Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is Humanity

All I Want for Christmas is Humanity

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. - Mahatma Gandhi

December 26th, 2010 will mark the second year anniversary of my own hypocritical journey though the last two years of my life…

A journey I was only just reminded of tonight while watching my
illegally downloaded copy of the movie Gandhi.

I’m sure not many of you can sympathize or empathize with the feeling of packing a few suitcases with all of your belongings, along with a few boxes of books on Christmas day, knowing you’d be leaving your children the very next morning.


But I can assure it’s a heart wrenching experience the likes of which I wouldn’t curse or wish upon my most envious of enemies.

Two years later and I still only know for a fact that I was venturing off into a future that promised me nothing other than an opportunity to try to answer what back then was the unanswerable question of why am I really here.

Why am I really here?

It’s one of those survivors guilt questions thrust on those of us willing enough to pay attention to the fact that we survived an upbringing that at times should’ve proven to be un-survivable.
A question that I’ve come no closer to answering after 724 days back in New York than I did when I was living a calm, quiet and comfortable existence back in Virginia Beach.

For those of you who consider yourselves my loyal readers, you’d realize I’ve been gone for over a month from this blog spot.

The exhaustion of chasing down the answer to that question finally got the best of me and I disappeared and went back to the kind of exhaustion that allows workaholics a six-figure salary in corporate America if you’re willing to give up everything else…

80-hour work weeks are enough to turn anyone into a zombie and when you need brainless
activity to rest your thoughts… you don’t turn on CNN… you turn on MTV.

So there I was trying to forget… trying to mind my own business after allowing my dreams to
collapse in on themselves causing a catastrophic-like claustrophobic cave of silence and nothingness…

Doing what we all do when we give up on our dreams… Getting lost in the irrelevance of popular cultures reality television that is so far from reality, it very rarely allows us to come back…

A
nd then his face brought me back…right there… James Cruz… that son of a bitch snapped me right back out of my own hypnotized state of stupidity and made me remember one of my happiest days in recent memory…

It was the day I sat across a conference room
table from him with my partner at the time, Actress April Lee Hernandez and listened to James tell us how we’d never have to worry about money again.

“I’m a dream maker… I make peoples dreams come true for a living… that’s what I do.” – James Cruz
He wasn’t lying to us, at least not intentionally I don’t believe. As a marketing genius and music managing monster that’s helped guide the careers of everyone from Diddy to 50 Cent and Akon to Missy. He’s certainly assisted in dream making for many people including the hottest female
rapper to hit the scene in a minute, Nicki Minaj, which led me to my, “Oh shit,” moment while watching My Time Now on MTV a few nights ago…

That day in that conference room – if only for a brief moment – Cruz made April and I believe that altering the mind-states of our teenagers was as important as how many units 50 Cent would sell in his first week. He provided us with so much hope that I remember watching April wipe tears of joy away from her eyes.

Though I never heard back from James after his promise to help promote my first book, Next Stop, it was one of those defining moments in my life that made me realize that I could reach for the stars, after all I was only one degree removed from Diddy at that point.

But the all too sad reality was the fact that I had to grow-up and realize that changing a life, or even saving a life for that matter isn’t profitable. It’s too great a monetary cost for us to expect any men of prominence and wealth to take up as a cause. That is of course unless one needs a tax deduction at the end of the year.

No, unfortunately the profit still remains in our own ignorance. Ignorance so strong that it not only sustained itself for the past few generations, but it’ll far surpass any ignorance we’ve seen for generations to come.

It’s on the same level as my own inner ignorance that made me believe I could come back to
New York and change the world.

I guess being laughed at by a co-worker prior to walking away from a 15-year career now seems l
ike justifiable laughter. At the time I was all gun-ho about proving him wrong. But these days, I just want to prove myself right… that in the midst of a failed dream. I can still retain my dignity and my own humanity.

This year I would’ve made 17-years as a loyal employee of a billion dollar company in Virginia Beach. My Christmas bonus would’ve been in the range of $7,500.00. And my kids wouldn’t have wanted for anything that daddy couldn’t get them this year and stuff under the tree.

I wonder if they’ll ever forgive me for leaving them and
failing at this mission I explained to them was something I was called to do.

No matter that outcome… I still have to hold on to the belief that my children are better served seeing that sometimes sacrifice for the greater good of humanity is much more rewarding than our own financial gain in this lifetime. Even when they can’t see the actions of their father.

Perhaps I only ever returned to New York to buy those two cans of formula for that stranger’s baby with my last ten bucks in the bodega that night… Maybe my destiny was to feed a hungry child that one night.


