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New *COMMON* {The Dreamer/ The Believer }

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The one and only COMMON‘s album dropped last week.  As was the case with The Roots early in the month, it happened under the radar for me.  In this day  of records being pushed back to coincide with market trends, if not to keep a project fresh from leaks, knowing when your favorite artist is going to drop is like pinning the tale on the donkey.  I had been checking youtube routinely following his performance at The White House in May; occasionally stumbling onto a newly released single but learning of no definitive date.  Estimations had him coming out in September then.    ..NOt! 

But anyway.  The industry is what the industry is.  Let me save any critique I have towards it for our brother Common, whom it seems has methodically, yet none the less by this point fully embarked on the commercial course.  With The Dreamer/ The Believer Common ultimately proves to remain great.  The Rolling Stones never got wack, as hasn’t nor ever will Aretha Franklin, and relatively so we are seeing that in his own right, neither will Com.   But we’re going to keep it real.  There is room for criticism of his balancing act between the conscious flow and the cash flow; one which he’s been successful in treading through his late 30’s, in a business that leaves you behind if you cannot appeal to the youngins.  He is amongst a host of artists we grew listening to, as they salvaged through Hip Hop’s golden age to survive until today.  And he is back with his original producer and comrade since 4th grade: NO ID. 

____In vintage Hip Hop fashion TD,TB’s first song sets the tone with free-verse summing where Common is at in his career while foreshadowing some of the concepts we can expect from the rest of the album.
“The Dreamer” is a track that begins with a fickle 16 flashing a success once ill-equated with anything our brother stood for through his first six or seven projects. By this, his 9th come around, he indeed has the closet to prove such exquisite threads, as does he the Grammy and wallet it’s intro boasts.
____”It’s Common. I’m high above standard/ fly nigga, keep my feet planted,” he reminds us after flipping the righteous hope we’ve come to embrace Com for: “Get the beat from NO I., feel the pulse of the Chi/ survival of the fit with hope in their eye// Taking notes from the sky to fly above understanding. They’re notes from the most high, so I gotta land ’em
By the third verse he is in full transition, etching a reflective stanza which places the imagery before your ears, at your eyes.  As the listener you are treated to the brilliance that is Lonnie Rashid Lynn, a poet whom walks you through his vision to be sat amongst the rest of us, here to hear him speak:

“Reflections of the sun glaring through the window
Now the audience staring at my mental
Feeling like the world, the world is at my fingers
‘Bout to speak to an auditorium full of dreamers

____If you’ve been along for any good length of the man’s journey you couldn’t imagine him coming weak, and technically/scientifically/artistically, you forward to the next track having it once again been confirmed for you that this is a certifiable craftsman, whom has once again proven to be crafty as he ever was.  But as such a loyalist you’re also not without the observation that we may have seen a transition in Rash’s character.  One any honest follower does good by checking our brother on, as did the iconoclast herself Maya Angelou, through a recent interview in which she expresses discontent with his use of the N bomb, on a record he invited her to feature on.                                                    ____Com’s brief and passive appropriation of ‘N’ isn’t the half in terms of the regressive direction to which I speak.  It is on the second track, “Ghetto Dreams” that he breaks the seal in ensuing to spray misogyny around the room like it’s New Years Eve.  “I want a bitch that look good and cook good/ Cinderella fancy but she still look hood//  Butt naked in the kitchen flipping pancakes/ plus she’ tripping off the doe that her man makes,” he raps, rehashing (practically verbatim) the old as stone fantasy unapologetic sexists arouse, for a promiscuous Woman he could have barefoot in the kitchen.

____We’ve been here before in mainstream Hip Hop (over, and over), with both male and female emcees TYPICALLY espousing work that objectifies the under-whelmingly represented sex.   It is true that even brother Common has had his share of booty bitch saturation (albeit out-balanced with a greater aversion for worshiping the Queen in her), thus it might not be perfectly fair to hold him to a standard he has never absolutely aimed to toe.   But the fact of the matter is, a GREAT lens through which Common’s artistry has been appreciated is that which he earned our attention away from the rest of the field for; the integrity with which he’s depicted Women as complete *to themselves*!   Why should his new work be observed through a different paradigm now?                                                                                                                                ____A ‘booty’ or two probably doesn’t stoke such a response to TDTB, but as the music plays on it becomes clear that in the frame of C-O-double M’s discography, the bitch, is an elephant in the room here.  He goes completely fraternal on “Celebrate”, complimenting a good ol’ boys ambiance the hook sets, with a chauvinism that strikes as so shallow our yellow King becomes all things considered, interchangeable with a man-lover-DMX’s running Boondocks character.  “I got a couple niggas in town/ a couple hundred bitches around//  so baby go on and get us a round/ cause I got all my niggas around”                                                                                                                                            *the sisters aren’t exactly introduced to us as honorary guests*      “Now we got some R&B broads we could call up…   …Hustlers from the go, how far we done came/ celebrate”   Com concludes, after numerous projections of the sisters at the celebration expendable to the pleasure and service of his boys.

