Google Video pick of the week #015


Depending on where you grew up —- say, from the middle school years through high school years — you probably didn´t know a lot of Black kids who were into punk rock.  Not to get all Bill Cosby on you or anything, but when you grow up in certain neighborhoods, falling outside the ¨norm¨ just isn´t tolerated. There´s a whole sect of brothers who think Hendrix is some really exotic stuff, not socially accepted on some corners.

Whatever, homie.

It´s all connected to the same vibe, the same origins and the same angst and rebellion, según yo. That´s why I like this week´s pick, James Spooner´s documentary, Afro-Punk (2003 ). While it´s a bit obvious in places,  I felt it suffered from poor pacing. There were a lot of voices involved in the doc, and some great punk rock artists. It´s most astute on issues related to being Black in a punk environment, tackling some important topics such as the question of Blackness. How can Black kids in Southern California, New York City, Cleveland and Detroit, who are into punk somehow be considered ¨less Black¨? Like in my N.J. town, why do they get beat up and picked on, as they walk from school to their homes, wearing a Bad Brains, Slayer or Metallica shirt, in predominantly Black neighborhoods? Not sure if that still counts with today´s version of those same bullying kids, wearing colorful skinny jeans. Kind of balances things out.

Via the Google Video link:

Afro-Punk features performances by Bad Brains, Tamar Kali, Cipher, and Ten Grand. It also contains exclusive interviews by members of Fishbone, 24-7 Spyz, Dead Kennedys, Candiria, Orange 9mm and TV on the Radio, among others.

Spooner continues his involvement in the Afro-Punk space with a festival in Brooklyn. Check out coverage from last week´s Afro-Punk Festival in the NYT, SPIN, and NY Press.

For a more lighthearted take on what it means to be a punk outsider, watch SLC Punk! (1998).

Post-race in the Americas III.5


Blackface is dated. Bamboozled (2000) showed us that.  Images of blackness — from what I´ve seen in Mexico City media during the World Cup — are stuck on some tired stereotypes. As many people of African descent who speak Spanish, the makers of this ad could´ve done a lot better than this.

Above, a SKY broadcast of an Infinitum commercial pegged to the World Cup. In it, a man in blackface acts as an African school teacher, giving a language lesson about one of Carlos Slim´s Internet offerings. After the lesson, little African children come out and dance around the teacher´s desk; happy about their new broadband connection, or something like that.

Infinitum is the broadband arm of Slim´s multi-billion dollar Mexican communications empire.

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Cotton Club Legend

Hand me a late pass, but I would’ve felt remiss if I didn’t dedicate a few blog lines and Youtube clips to this month’s passing of the great Lena Horne.

L.A. culture crit, Ernest Hardy, dedicated a moving and quote-filled post to the lady on his blog, Blood Beats.

For me, she was a face I was most familiar with in the late 70s and early 80s, via episodes of the Muppet Show and the Cosby Show (I was one of those kiddies raised in front of the tube). I figured why not share that cultural memory, while these clips are still available.

The Cosby Show (1985) “Cliff’s Birthday”

Muppet Show Season 1, Episode 11-Lena Horne

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Machete vs SB1070

I enjoy seeing popular entertainment take a stand against injustice.

Last week, Robert Rodriguez released a mock trailer for his upcoming “Mexploitation” film, Machete, and aimed it directly at the home state of SB1070.

One thing that popped out at me was the Jessica Alba  line near the end:

“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”

It also struck a chord with a lot of Spanish-language media. And that was perhaps because it sounded like a line from a 2001 Los Tigeres Del Norte song, “Somos Mas Americanos“.

“Yo no cruce la frontera, la frontera me cruzó”

Here are the translated lyrics to the song.

Of course, me…I immediatley thought of  the Malcolm X line:

We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, the rock was landed on us.”

You can see it below. As you do, think of what’s going on in Arizona, and the plight of poor people who go there for work, for better opportunities; and then think about what SB1070 is trying to do. Reminds you a little of Jim Crow. Doesn’t it?

