reparations would create another injustice, that of having those not guilty of slavery paying those not affected by it. Will my grand children be allowed to sue those accepting reparations over the injustice of my having to pay for it?

Jose B. Rivera
East Harlem.com


Feel free to add to discuss you point of view by visiting the East Harlem.com discussion forum.

Posted by Jose at 9:26 AM

January 11, 2001

CB # 11 Press Conference on MCNY

Picture of CB # 11 members and Elected Officials holding a  press conference on the Museum of the City of New York's Move to the Tweed Courthouse

East Harlem - January 11, 2001 - Community Board # 11, local elected and community leaders held a press conference today voicing their opposition to the proposed move by the Museum of the City of New York to the Tweed Court House at 52 Chambers Street.

Deborah Quinones, chairwoman of Community Board # 11's Cultural Affairs committee,organized the press conference. Various speakers pointed out that the Museum is the third largest tourism draw in Upper Manhattan. They also mentioned that the proposed move was planned and executed without consulting local elected officials. The accused the Mayor of being a "thief in the night trying to steal an East Harlem institution."

Democratic District Leader Carmen Quinones had the best line of the day, "You can't come to my community and take what is mine!". The Mayor was the press conference's main target. Participants voiced the following;

There was no community input or notification

The Museum must not move, it would reduce East Harlem's participation in the Museum Mile

The action by the City administration continues to deny and exclude the cultural needs of East Harlem/El Barrio.

As cultural and tourism development are booming throughout the city, and in other areas of Upper Manhattan, we see minimal development in the East Harlem community.

Councilwoman Kathryn E. Freed, whose district would benefit from the museum's move voiced her opposition to the move saying that her district should not benefit at the expense of another.

Blank Petitions were distributed by the event's organizers for a petition drive to be later sent to the Mayor and City Council.

Among those present were, a representative from Congressman Rangel's office, State Senator Olga Mendez, a representative from the Borough President's Office, a representative from Councilman Phil Reed's Office, Councilwoman Kathryn E. Freed (1st Councilmanic District), Democratic District Leaders Carmen Quinones, Felix Rosado, Harry Rodriguez and various Community Board # 11 members (Carmen Villegas, Edwin Marcial, Deborah Quinones).

Read the previous article on this issue
Museum of the City of New York Moving to 52 Chambers Street

Posted by Jose at 8:33 PM

January 1, 2001

MCNY Moving Downtown

Picture of the Museum of the City of New York located in East Harlem

East Harlem, January 1, 2001 - The Museum of the City of New York has decided, with Mayor Giulliani's prompting, to move from its current location at 103rd Street and 5th Avenue in East Harlem to 52 Chambers Street near City Hall. The official excuse is that the Museum can raise more money moving closer to Wall Street.

Local Leaders and one elected official reacted negatively to the deal. Community Board # 11 Chairman David Givens was surprised by the news that the museum was moving and was not too happy about being kept in the dark about the move. Community Board # 11 Cultural Affairs Chairwoman, Debbie Quinones was also surprised by the move. And East Harlem Councilman Phil Reed held a press conference to show his disapproval of the move.

Many East Harlem residents were left with the question, "What's Going On Here?" Which is a very good question. The Museum's board met and approved the motion to move the Museum within two years. The Museum has out grown the building which was specially made for it over 80 years ago. But plans were in the works to expand the museum by adding a new addition in the back courtyard. Thereby allowing it to offer more to the public. The sudden decision to move the museum can be traced to Mayor. Though this publication can't imagine why moving a museum from museum mile would be any better than keeping it on it. As always you have to ask yourself "Who benefits from this move?"


Councilman Phil Reed speaking before Community Board # 11's December meeting about the museums proposed move.

East Harlem will not benefit from the museum's move. There will be one less reason people to visit our great community. Is the Museum's Board of Director telling us that East Harlem in not Enough? That East Harlem is not the type of place to visit, to have a museum, that money is more important community or history?

If the Museum does move other local entities are ready to move into the building. El Museo Del Barrio is interested and so is Mt. Sinai to name a few.

But local activists have already started to organize and will be heard from shortly. The Museum of the City of New York's move to 52 Chambers Street is not a done deal. And with the Mayor leaving office within a year, it is possible to stop the move until a new Democratic Mayor squashes the move.

