Tag Archive for nueva york

The Flag On My Way To Work

I had seen it before, in my days as an NYU student commuting from my project building in South Brooklyn to West 4th Street on the D train. It served as a reminder of what and who I am: a Boricua raised in a working class family and community.


Photo by the author

A Puerto Rican flag waves from a set of windows four stories below the top of a high-rise building. It can be seen while crossing the Manhattan Bridge, on the side that gives the bridge its name.

Shortly after ‘Hurricane Sandy,’ when I next took that trip over the 100+ year old structure, the flag had disappeared from sight. It was a disappointment, causing me to feel a sense of loss. From then on, gazing through the scratched glass train window, it was like looking into a void, not focusing on the building, but looking at the space where an object once lied.

Recently, I interviewed for a position in the Williamsburg Leadership Center, a community space opened in Los Sures by El Puente, a human rights organization founded in 1982. As I made my way to Williamsburg’s south side, an unexpected sight became an omen of good fortune: the Puerto Rican flag reappeared, tightly fastened to two window guards.

Now, as I make my way to work, I once again reflect on my circumstances and feel a sense of direction. In part I am driven to such deep contemplation because of my strong sense of national identity and my reading of the Puerto Rican nation as incomplete due to its bondage under U.S. colonial rule. In a sense, when I look at the flag I begin to understand my own self also as a work in progress, ever striving to better myself.

When I see the flag on my way to work, and begin to reflect, it’s a reminder of the soul of a people. A reminder that no matter the odds, I will persevere. It’s as if the flag is saying, to use a popular phrase at my workplace, “¡Pa’lante!”

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Eric • Gravesend, Brooklyn

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Photo: Andre Lee Muñiz. Location: Gravesend, Brooklyn

Eric has lived all of his 24 years in Brooklyn, about twenty now in the projects. “It’s different being Puerto Rican in the P.J.s – I’m almost always the only ‘Spanish’ kid in the crew. But it’s cool because I stand out more. Also, a lot of people say P.R.s and Dominicans don’t get along, but I’m half Dominican too so I haven’t had any problems. It’s like having the best of both worlds.”

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5K Run In Coney Island Dedicated To Oscar López Rivera

At 9am on June 29, i participated in the Brooklyn Cyclones Take Your Base 5K. The run, or walk, depending on how one entered the charity race, began outside the MCU Park ball field on Surf Avenue, continued on the Coney Island boardwalk down to Brighton Beach, and ended at home plate inside the ball field. Proceeds for the charity race were to go in large part to a summer youth program at the new local YMCA, nearly 7-months old now.

photo 1Deciding to enter the race as a personal fitness challenge, i made the added decision to dedicate my run to Oscar López Rivera. Having written so much on events held in New York in support of the demand for his release from prison, i thought it would be fun to do something different on my personal time. Family and friends supported me as well – one friend even helped me achieve a small goal by giving me the very shirt off his back at a recent demonstration for Oscar outside the UN so i could wear it at the race.

It all started when, upon registering, i was asked for a club name. Not having one, i thought for a moment, and almost immediately the idea of using “Free Oscar Lopez” presented itself. It was a done deal!

Race results showing my 62nd overall finish

Race results showing my 62nd overall finish

As the results show, i finished the 5K, my first ever, with a time of 22:22, which put my pace at about 7:13/Mile. This put me in 62nd place overall out of 860 finishers, and 15th place out of 107 within the Male 20-29 age group. Not being a jogger, and it being my first ever 5K race, i was absolutely ecstatic with my results. With only some treadmill training in the weeks prior, my performance was where it should have been – it was not a walk in the park. But by pacing myself, calmly focusing on each step and breath, i did it.

It meant a lot completing the race in dedication to the demand for Oscar’s release. What made it even more special was that my mother, along with her sister, also went to cheer me on. While i am grateful for the pictures they took of me, i only wish i could have photographed the look of joy and surprise they gave me later when speaking about how i ended the race, with a Puerto Rican flag i had hid in my shorts before we left the house proudly in my hand.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

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An Evening At The Nuyorican Poets Café For Oscar López Rivera

Puerto Rico nació en mi (Puerto Rico was born in me)! Set Oscar López Rivera free! Such was the call-and-response ending a night at the Nuyorican Poets Café. The event, which took place June 18, was presented by poet/ educator Mariposa Fernández, co-hosted by fellow Nuyorican poet Frank Pérez, and dedicated to Oscar López Rivera.

Group picture of the performers in front of the Café (Note: Some were unavailable for the picture)

Group picture of the performers in front of the Café (Note: Some were unavailable for the picture)

More than a dozen poets recited their work, some in the spoken word style common to the Café, others in song and rap, and yet others over beats played on drums. With music courtesy of DJ MarYSOUL filling the brief gaps between performers, the program fully engaged the audience. In attendance was Café founder Miguel Algarín and Nuyorican poetry movement pioneer Jesús ‘Papoleto’ Meléndez. Many of the poems shared were specifically written as a reflection on or protest of Oscar’s political imprisonment.

As the poets took the stage in turn, artist Xen Medina sat nearby performing a live art exhibition. The finished piece, a portrait of Oscar, was then put up for silent auction, all proceeds going to the National Boricua Human Rights Network-New York Chapter. At least two other items, including a 3-dimensional Puerto Rican flag and photograph of Nuyorican movement pioneer Jorge Brandon, were also put up for silent auction as a way of raising funds for the release campaign.

Nuyorican pioneer Jesús 'Papoleto' Meléndez, with live artist Xen Medina in the background

Nuyorican pioneer Jesús ‘Papoleto’ Meléndez, with live artist Xen Medina in the background

To provide information on Oscar’s case and the campaign to secure his release, a table was also managed with a number of leaflets, in addition to copies of a petition that those in attendance were asked to sign. The petition is part of a specific initiative of the campaign seeking 100,000 signatures to be sent to the White House and President Obama so he may be influenced to use his presidential powers of pardon and immediately release Oscar.

A heartfelt night of music, poetry, national affirmation, and resistance, the event added further energy into the ongoing campaign for Oscar’s release. Bringing together community members, artists, activists, poets, Nuyorican movement pioneers, as well as members of labor unions like 1199SEIU, it was yet another manifestation of the continued diverse support Oscar has received. And by taking place in New York City’s Lower East Side neighborhood, it reaffirmed the City’s role as a site of protest in favor of the Puerto Rican patriot’s release.

For video of the event, taken by Virtual Boricua, click here.

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