Here’s the Denzel version (starts at 07:18-07:32)

Shouts to Cypress Hill for cancelling their May 21 show in Tuscon in protest.

Google Video pick of the week #009

Beat This: A Hip Hop History” (1984), was a BBC program that debuted the same year as another GV gem, “Beat Street”.

With the same stodgy wikipedia tone as all its other culture docs, this BBC piece takes us to the streets of the BX, then back to Manhattan, to hear the late Malcolm McLaren tell it to a group of B-Boys about how hip hop culture came to him. He goes at around 09:40.

The doc is narrated with the butter smooth tone of Imhotep Gary Byrd, and done up like a live radio broadcast cum history video.

Afrika Bambaata fans can rejoice, too. It’s packed with rare raw footage from the era that really set it off for hip-hop.

Post-race in the Americas II


My mission in these posts is not to say that Mexico is a bad place for Black folks. To the contrary, there’s a thriving population here from the Caribbean, Africa and Haiti, among other places.  The presence of these  cultures makes the city a much richer place to be.

But the fetishization of antiquated images of negritude, seems to flourish here. And it leads one to think that certain aspects of Mexican society are resisting progression towards a more inclusive country. Maybe that´s an exaggeration.

Still, that´s just my point of view. Which is obvious, given my background, growing up Black and Latino, code switching in a suburb of Newark, NJ.

And to be fair, those images are similar to these images, which we were nurtured on, while sitting in front of the T.V. in the U.S.  So, the representation of images of Africa and Africans here isn´t too different from our depiction of Native Americans at sporting events.

Above is a picture from Africam Safari (the “m” designating it as a Safari in (M)exico), in Puebla.

It´s been around since 1972.

Although that ¨African¨ mascot and other similarly disturbing (and hilarious) images dominate the park, it´s interesting that little of it is represented in park ads, or on the park´s Web site. Maybe because these images aren´t appropriate in 2010?

Photo gallery after the jump….

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Google Video pick of the week #008

This week´s clip comes via one of the greatest comedic writers of his generation, Paul Mooney.  ¨Jesus Is Black¨ (2007), kicks off its first 10 minutes with ruminations on Mexicans and illegal immigration in California. Funny stuff.

Mooney might lean heavy on his use of the ¨N¨ word,  and makes harsh assessments of race in America his calling card. Still, you have to respect him, because he´s an uncompromised comedic force, who hasn´t been made soft by Disney movies and Hollywood contracts.

For the uninitiated, he may be hard to stomach. Sure, he´s racist, but there´s no denying some of the stinging truths in his work.

You can find  tons of video of Mooney´s work online. From his earlier days writing jokes for Richard Pryor, to clips of his hilarious creations on Dave Chappelle´s show.

Pryor  goes in on Paul around the 5:34 mark of this clip from a comedy roast.  Ending his session by calling Mooney a ¨brilliant writer¨.

¨Brilliant¨ doesn´t seem like an overstatement either, when you consider that Mooney is the man who created Homey D.  Clown.

Post-race in the Americas

In the week before Obama won his presidency, this guy on a Mexico City roof, above, thought up a great costume for a Day of the Dead party. There were only a handful of people who gave this get-up any pause.

There are a lot of complicated reasons, which I hope to explore throughout various blog posts, why many intelligent people in this country don’t see anything wrong with blackface, or deny racism exists here. As a person whose mother is from South America, and father from Prince Street in Newark, I’m always interested in how Black Latinos view themselves in the context of Spanish-speaking culture, and how those cultures in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Spain, view people who are Black.

This 2005 piece from the Boston Review, raises the race issue, starting with the Vicente Fox speech that said Mexicans grind doing the types of work not even Black folks want to do. That, along with the federal government nearly making a postal stamp with this character’s mug on it, brought international attention to Mexico’s apparent culture of racism (which really isn’t that different from what still exists in the U.S., we just hide it way better).

“Criticism of race relations and racism in Brazil, Mexico, the Andes, the Caribbean, and Central America has developed as a natural extension of multiculturalism and identity politics in the United States, and many studies describe persistent racial inequalities masked by the idea of racial democracy.