____It’s difficult for one to endorse   as a weighty criticism when playing back the record, as it would occur to most no different than what a majority of us have accepted as our everyday Hot97, toast and cheer.  None the less, a contrast as to whom is celebrating and what is being celebrated deserves a shot at taking form amongst your questions as to the substance of the song.  The brothers in with one another are brothers, their memories and the sharing of their newfound abundance generate a warmth within their camaraderie.  The Women, on the other hand, are something slightly outside of that;  they, with the drinks and the rest of the commotion, are things, of the celebration.             ____In keeping honest to objectivity as it concerns art allow me to concede that while it is obvious I as a HUGE follower of Common, may seem to have singled out the likes of “Ghetto Dreams” and “Celebrate” because they are not “The Light”, the following criticism, beyond any moral, is what sinks them in his catalog: they are unoriginal! (deadpan. *Plus we waited 20 years for a Nas collabo and this is the best they thought to give us)                                                 ____Art, does not have to be heroic or in any way ideal; I totally understand that.  Not only is there room for violence, unhealthy addiction, degradation, etc. but these are in fact, often THE DRIVING FORCES behind  great cinema, great music.  Yet, the aesthetics have to in some form set a piece apart to stand on it’s own identity.   One of my favorite B.I.G. songs was “Me and My Bitch”.  But for one thing, when that song broke, there had been nothing like it in Hip Hop, EVER.. there probably still isn’t… and more profoundly, there is a deep pain in that record that is not only emotionally intelligent (despite it’s brutal inhumanity), but socio-historically intelligent; as we got a window into a very personal and very prevalent condition per relationships that take on the poverty around them in a hyper violent culture.   ..Art  isn’t always just!

____After much meditation on the threat of us seeing him come uncharacteristically lazy on message, we are relieved to gather that Common does pull enough effort on the track list to balance the relationship-centered share of The Dreamer/The Believer.  While “Raw – How You Like It” trumps just as favorable to the listener club hopping for music behind industry blinders,  the beat bangs something hard enough to get boom-bap back up in the party and the hook mellows erotic to a tasteful invitation.  C-O double enters the groove with a tipsy cadence, stalking for a lover to vibe.  If a  record is going to work  passing some raunch, for the sake of giving us some credible reflection of a night out: somewhat horny, yet reserved enough that needn’t a lawsuit bring us back to it’s recollection; it is going to sound like “Raw”.                            ____And if there’s a spot in the album’s sequencing for a nostalgic glance the legend of Hip Hop sentiment gives of love, it comes dead on at the half with “Lovin’ I Lost”.   Just as on “Raw” we are presented with an affected cadence, as Common gets playful with a delivery stressing inflections we’re used to getting from his once protege and  now G.O.O.D MUSIC boss (Kanye West).   The narrative parlays swift inside of a cool soul NO I.D. smooths out beneath a Curtis Mayfield sample.   In it he isn’t so much lamenting as he is remembering  a break-up from back in the day.  You can’t help but love an emcee who is a true writer, one able to transcend a linear concept; bend perspective;  be your brother, your lover, and your psychiatrist…  “I’m waiting on your call / told you I’ll be back, had to break down some walls //Issues that I had/  some say it comes from not seeing my dad, keep moving on.”

____Behind his veil of brilliance a true writer knows something his audience would never imagine all his illustrious production comes down to being… that being the product of simple: honesty.  This he knows, and it is this protected knowledge that shows up as insecurity when he is struggling to produce.. he questions whether the actual simplicity of his working formula, was ever what the minds that absorbed it imagined it to be.  Common returns with reference to the same walls and issues he mentions on “Lovin I Lost”, on the optimistic “Cloth”; following up the inference to  insecurity with:  “attracted to women, for things that didn’t matter“.   Revealing (in as much as for men, it is true to life) is how throughout the track one can arrive at the realization that whenever Common opens up to share his self, reflected in his words is an opening to fully absorb/appreciate/share Women.  Whereas the surface delving facade he guards music for the boys with, alienates the Women to a distance on tracks like “Ghetto Dreams” and “Celebrate”, the transparency of who Lonnie Rashid Lynn is, brings her close, on a track like “Cloth”.

