#BlackLivesMatter & the Influence of Black Led Movements on Latino Communities

We are alive in a very powerful moment in history, it is likely that most of us in communities of color do not recognize the validity of that statement as currently we grieve too many losses. As I scroll through my social media timelines and insert my own voice in the conversation among my “friends,” I realize that I am one of few Latinos who identify with the values of #BlackLivesMatter or openly speaks in recognition of the need for #BlackLivesMatter. I am quick to think it is disheartening my community does not care enough, I am understanding that some Latinos just don’t know how or where to insert our voices if we do not identify as “Black” or even “American.” Maybe some of us do not care to, ignorant to History in the U.S. and not knowledgeable of just how influenced Latino movements here and in our home countries have been by Black-led revolutions and social justice movements. It is imperative that we remain in unity, and not in denial of where we stand.

In the past, Latinos have been influenced by and inspired to join movements like the Civil Rights Movement, join student organizations like SNCC, and create our own nationalist organizations like The Young Lords Party (notably influenced by the creation and leadership of the Black Panther Party). We have a Latino Studies department at our universities because Latino students were encouraged and motivated by students protesting for a Black or African American Studies departments (not making this up). We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, develop Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) in the same spirit of fighting for equality and creating space for our youth of color. For this generation, the movement is #BlackLivesMatter, and it is undoubtedly awakening the revolutionary senses of Latino youth in the know.

Revolution runs through the veins of Latino history, in our home countries we had to fight for our independence from our colonizing forces and later on from dictatorships and imperialist forces. Let this post serve as a reminder that the conversation remains relevant today, there are still Latino nations fighting for democracy and independence in 2016. Immigration to the United States does not deny our relevance in communities alla, rather it gives us exposure and allows our children existence in more than one place on the globe.

Latinos are here, have been here (put down roots and created history here) and can no longer separate ourselves from American politics as if we are not included. #BlackLivesMatter impacts our Latino brothers and sisters who aqui identify as Black, or are categorized as such by physical attributes like skin color and hair type or even location if residing in predominantly Black and/or Latino communities (i.e., In communities like the Bronx, NY where our Latino men and boys were and are subjected to unjust policies like “Stop & Frisk” or questioning based on “suspicions” usually based on physical appearance). It impacts Latinos who aqui experienced Jim Crow segregation and aqui watched the next generation continue to fight. It does not matter how race in Latin America is constructed when we are discussing and participating in conversations regarding #BlackLivesMatter. When we insert ourselves into the conversation, we insert concerns for a future we continue to build here. We insert the voices of those who came here before us to get a world-class education, take care of their families,or pursue artistic dreams. We insert the voices of those who could not communicate in English and put their heads down as insults were thrown their way and they were devalued as humans. We insert a battle cry for justice for people oppressed by the system, for deliverance on the promise of the American Dream, for freedom and the right to live in the skin we are in without fear of persecution.

I urge us to share our American voices with our families and friends, church leaders and local business owners in both English and in Spanish. 

Maribi

Dear Non-Spanish Speaking Coworkers…

Let me start by clearly stating, I love my language skills. I love that my skills are needed in the workplace and I can be of assistance to many projects in any way that I can. I’m writing to ask that you respect my skills and culture just as much off the call as you do when we are on the call…at least try to do me the favor to my face.

When you say “I wish I could speak Spanish” I really wish you could too. Because honestly, it would make things at work a lot easier. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I forget the proper version of an English phrase or need the translation of a word from Spanish to English because at the moment I truly just forget! I end up feeling pretty foolish when no one is around to help me. It’s not easy keeping up with two languages, this bilingual brain goes on overdrive sometimes and it can be exhausting. How clutch would it be if you could be my back up in that moment? That’s my working environment dream.

You don’t realize this, but I get nervous speaking on the spot in Spanish. I know you need me to do it so I suck it up, smile, and I make sure that the 2 mins you gave me to prepare for this call sufficed as enough time to get my translation points right with you. The pressure is on!  For the future, I would appreciate it if you had some notes written down for me, invited me to a 10 minute meeting, or even schedule me a couple hours before you need my assistance so I can prepare in the best way possible for your call.

