“¡Salsa Divina!” 6 Chapters/4 Days: Chapter 4: Chucho Valdés & Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Last night Divina and I enjoyed one of the best concerts I have ever experience...d in my life! And that is saying a lot since I have seen so many during my lifetime.
Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba entertained us for over an hour and 40 minutes during their Boston performance of “Trance”, the two-piano project that brings together two generations of the greatest Cuban piano players of the last 50 years.
The first time that I saw Jesús “Chucho” Valdes, the eminent Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger perform live was with his group Irakere during their first tour of the United States at a concert at Boston College where they were the opening act for Stephen Stills. The date was March 22nd 1979. Chucho led a stellar group of musicians including Arturo Sandoval and Jorge Varona on trumpets, the multi-reedist Paquito D’Rivera and Carlos Averoff on saxophones, Carlos del Puerto on bass, Carlos Emilio Morales on guitar, Enrique Plá on drums with Jorge Alfonso on percussion and Armando Cuervo and Oscar Valdés on vocals. I would have a chance of meeting them that night after their performance, and interviewing Paquito in Spanish and Carlos Averoff, who was the most fluent in English.
Nearly twenty years later, in 1997, I saw Chucho’s father, Bebo, another legendary Cuban pianist perform along with Paquito D’Rivera and the late, great Israel “Cachao” López on bass with a big band in a concert in Miami, Florida.
Over the years I have seen Chucho perform in Boston whenever he’s been on tour the last time being on November 12th 2015 with his Afro-Cuban Messengers at the Berklee Performance Center in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Irakere.
In 2001 I hosted the first of three annual trips to Cuba as part of the defunct Citizens of the World Tours for WBUR. I consider the experiences as life changing since that very first trip from the moment I set foot at the José Martí International Airport in Havana. I grew to feel that despite the hardships, I was struck by the Cuban’s dignity, hospitality, gentleness, patience, indomitable spirit and unquenchable sense of humor.
We enjoyed a lot of music during our trips to Cuba and one of the most memorable was Chucho performing with his group at the Hotel Nacional in Havana during our second trip in 2002. The following day we had a chance to socialize with him at one of the local paladares, in an outdoor garden under a beautiful tropical sun.
For those of us who were fortunate to enjoy Chucho and Gonzalo last night, “Trance” will live in our memories forever. We are so blessed!
A very long post, but I ask that you consider reading it. Thank you.
“¡Salsa Divina!” - El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico 55 Años de Patria y Cultura & “Negritude” Shaggy Flores.
“Aquel que no está orgulloso de su origen no valdrá nun...ca nada porque empieza por despreciarse a sí mismo” – Pedro Albizu Campo
My dear friend June Carolyn Erlick, Editor-in-Chief of ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America, wrote in her Editor’s Letter for the excellent Winter 2018 edition that is dedicated to Afro-Latin Americans, that “music is resistance and the music of Afrodescendants past and present has been used to resist the dominant white culture. Music is identity – it is a way of asserting one’s heritage. And music is often democratic, allowing all to participate, whether as performer and artist or spectator.”
In celebration of this year’s Black History Month I offer the following essay. It’s rather long for a Facebook post, but I ask that you indulge my penchant for sharing my thoughts in long form instead of 150 characters.
As you can imagine, during these past 42 years plus, I have been blessed with countless memorable moments and every day I give thanks for living these moments in time for which I will be forever grateful.
Musicians and singers are very much part of my experiences and memorable moments. People that I love, respect and admire. The list is long, but I will mention Eddie Palmieri, Rubén Blades, and Juan Luis Guerra just to name three. I hope and plan to publish my book, “¡Salsa Divina!” this year in celebration of the 43rd anniversary of “¡Con Salsa!” The book is an anthology of essays that are semi-biographical, with social commentary, and historical anecdotes around my experiences in music, sports, entertainment, media, politics, education, academia, philanthropy and community.
Among the many musical groups, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico will figure prominently throughout the tome.
On Sunday, March 11th El Gran Como de Puerto Rico continue their 55nd anniversary celebration tour with a dance/concert at the newly and completely renovated Wonderland Ballroom some 7 miles north of Boston in Revere. I will have the honor and pleasure of serving as emcee for this special event featuring this iconic group of musicians.
There is a story regarding Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the Puerto Rican collector, historian, and archivist. While he was in grade school in Puerto Rico, it has been said that one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes or accomplishments. This exchange inspired Schomburg to prove the teacher wrong, and he dedicated his life to finding and documenting the accomplishments of Africans on their own continent and in the Diaspora, including Afro-Latino/as and led him to a life-long quest for Africana knowledge. Schomburg would also become deeply allied with the African American experience and was one of the main figures of the Harlem Renaissance during the early 1900’s after moving to New York at the age of 17 on April 17, 1891.
A good number of you know my story.
My grandmother, María Anastacia Colón Aponte de Massó was born in Salinas, Puerto Rico on April 27th 1891 and died in Guayama, Puerto Rico on October 28th 2003. Doña Provi, as she was affectionately known, was a beautiful and a wise soul of a woman, who lived on earth for 112 years, 6 months and 1 day. She didn’t have the benefit of an extensive formal education, but she took advantage of life’s lessons and lived a productive and meaningful life.
She was a very unique person, extremely talented and gifted who was very popular, loved and respected by her family, friends and community. In the official archives of Salinas and Guayama, she is recognized as the Exemplary Mother of the Year on two different occasions.
She not only lived 112 years, 6 months and 1 day of Puerto Rican history she contributed to the Island’s history and made history as well.
Because of her wisdom, I learned a lot about life and as the adage goes “I never mistake knowledge for wisdom, knowing that one helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”
During our frequent trips to the Island I would gather my children and later our grandchildren around her to hear stories about her life and experiences. Like others of her generation she clearly accepted that yesterday was history and that there was nothing one could do to change the past other than to learn from the experience and hopefully be a better human being.
My grandfather, Eusebio Massó, doña Provi’s husband and soul mate, was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico on August 14th 1875 and died at the age of 87 in that city on June 27th 1962. He is best known and remembered as the only trainer and rider of the great and immortal Dulce Sueño, recognized “as the greatest Paso Fino sire the breed has produced, the prepotent sire, the most beautiful horse, and the greatest breed builder we will ever have.” 
My grandfather is immortalized forever in history books for his scientific approach to horse breeding and training. He was inducted into the Puerto Rico Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 as well as the Guayama Sports Hall of Fame. He was also declared “Inmortal” by el Caney del Deporte de Salinas in 1992 and recognized with the Copa Bucanero de Paso Fino in 2005. Every year the Dulce Sueño Festival is held in Guayama and my grandfather’s legacy is continuously celebrated and perpetuated.