I appreciate the hugs and the days I breed with you/ strong seeds I can see with you//  the good word I read with you///  Looking at things that we’ve been through/ things that seem simple// I know when to go hard and when to be gentle

____These are the records that gave Common his niche in HipHop music.  Over the course of his 20 years in a hyper-masculine industry we’ve had the opportunity to journey with a man, whose been in as real a sense as we’ve ever heard: a man.  A warrior, a nurturer, an intellect, a lover, a worker, an activist; in his words ‘through alcoholism and afro-centricity’, we’ve seen ‘a complex man drawn off of simplicity’.   No question about it, his struggles with intimacy and manhood, his vulnerability, have stood as a pillar in his body of work.      ____The Dreamer/ The Believer’s intimate cycle completes with a Stevie Wonder (synthesizer & melody stellar) influenced jawn  NO ID polished to show case our brother’s heart on.  In the first verse he tells the story of a Woman victimized and abandoned by men.  An allusion is made to her innocence being taken in a dark room, followed by one telling of her father not being in the picture; stark scenarios which   point to her reason for not trusting men.  The hook, sang by James Fauntleroy, is a poetic conveyance of Common assuring his trust.  It is a beautiful bridge to a second verse, which brings us Common describing his careful, loving, protective, and active relationship with his daughter.

____In retrospect over Common’s voice and style on the “Windows” track^, one cant help but realize a surreal connection to Drake; an emcee for whom if it weren’t for the foundation Common has laid with his insightful cultivation of the self-reflective lover, wouldn’t exist.   Let the comparisons begin, as the release of The Dreamer/ The Believer has sparked a rivalry between the father and son emcee.  Tensions draw back to the lyrical one-ups-manship of the track “Sweet”, in which Common steps up for his time to proclaim G.O.A.T in this rap shit.  Upon hearing the record the hot sophomore took lyrics speaking to emcee’s ‘singing on records‘, personal and proceeded to send notice at an LA Christmas concert.  Common in the past week, has confirmed that if the shoe fits and Drake is willing to wear it, then the shoe has found it’s owner; outright challenging Drake to defend his pride.                                                                                      ____Drake will definitely be needing to sharpen his tool, as all indication on the TDTB album continues to hoist Common as an elite lyricist.  Whether it’s his perennial ability to reinvent himself and reclaim the energy that’s allowed him to carve past his peers with the command of an elder’s thumb pushing the a pocket knife through an apple’s skin;   or it’s inspiration from his game producer’s drum knocks, echo effects and layered arrangements, our man has picked up where he left off.  In fact, we see an intensity in his rhyme that is reminiscent of early Nas in terms of the compact and prolific amount of imagery he is charging through tracks like “Gold” with.   And you already know the metaphors and similes are you already know…

Ashtrays and cigarettes, last days, indigenous people
These are adventures of young black millionaires
I am the voice of the meek and underprivileged
The smell of success, I want y’all to get a whiff of this
On the move like black slaves through the wilderness
I write it, and still get invited to white Christmases
When I was born, three wise men came to visit us
One a hustler, one a king, one a prisoner
They cracked the bottle then started giving gifts
You from Chicago, we want you to deliver this
Show the walking dead who the truly living is
Separate the fake from who the real reals is
Hot tub time machine, back to the Sybaris
Hats from liquor stores to avoid syphilis
Frivolous spending, drunk nights with storybook endings
I guess it’s my addiction to women
I was in France, Hennessy blending
Writing my own scripts like I’m Tennessee Williams
Now it’s new beginnings like a born again Christian
On the mic, victorious, story is redemption

[Bridge]
I’m sitting at the top, I’m not alone
I’m standing here with my soul

[Verse 2]
Feed our souls with two fish and five loaves
Teach a man to cook it for survival
My dad said it rained on my arrival
Now a storm of the brain make these guys drive slow
Like I was 5-0, but my creed’s Apollo
On the rock and roll with the coldest live show
For those before I came, I made the song cry for ‘em
Lyrical gymnast, you set the bar low
This is that Kilimanjaro, like Twitter you can follow
It may be hard to read like hieroglyphics
Written on the walls of Cairo, check my youth revival
Truth inside flow, I stand like Em did with Dido
Crashed parties, any live yo
Is libel to get banged like things that rival tribal slang
From the, killed the game and watched it die slow
Ali MC, I fight for more than the title
Your idol