Lastly, but certainly not least. Please do not laugh uncomfortably when I say a Latino person’s name in Spanish, read the name of a Latino institution in Spanish, or refer to my heritage and experience in a conversation. It’s a cool thing that I am different. It really shouldn’t make you uncomfortable that you can’t speak the beauty of these names the way they were meant to, you can totally choose to learn Spanish as well. It shouldn’t be funny that I said something you can’t understand. When you talk Harry Potter I NEVER understand, yet I sit and smile politely until that filler conversation is over and our actual meeting can begin. You shouldn’t feel as though you can’t ask me questions. Although I have been laughed at for asking the “obvious” questions in our work setting, I have developed the opposite attitude over the years and enjoy conversations where I can encourage growth and cultural competency.

I am more than a skill set and a tool to leverage your conversations with Spanish speaking people. I am a person of Dominican heritage who is a native Spanish and English language speaker and has stories that are just as awesome as yours, jokes that are funnier (in my very personal opinion), and an immense passion for the work that we do which is why I choose to stop my work for a moment to help you.

All my best.

Saturday Reflection: On Being Unapologetically Me

I am getting older, and there is so much value to respecting my age and new stage of life. Close friends are getting married, childhood friends have their own children, I am being named godmother and most importantly I am taking steps towards becoming the woman I’ve always strived to be. Unapologetic for being exactly who she is and loving her at all times.

Growing up, I was the peacemaker in my group of friends and family and that was my role. I thought that as peacemaker you had to apologize for a lot of things and be mindful of your actions so you wouldn’t hurt others. Sorry for not answering the call before, sorry for being busy on my projects, sorry for using my time for me, sorry I don’t want to go out tonight. And as peacemaker I defended a lot of people. They aren’t picking up because they had a crazy week at work, give them a break their family is going through a lot, they communicate in a different way try talking to them like this. It always made me feel good to bring people together and help them realize they can connect together positively and in peace. But unknowingly, I was doing it all wrong and not demanding care for myself from myself.

When I hit a low in life it was my turn to be offered space for support and understanding, I did not have the room to continue being “peacemaker.” I did not have the space to continue being in everyone’s lives as I once was, I only wanted to worry about my own feelings and my own experience and for my purposes that was and still is important to me.  Given my personality, protecting myself looked differently than we were all used to. I did not open up about my troubles as easily as expected. No longer was I an “open book” as I was described, my experiences taught me I couldn’t trust as easily as before and I am continuously working through that. Some friends got upset, I let go and did not apologize and I felt lighter through that defiance. I was being myself and I realized that I would have rather been without a friend than feel as though I needed to offer another apology and this time it was for living my life as I see fit.

These days, protecting my space and balancing energy is my number one priority. I have recently been introduced to the practice of meditation, of practicing the alignment of mind, body and spirit, and of taking care of myself in all ways always. I am learning to be unapologetically selfish. I apologize only when I feel my actions are wrong or come from a place of immaturity and refusal to understand. I want to be my most genuine self and I recognize that will not work for everyone. If we don’t learn to take care of ourselves first, we can’t expect to successfully help the ones we love and demonstrate love on a daily basis.

As a reminder to you and myself, I share a quote from writer Alexandra Elle:

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I am loyal to my Saturday reflection period as a space to think about the happenings of the week and my interactions with the world. I have recently begun sharing my reflections every Saturday morning on my Snap Chat @mary_behave and the response has been inspiring and love filled. I am completely grateful for those who connect. In the words of Junot Diaz “it takes guts to be alive” and to use everyday as a day to live fully, genuinely, happily and peace-filled takes work. I’m here to do the work with all of you.

Here’s to another step towards happiness and peace. Happy Saturday!

Say My Name, My Very American Name

“Hi, my name is Maribi”

“You mean Maribel?”

“No, I mean Maribi”

“Like Will You Marry Me?”

“Like Maribi…”

My Kindergarten teacher provided me with the English pronunciation of my name. It is the only way every friend and colleague lovingly calls for my attention, assistance, a beer to share. They don’t know any better, but Ma-ruh-bee is not what my mother intended the world to call me. However, Ma-ri-bí seems to be challenging, confusing, a cause for disruption and distraction from the real conversation being had.