Both of my grandparents not only lived Puerto Rican history, they contributed to it while making history themselves.
Every day, when I face my computer as I sit at my desk in my office at work, I have in front of me a wall with photos of my grandparents and awards of recognition given to them that serve as reminders of my rich ancestry and cultural heritage, and their historic legacy. I am humbled in their presence and inspired to carry forward in their names and memory.
I, for one, unlike some Puerto Ricans, have never been ashamed of my grandmother or grandfather because of their African Boricua roots and ancestry. On the contrary, I grew up proud of who they were – their accomplishments, contributions and what they represented.
The issue of race and racial identity is complex and each one of us arrives at it from our own historical, social, political, economic, cultural and personal context. Our perspective is informed as well by our personal experiences.
The 2011 PBS series and book “Black in Latin America” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. sheds some light on this issue in some of the countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. This past Christmas, my wife Divina gave me a number of books that offer a deeper dive on this topic including “Divided Borders: Essays on Puerto Rican Identity” (Juan Flores), “Sugar, Slavery, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico” (Luis A. Figueroa), “Race, Front and Center: Perspectives on Race among Puerto Ricans” (Carlos Vargas-Ramos), “The Politics of Race in Panama: Afro-Hispanic and West Indian Literary Discourses of Contention” (Sonja Stephenson Watson), and “Remixing Reggaetón: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico” (Petra R. Rivera-Rideau). “Cuba A Cultural History” (Alan West-Durán), and “Musicalizando La Raza” (Bárbara I. Abadía-Rexach) are two others that have enlightened me on this complex subject matter.
My grandparents and parents contributed to my developing my identity and self-esteem. My journey involved a lot of deep introspection and was aided by being raised in a household where we were taught that everything and anything is possible and that what mattered was a person’s character and name. Little importance or value was given to those who flaunted their titles, their social economic class or the color of their skin.
“Mis abuelos criaron a mis padres
pasando todo tipo de necesidad
¡Ay! Pero nunca jamás, dieron un paso atrás.
Y tejieron banderas con las fibras más bellas
fibras santas de dignidad
raza, orgullo esperanza, sin rendirse jamás.
Estoy tan lejos de lo que quiero ser
pero me alegra tener en quien creer
tengo mi pueblo, pueblo latino
sigo pa’lante por mi tierra y mis hijos” 
My father, José C. Massó Colón was born in Salinas and served in the United States Army. Like his three brothers, he saw active duty in Europe during World War II. And like those of his generation and others from Puerto Rico who have served in the United States Armed Forces, he faced racism and discrimination because of the color of his skin, his Spanish language and Puerto Rican nationality. Yet he persevered and retired as an officer with the rank of Major after twenty-three years of active duty.
Thanks to the GI Bill my father was able to pursue his academic studies at the University of Puerto Rico and eventually obtained his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Business Administration.
He passed away in 2009 at the age of 93 and not only did he live over nine decades of Puerto Rican/United States history, he contributed to it while making history himself.
I was born in Old San Juan, at the Rodríguez Army Hospital in the former Fort Brooke. That building used to be “El Cuartel Ballajá”, home to Spanish troops and their families. It was the last and largest building constructed by the Spaniards in the New World. Today it houses the Museum of the Américas (inaugurated October 12, 1992), located on its second floor.
Whenever I walk the streets of Old San Juan, I feel as though I was born breathing Puerto Rican history and culture.
“en mi casa nunca se rindió el ¡Yo Puedo!
Me iba a la cama con la fe del que ganó.
Me despertaba con la paz del que aprendió que lo importante en esta vida es el tratar.
¡Que lo que cuesta es lo que no voy a olvidar!
Crecí luchando…” 
As a Puerto Rican, born and raised in the Island during the decades of the 1950’s, ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, I am very much aware of the racial reality “de mi gente boricua en nuestra patria y en la diáspora en los estados unidos” and the long list of terms commonly used to describe our racial complexities. As our friend Alan West-Durán, author and Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages at Northeastern University, wrote in his article, “AfroBoricua?”  – “Many of these terms, depending on attitude and tone, can be expressions of endearment, grudging acceptance, contempt, or condescension”.
As proud as I manifested my African heritage and blackness in Puerto Rico it was ironic that upon coming to the United States to study at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1970 I would be called a nigger by a Black student who questioned my Puerto Ricanism and thus I found myself having to explain, defend and manifest my nationality as well as my race.
I didn’t become aware of Arturo Schomburg until after that episode back in the fall of ‘70. I learned that he was also among the earliest advocates for Black Studies. Given his immense educational contribution to knowledge about the Black world, which continued to include a special interest in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Spain, Schomburg may be considered the most memorable of Afro-Latinos in the United States. Schomburg’s life on the color line, his direct knowledge, and experience of racism in the Caribbean and the United States, and his kinship with other Afro-Caribeños and African Americans served as a model for Afro-Latino/as through the first half of the 20th century. Almost one hundred years after Arturo Schomburg called for the study of “Negro History,” he continues to serve as a symbol of diasporic unity and as an inspiration for Afro-Latino/as seeking knowledge about their African roots. Today, arguably the world’s largest repository of Africana, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture bears his name.
When I was experiencing a period of homesickness and culture shock during my first year at Antioch, my father surprised me by shipping my record collection that included the music of Rafael Cortijo with Ismael Rivera, Ismael Rivera’s solo recordings, El Gran Combo, Roberto Roena y Su Apolo Sound and many of my other favorites. It was as if he knew that they would serve as reminders of my roots and identity.
He had watched as my older brother and I would sit in our living room as youngsters in the late ‘50s early ‘60s glued to the moving black and white picture on television of Cortijo y su Combo performing in El Show Del Medio Día and La Taberna India. We would sing along to all of their songs, imitating their dance steps and routines, playing imaginary cowbells and percussion instruments. We would do the same thing to a different beat and language a few years’ later as young teenagers when we watched The Beatles and Rolling Stones on the Ed Sullivan Show. But Cortijo y su Combo and Ismael Rivera were our first true idols. Coupled with the exploits of Roberto Clemente and Orlando “Peruchín” Cepeda on the baseball fields throughout the major leagues, we were beginning to witness the emergence of black skinned Puerto Ricans representing Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans on the world stage.
The civil rights movement in the United States of Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the Little Rock Nine and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was gaining traction and only a few short years from the landmark passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The subsequent Black Power movement and James Brown’s “I’m Black and I’m Proud” were soon to become major elements of black empowerment, identity and pride in the United States.
But in 1961, Cortijo, Rivera, Clemente and Cepeda gave Afro Boricuas throughout the Island reason to walk with a sense of pride in our stride.