East Harlem Online believes that the Museum should stay put and that the City of New York should do all financially possible to keep the Museum in East Harlem. If the Museum needs to expand, then lets find the money to get that done. But the Museum must stay in it's home in East Harlem. East Harlem Online will keep you posted as things develop.

Update: East Harlem - January 5, 2001 - Community Board # 11's Cultural Affairs Committee met on January 4, 2001 to begin organizing a concerted effort to keep the Museum of the City of New York in El Barrio/East Harlem. Committee Chair Debbie Quinones, distributed petitions for local residents to sign. Ms. Quinones asked for letters of support from local institutions and individuals. And a press conference has been tentatively scheduled for the week of January 7th.

Read the follow-up article about this issue
Community Board # 11 Hold A Press Conference on the MCNY Move Downtown (Jan 11, 2001)

Posted by Jose at 4:42 PM

August 20, 2000

Tito Puente Way

Tenement where Tito Puente grew up, the street sign to the right is where the unveiling took place.August 20, 2000 - East Harlem, El Barrio, Spanish Harlem. Tito Puente Way was dedicated today at a Street unveiling ceremony held at 110th Street between Madison and Park Avenues, a few feet from the tenement where the Mumbo King spent his first years of life - 1923 -1938. Tito Puente Way encompasses East 110th Street from 5th to First Avenues.

The Puente family, his widow, sons and daughter were present and pulled the string to unveil the street sign. The only member of the family to speak publicly was Tito Puente's son, Ronnie, who thanked the crowd and the city for honoring his father by renaming East 110th Street.

Robert Sancho, was the Master of Ceremonies. He introduced all the dignitaries including Celia Cruz. Elected Officials present were, City Council Speaker, Peter Vallone, State Senator Olga Mendez, State Assemblyman Nelson Denis, City Councilmen Phil Reed, Bill Perkins, Democratic District Leaders Felix Rosado and Carmen Quinones.

National and local members of the news media also turned out. Local media included the Latin Heat public access TV show (see picture below), nyboricua.com.com and 110ST.com East Harlemites turned out in droves and happily danced to the music after the street sign unveiling.


Tito Puente's family and dignitaries find their seats before the unveiling.


Personnel from the Latin Heat Public Access TV show take their places to cover the event.

Posted by Jose at 3:49 PM

January 6, 1999

Three Kings Day 1999

The 22nd Annual Three Kings Day Parade was held on Wednesday, January 6, 1999 in El Barrio. The parade featured a cast of hundreds including school children from all over the city, Bronx civic groups, many dressed as kings, animals - camels, sheep, and donkeys and El Barrio's own residents.

El Museo Del Barrio, the parade's sponsors, made this year's event bigger and better than ever. Among the parade's participants El Museo included Puerto Rican folk artist and musician Benny Ayala, Nuyorican poet and educator, Papoleto Melendez and internationally acclaimed Puerto Rican visual artist Antonio Martorell. The three artists were dressed as the three kings, Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar respectively. The parade's "Godmother" was the one and only Ms. Malin Falu of radio WADO/AM fame.

Also included in the mix were local and not so local politicians. Councilmembers Philip Reed, William Perkins and Jose Rivera (from the Bronx) were present. As was the "Mayor" of Harlem Leslie Wyche, representing Deputy Mayor Ninfa Segarra. (see picture below). Famous East Harlem personalities were also present; senior citizen activist Petra Allende, Retired Legal Aide Director Gloria Quinones, President of Aurora Communications, Aurora Flores, activist and news photographer Eliazer Berrios, and Felipe Ventegeant of Gabriel and Associates.

Musician Yomo Torro provided the vocals to the music out of back of a flatbed truck. He was excellent. Many news organizations provided coverage of the event including the New York Daily News, The New York Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post, WABC, WNBC, Fox, WCBS, New York 1, Channel 1, Channel 41, Channel 47, and other TV news stations. And let us not leave out some of the radio stations, WCBS, WADO, and Caliente 105.9. Forgive us of we missed anyone.

The parade lasted for two hours, started a little late, but went well. The parade route took it from East 106th Street and Madison Avenue to 106th and Third where it turned north up to 116th Street. It then went south on Lexington Avenue back to 106th and Madison Avenue. It was a blistering cold day, but all participants kept warm with Yomo's music.

