Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fearless Aging

My grandmother, Abuela Carmen, or Abuela, as I call her, is going to be 90 years old in December, and if there ever was a model of a woman, a warrior, and educator she is it. Im one of the lucky many who has the blessing of having a close relationship with my family's matriarch. Abuela got to the US of A, more specifically El Barrio, in the late 1940's, with my mom with a plane that had benches for seats and rope for a seat belt. They landed on an airstrip of mostly grass and weeds....I mean this was way back, planes weren't very insulated. It was so cold that a man lent his hat to my mom so she wouldn't freeze at 30 thousand feet.

Anyway, its just amazing to be able to sit with abuela and look into her eyes and see the years of wisdom appear as wrinkles on her face. However, today when I was with her for a visit we sat and I was mesmerized by her hands. It is from these hands I realized that this is the reason I am here. Its those hands that labored and struggled to ensure my mom had what she needed so my brother and could be here today. Its those hands that when I look at my own fill me with an un-measurable amount of Great-Fullness to be who I am today.

Abuela is an amazing woman. She is a mother, a grandmother, a great grand mother, an artist, an activist, and so much more, and I am filled with the upmost pride to know I have an abuela that does not rely on medications for anything. But its on reaching 90 that is truly amazing. I mean how many people do you know (and like) that are that age? And you know what, it makes me look forward to being older and growing old and what that experience will be like. I hope that I get to see and feel what it will be like to get old. A lot of people fear growing old, but why? Since its going to happen anyway, why not embrace it, love it, and welcome it as a sign that life could be great up until the end. Its also what you make of it. Of course everyone says that, but when you have an example the way I do I can totally say that growing old is an experience worth having. I guess what I look forward to most is growing old and having grand children I can pass on my own wisdom to.

Having my Abuela in my life fills me with a certain courage that can only come from someone like her. And I want to pass that courage along to you. Keeping our bodies looking good and staying healthy is important, but we must never forget to also keep our minds functioning properly. If I were to pick what the keys to living a full and healthy life are, they would be: Stay away from medications, eat healthy and regularly, love life, love beauty, and always keep your mind active. Be active in your home, with your family, and with your community. If nothing else, now that I think about it, what I said in my last blog, taking a stand for what we believe in is definitely a way to live for something. If I were to guess, my grandmother took a stand against this society that when she got off the plane by throwing obstacles in her way in the form of racism, sexism, and classism. She rose up to meet them because her stand at the time was providing a life for her daughter who is now my mother.

So again, lets a live a life of purpose and take a stand for what we believe in.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How we must come from the HEART and take a STAND

If there is anything I've learned out here in the desert (traveling the expanses of New Mexico) is that we all have to start coming from the heart in everything we do if we are ever going to start making changes on both the micro and macro level. For me coming from the heart is coming from a place of abundant fearlessness and love. The fate of the environment and the world we leave our future generations depends on this. I've been out here just about 6 days and now that its coming to and end I thought I would reflect on the lessons learned about the world and about my self.

First, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to just LISTEN. Listening offers the opportunity to open our hearts without the inward conversation from overflowing onto the scene and hindering our presence in the moment. I've been learning to breath in and listen on the out breath to all thats happening and then taking everything in. As I sat on the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge in Taos, NM I would close my eyes every few minutes or so and just listen to the vastness and then when I would open my eyes each time I was awarded a new found sense of awareness both in the physicality of existence and the presence of mind I gave myself each time I took in a new breath. Can you imagine what the word would be like if at any given moment all of us would just take up this practice? How in every moment we could award our selves with a new perspective. Just think about it.

Im taking my stand. Right now and here I am going to take my stand and ground my self in it so that I can move forward from there and see where it takes me. You must be like, what the hell is he talking about? Whats taking a stand? In the simplest form that I understand what it means is that we must all take a stand for what we believe in if we want to create and induce personal growth. A plant can only grow if it has ground to root it self in. Same with us. We can't change or grow emotionally or spiritually if we don't have a firm place from which we take a stand from. So whats my stand? I stand for education of the uneducated. I stand for equality and fairness. I stand for consciousness and living in a would of haves, not have nots. I stand for a you and me world, not a you or me world. I stand for collaboration, because it is the only way to true prosperity.

Sounds like a lot to stand on right. Well these are the things I stand for because they are what make me happy, and why do anything if your not happy doing it?

I've learned about some of the messages we are given through society and the impact they have, intended or unintended, and one of the things that I know in my heart is that we can't take nothing at face value. We have to experience things in this life if we want to formulate our own perspective from which to draw conclusions. So try these things to see if your perspective changes. Lets start with the scarcty mentality we live with. The message we carry is "there's not enough." Really? Lets say we start saying "I am Great-Full for what I have." There is a certain sense of Great-ness in being Full of life and of what we need to live within our means. There is a calm that comes over me when I know I got all that I need, nothing more, nothing less.

I recommend you read "The Soul of Money" by Lynn Twist. Its a great starting point of refernce if your in the mood to change your perspective. Don't let the title fool you, its really about the relationship you have with your own soul and how it out-worldly effects the life you are living now.

Thats it for now, enough of my rhetoric. See you on the east coast.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In The Desert Searching for the Soul of Money

Seems to me that the last place one would think to be searching for the Soul of Money would be in the desert. I mean there aren't even enough trees out here to make the paper for the money. But on the other hand a lot of people have come to the desert to search for something, even if it is their own soul. So here I am (or better yet, here we are, cause if your reading this its like your along for the ride) at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM learning the secrets of fundraising from a person who approaches the art of finding money through a Buddhist perspective. I tell you, Buddhism can be applied to almost every thing, even the accumulation of wealth. The goal here, I believe, is to learn techniques so that we can apply it to fundraising for the Zen and Martial Arts school in El Barrio, Peace on the Street. As a newly self employed individual this is an opportunity to gain more skills in an area that will benefit me and my community, but it will also give me more financial insight as I plunge into the unknown world of self employment, especially in rough economic times.