The legendary composer Rafael Hernández had paved the way for these iconic figures when he returned to Puerto Rico for a musical tour after having lived in Mexico for 15 years. Landing at Isla Grande Airport in San Juan on Saturday, June 21st, 1947 he was received by a massive gathering of compatriots as a conquering hero. Sports commentator Rafael Pont Flores summarized the event a few days later in his column for El Mundo newspaper:
“El terruño vivió horas de intensa emoción el sábado por la tarde. Al salir del avión Rafael Hernández y poner pie en tierra borincana, tal pareció, que se había parado sobre un resorte, que abrió de par en par el pecho de sus coterráneos para darle una bienvenida de conquistador romano del tiempo de los Césares.”
“Sentado en la parte de atrás de un automóvil [convertible] pasó como un celaje una figura feliz que movía los brazos en himno de gozo.” [El Mundo, 24 de junio de 1947.]
But life as we knew it with Cortijo and Ismael Rivera came crashing down on March 21, 1962 when the group returned from a tour of Panamá and Rivera was arrested at El Aereopuerto Internacional Isla Verde (now the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport) for drug possession. Eventually he would be sentenced to serve four years in a penitentiary in Lexington, Kentucky.
I vividly remember that a few months later, just days after my grandfather’s burial, my brother and I were banging out Cortijo’s plenas on the hoods of some antique cars parked in our grandmother’s yard in Salinas. As we sang “El bombon de Elena”, “Quitate de la vía Perico” and “Maquinolandera” our tía Emma came running out of the house telling us to stop singing and playing because everyone was in mourning. Proper etiquette dictated that we should be respectful and do the same. In fact, we were singing and playing because we were mourning the death of Cortijo y su Combo with Ismael Rivera.
But this seminal band would bear fruit that would grow to influence Afro-Latin music throughout the world.
It was up to Rafael Ithier, Cortijo’s pianist, to gather a group of his band mates for a meeting at 902 calle Refugio in Miramar (Roena’s house) to contemplate their future. They would decide to form a new group, highly disciplined, professional, strictly business, del pueblo (of the people) – all for one and one for all. June of ’62 they would become El Gran Combo with Ithier as their director on piano, Martin Quiñones on congas, Regelio “Kiko” Vélez on trumpet, Miguel Cruz on bass, Héctor Santos and Eddie Pérez “La Bala” on saxophones. They would add new members to the group with Mickey Duchesne on trumpet, Milton Correa on timbales, and Daniel “Maninín” Vázquez on bongó. Pellín Rodríguez and Chiqui Rivera would handle the vocals.
A few months later with Pellín Rodríguez and the addition of Andy Montañez on vocals and Roberto Roena leading their dance routines while playing bongo, and singing chorus, El Gran Combo occupied the space vacated by Cortijo and Rivera on our favorite television programs. With every passing year their recordings became soundtracks for our life’s history and their incomparable sound a brand quickly identified with El Gran Combo.
Over time they would gain international fame as Los Mulatos del Sabor, La Universidad de la Salsa, Los Embajadores de Puerto Rico, and finally ¡El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico!
Throughout the 42 years plus of “¡Con Salsa!” I have had the honor and privilege of sharing a stage with El Gran Combo on occasions too numerous to count.
One such occasion occurred on August 30, 2002 at the Diplomat Presidential Ballroom in Saugus. Our good friend Jimmy Parrilla had booked them for a dance to celebrate their 40th anniversary. In my capacity as director of the Northern New England Regional Office for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs, it occurred to me that it would be a great opportunity for them to be honored as “Boricuas Haciendo Historia” by our main office in Washington DC and for us to conduct a voter registration drive during the dance.
Mairym Ramos, Regional Offices Director for PRFAA flew up from DC just for this occasion. Serendipitously, Héctor Luis Acevedo, former Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico was visiting his daughter Jasmine who worked as a Community Officer in our office. It turned out to be a truly memorable night.
At the age of 91, Ithier doesn’t play the piano as much as before and Willie Sotelo now sits in his place. Victor E. “Cano” Rodríguez (trumpet), passed in March, 2017 and Eddie, La Bala” Perez, a founding member and popular saxophonist died four years earlier in 2013 and was succeeded by Virgil Rivera. The group still tours extensively throughout the year with Jerry Rivas, Luis A. “Papo” Rosario and Anthony García, up front alternating on vocals. García joined the band as their new singer on January 24, 2015 replacing the very popular Charlie Aponte after he left the group on December 12, 2014 after 41 years as one of their singers to pursue a solo career. Ithier, Rivas, Aponte, and Rosario along with Wilfredo “Freddie” Cruz Miranda (saxophone), Luis A. “Taty” Maldonado (trumpet), Moisés Nogueras (trombone), Richie Bastar (bongó), Miguel “Pollo” Torres (conga), Domingo “Cuqui” Santos (timbales), and Wilfredo “Freddy” Rivera (bass) were the subject of a 2010 Banco Popular television special “Salsa: Un Homenaje a El Gran Combo” that was a big seller as a CD and DVD at a time when the music industry was and is experiencing diminishing sales of its product.
My dear Divina knows that I am a lover of the spoken word and in addition to her Christmas gifts that I previously mentioned in this essay there is ¡Manteca! An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ Poets. This tome, edited by Melissa Castillo-Garsow, features the work of forty poets including one of my favorites, “Shaggy” Flores.
His bio reads as follows:
Jaime "Shaggy" Flores is a Nuyorican, Massarican, Afro-Taino Poeta, writer and African Diaspora scholar born in Spanish Harlem and raised in Cupey/Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and Springfield, Massachusetts. After graduating from the High School of Commerce, he attended UMass Amherst and became heavily involved with student organizations. During this time, he created the annual Voices for the Voiceless poetry concert, one of the largest poetry concerts in the Northeast that brings nationally established African Diaspora writers to the five-college community. It was at this event that Flores established the Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award to honor legendary artists. When he completed his studies, he received a B.A. in African Diaspora Studies (UMASS-Amherst) and received his Master’s in History from Virginia State University (HBCU). Flores has performed at events such as the annual Muévete Conference held at Hostos Community College and later at the National Poetry Slam held in Providence, RI, and for a poetry troupe created by Louis Reyes Rivera and Felipe Luciano called “Wordquestra” in New York City.
Obatalá’s Bugalú: A Nuyorican Book of Sights and Sounds, is a follow-up to his first poetry collection, Sanchocho: A book of Nuyorican poetry (2001) edited by Louis Reyes Rivera.