Concept songs ground an album.   They determine it’s identity.   In the larger scope, they are a testament to where the artist is in his creative journey.  The concepts explored on The Dreamer/ The Believer, the substance in Common’s lyrics, the conviction of say the John Legend assisted closing track; are of the quality we know we can depend on him surfacing with each subsequent album we sit in anticipation for.  But if there are some knocks against Common’s newest effort it is that conceptually his themes have grown redundant.  Basically we are seeing one of the most innovative artists in this music, refine what he’s always done to the mundane framework of a game which revolves around singles.  What saves TDTB from falling lame (ala Common’s poorest disk: Universal Mind Control) in light of this truth, is that there is perhaps nobody Common could have teamed up with but NO ID, to pump out an assortment of soundscapes tailor made to compliment him.   Which is to say, if Com is not going to experiment, if he is going to play it safe to what he’s known, nobody knows him like his brother; NO ID was the (A) game.  On top of the production though, it of course is always going to take passion and craft, which Common brought with ferocity here.   …The vision might not be as tight as we once knew it delivered by the ‘Black Buddah Genius’/ there might be something ambiguous and all together scattered about his lyrical composition, but his faithful can remain rest assured that he still, hasn’t played out.     🙂

 

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4/5

 

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” Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and, the boys have to buy different color stuff ??? “

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CAN YOU NAME THIS AMERICAN ICON ???     TAKE A WILD GUESS…

CLOSE!  But no, it’s not Eleanor Roosevelt.   The silky locks and white dress you are observing are actually that of her husband, President FRANKLIN Roosevelt, at the age of 3.   (Were it Eleanor, she’d probably have on pants)  ;-D

Surely you were looking at a girl.  Not a thought that passed between your eyes chanced at her being a president;  she had to be an actress or a singer.

Upon being informed that this is a portrait of a little boy, you feel the need to request I provide a confirming source (google FDR and skirt, you’ll get a whole host of pages).  Upon accepting that this indeed is the four term giant, you are questioning whether his parents were gay or just weird.. orrr you’ve got a fairly accurate grasp of history and recognize that a) the photo is way too dated for it to have anything to do with a psychedelic Volts Wagon van,  and  b) there have been past times and places in which it were commonplace for a male to wear a dress.

When I came across this video I couldn’t help but be impressed by the job her parents have done in empowering little Riley to think outside of the imaginary box we set our girls up to live their reality into.  I couldn’t help but marvel at how much intelligence she exudes, not just in her critical reasoning, but in how it shows through her physical and emotional expression.  She is sorting out  stale impositions  we internalize as ‘social norms’ under the order of a patriarchal society.  I had some idea of gender roles as  constructs (made up) at some point in my mid-teens (began taking the macho less serious, cross dressing in the crib for fun, etc.), but my understanding was vague and for the most part amateurish as compared to how it is articulated by this child.

I bring to reference such historical examples of androgyny as  FDR’s baby pics, some of the traditional garb of African and Amerindian tribesmen, the Irish kilt, etc. not to offer the nostalgic as something to emulate, but something to examine in relation to our *fixed* notions of femininity/masculinity; so that we may gain clarity as to how it is WE  who are fixed.. and not the concept of what is feminine and what is masculine.  And when something is fixed in place, whether it be an idea, a feeling, a visual, an object; we are dis-empowered to have choice in relation to our engagement with it; it is what it is we assume, it will be what it will be.   A lack of choice = a lack of freedom = a lack of power.

Raising our children to exercise choice does not look like you taking them to the pink isle then asking them what they want…   It starts with exposing them to all of the colors in the crayon box before they can control the drool from coming out of their mouths, and being open to allowing them *options*.   It constitutes us as parents being secure enough to teach our children to relate to their toys in the practical manner to which we began relating when we matured;  boys could use the skills that come with receiving an EasyBake Oven or a Dollhouse..  just as we as grown men have come to relate to cooking and raising a family not as some ‘girl shit’ but as a practice in responsibility and survival, you teach your boy that cooking in the oven and managing the family in the house makes them responsible!   Imagine your child being old enough to go shopping with you, and running off to something they can give you a totally mature reason for selecting…

If you are sitting there shaking your head on some ‘I want my child to be a child’ you are missing the point!   The point is, it becomes a matter of buying what the commercial tells them to, when we’ve allowed it to become that..  it becomes a matter of getting what all the other boys are getting when we allow it to get there…   It doesn’t have to be a discussion on what is the newest hottest, or what are boys buying vs what are girls buying.  The choices your children make actually CAN and consider that they SHOULD manifest inside of an intelligent processing of what they know will consume them, that occurs with a full awareness as to HOW it will consume them!

