FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF BETWEEN TWO WORLDS


Rev. Pedro Pietri Is On The Other Side by vagabond ©
Rev. Pedro Pietri Is On The Other Side by vagabond ©

“To take you back, I was born in 1898, during the climax of the Spanish/American War. I say 1898 because that was the year that the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico, the year when they colonized us. Now, I was born again in ‘44 to my mother in Ponce, Puerto Rico and again in ’47, at the age of three, when my folks migrated to New York City through the epic of Operation Boot Strap. We’re all part of the casualties of the Inquisition, the American Inquisition.

I also say I was born in 1949, because that’s the day I went to the first theatre with my grandfather, who felt deceived by Operation Boot Strap and committed hara-kiri, but I don’t think it was suicide. He was killed by the system that deceived him, the system that made him sell his land in Borinquen. What happened was the disillusion. The voices in his head were of the Central Intelligence, compelling him to sever his jugular vein. Think about his friends. There’s nobody to talk to, nobody to communicate with, and there’s nothing to go back to, but the industrialization of the island that had deceived so many people. So, that was the first theatre I went to, at Monje’s Funeral Parlor, in a brown suit. Actually, that was my first teaching, or my first awareness of Puerto Rican history. Puerto Ricans die and go to a Puerto Rican funeral parlor. And Monje was a ghoul; he looked like a ghoul. How you going to have the name Monje, and be a proprietor of a funeral parlor? You’ll scare the customers away, but he didn’t scare us away. ”
– Rev. Pedro Pietri
Source La Prensa San Diego 6th, Feb, 2004 

Who the hell is Rev. Pedro Pietri? Rev. Pedro Pierti was one of the original Nuyorican poets. Who were the Nuyorican Poets? The Nuyorican poets were a rag-tag bunch of Puerto Rican who became poets at the literal barrel of US colonialism’s gun. They emerged from the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s living a schizophrenic existence in exile in the mean streets of New York because Puerto Rico is and continues to be a colony of the United States. Schizophrenic because Americans didn’t want them because they were Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricans didn’t want them because now they were Americans. The result of that dual schizophrenic existence became the Nuyorican experience. But because Puerto Ricans are good with a blade these poets carved out a space with words and defined the unreality of what it meant to be Puerto Rican outside of Puerto Rico. In the process of doing that the Nuyorican poets grabbed poetry by the ankles turned it upside down and shook the change out its pockets.

No other poet captured the zeitgeist of the Nuyorican experience like Rev. Pedro Pietri. The proof is in the recipe of his 1974 epic poem, Puerto Rican Obituary. That poem was written in the El Barrio (East Harlem, NYC) apartment of Dylcia Pagan a former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner and prisoner of war. Puerto Rican Obituary took the schizophrenic unreality of Puerto Ricans in the ghettos of New York living in between two worlds while simultaneously living in both and wholeheartedly claimed the validity of it, in all of it’s absurdity rather than rejecting it, in all it’s impossibility. In claiming to be in – and – from two different places at once Puerto Rican Obituary led the charge to fuse the fracture of a split existence. The idea of being in – and – from two places at once is a part of the psychological fallout of colonization. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898 and was a colony of Spain for almost 400 years before that. What Rev. Pedro Pietri and the other Nuyorican Poets did was painfully, playfully and poetically work through the fracture of being colonized and fuse together a mismatched unreality to recreate what it meant to be Puerto Rican within a fractured colonized existence. Check out this excerpt of Rev. Pedro Pietri reciting Puerto Rican Obituary…

http://youtu.be/3yTWS1M6NhI

Rev. Pedro Pietri’s poetry could be described as surreal dadaism from the streets. His poetry is filled with resolving the conflicting unreality of living here and there at the same time and in the same space. He flipped the polarizing effects of opposing ideas and made them attract. He used what seemed like nonsense to make sense of a world that’s never made sense. To understand what i’m talking about here is a poem from Rev. Pedro Pietri called Traffic Misdirector from his book Traffic Violations…