As an extroverted introvert, I don’t exactly love standing out and I really don’t like when people expect an explanation of my name: My time cannot be used as story time, all of the time. Also, unique doesn’t feel very cool when people treat you like you’re a unicorn. Like they had heard about people like you but they had never actually seen one in the flesh! Live and speaking all of the English and articulating herself very well…

For most of my life I introduced myself as Ma-ruh-bee, until Starbucks came along and I felt I had to become Mary because “it’s just easier.” Constantly concerned about the convenience of others, of the “Americans”, I forgot the importance of identifying genuinely with authentic descriptions of who I am. In the words of Marc Anthony, “I’m as American as apple pie”  though I speak 2 languages and identify with more than one culture. In my very arrogant opinion, I’m a superstar American.

When speaking in public, I used to avoid pronouncing names of nations like Puerto Rico or Venezuela correctly for fear of creating a space of discomfort for non-Spanish speakers. I realized, that if I was going to represent myself in a manner that demanded respect of my presence (my Latinx ass presence) language was extremely relevant and I needed to just speak the names I knew, accents and all. For me, representing myself includes representing my ancestry, the immigrant experience of my parents, and the pride of identifying as many things because I can.

Puerto Rico and I have  a lot in common (hence my semi-obsession with learning Puerto Rican history). Besides the fact that both our names include a good ol’, not real lengthy, R roll, our names are depictions of our American stories. We are American, not exactly by choice (a story for another day), but we bleed colors red, white and blue in name of 2 nations. We live on the margins, our names dripping with the tensions of migrant history. Who, exactly, are we responsible to?

The answer is quite simple, but the practice is much harder. To be responsible for yourself requires a great act of self advocacy, something a 5 year old taught me. Kids say and do some crazy things, but they are so colorfully brave. They allow themselves to consider all of the possibilities and they certainly don’t limit the abilities of any human being. Adults assume too much (Read, I assume too much). I assumed that I couldn’t teach an “American” how to say my “un-American” name. They can’t speak Spanish and I can’t force them too… right? (Read, wrong). Also, the exposure of correct pronunciation of my name usually leads to conversations of what languages are spoken at home, and what country is my family from, and how did my mom come up with that? It’s such a beautiful name they had never heard of. How frustrating it is to constantly answer questions about my name!

My excuses shut down the day it took 20 seconds for 5 year old Zoe to teach me that her name is not Zo-ee, it is Zoè. All she had to do was say, “excuse me, my name is not ____, it’s____” and she had my full attention with no further question or suggestion that she could possibly be wrong or foreign. I was the fool in that brief moment, but I was also extremely proud of her and optimistic for the future. We have reached new heights.

I was one of 4 Latino students in my Kindergarten class way back when, and my teacher in conversation with my English language learning mother compromised on a new pronunciation of my name. It would make it easier for the non-Spanish speaking teachers, less awkward for the already pause filled moment when teachers attempted to announce “unique” names correctly in class, and more efficient for the American society I was growing up in. I do not have vivid memory of my Kindergarten years, but I do remember that I have had 2 versions of my name since I was a little girl and as an adult it is a struggle to let either one of them go.

Though I grow in consciousness and effort to change the world in adulthood, I don’t press too much on the issue of my name and I answer questions briefly and smile. When I did embrace the radical notion that I could only be Ma-ri-bí, I was emotionally drained from denying the reality that I liked the 2 pronunciations of my name. The reality of my history led me to an English version and a Spanish version, so I correct the 2 pronunciations to fit my liking and I introduce myself in the lengthy matter of Ma-ruh-bee in English and Ma-ri-bí in Spanish. And those are the only versions of my name I ascribe to no matter where I am (I’m looking at you Starbucks).

As Zoè taught me, we are free to stand 7 ft tall in this soil of liberation too. I feel unchained after I’ve introduced myself fully, leaving no pronunciation or correct spelling behind. My names and I are Dominican, American, Dominican-American, Latinx, Gringa. We carry the scars of many wars and social politics on our backs and have become very attached to one another. We can’t help but be exactly who we are, at all times.