In his latest collection, Flores provides an eclectic group of poems that reflect his personal experiences as a Puerto Rican growing up in the U.S., a poet, a spoken word performer, an African diaspora scholar, and a labor movement organizer. By using poetry to “create change with living words,” Flores shows readers that the Nuyorican aesthetic is alive and kicking among today’s Puerto Rican writers. Flores bridges the duality of his worlds—Puerto Rican and African Diaspora—with a poetry packed with word play and musical intonations.
Flores currently works in Northern Virginia as a Director of Strategic Communications for a national organization in the Labor Movement.
So for those of you who are so kind as to have read this 4,273-word essay, I close by sharing one of his poems “Negritude” included in Obatalá’s Bugalú and the ¡Manteca! Anthology:
for Tato Laviera, Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, Juan Flores and Trinidad Sanchez, Jr.
We be those Negroes
born to slave hands
resurrecting African gods
when transplanted to new lands
with Spanglish slang
We be those Negroes
children of Yoruba y Ibo
bilingual and Indio
masters of plantation work
and Orisha spirit raising
We be those Negroes
creating jazz with cats
named Bird, Dizzy, Duke and Armstrong
Cubop Bugalu SalSoul searching journey men
Mongo Santamaría, Chano Pozo drum gods
and Celia Cruz
Legends leaving our cultural footprints
on the muddy minds
of the mentally dead
We be those Negroes
creating Schomburg Museums of Black Studies
in Nuyorican Harlem streets
where we once danced
during zoot suits riots
and Palladium massacres
We be those Negroes
drawn as Sambos and Jigaboos
by political cartoonists
who couldn’t erase
the taste of
from Antillean culinary
with curries called sofrito
We be those Negroes
brothers of Garvey
children of Malcolm
and Latin Kings
We be those Negroes
like Harvard-educated lawyer
Don Pedro Albizu Campos
in all Black regiments
learning the reality
of Jim Crow society
and their gringolandia
government race public policies
calling bilingual Negroes
We be those Negroes
giving Negro league
under the sun
to call home
when no one else
would have them
We be those negroes
on concrete jungles
to Kool Herc Grandmaster Flash
Sound Boy systems
We be those Negroes
Charlie Chasing/Disco Wizing
a dream called Hip-Hop
in Bronx backyard boulevards
casitas and tenements
with roaches for landlords
We be those Negroes
like Willie Perdomo testaments
called “Nigger-Rican Blues”
and Victor Hernández Cruz
odes to “African Things”
hiding our dark-skinned
with Bemba Colora
in places where the whiteness police
could never find them
We be those Negroes
denied access to Black Nationalist run
Karenga Kwanza poetry readings
because we remind the ignorant
of the complexity that is their culture
neither here nor there
not quite brown
not quite white
we navigate uncharted
of Black identity boxes
We those Negroes
We be those Negroes
We be those Negroes
We be those Negroes
We be those Negroes
Octoroons and Quadroons
We be those Negroes
Cimarrones and Nanny of the Maroons
We be those Negroes
Cienfuegos y Fidel
We be those Negroes
Luis Palés Matos and Aimé Césaire
We be those Negroes
We be those Negroes
y a veces
We be those Negroes
Dominicanos y Cubanos
We be those Negroes
Jaimiquinos y Haitianos
We be those Negroes
Panameños y Borinqueños
We be those Negroes
seeking freedom from
in an age of nuclear
carbon copy clone
We be those Negroes
known by many names
and many deeds
spoken of in secret
in envy during their nightly
as they try
to pick up white girls
We be those Negroes
sometimes negating our destiny
but always finding
in the darkness
We be those Negroes
© José Massó, 2011, 2018
 Dr. Carlos Gaztambide Arrillaga, Ph.D, Animal Scientist – Breeding Better Paso Fino Horses, p. 52
 Rubén Blades & Luis “Perico” Ortiz, “Sigo Pa’lante” (Autor: José Nogueras) – “Entre Amigos” 1983
 Rubén Blades, “Como Nosotros”, Mundo.
 Alan West-Durán, “AfroBoricua?” – Puerto Rico: The pleasures and traumas of race. P. 49 Centro Journal, Volume XVII Number I, Spring 2005
 © “Shaggy” Flores
“¡Salsa Divina” – “Negrito Lindo” Peggy Robles-Alvarado
In celebration of Black History Month 2018, I share this poem written by Peggy Robles-Alvarado and inclu...ded in “Manteca” An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ Poets.
Aquí to be called Negrito means to be called love – Pedro Pietri
¡Negrito lindo, tú eres la Bomba del barrio!
He is brown sugar, melao encorbatao.
Fights against the black man’s burden,
the Boricua blues, all with a swagger ensazonao.
Un hombre cordial con el tumbao de la calle.
Made of East HHHhhhharlem street concrete.
Flavored with Brooklyn cement sentiments,
entered the belly of the beast,
emerged a transformed man.
Through academia he redeemed
his once blood-stained hands.
His empowerment was self-taught.
Went from Young Lord fitted berets,
to Caribbean fedora hats,
expensive suits, wing-tip shoes,
his jibarito smile completes that suit and tie.
A once hot-headed street thug, now a classy cool cat,
he believes education helps develop tolerance.
Proclaiming our people have the genes of geniuses,
so we must refuse to be mules.
Still releasing the trauma of conquest.
Trying to shed the overseer’s side effects.
Pain slowly released over centuries,
he demands more of our youth,
the next generation, la juventud –
“Párate firme, que
tú no naciste para sentarte,
tienes que ser fuerte fuerte,
pa’lante pa’ siempre”
He advises them to
read, speak and write well.
Encourages them to find role models within themselves.
Some say the big fish die by the mouth,
but not this one, no sir!
Él tiene la clave en la boca,
que entona con el pra-ca-ta y el gua-guan-có del corazón.
Cadence of his voice resurrects the kings of the past,
calls on caciques to rise.
The tempo of his speech steady,
with the strength of an old Negro spiritual,
the heat of a rumbero, the grace of el flamenco.
He is the descendant of los pioneros.
Refuses to be intimidated by any crowd,
never to be placed in just any one category,
never to be boxed in.
The census needs a new form for this kind of man.
He is more than simple set of words.
No one definition, every-evolving
life-long learner, international traveler.
Orgulloso de todo que es de color.
No set of parenthesis can define,
contain or restrain this blood line,
that holds the beauty of the world
in each of its DNA strands.
A genetic rainbow
set in the soil of many distant lands
that stretch to Africa, Asia, Europe, Ponce, San Juan,
Cuba, Nueva York, el Bronx, de aquí, hasta el monte.
He took our dark-skin abuelas out of the kitchen
and invited them to dance;
celebrated their hereditary sancocho,
savored their racially mixed mofongo,
relished in their café con poquita leche without shame.
Found beauty in the mahogany tabaco y ron hues
of our people.