Many Kudos go to El Museo Del Barrio, especially to: Director Suzanna Leval, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Neyda Martinez and to Director of Education and outreach Miriam De Uriarte.

The pictures for this year's parade can be seen at: http://gallery.east-harlem.com under Events/Three King's Day.

Posted by Jose at 6:49 PM

1999 Three Kings Day Parade

The 22nd Annual Three Kings Day Parade was held on Wednesday, January 6, 1999 in El Barrio. The parade featured a cast of hundreds including school children from all over the city, Bronx civic groups, many dressed as kings, animals - camels, sheep, and donkeys and El Barrio's own residents.

El Museo Del Barrio, the parade's sponsors, made this year's event bigger and better than ever. Among the parade's participants El Museo included Puerto Rican folk artist and musician Benny Ayala, Nuyorican poet and educator, Papoleto Melendez and internationally acclaimed Puerto Rican visual artist Antonio Martorell. The three artists were dressed as the three kings, Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar respectively. The parade's "Godmother" was the one and only Ms. Malin Falu of radio WADO/AM fame.

Also included in the mix were local and not so local politicians. Councilmembers Philip Reed, William Perkins and Jose Rivera (from the Bronx) were present. As was the "Mayor" of Harlem Leslie Wyche, representing Deputy Mayor Ninfa Segarra. (see picture below). Famous East Harlem personalities were also present; senior citizen activist Petra Allende, Retired Legal Aide Director Gloria Quinones, President of Aurora Communications, Aurora Flores, activist and news photographer Eliazer Berrios, and Felipe Ventegeant of Gabriel and Associates.

Musician Yomo Torro provided the vocals to the music out of back of a flatbed truck. He was excellent. Many news organizations provided coverage of the event including the New York Daily News, The New York Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post, WABC, WNBC, Fox, WCBS, New York 1, Channel 1, Channel 41, Channel 47, and other TV news stations. And let us not leave out some of the radio stations, WCBS, WADO, and Caliente 105.9. Forgive us of we missed anyone.

The parade lasted for two hours, started a little late, but went well. The parade route took it from East 106th Street and Madison Avenue to 106th and Third where it turned north up to 116th Street. It then went south on Lexington Avenue back to 106th and Madison Avenue. It was a blistering cold day, but all participants kept warm with Yomo's music.

Many Kudos go to El Museo Del Barrio, especially to: Director Suzanna Leval, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Neyda Martinez and to Director of Education and outreach Miriam De Uriarte.

The pictures for this year's parade can be seen at: Picture Gallery under Events/Three King's Day.

Posted by Jose at 1:44 PM

December 11, 1998

Manny's Wall

Color picture of community artist Manny Vega.  In the background stand the East 104th street wall mural which he has restored.Manny Did IT!! Local community artist Manny Vega Jr. completed his restoration of the wall mural on East 104th Street and the corner of Lexington Avenue. Manny started the restoration in September. He worked against time and the advent of cold weather which could prevent the paint he used from adhering to the wall. Mr. Vega was lucky. Warm winter weather allowed him to complete the wall in time.

Mr. Vega is a well known local artist. He has painted various murals throughout the community and was even commissioned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to do the East 110th Street Train station wall tiles. The results were great. Mr. Vega is a good natured man. Which serves him well in dealing with community people and the press.

The walls renovation was commissioned by the very same community institution that commissioned the creation of the wall , Hope Community, Inc. It was Hope Community, Inc, which commissioned Hank Prussing and his apprentice, Manny Vega to do the wall in the early 70s. (East Harlem Online apologizes for omitting Hope's role in the commissioning of the wall's renovation when this article first appeared on this web site--see acknowledgements below). Mr. Mark Alexander, Executive Director of Hope Community, Inc., deserves credit and thanks for commissioning the return and renovation of this great work of art and love.

The New York Daily News featured Mr. Vega in a December 18, 1998 article titled "Lovingly Restoring Portrait of Harlem" "Artist polishes 25-year-old mural". (we will forgive the Daily News for not printing East Harlem). The article by Daily News Staff writer Ralph R. Ortega, (see below) credits Mr. Vega for bringing the mural and the community back to life. It's amazing the number of people who are affected by that wall. To look at it is to inspire hope, pride and love of the community. It's almost as if the wall's restoration has paralleled East Harlem's restoration. (low crime rate, new buildings and economic development).

