BkBoricuaDre

Yo! Can I Get A Shot?

Basketball is an essential part of my and my neighborhood’s life. There’s so much that can be written about playground basketball culture. Here’s one piece.

Yesterday while on my way to the store, i noticed some friends shooting around in the park. As is usually the case for me and so many people in the neighborhood, my reaction was to approach them, put my hands up, and ask, “Yo! Can I Get A Shot?!”

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In a way, this interaction is like a rite of passage for a bballer growing up in the hood. As children having fun on the court, all of us have had to “give up the rock” to an older person demanding a quick shot before going about their business. This genuinely annoying fact of life is a generally tolerated and accepted part of the local playground culture. Once we’re older, we switch place and become the person demanding a quick shot.

Of course, as a person with a highly sensitive moral consciousness, i often question the way i have seen people go about asking for a shot, obviously meaning to take the ball whether the youth cares or not. In the past i have even seen people “jokingly threaten” in a very believable manner to take the young person’s ball and walk away with it if they didn’t give it up for that moment. Also, i’ve seen people abuse their position in the arbitrary age hierarchy and “hog the ball” for periods of 10 to even 30 minutes!

C’mon my peers! We can do better!

Anyway, i asked for the shot the only way i could as the unique individual i am in these projects: politely but in an assertive tone.

The first shot, a three-pointer from the corner, was a brick—an “airball”. After i grabbed the next rebound, i took two steps forward along the baseline and drained a set shot. Getting my “respect”, that second shot awarded after making a first, i took two steps back, called it, and let a jumper rip, restricted as i was in my belted jeans, tucked in button down shirt, and North Face coat. After going in, the shot came back out, rolled on the rim, then uneventfully went down between the iron. How sweet it was! i proceeded to the store with a smile. More park stories to come.

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Marlboro Projects. Part of Coney Island?

Marlboro Projects, a public housing community part of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), has been my home for more than 20 years now. Technically located in the Brooklyn neighborhood known as Gravesend, bordering another known as Bensonhurst, we are so close to Coney Island—only a 15 minute walk from the world famous Nathan’s, Cyclone, and Wonder Wheel—that many of us living here often reply ‘Coney Island’ when asked where we live.

But is Marlboro part of Coney Island? It’s complicated…

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One of the most concentrated areas of public housing in the city happens to be in Coney Island. Because of this, a unique neighborhood identity and culture has developed in the projects there, not only because of the social relationships created, but also due to the unique consequences of such an environment. One of these, which is well known, is the unfortunate cycle of violence born out of a frustrated life in economic poverty, and the experience with neglect by the very housing authority that raises our rent and decreases our services.

This is something every NYCHA resident is affected by, particularly those in Coney Island, who in addition are still dealing with the results of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

In Coney Island, there are several distinct projects, known as housing developments. Marlboro, on the other hand, is an isolated housing development surrounded mainly by private housing units. Although there does exist an association with the particular project one resides within in Coney Island, in Marlboro it is more pronounced.

Thus, even though people from Marlboro may identify with Coney Island, people from the projects of Coney Island may not view Marlboro as part of that community, which is complex in its own right. This is the historic “beef” going back to the early 90s if not earlier, of course it is much more complicated than that.

What is my take on it? Is Marlboro part of Coney Island? First of all, we have too much in common as public housing residents to beef over the things that we have. Personally, i see nothing wrong with Marlboro, while keeping its own identity, also associating with Coney Island. Not the theme park, Astroland Coney Island that many of us spent birthdays and summers in, but the real Coney Island. The Coney Island i’ve been talking about—the one with residents, who are likely to live in any of several NYCHA developments just like us.

Besides, anyone that knows about the neighborhood beef by this very fact knows there exists a real relationship between the two neighborhoods. The nature of this relationship, and whether it will be defined by our inward violence or our outward struggle to affect change and social justice inside and outside “the system”, depends on us.

Much more on my hood to come, including how i see myself within it as a Boricua.

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Welcome to Marlboro Projects

My name is Andre Lee Muñiz and i am a 27-year-old Boricua with an historical consciousness living in the projects.

Yes, in this often-neglected corner of Brooklyn i am proud to state my age, for i am of those fortunate enough to have lived so long despite the specter of violence.

Yes, i keep my i’s lower case, in honor of black liberation fighter Assata Shakur, who taught me how to think of ‘We’ more than me.

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This is my blog. You’ll see me share thoughts on the projects i live in, Brooklyn, and my experiences in this city as a Diasporican. You’ll also see me touch on Puerto Rican history and the things i have learned about the proud and resilient Boricua people i come from, as well as how we relate to other peoples. Finally, as a music lover i can’t help but share some of my favorite sounds with you every now and then too.

My hope is that you will enjoy what the blog offers, and that you will interact with me. Send me questions, feedback, criticism, encouragement! Peace!

E-mail: andre@larespuestamedia.com

Twitter: @BkBoricuaDre

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