Made it safe to say: ¡Yo soy negro!
Black, Kinky, Nappy, Prieto, Moreno
Boricua, Jíbaro, Jabao, Mulatto, Mestizo, Mesclao
Ex-con, Boca grande, Malcriao, Desobediente, Presentao
Calle, Tíguere-intranquilo, Rebusero-reformao
And made it
¡Negrito lindo, tú eres la bomba del barrio!
“¡Salsa Divina!” – Black History Month 2018 Sports & Society “African Americans in Times of War”
“Be ashamed to die until you have achieved a victory for humani...ty.” – Horace Mann
Tomorrow, millions of people throughout the United States and around the world will be glued to their television sets at home or at their favorite restaurant or drinking establishment enjoying Super Bowl LII.
I have no doubt that at some moment the conversation will touch on Colin Kaepernick and NFL players taking a knee during the playing of the United States National Anthem.
February is Black History Month when we celebrate the contributions and achievements of African American and Afro Latino brothers and sisters. The February 5th edition of ESPN magazine has a cover story on the “State of the Black Athlete” that I hope you will take time to read regardless if you are watching the Super Bowl or not.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was asked for a response to those who say he should stick to basketball instead of social activism by a student at Harvard University when he spoke to a group of over 500 students this past November at a lunchtime event.
“That’s funny,” Green says, after pausing a moment. “People say athletes shouldn’t speak politics. Well, I find that funny, because everyone thinks they can speak basketball.”
The magazine goes on to remind us that “Black athlete-activists are not new, of course. Boxer Jack Johnson punched through racial barriers in the early 20th century, Jackie Robinson integrated baseball in 1947, Althea Gibson was the first person of color to win a grand slam title in 1956, and a dozen years later, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved, black-power fists atop the medal stand in the Mexico City Olympics. In 2015, a protest by the Missouri football team over racism on campus forced the resignation of the university’s president, and the following year, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade took the stage at the ESPY awards to urge athletes to speak out against injustice. A host of WNBA players, including Maya Moore and Tina Charles, have worn T-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter”.
There is a moment that we have to ask ourselves, are we part of the problem or part of the solution?
In 2015 I wrote the following essay and posted it on my Facebook page:
I read a recent article in the New York Times written by Michael Beschloss about the great Roberto Clemente “Double Outsider From Puerto Rico”…
“Today there is an abundance of Latinos in Major League Baseball, but there was not when Roberto Clemente took right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates 60 years ago this spring.”
“Clemente’s ordeal as a Puerto Rican breaking into what was then a very white preserve – and the aplomb with which he transcended his difficulties – reminds us of how far Latinos have come in American life.”
“Had he lived, Clemente, at the age of 81 this August, would have witnessed the formidable surge of Latinos into the national pastime – a phenomenon he had helped launch.”
“As Rob Ruck wrote in “Raceball: How The Major Leagues Colonized The Black and Latin Game” (2011), every player with Latino heritage who was in the majors before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 “was either Caucasian or able to pass as such.” (An example of the latter was Ted Williams, who kept quiet about the fact that his mother was born to Mexican parents.)”
“Like the Cuban-born Minnie Minoso, who started playing with the Cleveland Indians in 1949, Clemente was not only Latino but also black. Encountering mainland American culture after what he considered to be the more racially harmonious Puerto Rico, he later said he felt like a double outsider.”
“I grew up with people who really had to struggle to live,” Clemente said. He never forgot them. If not the first Latino to speak out, he was the most impassioned to decry racial and cultural discrimination. “Latin American Negro players,” he told Sport magazine in 1961, “are treated today much like all Negroes were treated in baseball in the early days of the broken color barriers. They are subjected to prejudices and stamped with generalizations…they bear the brunt of the sport’s remaining racial prejudices.”
“Clemente was a transformative figure who pushed for respect of Latinos and their culture on and off the playing field specifically in his willing to openly denounce racist and cultural bigoted beliefs that predominated during that time inside of baseball circles as well as in US society. Whether Clemente is the greatest outfielder or right fielder in baseball history is a debatable matter, but whether he is one of the most important baseball figures of the 20th century is without debate.”
He used the podium he had gained as one of the game’s brightest stars to speak to larger questions. “Clemente was interested in more than sports,” his biographer David Maraniss observed. “He was very political…and one of the people he admired the most in the world was Martin Luther King Jr.”
A little known fact is that Clemente was the Major League Baseball Players Union first Latino team rep for his Pittsburgh Pirates teammates.
I always think about my father whenever I read about Clemente. I think about him, my uncles and all of the Puerto Ricans who served in the United States Armed Forces from World War II to the Korean War, to the Vietnam War and the conflict in the Middle East. I think about my dark skinned Puerto Rican father who enlisted as a buck private and the incidents he experienced throughout his career due to ignorance, bigotry, discrimination, prejudice and racism as he rose through the ranks to become a Major in the US Army.
I am a product of his generation. I am a product of the struggles of the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s.
I am a product of Antioch College (1973) – seen as a bastion of student activism, anti-racism and progressive thought. In the ‘70’s it became one of the primary sources of student radicalism, the new left, the anti-Vietnam War movement and the Black Power movement in the Ohio region.
In the 1950’s my alma mater faced pressure from the powerful House Un-American Activities Committee and faced criticism from many area newspapers because it did not expel students and faculty accused of having Communist leanings. My college stood firm, insisting that freedom begins not in suppressing unpopular ideas but in holding all ideas up to the light.
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave the commencement speech. We have a long list of distinguished alumni including Coretta Scott-King and José Manuel Ramos Horta president of East Timor who was the co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, and holds a masters degree in Peace Studies from Antioch.
I have the utmost love, respect and admiration for the late Pedro Albizu Campos, Puerto Rican nationalist, political prisoner and Harvard University graduate. There are a number of framed silk screens in his honor hanging on walls throughout our home. There is a framed quote of his on the wall in front of me as I type this that reads “patria es valor y sacrificio”. I believe in independence for Puerto Rico, but I’m not anti-American, nor am I a communist or socialist, and I’m not anti-popular or anti-estadista.
That’s the beauty of democracy. That’s the beauty of freedom.
