Eyes on the Prize

Last year, The Atlantic´s Ta-Nehisi Coates gave a wonderful summation of why we need to recognize a Black History Month, and what´s wrong with the ways we´re brought up recognizing it. We reduce it to a bunch of pictures on class room walls and memorized passages. We need to look at our ancestors as humans not just as heroes.

As this February winds down, our first second Black History Month with a Black President, let´s not forget those who struggled before us. They would be proud of how much things have changed, and how many Black billionaires there are now.

Saul Williams and Trent Reznor, ¨Black History Month¨

Weezy on Mexico City Bus Stops

lil wayne rappers prison
FROM HOLLYGROVE TO D.F.: Lil Wayne fronts Rolling Stone, here in the Mexican version. This is a bus stop billboard on the corner of Moneterrey and Alvaro Obregon in Roma


Hip-hop isn´t as noticeable on the streets in Mexico City as it is in North America´s other major cities, NY, L.A., Atlanta, Toronto. That´s why this Rolling Stone (Mexico) billboard, above, caught me off-guard. You can find it throughout the city, on bus stops.
Does everybody know what Wayne represents, in the sense of representando? ¨A Milli¨ was played out a while ago. The only American rap cut I hear on Pop 40 Mexican radio is “Empire State of Mind.” Jay-Z is just mainstreaming himself like that I guess. That song Wayne did with Shakira, I hardly ever hear. It hurts my ears anyway.

The RS cover is a duplicate of the US version. Wayne going to jail, etc, etc. AP had a trite piece today on rappers going to jail

In the history of hip-hop, other popular rappers such as Slick Rick, Shakur, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Remy Ma, Beanie Sigel, Shyne, Mystikal and C-Murder have spent a few months to several years in prison. Snoop Dogg was acquitted of murder; Diddy faced jail time but he was acquitted in 2001 on bribery and weapons charges stemming from a club shooting. His protege, Shyne, wasn’t as lucky and was convicted in the same case and sentenced to 10 years; he was recently deported after his release from prison.

They talk to Shaka Zulu alot, Ludacris´manager and get the big jailhouse chat with Gucci.

Gucci Mane warns others to avoid his fate.

“Don’t keep bumping your head against the wall,” he says. “It’s a serious situation. It’s so many things that happen behind these walls. Think about how to avoid situations so you won’t have to come in here.”

The story is somewhat pointless, just a repeat trend piece some bored editor said to roll with, following RS´ lead this week.
The truth is, on the streets, going to jail is cred—a right of passage for Black/Latino men in America. Going to jail, as in the case of Tupac, and following that up with platinum success doesn´t happen to everyone.
I can´t name another rapper after, who had a publicized jail stint, then ran to the top of the sales charts when he became free again. What Wayne has working for him is that he´s still young. And, like Annette Funicello, Cubby or any Mouskateer, he´s been training for the music life since he was a pup.
But it´s not about that, going to jail for thuggery lends your rhymes credibility. I think if a rapper goes to jail for unpaid taxes or speeding tickets, it doesn´t work the same.

Of course, many of the faces referenced in the AP story bring the trouble on themselves.

Mainstream media and critics generally don´t have a clue when it comes to the particulars of these guys. It gets me.

Take for instance all the tatto-age on Wayne? Other than the ¨B¨ he´s holding up with his right hand, the rag in his back pocket and the ¨DAMU¨ scrawled on his chest—outright gang affiliation—what other reason does the ¨greatest rapper alive,¨ have to be going to jail? Thuggin(g), of course.

bloods gang Lil Wayne rollinstone magazine

Remembrance: Bob Collier, 73

Robert Collier, 73

The last time I spoke to my padrino was on the phone in the Summer of ’08. I remember him saying, “Just be careful,” regarding an article I had written on Charles Hamilton.
I asked, why? He repeated it: “Just be careful what you put out there about people.” I think he was referring to the heroin use I mention in the piece. I didn’t understand his point at the time, but as I thought about it I got it. A former Black Panther, he was about the people. And I was giving the establishment some good stuff on Charles. Although I don’t think that had anything to do with his fall off the map, or him getting socked.

Bob inspired me and dozens of other young men towards greatness. I’ll never forget that. From the time I was a little boy, until I reached adulthood he was there. A college professor and public servant, he leaves behind a large, beautiful family, with tons of friends and admirers. As one of the founders of the NY chapter of the BPP, he also leaves his mark on history.