 

Finding Personal Truth (away from my family)

A wise person once told me it was important to sit in silence for a day and attempt to listen to your own thoughts and wants. I was having difficulties living up to the cultural ideals I was expected to act upon with my family, which I always did as a child, and satisfying the need to live my own life as an adult. Since I like to write, the wise person suggested that I journal a whole day and converse openly with myself. I accepted the challenge and out of gratitude for the experience I have vowed to practice at least once a month. Here I share the steps I took and decisions I made to truly arrive at my personal truth:

Silence Cell Phone Activity

When you come from a large and traditional (Latino) family this task is especially challenging. Mothers call 2-3 times a day to see about their daughters & sons, siblings call right behind them, fathers are calmer but en route. You feel obliged to pick up the phone because they “just want to see how you are doing.” How can you deny FAMILY that right?  And you can’t exactly tell them what you are doing because that starts another conversation placing you on the opposite track you are on. They’ll want to tell you about what they think and you’ll want to tell them about what you think. You don’t need challengers in this space, so your first step will be to text them back or if you do call, keep the conversation love filled and short.

Develop Gossip Free Conversations 

I mention “love filled” because the gossip mill runs strong in a big family. One of the easiest topics of conversation is identifying difference in other people and their ways. When someone is different the family needs to dissect why, when someone is doing something different the family blames it on society, when someone does not like the things the family likes the remedy is a conversation with God. Do unto others as you would like done unto you, especially in your sacred space. As I begin this practice of wanting my unique livelihood to be respected, I consciously make the effort to respect others and their difference. One prime example of how I do this, I ask questions while in conversation and invite open and honest responses as truths.

In This Space, You Come First. That’s The RULE

My love for my family is fierce because they were the humans that taught me love and care and nurture. But I am learning that my love for me has to be more fierce and that’s what me and God have been talking about lately. You see, I come from a line of women who have sacrificed nice sized chucks of themselves to be the best moms, the greatest wives, and in turn live their womanhood to grow and protect their families. That is what tradition and culture taught them, my life took another course and that is totally allowed. They are God fearing. I am God loving, God embracing, definitely have been God challenging in the past and that was a necessary part of my spiritual journey. My personal growth.

Throw Away the Textbook, Make Up Your Own Definitions

For me, defining and practicing spirituality did not come from attending church every Sunday and agreeing with every word that was thought up by another person. My spiritual growth came from my own discoveries and conversations with different people and living in real time. For me, the concept of love and relationships did not come from the sacrament of marriage and need to procreate (traditional concept that I was taught), it came from a want to enjoy my partner everyday (needing to have fun, trust, and actually combat challenges together).

Family and churches are the traditional spaces in which we are taught to become good people. They are the corner stones to my culture and history. My foundation and root of understanding human purpose came from these “safe spaces”. My growth came from defending and debating tradition. I stepped outside of the norm in my thinking a long time ago. I remember being a 6th grader and questioning cultural ideals to my parents, who I have always been very open with, but I was too young and honestly, too afraid, to practice them. Thoughts of how badly my family would react to me not wanting to attend a Catholic church anymore, or thoughts of how poorly they would think of me if I had children out of wedlock had me scared straight. I better learn…Yeah, better learn to be my absolute self despite the backlashes. They’ll get over it (greatest advice ever given to me by some awe striking ladies).

Find Ways to Reassure Your Growth

Some of my fears came true, but I had to, and am learning even more now to, develop thick skin. Writing and praying daily are the ways I assure myself of my personal growth in mind, spirit, and practice. I have mantras I use nightly to alleviate the stresses of the day and they keep me on track. I keep the people who have grown with me close. I am able to respond to everyone around me with love and understanding with my feet firmly planted in the soil of my ideology and personal truth. I have a strong sense that this life is mine to live and no one else’s, I have the right to think freely and be one happy ass human who does awesome shit.

 

Maribi

Making Grown Up Friends Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard

But We Make It Hard, is the actual rest of the title.

My new move down to Miami Beach has been fun and extremely eye opening. That sassy ass who ran around in Jersey is a mouse in Florida. An actual quiet little mouse who comes out to play when no one is around. I mean I literally make my boyfriend handle all of the communication with new adults because I’m convinced he is better at it than I am. This experience is making me question my whole existence, WHO AM I?

Leaving all the dramatics aside, I know I am fully aware of who I am. I’ve always been open to adventures and when the adventure starts I have to close my eyes and make someone else push the start button. This moment in time is very reminiscent of my first day in high school. I cried in homeroom and had the great virtue of sitting behind the funny girl in 1st period. I made sure I found a way to open my mouth and stick to that funny girl for the rest of my life, literally.