Among the thousands and thousands of writings, speeches, music, song and work that have informed me throughout my lifetime I include those of Paulo Freire, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Ricardo Alegría, Julia de Burgos, René Marqués, Enrique Laguerre, César Chávez, Delores Huerta, Juan Antonio Corretjer, Juan Boria, Luis Lloréns Torres, Pedro A. Malavet, The Young Lords, Juan González, Felipe Luciano, Pablo “Yoruba” Guzmán, Juan Flores, Luis Palés Matos, Martin Espada, Piri Thomas, Pedro Pietri, Jacobo Morales, The Black Panthers, Mayra Santos-Febres, Salvador Tió, Melissa V. Harris-Perry, Geoffrey Canada, Michael Eric Dyson, Tavis Smiley, Van Jones, Michelle Alexander, Spencer Overton, Randall Kennedy, Jorge Ramos, Roberto Suro, Rubén Blades, Juan Luis Guerra, Danny Rivera, Eddie Palmieri, Andrés “El Jíbaro” Jiménez, Rafael Hernández, Pedro Flores, Catalino Tite Curet Alonso, Miguel Zenón, William Cepeda, Paoli Mejias, Bobby Sanabria and Ángel “Papo” Vazquez just to name a very few.
It is for this very reason that during my recent trip to New York City I stopped by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College at 68th Street to purchase over $100 of a backlog of 23 Centro Journals to enrich my mind and spirit with information and the thoughts of our contemporary thinkers, historians and writers.
It is for this very reason that I took the #6 Subway to 116th street in El Barrio so that I could view “Anchor” a photo exhibit of El Barrio and the Young Lords centered on the photography of Hiram Maristany and enjoy the exhibit of “Homar Art Binding Ties from Puerto Rico to NYC” celebrating the artistic legacy of Lorenzo Homar and the influences of New York on his life at the new gallery space at the Centro Library in the Silberman School of Social Work at 2180 Third Avenue at 119th Street.
I’ve been to Cuba on three occasions during the past fourteen years hosting the first of three annual trips to Cuba in 2001 as part of the defunct Citizens of the World Tours for WBUR. To this day I consider those experiences as life changing, recognizing during my first trip that despite the hardships, how I was struck by the Cuban’s dignity, hospitality, gentleness, patience, indomitable spirit, unquenchable sense of humor and creativity. Cubans reminded me of my fellow Puerto Ricans and energized me to refocus my short and long term plans to participate in creating and developing a society that would recognize and respect Puerto Rican and Latino history, culture, values, and traditions – “Un Pueblo Nuevo”.
I don’t think that my family, neighbors, friends, colleagues, employers, compatriots or the government of the United States has to worry that because of my trips to Cuba or my support, campaigning and vote for President Obama on two occasions is because I harbor a secret wish for the overthrow of the United States government or our economic system.
On the contrary, it is because I have an invested interest in our country and my homeland as I have stated often. It is why every day I wake up and meditate and during my meditation as I pray I ask that what I say, do, think and feel for the day are in sync with the same purpose. I ask that I may be able to join other enlightened men and women who share similar values, with a purpose driven, mission driven life in doing the most so that future generations are healthy physically, but also mentally, emotionally, intellectually, socially, culturally, economically and spiritually. And last I ask that whatever happiness I receive is not as a consequence of someone else’s misery.
On August 5th, God willing, I will be celebrating my 65th birthday. For several years now I have been keenly aware that I have more past than future, more yesterdays than tomorrows, so I don’t take life for granted. Every day I feel the passage of life and respect how fleeting it is. Throughout my days, in silent prayer, I ask to be worthy of more time because there is still so much more to do.
I don’t consider myself a bystander; it’s not in my DNA. I will stand up for justice where there is injustice. I fight for equity where there is inequity. I will strive for equality where there is inequality. I will join others in fighting against oppression wherever there is oppression. I will add my voice to those who shine the light on corporate and personal greed above humanity. I will join others in re-creating a public square; creating dialogue, cultural and racial understanding; a better, and enlightened and embracing society today, tomorrow and for as long as I live. I will continue to work to leave this world a better place than when I was born.
I welcome public discourse that offers ideas and solutions to challenging problems that we confront as a society, a country and as citizens of the world. I believe in the power of citizenry, collaboration and cooperation. I believe in changing the political culture that is about thrashing others, undermining their very legitimacy, and lying openly and repeatedly about individuals or institutions.
If I have any standing in my community, I believe that it is my responsibility to denounce those who distort, lie or coarsen culture and discourse.
And I will die protecting your right and freedom to have and express your opinions and beliefs, even if they are different than mine.
My beliefs and values are informed by my understanding of the United States, our history, our government, our corporations, our society, our culture and our identity. Informed by my understanding of this system that we live in.
Our dear friend Rubén Blades recently shared a note he wrote in Spanish on his web page directed at his readers…I take the liberty to translate as best as possible into English just a few of his words and thoughts for your consideration.
“I want to express my deep gratitude to those who read the articles that I publish on my website and in my social networks, and who take the time and effort to write your comments either for or against what I share. You make it so that my thoughts and work are amply rewarded; you give me new strength to continue and, most importantly, contribute to the discussion and the spread of ideas that generate the changes that societies worldwide need for us to survive as a species.”
“I fully understand that as human beings we each have our own interpretations of reality, in which we are influenced by cultural, and emotional biases that include our beliefs in addition to rational thinking. Therefore, when exposing an idea I want to share with others, I try to do so in the strictly rational plane, trying to leave out my own interests, inclinations and religious convictions, because these are personal choices and I understand that they don’t need to be accepted by others.”
“But I also respect the right of every human being to have an opinion. That does not mean I must respect and accept all views as good. Everyone, at their discretion, has the right to accept or reject the opinions of others. What we cannot do is deny the right to speak. Therefore, I insist in thanking you for your comments, respecting your right to opine.”
“Another issue is the ethics limitations imposed on us when using a mass medium. Any type of media outlet, whether TV, radio, newspapers or the Internet, has an obligation to clearly establish ethical guidelines on which the opinions are published. That is why our editor has clarified on several occasions that we will not allow the publication of certain comments that exceed the limits of ethics, tolerance and decency, because we have to defend the rights of other readers.”
Rubén Blades July 6, 2015
I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who embrace the tenet of Parrhesia, a strange word, a Greek word that I have become familiar with thanks to Rubén singing a song with that title on his latest CD “Son de Panamá”. According to Michel Foucault parresia is the recognition of truth as a moral duty, even though it can produce unwanted consequences for who speaks the truth. It’s preferred to speak the truth than to live a falsehood, it is to choose to tell the truth, knowing the risk, instead of choosing security by keeping silent. It is to accept the barrage of criticism and disapproval rather than adulation and flattery.
I share this in support and solidarity with Junot Díaz, Dennis Benzan and Héctor Piña for embracing “parrhesia”.
There is a moment that we have to ask ourselves, are we part of the problem or part of the solution?
© José C. Massó III 2015, 2018
“¡Salsa Divina!” – Black History Month 2018 “Let America Be America Again” – “Freedom Sound”
For Black History Month I have bought the two volumes of Joel Chris...tian Gill’s graphic novel “Strange Fruit” for my granddaughters Brooklynn and Reagan.