Or the night I almost got beat up trying to help a drunk and homeless man with one leg get out of the middle of the intersection on 125th Street even though his wish was to stay right there even if he had to hit me with his crutch to do it… Perhaps destiny dictated that my timing kept him from being hit by a car.

Maybe it was the time I tried like hell to give a deranged homeless guy wearing a bag for a shoe the $16.00 I had in my pocket only to watch him stare endlessly into a puddle of dirty water while trying to wash his face…

He never looked up… never took the money…

No matter the ending… the means were justified in taking just a few moments out of my day to be a humanitarian.

The men in India who saw Mahatma Gandhi’s gift to inspire and help his people… changed the course of the world. More so perhaps than Gandhi himself…

When Gandhi first returned to India he told the powers that be that his first course of action would be to setup his law practice to feed his family. Even back then, money made the world go
round…

Luckily for the world, they told him, “You forget about your practice… you have other things to do. India has many men with too much wealth and it’s their privilege to acknowledge the few who can raise India from servitude and apathy…”

Imagine that… the privilege of the wealthy to support the few who can inspire those needing inspiration to live better lives.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever find that kind of support system…

But I’m not going to let that stop me from asking Santa for it this year…

Santa… If you get this letter… I need some wealthy men and women who believe in change to
support me on my future campaign of, “A penny for your thoughts…” so I can go back out there and listen to our youth… and find out how we can bring about change for a few of them…

And this time… I’m going to make them pay for my advice so I can pay it forward… You have a problem… You need to talk? That’ll be one penny please…

We all need to give a little this Christmas!

Be the change you want to see in the world… - Mahatma Gandhi




Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Poor People are Punks

Poor People are Punks

When it comes to politics… poor people are the worst kinds of punks I’ve ever laid eyes on.

And when I say poor, I’m not only speaking about the almost 36 million Americans, according to the US Census Bureau, living below the poverty line…


I’m speaking directly to every American who has found themselves struggling over the last two years due to this countries great depression. Yet who didn’t have any fight left in them to make it to the polls during midterm elections last week…

You’re all punks…

I’m speaking to those middle class Americans who’ve had their homes foreclosed on over the last few years, but had no voice in this political war…

You’re all damn punks!


I’m speaking to the almost 15 million unemployed Americans who chose not to take the fight to the ballot boxes. Who in failing to do so, refused to retain democratic control of congress, now turning it back over to a republican controlled government for the unforeseeable future…

A
government congress of republicans who will surely fail to redistribute any of the elitist’s wealth back over to we the people…

You’re all the worst kind of damn punks I’ve ever had the displeasure of being stuck in a foxhole with!

Yes, I… we… together… are all stuck in the trenches, but the sad truth is many of us aren’t even loading our proverbial weapons… those weapons being our intellects.

We’re not educating ourselves, much less our children about the real power of the vote… And in
failing to do so, we’ve already lost the fight, the battle and the whole damn war… At least for another 8 to 10 years…

"The war against working people should be understood to be a real war.... Specifically in the
U.S., which happens to have a highly class-conscious business class.... And they have long seen themselves as fighting a bitter class war, except they don't want anybody else to know about it." - Noam Chomsky

Again, while the American worker lost 25% and more of their 401K plans, the 400 richest Americans wealth increased by $30 billion, brining their combined wealth to $1.57 trillion…

Who cares right? We didn’t need retirement funds or seed money for our children’s college educations… Who the hell needs to go to college these days anyway?

I’d probably be pointing my daughter towards a more financially rewarding career if I told her to drop out of college and become a marijuana dealer instead…

Considering the fact that, “17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree.”

Why invest all that money into your own future, if you can start at Applebee’s tomorrow?

May I take your order please?

The sad thing is that I always used to tell my daughters in the drive thru as we pulled up, “If you don’t want to be asking someone, “Would you like fries with that,” you better go to college girls…”

With the BLS reporting that hundreds of thousands of college educated professionals are now working as waiters, waitresses and parking lot attendants, seems to me that trying to “Educate” my daughters about education was way off the mark of what America has now become.

But why cry out in pain about it anymore?

I’ll leave that to the 5,057 janitors in the U.S. who hold Ph.D.’s and other doctorates while also holding a mop… Seems they have quite a bit to be pissed off about.

The saddest truth is that it’s beginning to become fundamentally clear to me that we have no one to blame for our current conditions but ourselves.