The Daily News also featured another article, "A Closer Look" about those portrayed on the mural. Kind of a where are they now piece. This publication asked the Daily News for permission to reprint the personnel snippets contained in "A Closer Look", but they refused saying that none of their content can go up on any web site, that is their policy. Of course "Fair Use", a universal policy that even the Daily News uses to quote text and use pictures from other publications is invoked here. Sorry Daily News but what is good for the goose.... East Harlem Online will interview those portrayed in the wall and come up with it's own "Who they Are".

Black and White reduced reproduction of the two New York Daily News articles about Manny Vega and those portrayed on the wall mural.

East Harlem Online is proud of Manny Vega. We are proud of his great work and positive and artful contributions to the community. We are so proud in fact, that Manny's picture has been placed (for the last month) on this web site's entry/first page. A place where many are sure to see him and where his work is sure to be seen. The wall mural is now East Harlem's pride and joy. It gives us strength, hope, inspiration and is beautiful to see.

While many continue to say that nothing good can come out of East Harlem, or the inner city, Manny Vega paints a different picture of what is possible.

Panoramic Picture of the restored Wall Mural (big download, 338K, full screen shot)

Note: Similarities between the Daily News picture and East Harlem Online's picture of Mr. Vega are purely coincidental. Mr. Vega does take a good picture, especially against the beautiful mural which he has fully restored.

Acknowledgements to Hope Community, Inc.: East Harlem Online would like to credit and thank, Hope Community, Inc., Mr. Mark Alexander, Executive Director of Hope Community, Inc., Mr. Michael Lugo, Associated Director of Development at Hope Community, Inc. for their contributions to this article. Especially Mr. Lugo, who made our omission of Hope Community, Inc. role in the wall restoration apparent to East Harlem Online. We would like to thank Hope Community Inc., most of all for creating the wall and for restoring it. The Wall is a gift to the community, one which will be cherished for all time. We ask Hope Community, Inc. to continue their good work with the wall and with all that they do. We also would like to thank Hope Community, Inc., for granting permission to show the wall (pictorially) here on this web site. East Harlem Online apologizes for the omission.

Posted by Jose at 1:27 PM

December 2, 1998

Salsa Muesum in East Harlem

Have you ever taken anything for granted, even before it was created? Well, many are surprised to hear that East Harlem has a Salsa Museum. Well Duh!! It seems like common sense, East Harlem, Salsa Museum, like hot-dogs with hot-dog buns. Until you realize that the East Harlem Salsa Museum is new. It has not been here since the early days of Salsa. It just opened December 1998.

Picture of reduced reproduction of the New York Daily News article of Dec 3, 1998 on the Salsa Museum in East Harlem

So much for taking it for granted. The Salsa Museum is located in a large back room of the Made in Puerto Rico store. Which itself is located at 2127 Third Avenue (116th St. and Third). The museum is opened daily from noon till 8:00 P.M. Admission is free. Not even a suggested price!!. You can't beat that.

Efrain Suarez is one of the founders and minds the Made in Puerto Rico Store. He came upon the idea while talking with friends about Salsa. The museum is proud to display the very instruments which many Salsa artist used to play their music.

This writer found out about the museum through a New York Daily News article written on December 3, 1998. Yes, I know, sometimes news does not travel quite as fast as we'd like. But leave it to the Daily News to tell us East Harlemites what is happening in our community. Shame on us. Back to our story, Joe Cuba serves as the assistant director for the museum. The instruments displayed are loan or given to the museum by the artist who played them.

Imagine holding the Congas which Joe Cuba once played. Or on a cerebral note, reading up on the history of Salsa. The Who's Who of this great sound? Whatever your interest in Salsa, it would be a great experience to visit the Museum and the Made in Puerto Rico store. If you wish to call before hand here is the number: 212-289-1368. East Harlem Online will bring you more news and pictures about the museum later on this month. Salsa lives on...

