Tag Archives: Prisoners of War

THE PUERTO RICAN MANDELA


The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©
The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©

A few weeks ago i was asked by Benjamin Ramos of Pro-Libertad, an organization dedicated to the freedom of Puerto Rican political prisoners, to design a poster for US held Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera. For those who don’t know Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898. For more on that whole situation check this out… Ever since it’s colonization there’s been a resistance movement to liberate Puerto Rico from the US to quote Malcolm X “…by any and all means necessary”. Some of those means have included armed struggle which is the right of colonized peoples in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples under UN Resolution 1514.

Oscar Lopez Rivera is a freedom fighter not unlike the most famous political prisoner in the world, Nelson Mandela. Oscar is 72 and has been in prison since 1981, that’s almost half his life. He was charged, convicted and sentenced to 70 years for the crime of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government. Contrary to the lies and misinformation fed by the US government and the corporate media Oscar is not charged with killing or maiming anyone. He is charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government.

After i designed the image above Benjamin asked if i knew anyone who could print some posters and postcards. i reached out to the worker owned union shop of offset printers, Radix Media. i worked closely with Lantz Arroyo and he was able to print a run of 11″x17″ posters and 4″x6″ postcards of the image…

Puerto Rican Mandela posters
Puerto Rican Mandela posters

Some of the posters will be used as media to help spread the word about Oscar and some will be for sale with the proceeds going towards Oscar’s commissary. If you’re looking to try and get one let me know and we’ll work something out. i imagine Oscar will use some of those funds we raise to get art supplies since he is a painter. Check out some of Oscar’s work here…

The international campaign to free Oscar Lopez Rivera is asking people to call both the White House and demand that Oscar Lopez Rivera be released unconditionally. Call President Obama at 202-456-1111 and leave a message!  Let him know that Oscar Lopez Rivera has been in prison for too long and deserves to go home!  

Sample Message for your phone call:
President Obama, I ask that you free Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera.  Since 1981, he has been in jail for fighting for Puerto Rican independence; he never committed a violent crime and has been a model prisoner.  I ask that you follow in the foot steps of Presidents Truman, Carter, and Clinton, who freed other Puerto Rican activists, and set Oscar free!

For more info on Oscar Lopez Rivera the video below is from Democracy Now and gives some more detailed information on both Oscar and the campaign to free him…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1A9

#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

The Liberation Day Tapes


[vimeo 107782689 w=600&h=446]

The genome of my six-time international award-winning feature film MACHETERO can be mapped right back to the NYC hardcore Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION and their first album Liberation Day. When i write i often build a soundtrack to use as an emotional roadmap to guide me through the construction of the script. i often see songs as short stories or reinterpret them as short stories and i take those short stories and try to include them in my writing process.

MACHETERO is a film about terrorism and terrorists and how those terms are defined and by whom. The script was written a year after the terrorist events of September 11, 2001. i was waiting for a more nuanced analysis of those events to take place on a larger scale but they never did and so i wrote the script for MACHETERO and decided to explore those issues in a film. The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 were polarizing and so referencing them in the script seemed counterproductive so i decided to use the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence and the use of violence in that struggle as a means of liberation to talk about terrorism and terrorists.

[vimeo 75167575 w=600&h=338]

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day was a concept album based around the Puerto Rican independence struggle. So when i was looking for music to inspire my scriptwriting for MACHETERO i was immediately drawn to Liberation Day. The songs from Liberation Day started to insinuate themselves into the script and they eventually became a part of the structure of the film.

At the end of the final sound mix for MACHETERO my friend and fellow filmmaker Omar came by and brought his camera to interview Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez about how Liberation Day came into being. Artie and Joey talk about how RICANSTRUCTION came about and how the concept for Liberation Day took shape. Arturo and Joseph talk about the ideas and the creation of each song and afterward there is the corresponding scene from MACHETERO.

Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION
Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day is available on iTunes and i highly recommend picking it up. You can hear all the influences of Jazz, Funk, Salsa, Hip hop, Reggae and Merengue placed into a hardcore punk setting in the music of RICANSTRUCTION. The rest of their catalog – the EP Abu Jamal and their 2nd album Love + Revolution are also on iTunes.

You can watch The Liberation Day Tapes on the Vimeo On Demand page for MACHETERO. The Liberation Day Tapes are part of a collection of extra videos that give some background information on the film and that are free to watch. There is also a radio interview i did with Chuck D about the film and an interview i did with Sam Greenlee the author and co-screenwriter of The Spook Who Sat By The Door. There is also a scene from the film featuring former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Dylcia Pagan who plays a pivotal role in the film.

Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand
Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1sT

Memorial Day


It’s Memorial Day… Remember those who fell fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico… Remember those who sacrificed decades in prison for your freedom…

Some of these images are available as T-shirts from RICANSTRUCTED

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1na

2013 A Record of Rebellion


In an effort to catalogue my creative output over the past year i’m posting the various projects that came to fruition in 2013. i produced, directed and edited three documentary web series. The idea for these web series came about when i wanted to create a record of a history that i felt wasn’t being recorded for future generations. i wanted to create a record of rebels and their rebellions and hear it from those who had to live through it. More of these histories in the form of web series are coming in 2014.

For the few folks out there who appreciate watching things longer than 5 minutes online i have compiled each of the web series into single videos. If you want to see the original web series as they were released you can click on the links to be connected to the complete series.

AN ONGOING COST TO BE FREE

The first one was An On Going Cost To Be Free, an 11-part series on current US held Black Unity Council & Black Liberation Army political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz who has been in prison for over 40 years. He’s served over 20 years of that time in isolation where the lights in his cell are never turned off and he’s allowed one hour of exercise a day in another small cage. i interviewed his son Russell Shoatz III initially to get the perspective of what it must be like to have grown up with your father as a political prisoner. The interview became larger in scope and became the detailed story of Russell Maroon Shoatz and his incredible strength through the trials and tribulations of his imprisonment.

SACRIFICE WITHOUT HESITATION

The second web series was Sacrifice Without Hesitation a five-part series on Luis Rosa a former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war who served 20 years in US prisons. Luis was a member of the FALN Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation) a clandestine armed organization that fought to free Puerto Rico from US colonialism. In 1999 Luis was pardoned by then President Clinton. In Sacrifice Without Hesitation he tells his story of how he became politicized, his arrest, his imprisonment and subsequent freedom.

JOHN PENLEY: ANARCHO-YIPPIE

The third web series was John Penley: Anarcho-Yippie a six-part series on my friend John Penley. John was a freelance photojournalist who documented NYC’s Lower East Side counter-culture movement for two decades. He donated his archive of 30,000 images to NYU’s Tamiment Library. After losing his job and his home he joined the Occupy movement and lived on the streets protesting. In the winter of 2013 he decide to protest NYU’s rampant expansion plans that are accelerating gentrification. During the day he worked on his archive at the library and at night slept outside of the library on the sidewalk by night in the cold, wet and snow while the archive he donated to their library was safe, warm and dry. i spoke to John about his life, his work, his politics, his protest with NYU and NYC’s larger gentrification issues and his unique point of view on the future.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1go

Oscar Lopez Rivera And MACHETERO


Wanted Free And Alive by vagabond ©
Wanted Free And Alive by vagabond ©

“but it is all for others and nothing for yourself expect no rewards…
for the machetero there is only the prison or the cemetery
your reward is a good death…”
– Pedro Taino
from the Anti-Manifesto: A Mini Manual For The Modern Day Machetero

Although my film MACHETERO is a work of fiction i wanted the film to be based on real people and real situations. When i was looking for someone to base the character of Pedro Taino on, one of the people i looked to was Oscar Lopez Rivera. Oscar is a US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war, charged with sedition and sentenced to 70 years. Puerto Rico has been a colony since 1898 when it defeated the Spanish in the Spanish-American War and took the island of Puerto Rico as war reparations. Oscar was part of the clandestine armed resistance known as the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional – Armed Forces of National Liberation). The FALN believed that Puerto Ricans had the right to extricate themselves from the yoke of US colonialism by any means necessary, as made clear by UN resolution 1514 on the rights of colonized nations.

When Oscar was captured in 1980 he took a prisoner of war status during his trial and refused to recognize the US as having any legitimate power over him. He refused to take part in the trial outside of an opening statement explaining the colonial situation of Puerto Rico and his own status as a Puerto Rican political prisoner of war. It must be a strange thing to be charged with sedition by a country that’s imposed its power over you. A country that you don’t recognize as having any legitimate power over you. A country that not only imposes its power and will over you but also imposes its will and power over the nation you fight to free.

Today marks the thirty-second year that Oscar is in prison. He is the longest US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war. The irony of Oscar’s situation is not lost on anyone who even takes a precursory look at Oscar’s life or at the history of US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Oscar Lopez Rivera is Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico is Oscar Lopez Rivera. It’s got to be unimaginably difficult to be a living symbol that most don’t want to pay attention to. It’s got to be unimaginably difficult to have your life reduced to that of a living martyr by both the US government that labels you a “terrorist” and to many Puerto Ricans who are reluctant to call him a hero and support him or his cause, much less follow his example.