I do so at a time when our Federal Justice Department is rolling back civil rights by the day, and hatred and supremacy is proudly marching in our streets under an administration that isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us, but targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection. I have faith that we are resilient and like those who struggled before us we will find the will and courage to stand up.
Tonight on “¡Con Salsa!” I hope that through the power of the spoken word and music that you find enlightenment as you listen.
I’ll share The Jazz Crusaders interpreting their “Freedom Sound” right after James Earl Jones narrates Langston Hughes “Let America Be America Again”.
Historically, The Jazz Crusaders were a nucleus of four in search of a bass player. Wayne Henderson, Wilton Felder, Joe Sample and Stix
Hooper, were working together in various bands since their junior high school days in Houston, Texas circa 1953.
After leaving Texas and settling in Los Angeles, they made their first album, Freedom Sound, Recorded at Pacific Enterprises Inc./Rex
Studios, on May 24, 1961and started musicians and critics talking about the aggressive new group from Texas, firmly rooted in tradition and growing inevitably from the blues.
Tenor saxophonist Felder, their major solo voice, is heavily in that David Newman-James Clay-Curtis Amy Texas groove. A very fast terminal vibrato lends excitement to his playing. Henderson’s trombone was generally in the J.J. Johnson tradition but with just the right hint of raucousness to provide Felder the proper complement. Samples playing is florid but well constructed and on the way to achieving an identity. Hooper, the nominal group leader, a tasty swinging drummer, provides a solid rhythmic base together with bassist Jimmy Bond. Guitarist Roy Gaines, and Bond, were not regulars in the band but joined in for the recording date.
“Let America Be America Again”
Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
Tonight on "¡Con Salsa!" in celebration of Black History Month I will share the Langston Hughes poem "Let America Be America Again" narrated by James Earl Jones....in the meantime enjoy this video narrated by Alfre Woodard.
I look forward to participating in the musical tribute to the legendary Dave Valentin...
Very excited to play with this amazing band the great tunes Dave either wrote or interpreted in his own unique way. Had so much fun learning his music! Please ...join us on 02/23 at Villa Victoria Center For The Arts at 8PM. MC, José Massó will lead us into the journey of Dave's history and contributions to latin music. No cover. Limited space! RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
“¡Salsa Divina!” – The Curtis Brothers @ Scullers Jazz Club 2.1.18
Tonight was the world premiere of Zaccai Curtis’ composition suite “Algorithm” at Scullers Ja...zz Club featuring The Curtis Brothers (Zaccai on piano and Luques on bass), Donald Harrison on saxophone, Brian Lynch on trumpet and Ralph Peterson on drums.
I feel so blessed to have enjoyed a truly memorable night of great music and to have witnessed a special moment in our musical/cultural history!
If you are anywhere near the Side Door Jazz Club at the Old Lyme Inn Connecticut check them out tomorrow night (Friday) for a live recording of this masterpiece by Zaccai commissioned by Chamber Music America: New Jazz Works. I particularly enjoyed “Inspire”, “Chief” “The Professor” and “Algorithm”.
“¡Salsa Divina” – Massachusetts Unidos Por Puerto Rico
This morning in my capacity as MassPort Director of Policy I had the distinct honor, pleasure and privile...ge to introduce Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora to the Mayor of the City of Boston, the honorable Marty Walsh before they boarded the Red Sox Jet Blue plane for a quick trip to Puerto Rico.
A heartfelt thank you to Alex, the Red Sox, Mayor Walsh, Jet Blue and all of the volunteer organizations that leaned in on behalf of Puerto Rico.
We are truly blessed!
Hoy en Boston: Un avión de ayuda enviado a Puerto Rico desde el Boston Logan Airport dirigido por el manager de los Red Sox, Alex Cora, entregará elementos de n...ecesidad para los esfuerzos de recuperación de la isla luego del paso del huracán María.
Uniéndose a Cora en la iniciativa están el presidente y CEO de los Red Sox, Sam Kennedy y el alcalde de Boston, Martin J. Walsh.
El receptor de los Red Sox, Christian Vasquez, el lanzador Chris Sale, y el alcance de Caguas, William Miranda Torres estarán a la mano a la llegada a Puerto Rico.
Además de llevar los suministros que la isla aún necesita, el grupo hará un viaje a la cuidad natal de Cora, Caguas, que está ubicada a 16 millas del sur de San Juan.
En Caguas el grupo distribuirá comida y otros objetos esenciales para las familias, y también conocerán a los jugadores de baseball de las escuelas de Caguas.
Este vuelo de hoy 30 de enero, hace parte de la iniciativa de JetBlue 100x35 de apoyo para socorrer en los esfuerzos de ayuda de corto y largo plazo para la isla.
La misión entregará alrededor de 10 toneladas de suministros que incluyen:
Suministros médicos y vacunas para el
Hospital Pediatrico Universitario (HOPU) en San Juan, sistemas de filtración de agua, kits de emergencia, comida enlatada, baterías, linternas, productos de aseo, pañales, juguetes y equipos de baseball y ropa donada por New Balance, Franklin y 47 Brand.
“¡Salsa Divina!” – “La vida te da sorpresas, sorpresas te da la vida…”
Last night when I arrived at ‘BUR, I found a copy of the latest edition of the Current ne...wspaper which features “news for people in public media” in my mailbox. One of my colleagues had left it there with a note attached to it – “Jose, check out p. 13 third column!! You Rock!”
So I opened the paper to page 13 and to my surprise above the fold I found my name among over 100 others from the world of national public media under the heading “2017 Honorees Named to the Public Media Honor Roll”.
Somewhere I have an angel watching over me and I owe a debt of gratitude for whoever submitted my name to this august group of communicators.
I’m truly humbled.
Thank you with much love and respect.
“¡Salsa Divina!” – Raza.
I remember that for Christmas in 1958, in addition to the toys on my Christmas list I asked my parents for a subscription to a few spor...ts magazines; “Sports Illustrated”, “Baseball Digest”, “The Sporting News” and “Sport Magazine”. Thus began my love of reading.
Over the years, every Christmas my father would spoil me with books, and magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
Divina, my dear wife, has followed suit and this past Christmas added a number of books with the topic of race in Latin music and history.
Last Saturday night I shared a set of Cuban Hip-Hop inspired by a chapter in the new book by our dear friend, Alan West-Durán, “Cuba, A Cultural History”. Alan is a respected author and Associate Professor of Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies at Northeastern University. He is also Editor-in-Chief of A Cuba Encyclopedia.
The songs dealt with the complex issues of race in Cuba and featured themes that are worthy of discussion and examination.