Posted by Jose at 2:06 AM

November 2, 1998

Second Annual Artisan Fair

The Second Annual East Harlem Artisan Fair was held this past weekend. Boy's Harbor hosted the annual event where Puerto Rican artisans showed their crafts. The fair was a two day event, from the 7th-8th of November.

Below are some pictures of the event's crafts. Enjoy.

artisan_dolls.jpg (27755 bytes)
Pictured here are traditional Puerto Rican Dolls complete with masks.



artisan_mask.jpg (28739 bytes)
Here are more masks and some inverted bowls.



artisan_wood.jpg (25258 bytes)
Lastly, my favorite, small wooden figures with a wooden cart and real hay.


Posted by Jose at 1:21 AM

September 23, 1998

Festival De La Tiza

Text which says Chalk Festival

The 6th Annual East Harlem Festival De La Tiza" or Chalk Festival took place this Saturday, September 12, 1998. The event was sponsored by Grupo Tizonor Chalk Group and took place on 104th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. The festival allows children to draw with chalk on the street. Festival Organizer, Jose Morales also invites artist to work with the children while they draw.

The event also included music played by a group called Son Boricua, and they were pretty good. The adults danced while the children drew. Below are the pictures of the event. Be aware that there are 10 pictures in all and they are each about 50K. I could make them smaller in size, but they would not look at good. Who wants fuzzy pictures!  So be patient and enjoy.

Picture of a little boy drawing with chalk on the street
A little boy draws street character with chalk.

Chalk drawing of the Lady ofGuadalupe.
Chalk drawing of the Lady of Guadalupe. Great Work

Picture of a band that played that day while everyone drew with chalk
What would a Chalk Festival be without Music? Here a group called Son Boricua plays
while people dance to the music. The group is playing at the entrance to Hope Community.

Picture of two children drawing with chalk on the street
Children love to draw especially on a medium they are not usually encouraged to draw on.

Picture of local artist, Fernando Salicrup
And what would a chalk festival be without East Harlem's biggest artist, Fernando Salicrup.
Fernando currently run the Julia Del Burgos Cultural Center on East 105-106 Street on Lexington Avenue.

Picture of District Leader and Community Board # 11 Chairman, Harry Rodriguez and with Hope Community Executive Director, Mark Alexander
Is there any place, any event which Harry Rodriguez (left) does not appear at? Harry is talking to
Mark Alexander of the Hope Community, Inc. How's it going Mark?

Picture of Festival Organizer, Jose Morales
Remember this gentleman? If you grew up in East Harlem you would more than know that face.It's Morris Wittenburg, of Morris Toyland Fame. Yes, he is still around and is now an Inspector for the Auxiliary Police here in East Harlem.

Picture of participants and the chalk both from which chalk was dispensed
This is the booth from which Jose Morales gave out chalk to the festival's participants.

Picture of children enjoying themselves drawing on the street
Back to the chalk festival, the happiest people there were the children.

Posted by Jose at 9:34 PM

August 1, 1998

El Barrio Broadcasting

El Barrio Broadcasting Corporation (El BBC) is a non-profit broadcast organization, whose mission is to instill familiarity about the machinations of radio, video and television production in the Latino youth of East Harlem.

Mission
It is our primary mission to teach video/television production in an effort to open doors to Latino youth in the same manner that Rap Music first opened the doors of the music/recording industry to African-American youth. Additionally, our goal is to teach Latino youth the day to day operations of running a radio station. With this in mind, El BBC was founded to offer the Latino youth of East Harlem positive alternatives with a chance toward real jobs within the very lucrative and closed industries of broadcasting.

Goals and Objectives
Provide "hands-on" training to Latino youth in radio, television and video production;provide employment opportunities for Latino youth via our "in-house" training programs:

Provide internships and career opportunities with major radio stations, and television/video production studios;

Provide a television/radio station environment where Latino youth will be exposed to all aspects of running a successful broadcast business;

Assist Latino youth with enrollment in, and in becoming members of the television video, film, and radio broadcast unions.

Current Programs

"Shoot Video Not People"
This program, "Shoot Video Not People" , (SVNP) is an introduction to video production where participants produce a variety of Public Service Announcements (PSAS) that are then broadcast on public access cable television. Participants are then taught to create short video projects, and/or documentaries with technical assistance provided by volunteer professionals. By focusing on the Latino youth of El Barrio, and working in collaboration with broadcast, communications and/or public relations firms, the SVNP! model serves as a first-rate training program in communications for Latino youth.