No more blaming the man… no more blaming the government and no more blaming Jay-Z and
the Illuminati…

We don’t vote… we don’t care… we’re voiceless…

So it’s about time we start taking a cold hard look in the mirror and accepting responsibility for refusing to get off our lazy asses and take back our country…

This isn’t some illuminati, conspiracy theory bullshit babble here by a crazy man wanting to start a revolution because he’d rather die than pay back the $50K in student loans he has… Yes, I’m talking about myself…

These are black and white facts, researchable by any ten year old with a knack for Google and a
few key words like, “Why is America in the shitter?” and “Why aren’t mommy and daddy doing anything about it?”

I’ll tell you why… because we’re too busy in every ghetto U.S.A, as I like to call it, teaching our kids how to fight…

And if you don’t believe me go to YouTube and key in, “Fights in the Hood.

Oh, you better believe we love fighting… I became so transfixed and mesmerized or ignorantly hypnotized by the, “Fights in the hood,” videos that I ended up watching parts 1, 2 and 3… and moved on to Fights in the Hood New York, LA and Las Vegas Editions…

It was enough to almost make me want to call it quits on ever writing another blog again… But then that’s a weekly thing these days as I grow tired of seeing my people so unwilling to fight for what’s right… to fight for change…

Instead, we fight over dirty looks, over hoodrats (both male and female) over a stepped on pair of Jordan’s, “Shit’s is expensive son,” over nothing and everything due to our frustrations of wanting everything and having nothing…

And in the end… that makes us all punks… Because we’re fighting ourselves… have been for decades and most likely will continue to do so until one day the 400 richest men in American leave to their planet and laugh on their way out of orbit while we finish each other off until there is no one left…

Seems like we’re all headed for a self-fulfilling doomsday prophecy of 2012-like proportions…

Professor Dr. Mark Naison of Fordham University summed it up best thi
s week when he wrote on Facebook about his projections for what comes next in the Bronx…

“More fights and violent incidents in schools, and more abusive behavior toward teachers, as young people feel the stress of the economic crisis on their families and caretakers. Young mothers turning to prostitution to help them and their children stay in apartments whose rents they can barely afford. More vicious attacks on vulnerable groups – particularly gays and recent immigrants – by groups of young men and women…”

I
t was an assessment I not only agreed with, but one which founder of Urban Latino Radio, Alex Norman and I began to speak about over a year ago, when we began discussing what happens next…

In the end I believe it’s all about karma…

On a grand scale – America goes to Afghanistan and Iraq and slaughters hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children… all while looking for one terrorist… and plunging us into trillions of dollars in debt… Bad Karma!

On a much smaller scale – we’ve stopped caring about each other as neighbors and prefer to turn a blind eye to violence and crime all the while contributing to the complete devastation of compassion in our communities… Bad Karma!

And in the end… We were all just a bunch of punks who failed humanity!


Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a
Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos.



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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teens With a Purpose… Makes Moves to Change the World

Teens With a Purpose… Makes Moves to Change the World

The name of the collective says it all…Teens With a Purpose… The Movement!

A name so undeniably powerful that when correctly deciphered becomes the definitive solution to the unanswerable question of, “How do we save our teenage populace?”

In my humblest opinion, I don’t believe there is any better way to save our youth than to empower them with the abilities and resources to save themselves… and this is what TWP sets out to accomplish.

I was extremely humbled and honored to be invited to speak again this year at the 2nd Annual Teens With A Purpose Silent Auction & Gala in Norfolk, Virginia with special guest of honor and board member Al Roker of NBC’s Today Show in support of such an important cause.

And just hours after arriving with very little sleep, the speech began to writ
e itself in my head as if it was always destined to be given this way… “I want you all to know that Deirdre Love and I caught the very same disease… at the very same time…”

I was speaking about my co-worker and good friend, Founder & Executive Director of TWP, who in 2008 had begun to share with me her truest mission in life. It just so happened to be at the same time I was running around as Co-founder of the “What Is Your Next Stop?” campaign with Actress April Lee Hernandez, while we tried to educate the youth about the importance of their next stop in life…

Our missions were identical – actively working towards empowering the youth to find their own self worth– and giving them the real world education necessary to understand that they had the power to become productive members of society no matter what conditions they were being raised in.

The disease Dee and I both caught – most likely in the water cooler at work – made us both allergic to money and financial stability. It made us care more about humanity, than currency, a very rare disease to say the least. And not a disease many would care to become infected with in the materialistic society we’ve all become so accustomed to.