Consumerism in a capitalist society is the meter which  exhibits what our values prove to be.  You want to know where the psychology of America is in 2011 look at what we’re buying!  It is no wonder Riley is able to have such conviction behind the assertion that ‘they’ are trying to ‘trick’ her;  look at the shelves which surround her in that isle.. how many options is she afforded?  In terms of color it is clear she’s got one choice: pink.  What else is the market reinforcing?  More than because her father has taught her to, she is challenging the role society is pigeon holing her into because it is forced upon her, because she can see it, hear it, smell it, touch and feel it.   For all daddy knows he could have hid the truth of such gender fallacies to ‘protect her from alienation’, only to have her grow into a teenager who recognizes her repressed reality for what it is ANYWAY, then turn around and resent him for it.

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I’ve thought very deeply on such dynamics, as I myself am a father to a four year old girl.  Because I am a non-custodial parent, living five states north and thus baring a great deal less influence on her rearing than her mother does, you could say I’ve lost sleep over it.   Nadia is an intelligent, athletically inclined child with an abstract wit and tough streak a conventional parent  might squirm discomfort with.  But she is also, to my judgement, hyper-feminine and she’s been conditioned so with full intention by her mother.  She is obsessed with weddings and fairy tales and she’d love nothing more than a make-up kit to occupy her time.  It’s not just her mom neither.  Heck, I as a man am without a doubt reinforcing her understanding of ‘her place’ in ways I haven’t even been conscious to, if in fact it weren’t the case that there’ve been instances that I WAS aware of, but simply overlooked for the sake of convenience (yes, I’ve got to check myself).

Riley has me reflecting on how I must move forward in restoring some balance to her sense of autonomy and control over her identity.   Last summer she caught a crying fit when her cousins came over to visit, wearing dresses, on a day she happened to be dressed in jeans.  She simply wouldn’t stop until we changed her into a dress.   …I need her to be more independent than that, I want her to value her mind and to respect her body in whatever manner she should so have processed and CHOSEN to honor them..  simply, I want her to be capable of distinguishing that she can    p r o c e s s   these things, beyond conformity/  even if it means she still chooses to conform!   I want her to never feel like she has to dumb down, look a certain way, restrict her conversations and actions, to be acceptable to a man, or even, to her peer sisters.

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The __ world __ is HERS   !

– ToneAre

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In All Conscientiousness, Interracial Relationships

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Never     have    I ever…   dated outside of my race

WAIT__  Have I ??    Nope ”’WELL, wait…

I’m brought back to a discussion I had the pleasure of taking part in, late July of 2009.  If I recall well it was I, in a circle with three Women under the sparkle of a deep black sky in Cuba.  A Dominican sister, a Mexican sister, and a sister who shared Ecuadorian and Puerto Rican roots.

“Have you ever dated white?” was the question; a prompt which to my surprise had acquired a yes from at least one, and if i am not mistaking, I believe two of the others.  My own response is one I’ve often shocked myself realizing, and in effect, was surprised to observe it not seeming to surprise them; “I have not.”

I say this because while I know each of our four to be some of the most race conscious Latino’s I (or you) will ever meet, through the work they’ve done around Pan-Afrikan history/culture/systems of belief,  those three sisters were bar-none greater engaged in our African ancestry than me.   And when you are that militantly bound to your own, love takes on a significance which speaks to preservation and cultivation of ours.   Though even Malcolm had his past.

Incidentally we’re talking about a conversation on interracial love, on an island whose culture is dominated by food, music, lingual aesthetics and genetic traits that are an infusion of Indigenous, European, and African influence  ;  the Mexicana glistening of red clay; la Dominicana, a beige favoring shade of light brown; and the Ecua-Boricua sister an almost strawberry.

I could go on and give some sensational description of my own body suit but for the sake of de-mystifying my assertion, you may poll that I fall somewhere along the more European end of the totem.

..Which is for me where the question hadn’t then, but does now, in-lie.

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My first love was an Afro-Boricua (Black Puerto Rican) sister.  Actually, I stand corrected..  or,      do I ??

Her father was half Syrian, half African-American; hence, he was a Black man of African and Syrian ancestry.  I mean, there are Africans of European descent who identify as racially White (check Dave Mathews).   But he was Black on account of his skin being identifiably (by common U.S. American social accounts) BLACK (dark Brown).

And her mother was Puerto Rican, like me.  ..But, in terms of race, what does that mean?   Sure her skin was ‘lighter’ than you’d probably imagine if I told you she might be a Black woman, but it was something of my own, or darker; a hue that browns like buttered bread on a hot pan come the summertime;   her nose, distinctively high and wide.