TRAFFIC MISDIRECTOR
the greatest living poet
in new york city
was born in Puerto Rico
his name is Jorge Brandon
he is 70 years old
he carries his metaphor
in brown shopping bags
inside steel shopping cart
he travels around with
on the streets of manhattan
he recites his poetry
to whoever listens
& when nobody is around
he recites to himself
he speaks the wisdom
of unforgotten palm trees
the vocabulary of coconuts
that wear overcoats
the traffic lights
of his poems function
without the boring advice
from ac or dc current
book stores & libraries
are deprived of his vibes
to become familiar
with this immortal poet
you have to hang-out
on  street corners
building stoops rooftops
fire escapes bars parks
subway train stations
bodegas botanicas
iglesias pawn shops
card games cock fights
funerals valencia bakery
hunts point palace
pool halls orchard beach
& cuchifrito stands
on the lower east side
the admission is free
his presence is poetry

In 2004 the good right Rev. Pedro Pietri died of stomach cancer which he felt was attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange when he was drafted into the Vietnam War. He may have flipped over to the flip side of life but his vibe and his influences can still be felt on this side…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1yy

March 1st 1954


BLUE LOLITA STAR RICANSTRUCTED by vagabond ©
BLUE LOLITA STAR RICANSTRUCTED by vagabond ©

In the years following World War II the colonized nations who had fought and died alongside the imperial Allied powers began seeking independence and Puerto Rico was no exception. The US government was not interested in giving up Puerto Rico but it also didn’t want to be seen as a colonial power in the eyes of the world. In 1947 the US Congress passed a law allowing Puerto Ricans the ability to vote for their own governor. As the US Congress allowed Puerto Ricans the right to vote for their own governor they passed a gag law in 1948 known as Ley de la Mordaza. It made flying or displaying the Puerto Rican flag illegal and barred anyone from speaking, printing, publishing, organizing or advocating for independence. In 1949 Luis Muñoz Marin was elected the first Puerto Rican governor. The leader of the Nationalist Party Don Pedro Albizu Campos saw this governorship as a means of having Puerto Ricans administer US colonial interests.

As governor Luis Muñoz Marin immediately endorsed a proposal known as “Free Associated State” to try to get as much autonomy for the island as possible. “Free Associated State” granted some autonomy over Puerto Rico but nowhere near complete autonomy. Albizu Campos, the Nationalists Party and other independence supporters all agreed that “Free Associated State” simply put a Puerto Rican face on US colonialism. In response to all these developments Albizu Campos and the Nationalists Party began to plan an island wide insurrection. On October 30th of 1950 in the towns of Jayuya, Utuado, Arecibo, Ponce, San Juan, Mayagüez, Naranjito and Peñuelas there was an open armed revolution to rid Puerto Rico of the US imperialism it had suffered under since the Spanish American War of 1898. The revolution failed and Albizu and hundreds of other Nationalists were rounded up and arrested.

In 1952 the US Congress ratified “Free Associated State” status for Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico has existed in this very confusing and very nebulous state since then. While in prison for his role in calling for and leading the revolution of 1950, Albizu began writing a young Puerto Rican Nationalist woman named Lolita Lebron. In that correspondence he asked Lolita to lead an attack on the US Congress. She accepted the mission and along with Raphael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrès Figueroa she led an attack on the US Congress on March 1st of 1954. The date was chosen because it was the first day of the Interamerican Conference in Caracas, Venezuela and the attack was meant to draw international attention to Puerto Rico’s plight as a US colony especially to the Latin American nations meeting in Caracas.

Lolita, Rafa, Irving and Andrés got into the visitor’s galley of the Congress as it was in session. Lolita unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and screamed “¡Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” – Long Live A Free Puerto Rico! then the group shot into the Congress. Five Congressmen were wounded in the attack and the four Nationalists were captured. When Lolita was asked if it was her intention to kill she replied, “I didn’t come to kill, I came to die.”