Unfortunately for us, the doctors in Hampton Roads, also known as our friends, had no ability to cure us with their words including, “You’re crazy if you leave a secure position in a billion dollar company, to attempt to save the un-savable teens of this generation…”

That’s not to say that all of our friends were against what we were doing, many were extremely
supportive, while others simply couldn’t see the vision we had.

But at the end of the day, Deirdre and I had to make our own paths in life, and I’m happy to report that neither one of us listened to reason, we stayed the course. And while our approaches were a little different; our conviction was unshakeable as we both set out in separate directions while walking the very same path.

Deirdre began to work hard to promote the TWP movement in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, while I returned to ground zero here in the South Bronx, trying to establish my own movement of positive change for the youth.

We stayed in touch and I was always happy to hear about her progress with TWP, even though my campaign was failing miserably as financial supporters continued to back away from promises, leaving me with nothing more than an empty bank account and broken dreams as the economy continued to plummet further and further into despair.

I recall one meeting April Lee and I had with a millionaire who looked us dead in the eyes and said, “You make your fortune first, you write a check and you call it a day… That’s charity!”

One of the most powerful men in New York City had just told us that our vision of bettering the lives of the youth was meaningless… We walked towards the South Street Seaport with tears in our eyes and broken spirits…

That meeting was the beginning of the end for the “What Is Your Next Stop?” campaign.

And it became apparent to me that when these services were needed at their peak, they weren’t going to be available.

Programs for the poor and underserved have and always will be the victims of a downturn in the economy, leaving the rich to duck, run and cover up their money… while the underserved youth are left to stand on corners playing deadly games of killing time and sometimes themselves and each other. All the while witnessing their single parents stand on lines 3 blocks long hoping to get dinner at the neighborhood food bank…

Capitalist America, at it’s best!


Educator and Historian Alfred Whitney Griswold once wrote, “Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased. It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations. It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the beautiful, we have served it; knowing the truth we have spoken it…”

It is a statement that defines the beliefs we must instill in our youth, for once they accept this as a way of life, as opposed to the do-or-die, get rich or die trying, gangster mentalities so ingrained in their psyches, it is only then that we can begin to turn the direction of their lives around for the better.

Teens With Purpose is a movement that sets out to instill self-respect into the psyches of these creative, talented and beautiful young people. So that once the light begins to shine in their heads and their hearts, it can never be dulled, dimmed or put out again.

TWP’s most important contribution to society will most certainly revolve around the fact that they are educating and empowering their peers in ways very rarely seen. And they’re doing it through the power of song, dance, acting and spoken word…

On Saturday morning (10/26/2010) TWP took over the Lamberts Point Community Center in Norfolk, Virginia and gave the youth a taste of what it meant to be a move maker… A person who takes those initial steps to invoke positive change in their lives…

And it felt so beautiful to see all of the young people singing, dancing, smiling and laughing… It felt right…

The internal pride was sparked inside of me as I listened to Emeka (Soul), Richard (Testimony), Sylvantria (One Word) & RaShay (King Ti) sing, “You don’t understand I was made to be different…” for what they were singing about was understanding and hope…

And as Testimony broke out into spoken word he recited, “You don’t understand I’m different from those who go through the motions in life likes waves and call it living…”


It was a young mans cry to his peers to stand up and realize that life is not dictated nor defined by their environment, but more so by their own beliefs in their God given right to be different, to be accepted and to be respected…

Deirdre Love became different the moment she caught this disease of love and humanity… and decided to act upon it…


Al Roker, Karen Mantel, Tanya Kearney, Nicole Livas, Queen GodIs and everyone else who
came out to support this worthy event all caught this same disease and in doing so became different…

My girlfriend, Leslie Ann Sastre caught the bug of being different during this event, when she jumped out of her chair and donated a great deal of money to help this movement continue to build it’s legacy…

As for me, I was just proud to have my first born Heaven Aja there to see just how different her father is… Different enough to hope you all become infected with the disease of humanity…

Teens With Purpose… The name itself speaks to the power of the change that is beginning to manifest itself.


In Loving Memory of Adam...

____


Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

If I Were Gay… I’d Kill You Before I Killed Myself…

If I Were Gay… I’d Kill You Before I Killed Myself…



Message to all bullies: I don’t like you; I don’t fear you and I damn sure don’t respect you…

Ever since I was a young child, I’ve never appreciated a person that used their size or power over others as an intimidation tactic.

Most likely due to the fact that I have this unnatural curse that ensures I feel a perfect stranger’s
pain, even with just a mere glance. So seeing people suffer is never something I care to be exposed to in person, and if confronted with one human being abusing another, I have no choice but to address it on the spot.