Before I was with Indra, I had a brief romance with an east Indian and a longer yet none the less loose commitment with a woman who was Ecuadorian and Dominican.  My daughter’s mother is Dominican and Puerto Rican.  At this current time I am seeing a Black woman born in Liberia.

I have never kissed, exchanged numbers with or courted an Italian, Irish, Russian, English, Greek, German, or any other variation of a Caucasian/ White identified woman.

…But here’s the kicker:  I’m not quite sure that means I haven’t been in an interracial relationship.  Each of the African prominent woman I have been with reminded me that from their perspective (respective of them) I am a white, albeit Latino, male!   Which in essence calls me to reflect on how whether I was conscious of it at the time of our discussion under the gorgeous Cuba sky, or not, I indeed have..  been in interracial relationships?   Only, in the context of race in those relationships, the white individual, was I.

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It is a question I will wrestle my whole life to digest, is race.  For a lot of Latinos it is that way.

Despite a shared historical generality in so much as the legacy of colonialism over the western world fundamentally shaped the interrelational reality between peoples;  neither the genealogical nor the social dynamics of race have evolved parallel between the respective northern and southern continental America.  Thus, to some degree  the processing of race  amongst people of the Caribbean, Central and South America  bares complexities  that are unique in contrast to how race shows up in the United States.

My biological father bares resemblance to Tom Selleck and my mother is a yellower Phylicia Rashad.  My grandfather, like my father had straight hair, white skin, a narrow nose and he married my mulatta grandmother.  Great grandma looked like an old Hungarian villager and great grandpa, a Moorish Algerian.   The fact that the three generations  who precede me (the only 3 I’ve had a visual of) in my direct lineage, comprise  what would be by U.S. standards determined mixed race couples, is telling.  Our people have been mix breeding for centuries.  And while taboo whispers do circulate about it, we really didn’t/don’t have the same (past and in some cases still, contemporary) legal and institutional barriers to domestic interracial affairs  that Blacks and whites have faced here in the U.S.

All of this to say that I’m coming from a people for whom  the interracial relationship has been relatively normalized.

If anything it is outside of the microcosm of my nation that I begin to see a more typical apprehension of Puerto Rican’s to embrace non-Puerto Ricans, and that’s a whole other conversation (one focused on the influence of nationalism as opposed to race per se).  It took my daughter being conceived to a half Dominican mother to discontinue the absolute Puerto Rican blood-line I was born into.   A conception that is ironically, although not atypically common considering there prevails for some a prejudicial rivalry of sorts.  By the by diasporic Puerto Ricans have for the most part dated within the nation because patterns of migration re-concentrated us amongst our own.  And if we weren’t dating other Ricans we’ve by an overwhelming margin dated within Latino.  But we’ve been here long enough that a couple of factors have begun to influence a change.  Boricuas in the military and those who’ve gone away for college transition to day to day lives with a more diverse demographic and tend to date outside in higher numbers.   There is also the suburbanization of the Puerto Rican family.  And with every generation born here our culture and the notion of nationhood becomes that much more alien to our youth, thereby distancing them from a notion of family that inherits, values, owns, passes forward the identity of it’s ancestry.

Now, nationality is nationality.  As a Puerto Rican, enlightened to the endangerment we already face (eventually losing our language and customs/identity/history, before being totally co-opted by mainland U.S. citizens locating there)  as a prospective 51 st state,  the Puerto Rican family for me, requires our conscious concern as a people.  Although, I honor choice as an individual right and respect all of my people the same irregardless of how you marry/date/mate.

Race is another thing.  After everything I’ve shared concerning race and nationality I must be careful not to blur the two; I must put forward that normalized relative to the U.S. or not racism remains an issue amongst Latinos in our own right, and that as an Boricua who can come here and ‘pass’ and in fact, as a Boricua who on the island would likely be classified as white, I really can’t speak for Black/Brown skinned Ricans in the context of preservation as it relates to race.   While I acknowledge that I am Afro-Boricua by descendance from a Black Rican greatgrandfather and those who came after, it would be disingenuous and perhaps even dangerous for me to totally deny my white skinned privilege.  I must respect that the struggles intricately specific to   someone like Tego Calderon whose afro ( that I don’t have)  triggers in him a consciousness that might rebuke my notion that interracial relationships amongst Puerto Ricans are somehow without resistance.   No intent of righteousness can pardon me from the reality that in doing so I threaten to co-opt and patronize the struggle of Black latinos.  His idea of preservation might provoke him to protest discovering his sister seeing someone of my complexion.