Lolita, Rafa, Irving and Andrés all served 25 years in prison for the attack. At that time Lolita Lebron was the longest held female political prisoner in the world, a fact that did not go unnoticed during the Cold War. In 1979 President Jimmy Carter pardoned the Lolita Lebron and the other Nationalists after and a long and lengthy international campaign to free them. Carlos Romero Barceló the then governor of Puerto Rico was opposed to the pardon claiming that it would only encourage further acts of “terrorism” on the Puerto Rican government and US interests on the island. When the Nationalists returned home they were received as national heroes, much to Barceló’s chagrin.

Throughout the history of Puerto Rico’s long and complex colonial relationship with the US government  there have been many of these uprisings that, at the time of these actions, seem to receive very little support from Puerto Ricans. Yet the Puerto Rican people have always supported their political prisoners and have had an outstanding track record of garnering global support for them that has brought pressure to bear on the US government to free Puerto Rican political prisoners time and time again. If Puerto Ricans don’t want independence from the US then why do they want independence for the political prisoners and prisoners of war who fight to free Puerto Rico from US colonialism?

There have also historically always been massive outpourings of support for these independence leaders when they die. Many Puerto Ricans agreed with the ideas of the Filiberto Ojeda Rios, the independence leader assassinated by the FBI in 2005, even if they didn’t agree with his decision to use violence as a means of expressing those ideas. Puerto Ricans felt that Filiberto was worthy of their admiration. Filiberto’s funeral procession was the longest in Puerto Rican history. The same could be said for Lolita Lebron. When she passed away in August of 2010 it wasn’t only the so-called minority of Puerto Rican’s who want independence that mourned her passing but the whole Puerto Rico nation that mourned. It was also the Puerto Rican diaspora that mourned as well as the international community that has always supported Puerto Rico’s independence. Many will say that the violent actions taken by Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrés Figueroa on March 1st of 1954 can’t advance the cause of Puerto Rican independence but history has proven that this argument doesn’t hold up…

BLUE LOLITA STAR RICANSTRUCTED by vagabond ©
BLUE LOLITA STAR RICANSTRUCTED by vagabond ©
Flea wears a Lolita Lebrón RICANSTRUCTED T-shirt
Flea wears a Lolita Lebrón RICANSTRUCTED T-shirt
www.ricanstructed.spreadshirt.com
http://www.ricanstructed.spreadshirt.com

The images of Lolita Lebron above are available as T-shirt’s and as 1″ button from my design company RICANSTRUCTED. There are other designs that can be found there of other Puerto Rican independence leaders there as well… You don’t need to believe in Puerto Rican independence to wear a shirt with an independence leader on it like you don’t have to be Argentinian or Cuban to wear a Che T-shirt… Show your support for the independence of Puerto Rico and get yourself a RICANSTRUCTED shirt…

RICANSTRUCTED RED KNOCKOUT

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-Xu

The Rising Phoenix of Malcolm


From Little to X to Shabazz by vagabond ©
From Little to X to Shabazz by vagabond ©

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.” - Malcolm X

From son to orphan to hustler to convict to revolutionary, the constant and consistent personal rise of Malcolm is what made his ideas so politically dangerous. If the sum of his life were just his political work it would be brilliant enough, but his personal life gave his politics a greater gravitas. When Malcolm spoke of oppression he wasn’t just speaking from some far off detached perspective that had to imagine the full spectrum of that oppression but spoke from the physical wretchedness of personal experience. A personal experience of oppression that he wasn’t supposed to survive much less conquer.

His life is an epic poem that encompassed the full arc of possibilities. From those early years when the agents of oppression burned his family’s home, to the murder of his outspoken father, to the scattering of his family after his mother went mad from it all, Malcolm was forged in the fire. From the orphanages, to the streets, to the prison and the pulpit Malcolm was in the process of not allowing his oppressor to define him. From his tour of African nations and African leaders to his pilgrimage to Mecca his metamorphosis seemed to never cease. He reversed the polarities of macrocosm and microcosm. Turning the machinations of his personal life into a grand microcosm of political oppression and using it like a weapon in his political life as a minor macrocosm to feed his ongoing metamorphosis. It was this process of defining and redefining himself to both his oppressors and the oppressed in which Malcolm declared his victories.