The professional therapists of the world define this as internalizing – which basically means taking ownership over others pain and making it your own…

I call it being a pit-bull stuck in a Chihuahua’s body... And though I’m usually the smallest guy at the battle, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to back up my bark with the right size bite whenever necessary.

I simply don’t care to see people being forced into fear, and when it comes to bullies… I have no tolerance for you.

Over the last week life has seemingly come full circle for me. As I reentered corporate America, accepting a position as a project manager for a billion dollar company on 51st & Lexington.

The last time I was working amongst the capitalist giants of America, I was 20-years old, working on the 30th Floor of tower two in the World Trade Center… until I ended my own career shortly after the first bombing in 1993, and my Cousin Tony’s murder in the Bronx…

Too much madness… not enough stomach for it… the plush landscapes of Virginia Beach was calling and I happily answered the call…

But now here I am back on the iron horse, 17-years later, the protocol son returns, and I’m sitting on the D Train at Midnight, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase… trying to abide by the same rules I wrote about in a chapter called Subway Survival 1010, in my memoir, “Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx…”

There’s only one problem… At my age, I don’t care to be told what to do… not even when I’m the one doing the telling.

So instead of sitting stuck in fear in the dark tunnels of New York’s underground… I carry a weapon in my briefcase just on the off-shoot chance that someone mistakes me for a metro-sexual, or a gay man, or a man whose shoes are too shiny or tie is too pink… a man who is dressed way to pretty to be able to defend himself…

In other words I’m the modern day Bernard Goetz (minus the racist antics) sitting on the train waiting for someone to attempt to victimize me…

During the early part of the week, on my commute, I found myself reading updates via the NY Daily News about the suicide of Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, who decided his best option was to take one last dive off the George Washington Bridge, rather than deal with the humiliation of being “outed” as a gay man on Facebook or You Tube.

And by week’s end, the story of nine sadistic heartless teens from the Bronx calling themselves the Latin King Goonies were being rounded up for savagely sodomizing three gay men in a torturous gang assault in an abandoned house at 1910 Osborne Avenue…

Reading stories like this left my heart beating faster than the train on the tracks racing uptown, it left me with emotions of anger and disgust, and left my Facebook status reading, “I’m seriously considering becoming gay for a short time… just so that I can lie in wait for someone to try that hate crime bullshit on me…”

I’ve actually had a few propositions since posting this update - should I decide I don’t love you women anymore… and the propositions didn’t offend me or send me flying off the deep end… They made me smile in flattery, no different then if a woman I wasn’t interested in would hit on
me… I’d simply say thank you, I’m happily involved…

For those of you who read my blogs on a weekly basis, you’d understand that I haven’t written over the last several weeks because nothing has moved my heart to put pen to paper… I write from my soul and no news is good news for me… It means an empty blog come next Monday morning…

But with continued reports of other young gay men committing suicide over the past few months, I realized it was time to man up and speak out against the intolerance even those in my own circle have shown to the gay community at times…

Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas, were all living, breathing, beautiful human beings who were born to love those of their own gender, no different than I have it in my heart to be attracted to women… and these poor young men didn’t deserve to be mercilessly tortured until their only option was to end their own existence in this world…

No one deserves this as a final fate!

Asher Brown was a 13-year old boy from Texas who shot himself in the head rather than be
picked on for being different…

Seth Walsh was another 13-year old from California who chose to hang himself rather than endure the relentless bullying he’d been subject to… Justin Aaberg was a 15-year old Minnesota boy who also hung himself…

Raymond Chase, yet another young man at only 19-years old from New York who also hung himself…

And Billy Lucas, another young teen from Greensburg, Indiana who’d actually been told to kill himself by his bullies, when he finally decided it was in his best interest to simply comply rather than continue the never-ending taunting…

This must be all very good news to Republican, New York Governor hopeful, Carl Paladino who was quoted as saying, “I don’t want [children] brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option – it isn’t…”

So in his words, these young teenagers, who were just starting to feel what drew them to love,
were somehow brainwashed by endless episodes of Sex in the City, and decided to turn gay because it was cool and hip and wouldn’t lead to the types of torture that would drive them all to suicide…

He went on to say there is, “Nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual…”

Message to Carl Paladino: Should you win the race to be Governor of New York, I will move out of state within 24-hours. I will not be represented by someone as intolerant as you…

Message to my friends: If you say no-homo around me, consider yourself an ex-friend… I will no longer tolerate any form of anti-gay slurs in my presence.