El Barrios Greatest!

Traditional media tends to focus on the negative aspects of communities such as ours. By "sensationalizing" the misfortune of some in our community, the media is able to sell newspapers, or garner viewers.

El Barrios Greatest! is a by weekly public access television show of El BBC, currently in its fourth quarter (as of October 1998), highlights only the positive and or best of our community.

El Barrios Greatest! Is hosted by Gilberto Cintrn.

Photo at right - Gil and John Rivera discuss shooting the next show.

El Barrio Broadcast Corporation, the crew consists of participants and/or graduates of our program,

El Barrios Greatest! airs every other Monday night at 11:30 p.m. on Manhattans channel 34. The fall 1998 season is as follows:

10/5/98 10/19/98 11/2/98 11/16/98 11/30/98 12/14/98

Come back often for updates and new season information.

El BBC
Is a volunteer non-profit organization. Donations of equipment, money, or volunteers are always welcome.

Please send all inquiries to Gil Cintrn at:
Via e-mail: giltron@aol.com
Snailmail: El Barrio Broadcasting Corporation
PO Box 704 Hellgate Station, NY 10029

Note:April 13, 2001 - Since the first publication of this article, Mr. Cintron has moved to Washington, D.C. and is no longer involved in the above programs. You may still e-mail him at the e-mail address above.

Posted by Jose at 1:07 AM

January 23, 1998

What's In A Name

Graphic of the three East Harlem, Spanish Harlem, El-Barrio names

A small community issue came up earlier this year which seemed at once foolish and important. It was foolish in that the name of a place does not "make" that place. It does not take away from that place nor does it enhance it. In other words, it does not matter. It was Important in that ethnic pride was involved. Let me explain.

Since the 1940s, Hispanics in our community have called East Harlem, "Spanish Harlem" or "El Barrio". They have done this with love and pride while at parades, at community events and public functions. And it seems that this has offended some African-Americans in the East Harlem community. Around the same time, some Hispanic activist approached Councilman Phil Reed and requested demandingly that he refer to East Harlem solely as Spanish Harlem.

Now besides the obvious first amendment issue of free speech, there are other issues to consider in this matter. And all of them must be dealt with very carefully so as to not step on any ethnic toes.

The first issue to consider is "what's in a name". Historically, people have taken great pride in saying where they come from. New York City has many places named after the place where its current inhabitants originate from. We have Little Italy, Chinatown and so on. Other New York City locations though not named after places of origin are associated with a particular ethnic group. Harlem is associated with African-Americans and their culture. Soho and the Village are associated with youth and a certain class of people. Of all of these places, those which are closely associated with an ethnic group are the most likely to garner strong emotional ties to that place by it's inhabitants.

A community name can conjure memories of an especially wonderful childhood, the pride of having been raised among "ones own", or any other great moments in one's life. Hence the pride involved with a name. So you can say the name of a community is important. At the same time it must be remembered that a name is just a word we impart upon a person, place or thing. It does not inherently do anything to the geographical place itself. It does not change, enhance or take away from the place. In that way the whole argument is silly. Aren't people more important than what we call a place? Don't we have problems greater than that?

In regards to the request made to Councilman Reed, that he call East Harlem "Spanish Harlem" or "El Barrio" exclusively, well that's ridiculous. Councilman Reed has the right to call our community East Harlem, Spanish Harlem, El Barrio interchangeably without the worry of offending anyone. It is called by all three names by many people all the time. Councilman Reed has refused to honor the request by zealot Hispanic activist, as well he should.

The issue of some African-American taking exception with East Harlem being called Spanish Harlem or El Barrio is a sensitive one. From these African-American's view, East Harlem is no longer "all" Spanish and therefor should not be called Spanish Harlem. The name "Spanish Harlem" also make them feel as if they are not counted as being within the community. There presence is negated by the Spanish Harlem name. It can, in there eyes be called El Barrio in deference to it's Hispanic resident ("after all they can call it what they want in their language").