Though I am beginning  anew and very excited to do so, I bring with me my  past experiences and my concurrent goals that I had set for 2015 when I was still back in Jersey. For example, I told myself I would be focused on building career and stability this year, you know, become an actual adult. Get my credit score up, professional development opportunities, learn to be better to the friends and family I already have, and just chill. Given my personality and false sense of adventure, I should’ve known that I would allow life to throw a wrench in that plan. Miami happened, even when I swore I wouldn’t let it happen.

Here I am, scared of humans and working from home away from humans. I’m realizing exactly how ridiculous I really am, so I’ve decided it’s time to get over myself. I joined a meet up, attempting to not scroll through the comments or analyze all of the member pictures before I actually attend an event. Practicing what I preach, but I REALLY WANT TO JUDGE.

I’ll be investing in my friendships by becoming a regular at a yoga studio, doing something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m already becoming a regular at this little restaurant that has good people and good food, making a name for myself around these parts. I started exploring what alone really means in my new space, its quite nice. I run alone, sit alone, write alone, and read alone. I figured, make “alone” a thing I enjoy, share that with new people who know absolutely nothing about you except the fact that they enjoy that “alone” thing too.

Meeting new people when I am in the business of being authentically and fabulously me at 26 is something to look forward to. Anyone I vibe with will be connecting with adult me, the me I worked hard to identify and that is a new experience. I’m loyal & loving to my high school and college ladies and gents especially because we have worked through the growing pains (xoxo, mad love to my peeps that hold me down). But it will be a truly refreshing experience to meet someone and present myself as I am. #yesnewfriends #yesnewstart

Maribi

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/12/07/1349174/-White-man-s-burden

Who are the “people of color”?

(featured photo found on dailykos.com “The White Man’s Burden”)

From time to time  it is important to have an extensive conversation about race. A good conversation in which one should ideally practice listening skills, provide an abundance of context, and give feedback. Last night, instead of bedtime stories, Jeff and I had a filled conversation about race in hollywood which spilled over into a conversation about my use of the term “people of color.” As an interracial couple, it’s important that we get our facts straight about what the other person thinks about race and specifically what language they deem appropriate in description of or conversation of minority communities. I absolutely hate the term minorities and always have because (in my mind) it has a negative connotation of lesser than, so I say people of color quite frequently.  I have never heard anyone question the term “people of color” before, but then again Jeff’s inquisitive personality usually brings that sort of excitement into a conversation. He made me sit and think about who do we call “people of color” and why do we feel we can group black and latino and asian and middle eastern, etc, all together in struggle?

I went straight academics on him, explaining how in the US we are ignorant to the struggles of other countries and communities. For example, colonization in latin america and the near extinction of indigenous people and their culture or how the atlantic slave trade included countries like Cuba and Colombia and Guatemala and Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, just to name some. I explained to him that in the foundation of understanding latin american history is the learning of the haitian revolution, the praising of the same leaders that many caribbean people praise for the independence of their countries today. In regards to black nationalism and contributions to US civil rights history I can talk about Arturo Schomburg, Carlos Cooks and The Young Lords Party off the top of my head, but I had to go to college to learn the place of latinos in american history.

He went straight street knowledge on me, how do we immerse ourselves in diversity when latino neighborhoods are on the come up before black neighborhoods are? When you must travel a distance to get soul food, but indian food and sushi and even latin food can be found within a one block radius of every apartment in NYC, the struggle of “people of color” is distant. He questioned why every major city had a celebrated “chinatown” yet the black communities are still “underprivileged” places to live. We currently reside in Miami, FL which is an interesting setting for this conversation to take place because it is a major city mostly populated by latino people. What is the purpose of grouping our struggles together if they are not the same?

The lack of narrative of different histories in a nation as diverse as the United States grouped someone like me to “people of color”. I can speak expertly to the experiences of diasporic people (a people not easily recognized as American). We know a history that is affected by the US but is not directly American, experiences like imperialism. Those are the experiences that, to me, bring together the struggle of a people of color, but they aren’t going to be made general knowledge or taught in your US history I or II or AP which keeps us separated.  POC’s are a marginalized group of people, they have a reason to continue in the struggle… a purpose to want to redefine “americana” and be included in the narrative of freedom and attaining the american dream.  We keep in mind the revolutionaries who fought for our existence, we deserve to be more than a third world people. We empower the notion of humanity and carry the responsibility of leveling the playing field for future generations.