In Egyptian mythology the Phoenix rises from the ashes of the fire. It recreates itself, gives birth to itself from within the adversity that’s tried to destroy it. Each time it falls, it rises and it rises from it’s own will. It’s the cycle of life and death and life. Malcolm was a Phoenix rising from the ashes of his home, from the death of his father, from the oppression induced madness of his mother, from the orphanages and schools that furthered that oppression from the streets where he hustled, from the prison where he studied, from the pulpit where he preached, from the betrayal of his mentor, from the pilgrimage of his faith… Malcolm rose again and again like a Phoenix giving birth to itself, refusing to cool in the ashes… Malcolm isn’t dead… his life is a shining example that finds new life as we rise from the ashes of a fire that tries to destroy us and fails time and time again…

Shorlink: – http://wp.me/p1eniL-JS

Rust In Piss NYC


Williamsburg Bridge circe 1996 by vagabond ©
Williamsburg Bridge circe 1996 by vagabond ©

rust in piss nyc

the displacement creeps up slowly at first
like a pretty vine that eventually cracks the facade
this isn’t the place that nurtured me as it tried killing me
and rewarded us when we found ways to do more than survive
it’s no longer that place

it’s no longer the place we grew up in
our pride can only be placed in the past
the present is no gift and the future doesn’t want us
everywhere i go it’s the same
this alienation this feeling of un-belonging

nothing to claim as your own because what you claim
is out of style out of fashion out of vogue out of time
no place to claim as your own because it’s all changed itself
to be something for someone else

disowned disavowed displaced

this city once belonged to those strong enough
to claim squatters rights to the ruins
because there was beauty to be found in the rubble
because it was part-time art and full-time living
because we filled the abandoned with play and creation
because we could thrive among the decay
until the decay and all that lived in it
and all that it gave to imagination was given an eviction notice

what was once yours because it was no ones and everyones
now belongs to someone else
what you thought would always be yours
because it was no ones and everyones
has been sold to the highest bidder
and the open source dreams we built from living within the debris
have been bulldozed for pre-fabricated dreams
that come with closing contracts and first last and security

you only owned the blood you spilled here until you spilled it
you only owned the saliva you spit here until it hit pavement
you only owned the piss you took here until it wet the cornerstone
we only had the idea and the ideal we never had the deed
and without the deed you only own the memories
and memories don’t pay bank notes

even vagabonds need to be from somewhere
what will i say when they ask
my answers will be mythology
my stories will be artifacts in a museum
the way of being that i grew up with
shaped by a place that no longer exists
all of it will be ethnography anthropology archeology

we survived the extinction of this place
only to record what once was
we survived the extinguishing of the fire
only to feel the cold
we survived the execution of these streets
only to breathe life into ghosts as they pass through us

the broken glass glistening like fake diamonds swept
the rough texture of years smoothed
and the vibrant aerosol colors of memorials drained
these few remaining familiar faces dying
surrounded by strangeness without ever having moved
surrounded by the unfamiliar without ever having left
to be replaced with the tenants of the ahistorical
maybe it’s only an intoxicating nostalgia
or a yearning for an anarchism that left us to our own devices
but you can’t blame us for
wishing that it would all rust in piss once again

– vagabond

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-BW

DOIN’ THE NUYORICAN THING


DOIN' THE NUYORICAN THING by vagabond ©
DOIN’ THE NUYORICAN THING by vagabond ©

Last year i shot a book video for Sam Diaz Carrion’s book Our Nuyorican Thing: The Birth Of A Self-Made Identity. i never got around to actually cutting it though and i felt bad because Sam’s an amazing person, a completely underrated poet that could easily be forgotten and this video was my way of making sure that he wasn’t forgotten or cast aside or ignored… Part of the reason i had such a hard time with the edit was because Sam was tackling a huge subject. He was trying to define something that as he says has no borders or flag or definition… He was going toe to toe with the idea or term Nuyorican…

