At the University of Buenos Aries

An excerpt from my Journal Entry

19 June 2014

After we left La Boca we traveled to San Tamo which was a rich neighborhood in the late 1800’s. As war and sickness hit the neighborhood, the rich moved out and the poor moved in. This gave the immigrants and poor workers a chance to move elsewhere. Tango was created around this time and surprisingly to me, it was a dance between two men and later on women joined the scene.

I also learned the correct phase of the house we stayed in- It’s called a chorizo- casa choriza, which means sausage house. I am not sure exactly why though.

When the tour was done with Simon, we went to the University of Buenos Aries to listen to two more lectures.

The first lecture was by Lea Geler titled: Black Journalism in the White Nation: Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th Century.

Geler studies included looking  through the press of Argentina during the late 19th Century (1880’s). Dr. Anderson told us this was something exceptionally well to do considering how old documents are kept in Argentina, especially Afro-Argentines documents. Geler was able to write her paper surrounding what she found in these documents. I enjoyed her lecture because she gave actual quotes from this time period about what the black of Argentina thought about their social status.  Geler found that the press being the fourth largest press in the world, was linked to progress and used for social change.

Unsurprisingly, the Afro-Argentine press did not spark interest for the outside community and they mostly wrote about themselves. The journalist thought it was their job to bring social change in their community and called for change. The term barbarianism was used as something to rid them of and they blamed social inequalities on individuals within the community.  This mentality that the journalist were carrying reminds me of Marcus Garvey and his attitude toward the black community. He not only wanted all to return back to Africa but he called for a changed in the blacks mien. He wanted them to change their way of life and spoke mainly about their social life. I found it disturbing that they would use a term like barbarianism on themselves. They, like Garvey, blamed themselves for poverty and lack of success. All of this is included in the press!

Finally, (unlike Garvey) they thought new comers, like immigrants, improved the community and all were welcome. This was the thought throughout the entire state of Argentina and they were not keen to the idea of their children going to different schools in the state since schools were free in the first place. Till this day, (from what I’ve been told) their children (Afro-Argentine’s) still receive the short end of the stick within the education system.

The second Lecture was by Nicolas Fernandez Bravo and titled: Race and Ethnicity at the “Interior” of the nation: uses and abuses of the Cabescita Negra in comtemporary Santiago Dell Estero.

Now, the Cabecita Negra is an idea that is being challenged and has been changed. His article was based around social identities within history.

First cabecita negra was a term referring to those who worked in the fields then it became racial slang used by upper and middle class Argentines. Then in the 1940’s, the term became associated with people who were Peronist.

Till this day, the term cabecita negra is a term that casts people out insead of inviting them in. It implies not being enough of something –whether white enough or lacking that true European origin.

Next, we saw some art by Ricardo Santoro …I later saw the same art at the Museum.

This is when the history and all that is going on in Argentina gets really confusing. I never thought a nation would be more caught up in the image of the country more than America! Identify and politics intertwine in a way that becomes confusing that I would not be surprised if the Afro-Argentines are sometimes confused on why the other would or wouldn’t mistreat them. Argentina’s own government is so worried about its image and statistical qualification, that they are putting down their own and destroying themselves in the process. No matter how far she (Argentina) tries to get away from herself, she will always see her true image looking back at her in many colors.

At the end of the lecture, I asked a question about ethnic mixture- Who, really, are the Afro-Argentines? Who are the Blacks? Who’s African and who is Indian? Well, if this doesn’t get any more confusing, not all of them are cabecitas negras but they all are claiming rights to what? I don’t know. Maybe to their county. This shows how race in Argentina is not just white against the negro. There is no race problem alone, it’s always race and class that is the problem.

Volunteering with the Laundry Project

I showed up at the Center for Architecture at 336 La Guardia Place on a Wednesday night. I went there to volunteer instead of going to Wednesday night service.

I paid the taxi driver 45 dollars to drive me from the Bronx to Manhattan…and realized that he could not read in English. So he had a time finding the cross street, Broadway….because he was going to WORK for his 45 dollars!

I entered the building in the all black outfit we were required to wear. My first stop was by the security and they directed me to the main table where I met the one running the show, Ms. Liu.

Your job is to check people in as they enter. We don’t want the lobby area to get too crowed. 

okay.

She gave me a chart and apologized for having to go.

Ask Henry to explain everything.

I never had to ask Henry, it was pretty straight forward. As people enter, ask them their names and check them in.