Our conversation ended on an optimistic note. The beauty in being an interracial  couple is that we can see a world where in race will be so ambiguous that it won’t be a question of importance. Our children will have known that there was a black president in american history, they will read american classics like “the bluest eye” and “the house on mango street”, they will have seen their black and latino parents celebrate homecoming (insert Scarlet Knight pride here) and hear crazy college stories. They too will have parents who have been there and done that. The hope is that with each generation races will melt into each other and children will begin to brag about how many different cultures they have in their family trees. Their norm will be different than ours. Maybe then a couple will just be a couple.

Maribi

 

Finding Balance

The truth is, I needed to stop writing for a year. When I release a genuine thought piece via social media posts and this website I allow someone the power to confront me. I love hearing the perspectives of other people, but things got a little personal this year.

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My words are not meant to be confrontational, they are meant to be inviting, conversational. I couldn’t find the inviting words to talk about #blacklivesmatter & #sayhername movements, or to talk about immigration policies here or abroad in Dominican Republic and Haiti. I couldn’t tackle the issue of the minimum wage raise, the constant posts about police brutality, the posts questioning the reality of trans people, the posts showing  zero sympathy for the complex nature of a society that aims to embrace diversity. There were no inviting people to the issues and the history I know and live personally with my family, loved ones, and with my city. I take it personally, something I’m working on.

I decided to focus on finding balance.

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My usual easy going personality, was not feeling too go-with -the-flow and that invited some confrontation from friends, family members, and my boyfriend. These moments led to stronger and more meaningful relationships, others led to nothing and strangely enough that was necessary too. Balance. Work on myself and listening to my thoughts over the work on others and making their words more powerful. Little by little I got back to basics: listen to & love my mother & father (& brother). Be honest to anyone I encounter, especially friends. Live unapologetically in happiness. Journal. Stay focused and finish the work.

I started this platform to contemplate the issues that intersect topics of race, culture, gender because they are issues I am very passionate about. They are offensive to some who pass by projectchula.com, but relatable to many.

-Maribí

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(photos featuring parts of San Diego, CA)

Chula Talks Women and Hip Hop

“Some think that we can’t flow, stereotypes they got to go” – Latifah

Queen Latifah’s Black Reign (1993) creates the setting for this writing session. This record rocks hard amongst the classic hip hop alums of the Golden Age like Tribe’s Midnight Marauder (1993), and Common’s Resurrection (1994). These records take precedence in the history of hip-hop, and yes I am a girl writing this passage.

It is true I learned hip hop from the boys in my neighborhood, I fell in love with the culture because they were living it…I had to experience it a little differently than them. I learned Tupac in the back of my cousin’s bright red Electra around 1995. I learned A Tribe Called Quest through my uncle’s affinity for “Scenario.” I learned Biggie through my brothers fascination with the Ready to Die album, and Busta Rhymes through MTV. Big Pun sampled salsa music, and Mos Def did poetry slams. Common dated Queen Erykah, The Fugees remade “Killing Me Softly” introducing Lauryn Hill. “The Sweetest Thing” wins female record of the CENTURY, in my hip hop mind. But my experience as a lover of hip-hop cannot be discounted simply because I am a girl, my reality was depicted in the rhymes of these and more like Queen Latifah, Salt n Pepa, Monie Love, and MC Lyte… but was the hip hop community willing to listen? Are they still looking to listen to women MC’s who rhyme less about sexuality and more about demanding respect for who they are, women. And creating new rules on how to treat these women.

If you’ve ever listened in on a hip hop cypher you understand that every MC is a Braggadocio who your mother wants to misuse and abuse to cue in to her girlfriends she still cute like Who Got It. Women take this a step further when they enter the rap game…they want to talk about wack game and use their voice to praise men a lot less than they do themselves. In the 80’s and early 90s women still did not maintain a position of respected work order outside and within of the domestication of home, especially in urban neighborhoods amongst minority women. So excuse the idea of women MC’s promoting feminism and writing flows that could be less relative to the experience of men. There were already a ton of hip-hop artists doing just that.