You can read more about him in this quasi-controversial write-up in the Poughkeepsie Journal. You can also learn more about the Panther 21 trial, of which he was a part of, in Murray Kempton’s “The Briar Patch.” There’s an archived 1996 radio show that brought Bob on to talk about his past, here, with an appearance by Boots Riley from The Coup.

Now who’s going to give me bendición, eh?

Rest in Freedom, padrino.

Photo from Poughkeepsie Journal

update: Just googled the man a few more times and came up with this New York magazine article from 1972 that mentions Bob and offers some behind-the-scenes of the shenanigans that went on at his trial. Also, came across It’s About Time, a site that offers current info on Black Panther Party alum, reunions and personal histories of the group.
It hipped me to a documentary on Oakland Black Panther Party co-founder Richard Aoki, who passed away last year. He was a Japanese American revolutionary credited with bringing the first straps into the party.

AfroMexicana: Ms. Epifanía

To mark Black History Month, we’re celebrating Afro-Mexican History Month here at I Know Huh?.
In late October, I met Epifanía, a cigarette-smoking senior citizen in her 80s from the Costa Chica town of Cuajinicuilapa (“Cuaji”).

Oct. 28, 2009

She came to Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropologia, along with a larger group of elders and children invited to celebrate Dia de Muertos with a traditional danza de los diablos.

More resources ….

And just for good measure, here’s a 2005 piece talking about two documentary films focusing on Black Mexicans: “The Forgotten Roots” and “African Blood”.

Tony Gleaton’s photos were my introduction to Black Mexicans. No.
I’m wrong. It was Kemo.

Moyenei x Baby Bump x Roco at Foro Alicia

Moyenei shows that it's not only M.I.A who can rock a crowd with a baby bump.

That’s Roco’s baby in Moyenei’s stomach. As a musician, he’s about as famous as you can get in Mexican protest-pop. It should help Moyenei’s career down the line as well. She came to fame in Chile as a singer in the all-girl crew Mamma Soul. You can check one of their video’s here. There’s also a good page of information, here.
Moyenei tried to bring that all-girl formula to Mexico a few years ago, and well, if you read her interview in my last blog post, you know how that ended up.

The Alicia was packed last Thursday night (Oct. 22) for the presentation of Fermin Muguruza’s Checkpoint Rock: Songs from Palestine
, which was followed by music performances. The crowd grew restless with Moyenei’s singing and started to chant FERMIN! FERMIN! You could tell the mix of Spaniards in the crowd of mostly Mexicans. Muguruza’s brand of ska/punk and dub is much in appreciation in these parts. What’s mind boggling is that he sings in Euskara, or Basque language, and none of what he was saying seemed lost to anyone who was there. The power of music with a message.

The doc, for what it was worth, had its obvious political leanings. It was a 100% Palestinian p.o.v. You can read La Jornada’s take on it. One of the gems of the movie was a short piece on Palestinian femcee, Safaa Arapiyat. I have no idea what she’s saying, but her swagger is kind of tough on the mic. Take a listen and watch her ham it up in a recording session.

Rocking with his soon to be baby mama. Roco and Moyenei at Foro Alicia Thursday, Oct. 22
Heavy Reading: It was the type of event at the Alicia where book in Spanish by Chomsky were being sold near the ticket counter.

It was the kind of event where anti-establishment reading materials and books in Spanish by Chomsky were being sold.

Winner Is . . . Flex or Nigga?

WHAT'S IN A NAME?: Jumbo screen flashed the name and mug of one of the most anticipated performances at El Evento 40 held earlier this month at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?: Jumbo screen flashed the name and mug of one of the most anticipated performances at El Evento 40 held earlier this month at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City.

Felix Danilo Gómez was going by “Flex” as he collected his 8 trophies at last night’s Latin Billboard Awards (list of winners here). He beat out all the competition to take home the top Latin album and song of the year. Nevermind that everytime he accepted an award, the “N” necklace he sported swung back and forth like a reminder of his more popular nom de plume. You can check out post-show coverage from AP and Miami Herald.

One of the highlights of the awards show had to be the grouping of bachata crooners Aventura, Akon and reggaeton kings Wisin & Yandel. Take a look:


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