The party goers showed up:

Pretty ladies with long dresses, handsome men with neat hair cuts, cut out dresses, skin tight dresses, suits, shirts and ties, short stout men, tall women, mother and daughter teams, daughters in jean while mothers in expensive jewelry and heavy make up, couples, blazers, couples of every sort, one man in a beard and dress, women with spring flowery print skirts, sweet perfume and strong cologne, high heels, stilettos, flats, sandals, ugly men, old men with grey and black hair, cute old men who still had it going on…whatever that means…graceful old women who carried themselves as the wise and prudent…

All walking with poise and forgetting that all flesh really is grass. I watched everyone come and everyone go. I worked the coat check and this allowed me to interact with them.

We, the volunteers, were not familiar with each other, so we worked in silence until someone asked the other for his name.

I met Henry, Kylie, Hannah, Babs and Marilee. By the end of the night we were laughing out loud at inside jokes and bonded while sharing  our stories about growing up in America. By the end of the night, we vowed to meet up again.

Mr. Greg at Crown Trophy

IMG_0178

I’ve been going to Crown Trophy for three years now.

Its a trip I enjoy taking (even though I wait till the last minute sometimes).

Every year I would rush to the shop to pick up  the spelling bee trophies and while there talk to the owner, Mr. Greg.

When I first went, I was surprised and impressed to see,  he was the owner. Like, I said many times before, most of the shops I go to are owned by Spanish employers.

While some may say it does not matter who own the businesses in your town,  I found out that the latter is not true. It matters a whole lot.

When a child see majority of his people owning restaurants, day cares, car washes, sign shops, party stores and so many corner stores that the phrase corner store is interchangeably used with bodega, then that child inwardly feels a sense of self pride (without much begin said).

Seeing Mr. Greg own the trophy shop helps me to puts this race thing into perceptive.

When I first met Mr. Greg, he spoke to me about his daughter who is a dancer in California. Like most proud fathers he boasted of her while telling me of her achievements and how the road raising her was not easy at all but she some how made it.

This time, he spoke about his daughter again but the focus was not so much on him as it was on her. His tone was more serious. This time he was not so much raving about her as he was sharing her testimony. I felt like while he was talking, he felt her hurt.

She’s grown now. I’ve watched her transform from Daddy’s little girl into a full grown women. She has matured in every way. She has learned that your hair has to be a certain texture and your skin a certain tone  for you to be fully accepted in the industry. While she was growing up, I provided the best way I could for her to be comfortable and go after what she wanted. I couldn’t explain all of that to her. When you are great at your craft and there are 30 other people in the room great at the same craft, how are you going to make them choose you?

When he was done talking about his daughter, I thought how beautiful it is when parents talk about their children! And if you are a good listener, you can tell that the conversations shifts as the parent and the child grows. The tone and diction the parents use changes as life changes for them.

The Sacrifice Dinner

img_0115

My church has a tradition.

Every January the saints gather and eat a dinner called the sacrifice dinner.

It’s cooked by the church cook.

The recipe is passed down from the saints of old.

Beans, fatback, potatoes, bread, water and Jello…the red jello to be exact

The beans are called great northern beans.

The fatback is there as the meat. It’s the only meat some of them growing up in the south had. They would kill the hog, hang it in the barn and then, eat the fat.

The potatoes are the white potatoes. No special way to cooking them. Boil and season them. Sometimes depending on who is cooking they may be fried with onions.

The bread is called fritters. It’s made with cornmeal that comes in a yellow bag. It’s mixed with water and eggs.

The water, it’s usually taken from the faucet. This year the saints were served bottled water.

The jello. Well, it wasn’t always sold in a box. They used to make their jello and the tapioca. Coming up, there was always a dessert on the side.

Then the church made rules for the dinner:

The Senior Missionaries Cook.

The Junior Missionaries Serve.

The Brotherhood Clean.

All sisters, not on the choir, wear all white.

We eat in silence. No talking or laughing.

We eat and remember the saints of old.

How they were poor and did not have much

How they prayed on cold wooden or stone floors

How education did not come freely

How the church family did not have a church building to keep them  warm in the winter or cool in the summer

How they had to walk miles to worship or learn

How they had to labor a bit longer and harder than  us

How they had to endure

How some had to carry seats on their head because there were no chairs

How their life journey took all the smiling and laughter away from their aged stricken bodies

We think about their names: Mother Longjourney, Mother Havingahardtime, Mother Lukus, Mother Nixon, Mother Chisem, Mother Hammond, Bishop Goodwin, Bishop Johnson, Bishop Dixon, Mother Woods, Mother Frazier, Minister Richards, Mother Claudia Dixon, Mother Gussie, Mother Virgeous Bridgett, Sister Amy Hurley, Sister Rose Jones, Bishop Belton Green, Bishop Melvin Samuels

We are told it was started in Bishop Johnson days and then it was discontinued

Then, it was started under Bishop Goodwin sometime during the 80’s by Mother Lukus, Mother Claudia Dixon and Mother Virgeous Bridgett

Then, we think about us and how blessed we are.