This need to expose some of hip hop’s noted women rappers comes on a highly anticipated week in hip hop as Kanye West dropped his new LP “Yeezus”, J. Cole dropped his sophomore LP “Born Sinner”, and Jay Z announces the coming of yet another LP “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” It is world news, so naturally this sparked a conversation at the bar with 2 male friends who are also fans of hip-hop. We agree on a lot, and we disagree on certain points, and as most of conversations the main point boils down to gender. “Women don’t buy tickets to see hip-hop shows” one says, “And if they go to shows they go as dates” the other says. Last line, “I can get with MC Lyte because she hung out with the dudes,” I put my drink down and call this the end of our hip-hop conversation; they are officially gaining their spot on Project Chula and I will convince myself that is the reason such statements are made. There are PLENTY of women who live by the words of hip-hop and can teach a lot of men a few things about this culture and music. I sure have.

One of my first concerts was a Missy Elliot show, my repertoire of concerts attended is not too long but I’ve seen Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Jay Z, Kanye West, N.E.R.D, Fabulous, Consequence, A$AP Rocky have purchased to see J. Cole and Jay Z once again this summer. Not to mention in college and high school I was introduced to plenty underground hip hop names like Kidz in the Hall, Immortal Technique, (at the time he was underground) Joell Ortiz, etc. Granted, my experience is limited to the 2000s and up wherein everyone praises Kanye, and to an extent rightfully so, but my culture dates back to the 1970s in the South Bronx with DJ Kool Herc not 2007. How did I learn about hip hop? I listened.

Whoever the MC’s I praise shout out in their rhymes are who I take the time to rediscover now, it is of my interest and less because I am a girl who wants to be cool amongst the guys.

I am a girl who loves hip hop because I hate being told who I am and what I must do and be like. I am a girl who loves hip hop because I appreciate the influence of internal and tight end rhyme schemes, word play, and call it poetry. My favorite artists reflect my daily thoughts and so people who believe socially aware hip hop is wack, are wack to me. I am a girl who enjoys music that excites me, whether physically or mentally, through dance beat, percussion and sound, or words worth time and reflection because they create purpose.

Women are rarely recognized for their talents when put up against men, but the music scene is one in which I feel we stand out. Salt-N-Pepa’s “None of Your Business” gave me life as I discovered it around the time traditional ideologies of women and dating no longer applied to me. “Whatta Man” exuded sex appeal and expressed a woman’s right to lust out loud. MC’s like Lil Kim, Eve, Rah Digga, Remy Ma, Foxy Brown, and Missy Elliot left their mark on the evolution of hip hop as we entered another stage in the late 90s and into the 2000s. We were hearing them at every house party, rocking brown lipstick and tight hot pants. Women were taking part in producing their own tracks and writing rhymes that were cohesive and understood so their purpose could not be mistaken. They were marking their place in hip hop.

I respect the tongue twisting, verbial breakdown Nicki Minaj’s sound produces… but she represents a hip hop that has chosen to perform for the mainstream. It plays in the club, does not necessarily make any sense, and years from now people won’t be passing it down to their children due to its lack of creative cohesive anything. She produces zero U.N.I.T.Y. joints like Latifah made. This generation of women have stories to tell and issues to address… hence the creation of Chula. Women can BE relevant MC’s right now. Minaj, Iggy Azaela, and Azaela Banks have a platform they use to ridicule their talents with antics and outfits instead of producing quality hip hop rhymes. As a woman of hip hop, I pray to the talents of the fast paced rhymers like Monie Love, internal/tight end rhyme schemers like Roxanne Shante (who is known for having created Roxanne’s Revenge in one shot), story tellers of the likes of Lauryn Hill.

Who is your Hip Hop Queen?

❤ Mary B.

The Trick to Raising Daughters: Don Chulo Edition

I write this piece to commemorate a little girl in Texas that I have only met through a skype session in which we booty bumped to Beyonce. I am absolutely in love with her. It is imperative that I let her know just how special she is, for her birth was a moment of conversion for her father…who was scared to his wits ends to raise a girl. And he is not the only one, I have lost count of the many men I have heard utter the words “I would hate to raise a daughter” to which I only have to say…You are too grown for Pampers and it is time for the boxer briefs, Big Boy Style.