The “Being Black in Cuba: Cuban Hip-Hop” set included:
1. “Las Caras Lindas” (featuring Velcro & Pedrito Martinez) by the Mexican all woman Mariachi band Flor de Toloache;
2. “Chango Blanco” by Puerto Rican Reggaetón artist Tego Calderón;
3. “Son Dos Alas” by the Cuban Hip-Hop group Anónimo Consejo with Tego as invited guest;
4. “Guapo Como Mandela” and “Loma y Machete” by Anónimo Consejo;
5. “Tengo” and “Lágrimas Negras” by the Cuban Hip-Hop group Hermanos de Causa;
6. “¿Quién tiró la Tiza?” by the Cuban Hip-Hop group Clan 537;
7. “Los Pelos” by the Cuban Hip-Hop group Obsesión; and
8. “Sueño Americano” by the Anónimo Consejo & Debie.
Tonight on “¡Con Salsa!” I’ll feature a set that includes “Negrito” by Puerto Rican bass player, Fania All-Star and band director Bobby Valentín from his latest CD “Mi Ritmo es Bueno” and spoken word by Dulce Coco (from Loíza, Puerto Rico) “Tu Pelo Habla” and Elizabeth Acevedo’s “Hair” and “Afro-Latina”.
The following is from Elizabeth’s official webpage:
Yo. Welcome. I'm hype you're here.
I'm ELIZABETH ACEVEDO.
I hail from New York City and I'm the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants (Wepa!). I've gotten all kinds of schooling: from learning the essential elements of writing and performing at the little park on my block, to receiving a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. I've been a part of corner cyphers, and fancy workshops and I don't put those credits here to big myself up, but just to pay respects to the academic and non-academic settings that inform my work; that forced me to find my voice and taught me to take up space.
I been writing and performing for a long-ass time; been on television, given TEDTalks, traveled all over the world and all over the country on tour. I write both poetry and fiction and it's not a stretch to say, I love language. I commit wholeheartedly to the mission that my mother's stories will not die with her. I believe wholeheartedly telling my own story is an act of love and survival.
On some real tip, reading and writing changed the course of my life and because of both I now understand myself better. My hope is that my work does that for someone else. This is not my official bio (although you can find that below, if you'd like). This is my personal invitation for you to explore my website, to interact with my work, to find joy here and to be boldly moved to let your own joy loose upon the world.
ELIZABETH ACEVEDO was born and raised in New York City and her poetry is infused with Dominican bolero and her beloved city’s tough grit.
She holds a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over twelve years of performance experience, Acevedo has been a featured performer on BET and Mun2, as well as delivered several TED Talks. She has graced stages nationally and internationally including renowned venues such as The Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, and South Africa’s State Theatre, The Bozar in Brussels, and the National Library of Kosovo; she is also well known for poetry videos, which have gone viral and been picked up by PBS, Latina Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Upworthy.
Acevedo is a National Slam Champion, Beltway Grand Slam Champion, and the 2016 Women of the World Poetry Slam representative for Washington, D.C, where she lives and works.
Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Puerto Del Sol, Callaloo, Poet Lore, The Notre Dame Review, and others. Acevedo is a Cave Canem Fellow, Cantomundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer's Workshop. She is the author of the chapbook, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and the forthcoming novel, The Poet X (HarperCollins, 2018).
I invite you to tune in tonight from 10:00pm - 3:00am on wbur90.9fm or worldwide on the web:wbur.org
“¡Salsa Divina!” – El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico 2018
If there is a musical group from Puerto Rico that is emblematic of Puerto Rican national pride, it’s El Gra...n Combo de Puerto. The iconic group is currently celebrating it’s 55th anniversary under the direction of its founder, the legendary and 92 years young Rafael Ithier.
In anticipation of their upcoming concert/dance in the Boston area on Sunday, March 11th, tonight I’ll share a couple of their classics and tracks from their latest CD “Alunizando” (Moon Landing) featuring Jerry Rivas and Anthony García on vocals.
I invite you to tune in tonight from 10:00pm – 3:00am on wbur90.9fm or worldwide on the web:wbur.org
Tonight on "¡Con Salsa!" I'll share our dear friend Jaime Rodriguez Rodriguez reciting the "El Pueblo donde nací"....
Jaime Rodríguez Rodríguez, respected Puerto Rican community leader and activist in Boston reciting "El pueblo donde nací" a "décima borinqueña" from Salvador Tió's book "Soy Boricua Porque Soy" as heard on "¡Con Salsa!" WBUR90.9FM or www.wbur.org
“¡Salsa Divina!” – “Old School Salsa Classics”
As I prepare tonight’s edition of “¡Con Salsa!” I’m listening to some classics inspired by Luis “Perico” Ortiz’s ...“Hasta Siempre” concert last Saturday night at Lehman College.
In 1976 his trumpet solo on Cheo Feliciano’s recording of “Canta” on his album “The Singer” (Vaya Records) arranged by Louie Ramirez with Johnny Pacheco on the flute solo, and Papo Lucca on the piano inspired Cheo to sing “Oye, por tu Linda ejecución es que te llaman Perico.”
Two years earlier, in 1974, his scorching trumpet solo on Celia Cruz’s recording of “Quimbara” with Johnny Pacheco ("Celia & Johnny", Vaya Records) written by Jr. Cepeda from Puerto Rico (who was 20 years old at the time) and arranged by Felipe Yanes, helped make this song one of her most popular recordings.
In 1981 “Perico” teamed up with Milly Quezada, lead singer of Milly, Jocelyn y los Vecinos, a very popular merengue band from New York City and produced her album “No Te Puedo Tener” (Algar Records) accompanied by his orchestra. The album was a departure for Milly since it featured eight tracks in the “salsa genre” including the title track, a guaracha written by “Perico” and four other tracks written by the legendary Puerto Rican composer “Tite” Curet Alonso.
In 1977 “Perico” composed and arranged two selections (“Mai Kinshasa” and “Sunrise Prince”) on the “Buyú” album by legendary percussionist José Mangual Sr. (Turnstyle Records a division of Latin Percussion Ventures Family) produced by Martin Cohen (founder and owner of Latin Percussion, Inc.). In the liner notes Cohen gives special thanks to “Perico” for his “exquisite tunes and arrangements” and thanks Luis Mangual “for turning us on to Luis Ortiz”.
A year later “Perico” would produce and release his first album as a leader “My Own Image” (Turnstyle Records) with Martin Cohen as the Executive Producer.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Tonight on “¡Con Salsa!” we’ll go “old school” from time-to-time. I invite you to tune in from 10:00pm – 3:00am on wbur.90.9fm or worldwide on the web:wbur.org