To me this is part of the adventure. I took the risk. I left my full time, benefit providing job to seek a more meaningful and productive life outside the confines of day to day security. Security if for people with kids, a mortgage, and bad health. Risk is for people like you (maybe) and me that think outside the box and look for solutions by traveling the road less used. Its now or never, so you have to be fine with facing certain uncertainty. I mean what is life without exploring the unknown. If I was put on this earth for anything else it was to be who I want to be and do what I want to do.

Being out here will definitely allow me to reset the inner compass so that it can guide me better, provide a service to an organization fighting the good fight, and give me insight to the cash world that under other circumstances would have been harder to acquire.

Back home, in El Barrio: The battle still rages on the fate of the Julia De Burgos Cultural Center. I've been a bit out of the loop but for more up to date info on it you should read my dad's blog and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito's blog on Word Press. Also you can follow any and all East Harlem news by going to the East Harlem Preservation website.

Here's my take on this whole issue after having some days to digest whats been happening. Much hasn't changed since the last town hall meeting I attended about it. People are still bringing up old beef about who does what, and stuff like that. The same old ideas are still being thrown around on how to better use the space, etc. What this place needs is a person, or group who has the vision and capacity to really make this a viable cultural institution. All the infighting is so typical and boring that its no wonder we don't get things done sometimes. I mean if we were organized like the folks in Chicago then organizations like EDC and politicians would not be needed. The bureaucracy would come to a halt and the community would be the ones held accountable for the success and failure of what it does. Hey, heres a thought: Why don't we hire some of the Chicago Putero Ricans to come to El Barrio and show us a thing or two about true solidarity for a single multi-dimensional cause (makes sense to me. The single cause is to preserve the culture and spirit of El Barrio, while at the same time tapping into the diversity of opportunities and programs it can provide to the community, such as theater, music, poetry, films, and youth programs).

Im tapped out. No more writing. I'll come back with an update about youth violence in El Barrio. The march for the death of yet another young person and the community response to this crime. Keep sending me comments and email me at with comments and questions.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Youth Violence In El Barrio

Are things getting worse, or is it just me? Every day I hear and see news about young people dying on my streets. I grew up in this neighborhood since I was born, and yeah, street violence has always been a mainstay of this particular urban environment. But com'on! Im getting sick, tired, and scared. No lie. Im afraid for the life of myself, my family, and my friends, it really is that bad. Senseless acts of violence don't only cost the lives of the intended targets, they also claim the innocent. We all know this, but here I am acting all surprised. I mean, im not all that surprised, just deeply concerned for the mental, physical, and spiritual health of my people.

Last week a girl got shot in the head from a stray bullet. My brother was moments away from witnessing a full out murder outside his job. He was just steps away from the door when he heard the sound of gun blasts. A friend of mine was stabbed to death at 4am while on his way home from a bar on 116th street. And not too long ago another teen gets shanked coming from the neighborhood pool. The stories are endless and the mothers who have to bury their sons and daughters keep crying rivers of tears.

Recently there has been a a call to action from community leaders and residents, especially the youth, to address this issue. My question is what are we going to do about it that hasn't already been done? This is a HUGE issue and I just dont see any really large scale solution unless the government steps in and gives us a shit load of money. With job trainings, education, and more options the youth will find not a gun in their hands, or a knife, but maybe a hammer, brush, or pen. But no, stuck in two wars, and banks raping us, inner city youth turn on each other.

Im going to do my part. My vision for Barrio Media, my production company, is to create an extension that teaches and hires youth and give them the skills and motivation to look within them selves. The answers, unlike what a lot of people think, are not "out there" but within. The mixed signals they get from the media are especially harmful. The environment they call "home" can at times be destructive to their focus and concentration. So where do they turn to if this is the case? You know, i don't have to spell it out.

These are my thoughts for now. I hope to write more on this topic as more things develop and I have something to report on.

Big shout out to Youth Build and Amon Rashidi: agents of change in our community!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 2 of Self Employment - feeling and finding my new Rythem

Its amazing what having a vision and feeling a purpose in life can do. My ambition has brought me to Union Sq. today where I came to pick up my camera from the repair shop and now I am eating a really great healthy meal for lunch. The opportunity to flex my wings and figure out what my new rhythm is has given me this new sensation all over my body. Its definitely a new day out here for me and I'm loving it. My main purpose right now is to figure out what my new rhythm is going to be. For the past three years I've dealt with a lot and have been set in my ways as far as going to work, meditation, and being with my girlfriend. I mean a lot of other stuff has happened, but now I can fully concentrate on Barrio Media and work on the things that I want to work on, be part of the causes that I feel I can invest my time in, and truly feel apart of my community and take a more active role.

My second day so far has been great. I look forward to the ups and downs because they are all apart of the experience. I am grateful to have the courage to be able to break out of the mold. I just wish more of my friends and family were able to do the same. Its amazing, I feel what the power of having vision is. It gives me confidence and drive. It allows me to see where I want to go, but I give myself the flexibility to try new things and not be so rigid. As long as I can pay my bills i would like to live this way forever!

Today I am going to check out a film screening at the Museum of the city of New York on the gentrification of East Harlem and the Lower East Side. This should be interesting as these are topics that interest me and i need ideas for my next documentary on sustainable communities in New York. I think that if the people can cultivate and learn about creating communities that sustain their basic nutritional needs then we will be better humans for it. I've made some connections, now I need to strategize what the next steps will be, who else I need to talk to and so on. I think this would make a great topic.

Thats it for now. Live free. Open your heart. And live your mission. Peace.