My father, too, had a challenge in raising his little girl. She was a curious soul, energetic, and constantly around boys. My family is first generation in the United States and my father was lucky enough to have the female breeding sperm before my aunts and uncles could reproduce them. All in all, it was an experiment raising me and with no female cousins to back me up my father and I had hella fun deciding whether or not I’d go to prom with my cousin or if a brand new car was enough to bribe me to stay home and drive to the nearby Rutgers, instead of choosing the far Rutgers where I would dorm on a Co-ed floor. All of the above are true stories of my life to which my pop had to learn some things: trust being the most important. He learned to put his faith in the fact that he was doing the best he could as a parent, and any mistake that I made he would be there to do exactly what I needed him to… parent. As an adult I continue to work to maintain this unspoken trust because more than growing our relationship as father and daughter I wanted him to believe in himself and the work he had done thus far.

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I am his only girl amongst three sons and I was allowed to inherit his foul mouth after the age of 21. He sees himself in me and I share the same pride with him. My father is a jovial spirit and he is never mean to me, even though he is capable of being really mean to people. The trick is to be kind to your daughters, so she can approach you with the ease she approaches mom. The moments my dad has tried to correct me with an attitude or an aggressive stance has never worked. I didn’t get hit (except for that one time to which I threatened to run away and stayed downstairs at my grandmothers for the night) and I was obsessed with receiving and giving him hugs. He knows himself well and has learned to get to know my evolving personality along the way. He always tries to talk to me after he has taken his time mulling over the thoughts and thinking of the right words to say. He wants me to listen, and I always have because he takes the time to listen to me.  It’s the way he shows he respects me.

He was a bonafide gentleman from the minute I was born, and it was his goal to show me just how well I deserved to be treated by a man. If men are mad I have standards that are too high for their liking, I suggest they take that issue up with my pop. He showed me wild amounts of love and rarely yelled at me. Needless to say, I don’t respond well to loud and aggressive men.

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At some point I would have to live my life as I saw fit. I wasn’t as sheltered as most girls I knew. In high school I had a natural curfew of  “whenever we drop my friend Meli home” because her parents did the work for mine, and my dad always waited up for me on the couch, even when my mom went to bed. I had my first boyfriend at the age of 16 and I remember the day I had to tell my father he existed. He didn’t offer me a huge smile and dinner to celebrate, but he said “okay”  for we had agreed 2 weeks before my birthday that 16 was an appropriate age to start getting to know boys and I could bring him home so they could meet. He set it up so I would feel comfortable. I can honestly say I don’t recall ever having to make up a lie to protect my father, he could pretty much handle everything his crazy daughter brought his way. Whether or not my boyfriends could handle whatever craziness he brought their way on that first meeting was always interesting for me to see.

At 22 I fell in love and my father did not pretend he didn’t know. He was mindful of the nights I was upset, I’m sure of it, because on one of those nights he took me to dinner by the waterfront and we split a bottle of champagne. I came home that night clear headed and handled my situation way better than I would have before that dinner. Smart man he was, he handled the boyfriend through his daughter instead of for his daughter.

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He obviously didn’t do this on his own, I think my mom always clued him in to my girl issues, but when it came to raising his kids he knew how to work well with his partner.

My dad once had to deal with his daughter’s life being threatened at the hand of an armed robber. We don’t live in a perfect neighborhood but my dad taught me this was home. My father didn’t panic or run around the block looking to attack the man who thankfully ended up walking away from me. I was 21 and although I was expecting to hear “you should have known better,” I got a more sympathetic reaction to which he taught me to be more forgiving of the man who committed the crime…I have been more blessed than he. That was the first lesson I got in forgiving my neighborhood, and it didn’t instill fear… it instilled humility and practice of instinct. I could have gotten a boastful version of my father, who was upset and only displacing his anger on me. I was not detained in my house or sheltered more after that, but we did develop a texting system for when I would be out late.

He let me cherish my independence and reminded me he will always remain the helping hand when “shit happens.” That is just the way life goes.

He never held me back from making a decision I was sure about…much like that summer before I started college.

He was scared when he needed to be, but taught me I could tell him the truth, always.

He respectfully teaches me to believe in love because there are good men.

He has never in my life told me I look ugly (unless I look really pretty).

He thought things like Daddy-Daughter Prom were more important than working the extra hours at work.

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(Most adorable thing about going to an All-girls high school)

He taught me to eat my steak medium to have a really good time, & shares a glass of white wine with me weekly.

He shares my love of music & jokes.

We are one in the same when it comes to dedicating our selves to our work and the people around us.

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My Pop, known to you as Don Chulo, is the greatest. Here are some of his tricks to raising this Chula successfully.

❤ Mary B.