What I CAN speak to though, is how interracial relationships are informed by nationality when we (regardless of color/race) come over to the states.  And it goes the same for how in a larger scope inter-Latino relationships are emboldened when we come here.  A Puerto Rican living on the island may not imagine he/she can project to be with a Dominican, and vise-versa, but when that same Puerto Rican and that same Dominican comes and lives in New York for five years, we generally find ourselves in the same socio-economic circumstance opposite whites (stratified neighborhood and resources/ prejudices) and the same cultural circumstance opposite African-American Blacks (common language, foods, etc).  Such factors tend to bring us together so that although most second generation Latino Americans remain 100% descended of his/her mother nation, a good many ARE born to a Latino mother and father of different countries.   Then inside of that phenomenon you have the duality of cross-mixing between race unifying across nationality, as well as different races of the same nationality finding love within the nation; and so it goes that Black Puerto Ricans marry Black Dominicans and the more Spaniard leaning Puerto Ricans find love amongst Dominicans of the same phenotype…  while on the other hand a white Puerto Rican who in Puerto Rico may have had little probability of marrying an Afro-Boricua , in New York internalizes a greater probability to marry her because in New York the bottom line is that they are both Puerto Rican!

For Puerto Ricans in New York City, there is an especial history of children born to interracial union with African Americans (and to a lesser but significant degree, even, Italians).  We were really the first dominant Latino group to populate this city (40’s & 60’s), preceded by Cubans but by no comparison in measure.  And of course because we were agricultural and factory workers we settled in the low-income areas of the city Black-Americans had been relegated to in the face of discrimination.  In effect, it was us, and Blacks (with whom we share cultural commonalities per the African influence on the island, in the first place); if you dated outside of the nation the chances are you dated an African American.   It wasn’t until the 80’s that Dominicans began to come in waves, while the 90’s really began to usher in Mexicans and other South and Central Americans.

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In light of the historical and cultural circumstances I’ve just presented, the question of interracial relationships takes on broad consideration for me.  Either way, love is in and of itself the determining factor for whatever union manifest between people.  Love recognizes the universal emotions which so define it, beyond any human construct.   So I do not rule out that I’d date or marry or have a child with someone outside of my race or nationality;  but I can by this point in my life assess that it doesn’t seem very likely I’d be able to bond with a white identified Caucasian.. it doesn’t seem likely I’d grow an affinity for Asian women even (although I do favor Filipinas).   But I bare that on nobody else..  that’s just me.

I do however, encourage anybody who does date outside of their nation or race, to keep firm to the things you hold sacred; and to take into consideration that such things as language/customs/history, are the right of your children to inherit.  That your sharing a life with somebody of a different background by no means should command you to drop your identity or to compromise it, and it is up to you to reinforce these things in your relationship;  have that other person respect and accept you, and vise versa.

🙂

Tone Are

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FOR RELEVANT READING AS IT RELATES TO THE BLACK AMERICAN COMMUNITY, I RECOMMEND YOU SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEW YORK TIMES LINK BELOW:

Marriage has declined throughout our society, but more so for African-Americans, and in particular black women, than anyone else. The shortage of stable and successful black men is a big part of the reason. 

– Stanford Law Professor, Ralph Richard Banks

If a black woman happens to be single, it is not necessarily a commentary on black men as eligible partners or an indication that her ultimate goal is marriage in the traditional sense. Some black women are single by choice. Some are unmarried but are in relationships where they choose to cohabit or live separately. Some don’t exclusively date black men. Some are lesbian, bisexual or transgender and may not be interested in relationships with men at all. Black women are not a monolith. We are diverse, dynamic and have options.

– Angela Stanley of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

A black woman with a postsecondary degree is more likely to be married than a white woman who dropped out of high school. A black woman with a personal annual income of more than $75,000 is more than twice as likely to be married as white women who live in poverty. White women living in New York and Los Angeles have much lower marriage rates than most black women who live in small towns.

– Associate Professor of Psychology at Howard University, Ivory A. Toldson

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/12/20/black-men-for-black-women

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Pee-Wee Patriarchy; an epiphany

It was in the middle of Recess that an epiphany which would not be explained until today,

became of an observation made between the cinder-block walls of a middle school gym in Astoria, a month ago.

On assignment to substitute PE, it was the first time any of the students at Our World Neighborhood Charter School had encountered the burly man I sport a track suit on;  My presence a mere assistance to several other staff persons supervising that period, they swatted by me like I was some discarded couch on the curb ((it wouldn’t be hyperbole to imagine some climbing up on and jumping off of, running and rolling over me)).