We say peace be and go home.

~Thank You to Mother Virgeous Bridgett for helping me with the history

Volunteering at the Langston Hughes Home

 

A week ago during the snow storm, I left my warm apartment and went to Harlem and volunteered with i, Too, Arts Collective which is a  non-profit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. They are responsible for renovating  the Harlem renaissance poet, Langston Hughes, home.

When I was in college, I went on a date with a young man who grew up in New Orleans. He was crazy about the Harlem renaissance because of his high school teachers. I, who grew up in New York, was crazy about Harlem because of the books I read alone (my high school  curriculum skipped majority of my history…really America’s true history). In any case, he took me to Harlem for a date and I remember us standing outside of Langston Hughes home taking about his poems. Then we spoke about what it would take for his home to become a museum. Then, we stopped talking so the conversation pretty much died like a raisin in the sun. However, the dream didn’t because I am now apart of a team of people who are preserving Mr. Hughes legacy by opening up his space and reserving it for writers and other artist to gather.

Mi Abuela Ana

My close friend Stacy shared with me that her Grandma who was born November 16, 1918 gets lonely sometimes. Stacy and I always go out but this time, I asked her if we could spend time with Abuela Ana.

It turns out everyone liked the idea! Especially Abuela Ana.

It did not cross my mind that there would probably be a language barrier.

With the little bit of Spanish that I knew, I founded out that she came to America in 1973 and when she got here she never really ventured into the real world. She was a stay at home mother. She had 10 children before she came here and her baby (Ms. Hilda, pictured) was only in her teens. No one was born in the U.S.

She likes to cook but doesn’t do much of it anymore.

She arrived to America because of her son, Uncle Metro (also pictured) got here first and paved the way for the rest of the family. When she came to America she did not like it. As a matter of fact, she always wanted to go back home to live but stayed here to tend to her family. She sacrificed her life so that her children and husband could live happily.

Her husband passed away in 2009.  He was a hard working man. Running bodegas to keep the family afloat.

Ms. Hilda cooked a lovely meal for the event and Johnny, the dog was very respectful until we got to the table.

I left full and happy. Now time to brush up on my Spanish.

Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference

I wrote  a letter to my mom during the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference.

Dear Mom,

I am at a Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference. April asked me to tag along with her, so I am pretty much here to support your youngest daughter. We are in two different meetings right now having two different experiences.

This is my first time sitting in a room with a sign on the outside of the door welcoming only brown skin people… It’s also my first time I’ve been asked to give my suggested pronoun.

The commentator just ask me to name three things that make me. You of course were one of those three. I said: Christian, Mother (Family) and Writer (photographer) and she allowed me to take photos during the meeting.

The commentator speaks really weird like, as if she lives in her head. She likes the word, imagine. She is making me think about food in a different way and uses words I never associate with food to talk about food. Who uses intimacy in the same sentence as food?  She’s making me think about food in a different way altogether. It’s almost scary.

You should create a real relationship with your food…outside of your mother, food is our oldest relationship. Eating should be centered in pleasure…you should know who your grower is and create intimacy with food…

Mom, remember that time you and Minister Richards thought it was funny that I had a nightmare about cooking? Well, I think the dream is coming to pass right here. Who talks about food in this way?

Mom, I am beginning to like this speaker. While I don’t agree with everything she says about food, some of the things she say are empowering. She is talking about the word liberation and wants to know how we will define it.

There is a yearning to feel connected to the land and to be free…because we were tied to the land, we survived…whenever a people have to heal itself they have to go back to the soil…create a restaurant in your house…build power through stewardship and ownership… How do we own land…how do we break out of capitalism? We must be generous with what we have…

Mom,  as I listen to this lady who lives in her head, questions about our family and land comes to mind. I will jot them down later because i don’t want to miss what she is saying about traditions…do you think I am generous enough? I think April picked up your generous creative side which is why we are here at this conference now. Okay, she’s talking…

How do we uplift our traditions? This is our right to steward the land, it’s in our DN. How do we use tools of the oppressors to tell our own story? 

Book to Read: The Color of Food by Natasha Bowen

Websites to Visit: Bossip.com, Worldstar.com, Fresh2health.com, civileats.com

Love You Mom