This criticism and research has, in turn, fed discussions of race in Latin America, albeit in an attenuated manner: Brazil has had its own proponents of “black power,” and racism against Indians has become a theme in Mexican social movements.

Because these challenges are difficult to reconcile with Mexico’s 80-year-old ideology of national integration, they are often downplayed in public debate—as if Mexican racism had long been taken care of, and as if whatever remains of it were somehow less harmful because things are worse in the United States.”

Check out more on the topic, here.

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¡ Ask a Jeweler !

I’ve been clearing out photos from an old laptop and came across this 2008 snapshot. Many southern rap fans probably know TV Johnny Dang from his appearances in Slim Thug or Paul Wall videos. I talked to him for this piece I did back in ’07.

Looking at this photo again, though, TV reminds me a lot of an acquaintance, OC Weekly writer Gustavo Arellano. Not sure this qualifies as a “separated at birth” post. You decide.

Gustavo, as you can tell from his column and complete grip on  the OC immigration debate, is a Mexican journalist. TV Johnny is Vietnamese jeweler to southern rap stars. The thing they both share, other than having parents who were born in other countries, is being very successful in what they do.

San Diego MC in Mexico City

Lord Mzderio was deported to Mexico from San Diego last year. He wouldn’t elaborate on the reasons, but told me his aim, now that he was in D.F., was to make it big in the Mexican rap game.

RAP CULTURA event in Mexico City. Mzderio says this flyer has his name spelled wrong.

The 20-something performer, who rhymes in Spanish, told me the only thing he found troubling about Mexico City, so far, was that his choices for cholo fashion leaned heavily toward L.A. It’s nearly impossible for him to find Padres stuff. Something gangster that didn’t rep that pinche city up north.  He says he’s an S.D. gang member.

We had a quick chat after he performed in a virtually empty hall located at a goth club near El Centro Historico, on Puente de Alvarado in Col. Tabacaleraon, turning it into a rap showcase for Mexico City’s elite underground rappers. Those who had paid some dues.

Mzderio regaled me with tales of being locked up in the county jail, and how he was deported after he got out.
He had just arrived some months ago in the city, and was now living in Ecatepec, about 14 miles north of Mexico City.

What happened to Mzderio is possibly what happened to about 300 people in Texas on Friday.

According to the Dallas Morning News:

Of the total, about half of the immigrants had convictions for violent crimes or drug offenses.

So, they say.

Large scale deportations like that are carried out by a branch of Homeland Security called, ICE. It was created in 2003 as a response to 911. Now, it’s part of a plan to rid the U.S. of as many people (“aliens” as they say) from Mexico and Central America, as well as other places,  by 2012.

The Dallas piece went on to add:

Secure Communities has come under scrutiny for the relatively low number of persons caught who have been convicted of violent crimes – or what’s known in ICE as a “level one” offense.

These ICE tactics seem pretty flawed. The Washington Post goes on to say:

The immigration databases that the Secure Communities program taps are not infallible. They list only foreigners who entered the United States on a visa or who were caught trying to sneak in but later released. Those who have never crossed paths with immigration authorities are not singled out — the same as U.S.-born citizens.

Describing ICE’s mission in 2008, the said:

The “golden measure” of ICE’s success, according to a 2003 statement by Anthony S. Tangeman, director of the Office of Detention and Deportation, is the removal all “aliens.”

Deportations doubled in the last 10 years according to this Medill report. The article goes on to point out that Mexicans are always the majority of the targets.

Mexican nationals have had the highest rate of removals throughout the decade, making up more than 80 percent of total deportations in 1999. However, this share dropped to about 70 percent in 2008, with other nationalities making up more of the total.

In Lord Mzderio’s case, whether for right or wrong, he’s here in Mexico now, and can share his passion for writing raps with another generation of Rap Kids, who need role models in a sea of Punks, skater kids, Chavs, Emos, Rockers, Fresas and Rastas.

Photos and interview from January 8, 2010.