*THE ‘they’, It had occurred me at some point in the mix of the organized confusion, wasn’t comprising of them all.   While the girls just as the boys, could’ve given less of a matter about me lurking ajar, they, UNlike the boys, didn’t have me dodging an aimless nerf ball or breaking up play fights on the ground.  There was nary even a parting from the cipher they had wrapped themselves tightly into down the far end of the bench.  There may have been a girl or three participating in one of the basket ball games, but the overwhelming majority of ’em had congregated to brush one another’s hair,  and chat.

I was witnessing a whole ‘nother dynamic than the one I had facilitated supervising k through 3, is what I realized, processing a drastic transition in the inference of gender roles, to the direction our prevailing culture of Womanhood finds itself, positioned in relation to that of men.   After-all, k-3’er girls to my recalling, activate just as much, if not more than the boys do between the time equipment comes out and the whistle blows.

I took that home with me, have carried the dichotomy to subsequent assignments which revealed the same duality:  at around the 5th, 6th, 7th grade level, girls, become ‘girls’ (or, the sexist projection we learn to expect them into).  That was a month ago when ‘it hit me’.  But of course, a man depending on the conditioned perspective of a man, will always lead that man to make such an uninformed assertion…

Well today I was informed!  Girls Preparatory Middle School on the Lower East Side (a school where classes are named after historical icons such as Eleanor Roosavelt and Maya Angelou.  In a building where feminism is a site word binding quotes stretched across the tiles at each turn down the hall).  It was my first day today of what I’ve been promised a subbing gig that will likely run into mid-January.  An all-girls school, where I’ll be teaching Physical Education.  An all-girls school where-in each class past the last it crystallized all the more clear for me my first day

that it was never a matter of girls NATURALLY becoming ‘girls’, .  …But rather, an issue of how there prevail underlying factors that pressure an inverse experience per Men and Women (in this case, girls and boys)  in co-sexed spaces.

In seeing the difference in behavior between the students of these  two schools *I REALLY  GOT*, how these  factors are so profound they re-enforce the expectations of our societal norms, from the moment we are introduced to them as children.  And of course, that’s the conversation on how:  modeled in our homes and communities, from our televisions and radios;  implicit in every custom from a wedding to a half-time football show;  are the do’s and dont’s our children will internalize and act out, in the most typical fashions.

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…THESE junior high aged Sisters, weren’t the Sisters I observed last month!  These girls today were chasing and racing, pushing and pulling, wrestling and shooting the ball around with the freedom of most boys their age…

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Meditate on that for a minute…

Consider what it says about Our World..

Consider what it says about freedom, that the same girl who will hole up in the presence of boys;  subordinate her talents and efforts ___ Flourishes when told that it is all about her.

Consider that maybe we as boys, never have to worry about feeling free to be ___ because from a very young age, where girls are pulled back, we are pushed forth to in the subtlest ways believe, it is all about (we) ?

As a man what role do you see yourself playing in the maturation of the children you encounter in light of these revelations?

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I will leave you with the observation I just shared.  I refrain from delving any deeper because, just as it were a snap and a hmm..  that brought me to such a realization, something brief and anecdotal may spark the same for you. 

But stay tuned to The Brother Man blog because I will definitely be touching back on this subject.

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Before you leave me check out some of the following statistics on single-sex schools:

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(((( National Coalition for Girls Schools and The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA   2009)))

  • Students from single-sex schools are  more likely to engage in group study, with a full 53% of independent single-sex graduates reporting that they study with other students on a frequent basis, compared with 45% among independent coeducational graduates.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of women graduates of independent single-sex schools report frequently or occasionally tutoring other students in high school, compared with 58% among women who attended independent coeducational schools
  • Nearly 60% of women graduates of independent single-sex schools rate themselves “above average” or in the “highest 10 percent” with regard to intellectual self-confidence, compared to 54% of their independent coeducational school counterparts.
  • Women graduates of single- sex schools are more likely than their coeducational counterparts to report that there is a very good chance they will participate in student clubs or groups while they are in college (70% anticipate involvement in campus organizations, compared to 60% of coeducational alumnae).
  • Female graduates of single-sex schools are more likely than their coeducational counterparts to discuss politics in class and with friends. Political engagement is especially strong at independent schools, where 58% of women graduates of single-sex institutions report that it is “very important” or “essential” for them to keep up to date with political affairs, compared to 48% of women graduates of independent coeducational schools.

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