The very nature of US colonialism is that those who step up and defy their power must be made an example to anyone else thinking of doing the same so the threat of prison or an early grave is by its very nature an apparatus that ensures the colonial condition in Puerto Rico. It’s not an easy example to follow, to sacrifice ones life for others is never easy. Those are the realities that someone like Oscar faces and unfortunately those are the realities that all Puerto Ricans face when they decide to follow in Oscar’s footsteps.

The character of Pedro Taino in my film MACHETERO had to be someone who was driven to go to the extreme but not in an effort to be an extremist but in an effort to be a reflection of the extremism that he and his people were suffering under. In my own humble opinion i think that this is what Oscar was trying to do. It’s also the crux of what i’m trying to say in my film MACHETERO. The first thing that happens when the oppressor is attacked from below is cry “terrorism” and “terrorist” and a propaganda campaign is unleashed to wash the sins of the oppressor and paint the oppressed as an “extremist”. In the case of Oscar the inverse is true. Oscar is a freedom fighter, the terrorism isn’t coming from Oscar the terrorism comes from US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Oscar’s struggle is one in which he’s chosen to take on the very heavy burden of embodying not just Puerto Rican resistance to US colonialism but also the reality of US colonialism in Puerto Rico…

More than a few people who have seen MACHETERO have said that some of the characteristics of Pedro Taino reminds them of Oscar Lopez Rivera. i just wanted to say that this is by design. i also wanted to say that this is also the burden of shame that we carry in having someone who is as talented and capable as Oscar spend 32 years of his life and counting… in a prison embodying the colonial situation of Puerto Rico to a world that for the most part continues to ignore him. It’s been 32 years… maybe it’s about time the world paid attention to Oscar and in doing so take notice of US colonialism in Puerto Rico.

To see what you can do to help free Oscar Lopez Rivera check these links below…
Sign the Petition President Obama for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera
Boricua Human Rights Network
Pro-Libertad Freedom Campaign

MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.

WED. JUNE 12TH – TUES JUNE 19TH
CLEMENTE SOTO VELEZ
KABAYITO’S THEATER (2ND FLOOR)
107 SUFFOLK STREET
NY NY 10002
(BTWN RIVINGTON & DELANCEY)

TICKETS $10 http://machetero.bpt.me
SCREENING TIMES • 1PM • 3PM • 5PM • 7PM • 9PM
F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.

MACHETERO Poster by vagabond ©
MACHETERO Poster by vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-15j

The Liberation Day Tapes: Liberation Day


MACHETERO & RICANSTRUCTION (Fidel Paulino, Joseph Rodriguez, Arturo Rodriguez & Not4Prophet)
MACHETERO & RICANSTRUCTION (Fidel Paulino, Joseph Rodriguez, Arturo Rodriguez & Not4Prophet)

The genome of my film MACHETERO can be mapped right back to the NYC hardcore Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION and their first album Liberation Day. When i write i often build a soundtrack to use as an emotional roadmap to guide me through the construction of the script. i often see songs as short stories or reinterpret them as short stories and i take those short stories and try to include them in my writing process.

MACHETERO is a film about terrorism and terrorists and how those terms are defined and by whom. The script was written a year after the terrorist events of September 11, 2001. i was waiting for a more nuanced analysis of those events to take place on a larger scale but they never did and so i wrote the script for MACHETERO and decided to explore those issues in a film. The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 were polarizing and so referencing them in the script seemed counterproductive so i decided to use the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence and the use of violence in that struggle as a means of liberation to talk about terrorism and terrorists.

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day was a concept album based around the Puerto Rican independence struggle. So when i was looking for music to inspire my scriptwriting for MACHETERO i was immediately drawn to Liberation Day. The songs from Liberation Day started to insinuate themselves into the script and they eventually became a part of the structure of the film.

At the end of the final mix for MACHETERO my friend and fellow filmmaker Omar came by and brought his camera to interview Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez about how Liberation Day came into being. Artie and Joey talk about how RICANSTRUCTION came about and how the concept for Liberation Day took shape. In this segment they talk specifically about the song Liberation Day which is a probably the first Hardcore Punk Merengue ever created and recorded. After the interview there is the scene from MACHETERO that used the song Liberation Day.

Liberation Day is available on iTunes

Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION
Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION

MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.

WED. JUNE 12TH – TUES JUNE 19TH
CLEMENTE SOTO VELEZ
KABAYITO’S THEATER (2ND FLOOR)
107 SUFFOLK STREET
NY NY 10002
(BTWN RIVINGTON & DELANCEY)

TICKETS $10
SCREENING TIMES • 1PM • 3PM • 5PM • 7PM • 9PM
F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.

http://vimeo.com/vgbnd/machetero-2-min-trailer

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-11l