This writer sympathizes with part of their argument which says that the name "Spanish Harlem" does not seem to include them (African-Americans). But does not agree that the name should be removed totally or in part. East Harlem has been Spanish Harlem since the 40s. Songs have been written about Spanish Harlem, and other songs have mentioned it. Spanish Harlem has a "tradition" and still has a majority Hispanic population. Which will become a bigger majority as more Mexican Americans move into the community. Harlem is universally known as "Black Harlem", yet those who live there are not all African-Americans. Yet they do not seem to mind. Harlemites take great pride in their community and would not think to change their name for a second.

Lastly, if African-Americans can have a place of their own -- Harlem --, then why shouldn't Hispanics have a place of their own? A place to call home. The same place which they migrated to from Puerto Rico, Central and South America and all the Caribbean. In a way it is sad that this whole thing came up. We have greater problems to deal with than what it is we call our community. And we also have much more in common than we do not. This is not the time to waste on what we call our community. In truth, the people are the community and what we do within it is much more important than what we call it. Call it East Harlem, Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, whatever you call it, it is still a great place to live.
-- Jose B. and Letticia Rivera --
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Here's what other thought about this issue:

From: Alberto O. Cappas, President, Don Pedro Enterprises (cappas@aol.com August 24, 1998

What's in a name? History! The African American community have their community in Harlem; the Dominicans are beginning to carve out a space for their people in "Quisqueya" (Washington Heights) with or without Puerto Ricans and other non-Dominicans still living in that community. Spanish Harlem is the soul and heartbeat of the Puerto Rican people.

After all these years, we've maintained a weak presence and unable to carve out a viable space for los Puertorriquenos... What's in a name? Cultural identify! In a perfect world, name would mean nothing, but in this world, groups survive by controlling space and maintaining a viable and visible presence. believe that Spanish Harlem is that symbol for the Puerto Ricans. You give up that name, and three things will happen: (1). Blacks will claim East Harlem as "black territory"; (2). Mexicans will claim it as "New Mexico"; and (3). Latino, white, and black liberals will create a new image to satisfy all groups, again, at the expense of those Puerto Rican pioneers who had a vision and worked hard during the 50s to bring it to life. Spanish Harlem is a birth and a symbol of our presence, and we must continue to water the plant and ensure that the seeds of Spanish Harlem do grow. Let's not be naive and incorporate other people whose agenda is not the interest of the Puerto Rican people.

Take a good look at the fight for money in the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and one will understand the meanings, etc, etc. I vote for Spanish Harlem all the way. By the way, I'm prepared to move to the area if anyone has any information about apartments in the area. I'm prepared to consider renting or buying. Sincerely, Alberto O. Cappas, President, Don Pedro Enterprises (cappas@aol.com) There is a Rose in Spanish Harlem!
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From: "A.J. Iovino"
Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998

East Harlem is not really a "physical address" -- mail sent to East Harlem, New York would probably be returned, as would mail addressed to Hell's Kitchen, New York In my opinion, there is no need for an "official name" for the area. It is a virtual location which can be referred to by any name appropriate to the person that lives there. Call it East Harlem, Spanish Harlem, El Barrio, or whatever is meaningful to the person referring to it.

When I was a kid on the east side in the late 40's and 50's the predominant language spoken in my neighborhood was Italian. We had several Puerto Rican neighbors -- they made reference to Spanish Harlem, we made reference to Italian Harlem, we all knew it also as East Harlem, it was their barrio and my quatero. Perhaps there wasn't as much ethnocentricity at the time, but no one seemed to be offended.

Officially it's a neighborhood in Manhattan, unofficially I believe that we should be comfortable in calling it anything meaningful and prideful to us.
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From: Alberto O. Cappas, President, Don Pedro Enterprises (cappas@aol.com August 24, 1998

Thank you for your understanding. I did not see your article as a view or opposing opinion. I saw you opening a bridge of opportunity to express ideas as Puertorriquenos. Your sense of security to allow that to happen will only enhance the growth and development of our people. At least I hope that our people will see that. Not too many people have the vision or insight to do what you're doing. God bless you for that! Let's hope that we do properly take full advantage of the bridge you have allowed us to cross.... Sincerely,
Alberto O. Cappas
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Posted by Jose at 9:23 PM