Sam Diaz used to work at the Nuyorican Poets Café in the Lower East Side of NYC. He would often be asked about what a Nuyorican is… In a series of poems and stories from Sam’s new book Our Nuyorican Thing: The Birth of A Self-Made identity, published by 2Leaf Press, Sam explores the self-made identity that is Nuyorican… Both the shooting and the edit were difficult because i was trying to condense Sam’s ideas on the Nuyorican phenomenon and it was difficult to get to the essence of things down to the compact form that it eventually took shape in the final cut… His book is available on Amazon and of course is well worth getting…

Check the video…

OUR NUYORICAN THING COVER

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1xy

#GIFT4OSCAR


FREE OSCAR by vagabond ©
FREE OSCAR by vagabond ©

Today is 3 Kings Day… It’s also US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Oscar Lopez Rivera’s birthday. He’s 72 years old. For 33 of those years he’s been in US prisons as the longest held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war. ‪#‎FREEOSCARLOPEZNOW‬

There is a Twitter campaign going on right now to pressure US President Barak Obama to free Oscar Lopez Rivera. This campaign is being dubbed #Gift4Oscar in which people create a salvo of art, music, writings, videos, and tweets to #FreeOscarLopezRiveraNow in an effort to educate people about Oscar Lopez Rivera and to help bring about his freedom. Over the years i have done various pieces of art for Oscar’s freedom… This is my ‪#‎Gift4Oscar‬

You’ll notice one of the pieces is the cover of a ‘zine that the RICANSTRUCTION Network did called SALVO which featured Oscar on the cover along with an essay from him on art and prison. You can download a PDF copy of the ‘zine at the Audio Visual Terrorism blog.

These pieces are free to use for the struggle towards his release… i only ask the proper credit be given…

by vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1xo

A CINEMA OF UNDERSTANDING


The first version of the MACHETERO poster by vagabond ©
The first version of the MACHETERO poster by vagabond ©

“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” – Martin Scorsese

My father was a big jazz fanatic. Growing up in my house meant listening to jazz, a lot of it (much to my mother’s chagrin who was no fan of be-bop and couldn’t stand free jazz). The truth is that i didn’t understand be-bop either but watching the way my father listened to Miles, Bird, Mingus, Trane, Diz and Monk i realized that this was important. He listened with an intensity and a kind of reverence. He used to listen to jazz historian, archivist and DJ Phil Schaap on 89.9FM WKCR in New York. Phil Schaap spoke about jazz with the fervor of a tent revival preacher that made you want to accept Jazz as your personal savior. My father would add his own commentary to Phil Schaap as we listened not really talking to me per se but talking out loud for me to hear and in looking back now that commentary cemented this idea that all great things have a genesis.

i couldn’t understand half of what was going on at the time but what i did take away from all of it was that there was a hidden history that existed in the genius of things and that the geniuses who created were leaving bread crumbs that led back to the past as they moved in to the future. So at 17 when i first decided that i wanted to make films i started to do research. If my future was going to be in cinema then i needed to go back into cinemas history in order to see where i wanted to take it.

One of the people i studied (and still study today) is Martin Scorsese. Today is his birthday and i came across this quote…

“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” – Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese

Beyond celebrity culture, beyond opening weekend box office numbers, beyond the hype, the red carpets, the glitz and the pretty lights… cinema is art… and art is a means of wrestling with the human condition. When i started to make MACHETERO that’s what i was trying to do. i was trying to get the human condition down as it relates to the colonized and the colonizer using the specific example of something i knew a lot about, the colonization of Puerto Rico by the United States.

Filmmaking for me has to be fun. i always have a saying with the friends who happen to be my collaborators on set “If we aren’t having fun, then its not worth doing…”. We had fun making MACHETERO. It was a lot of work but we laughed and we joked and kept our sense of humor. It was that laughter and joking and humor that made making MACHETERO a labour of love.

My initial conscious reaction to the Scorsese quote was that i had made MACHETERO to open up a dialogue, a debate, and a discussion about this colonial condition that had become a part of our human condition. To ask the hard questions, to pull no punches, to face the consequences of our decisions and to understand why we had taken them in the first place. However subconsciously it reminded of the of the responsibility that i carried for this film. For many people MACHETERO could be the first time they hear about the 100 plus year-old Puerto Rican colonial condition with the United States and the weight of that sat with me as i’m sure it did with everyone else (to varying degrees) who worked on the film. Not4Prophet (the actor who played Pedro Taino) and i had many conversations about this and i know that this responsibility weighted heavily on him as well. i wrestled with quite a few things in the making of this film, weighed down by the history, weighed down by the fact that this story had not been told in this way before.

When i decided to talk about the issue of Puerto Rico’s colonization by the United States i decided to do it in a film. When i set out to make MACHETERO i felt the same way that Scorsese felt. The world needed to know about the Puerto Rican colonial situation, they need to hear it and understand it and see it and cinema was the best way to do this. i think that making a film is only the beginning of the conversation and that those who watch it are continuing that conversation. i know that the conversation continues past the roll of the credits and spills into the streets and seeps into the collective consciousness and one of the things that i’m very proud of is that because of MACHETERO people are talking about the Puerto Rican colonial condition. Whether or not people like the film or agree with the views it presents people have better understanding of what’s going on because i chose to use cinema to communicate these very complex ideas.

My scrappy little film made on the frayed edges of a shoestring is changing consciousness because cinema is more than a business, it’s art and art is the struggle to express and share the human condition with others. Cinema is the best way to seep into the collective consciousness. If you don’t believe me, ask Martin Scorsese…

“People have to start talking to know more about other cultures and to understand each other.”  – Martin Scorsese

PS – Happy personal new year Marty…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-go

100 Fires


100 Fires by vagabond ©
100 Fires by vagabond ©

100 fires
(for Camilo Cienfuegos)
February 6, 1932 – October 28, 1959

we fight today
so we can dance tomorrow

we reject this history that marginalizes us
we prefer to rewrite it with ourselves as the heroes
the bullets flying past our heads
headlong into the danger without hesitation

we fight today
so we can drink tomorrow

the fear kept us compliant
but the joy of defiance is intoxicating
as we charge death now with a smile
awake in knowing

we fight today
so we can tell the stories tomorrow

and this new found courage
sparks a doubt that lights 100 fires
and burns down everything
that ever stood in our way

we fight today
so we can love tomorrow

100 fires to remind us of what was
and what could be
the phoenix of the future burns bright
in the ashes of the past

we fight today
so we can laugh tomorrow

100 fires burning a hole
where our uncertainty resides
the embers floating upward
carried on the smoke of our oppressors bones

– vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1ww

WHO’S READY?


Right-Side-Up

Who’s ready?

Who’s ready to rip the throats of politicians to silence the lie and clear the air of the noise pollution so the voiceless can be heard…?

Who’s ready to liberate the airwave frequencies of the toxic fascism of fear and financial profits…?

Who’s ready the bite the hand that sustains our hunger…?

Who’s ready to stop taking the medicine that’s making us sick…?

Who’s ready to feed bankers silver spoons either in liquid or solid form, we’ll let them decide…?

Who’s ready to make the cops come out with their hands up…?

Who’s ready to surround theses many Jericho prisons and blow horns for seven days until the walls come tumbling down…?

Who’s ready to level the playing field by swinging a wrecking ball into stock exchanges and driving bulldozers across banks…?

Who’s ready to light a match to the money that’s been blocking the warmth & the light of the sun…?

Who’s ready to pull back the curtain to light up and disinfect the bleak future that’s hobbling in with a bad cough…?

Anyone…?

Anyone…?

Anyone…?

Don’t worry this isn’t an indictment of you, i’m not an armchair revolutionary poet, i’m afraid too, of what they can do…

We know the future fear is greater in comparison to the present fear but i guess it’s not a sure thing until it’s too late…

But when will our future fear, surpass the present fear?

What will it take for our future fear to give us a present courage?

- vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1wc

less than ideal art and ideas for a less than ideal world…

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