I may not be able to change the world… or the views of those who are not immediately accessible to me… But I can change myself and the behaviors of those around me who choose to continue these negative connotations that lead to bias against groups of people who may
choose to live a little differently than us…

I’m declaring it Gay Week, Gay Month and Gay Year… in memory of all the young lives being lost, and those that continue to be tortured every moment of everyday… Please know you are not alone in this fight… Please don’t give up… Please don’t end your life… There are better days ahead…

My next T-shirt will read, “I’M GAY (front)… DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT (back)!

I suggest you all get one… and wear it with pride…





Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Can Someone Please Murder Intolerance & Ignorance?

Can Someone Please Murder Intolerance & Ignorance?



I had a severe case of writers block last weekend. On the nine year anniversary of 9/11, I once again fell into that place of depression one falls into when trying to process loss…

September 11th, 2001 is as painful a day to revisit in my mind, even all these years later, as it was to actually experience the agonizing shock of the morning itself.

For some reason the media always mentions how beautiful the weather was on that fateful day – as if terrible disasters should only happen in the midst of thunderous storms that set the scene for certain despair.


Me personally, I never would’ve realized what nature had to offer us in the way of the climate that morning, for I was already in mourning myself, early on a day, which at its close would come to alter Americas sense of security indefinitely…

My head was already hung low to the ground, my dark suit was neatly pressed and all of my thoughts revolved around heading off to a funeral for the mother of my good friend, Melvin
Freeman, who had regrettably passed away several days prior.

It was only a few days earlier that I was immersed in deep conversation with Mel about the intricate topic of life and death. My conversation with him at his mothers wake was one of assurance that even in this tragedy… that even after losing the rock and the foundation of his very existence, that the only way to make his mother proud would be to live a fruitful life himself, a meaningful life… a life of purpose.

I was basically asking him not to give up on life…

Can you imagine the tens of thousands of conversations like this that took place in the days after 9-/11?


Can you imagine how many difficult memories still plague those who lost loved ones so many years ago, seemingly as if it were only just yesterday?

In my eyes… the worst part about loss, is the loss of the dreams that one realizes will never come to fruition with the person no longer her to live out those imaginings.

On the morning of 9/11, I don’t believe I could’ve been sitting in a safer environment as the towers were burning, preparing to collapse, because I was sitting in a church in Norfolk, Virginia...

And although it was a funeral… it was far from solemn.

Even being in my 30’s, I was just being exposed to new experiences, new cultures and religions.

And here I was learning that an African American funeral is a celebration of life, complete with angelic singing from the choir, dancing in the isles and praying out in joy that this life was somehow a blessing to all who knew Mrs. Freeman.

They truly do celebrate life…


It was a far cry from the incense smoke and dark hymns of the many Catholic funerals I’d become accustomed to in the early years of my life…

I lost a lot of water weight that morning, tasting my own salted tears flowing down my face, as if my face were a leaky faucet that simply couldn’t be plugged…

I was crying out in heartbreak for my good friend’s mother… crying out for all those I’d lost along my own journey through life and crying out in pain due to the atrocities taking place in my native New York on that historically tragic day… while I was sitting in a comatose state in God’s house.

And I never really stopped crying… Even as the years on the calendar continued to change, the pain of that day never really leaves ones soul… Does it?

Several months after 9/11, in November I flew to Seattle on business. As with many of my past career-related travels, I was alone, yet wanting to experience my surroundings… places I never could’ve imagined visiting when I was a corner kid back in the Bronx… So I headed out…


On this night, I was on the observation deck of the Seattle Space Needle enjoying the breathtaking scenery of a lovely city lit up illuminating its own magical beauty.

And while there was no comparison to the beauty of New York City from the observation deck of the World Trade Center, it gave me peace to be sixty stories up enjoying a beautiful night sky…

Until that sense of peace was shattered by my own intolerance…


I turned to observe six Muslim men, dressed in full traditional garb speaking in a native tongue
I had no hopes of deciphering…

My deepest levels of ignorance and intolerance reared themselves to me that night, as I began to wonder if these men were there plotting to blow up the Space Needle… or even worse, preparing to blow it up at that very moment…

As I looked down from sixty stories above the earth, I immediately caught flashbacks of New Yorkers leaping to their own deaths on 9/11… I shook my head and grew disturbingly angry at the events of that day… I wanted to fight… But I didn’t even know who my enemy was.
I caught myself staring at these men as if they were the terrorists… though they were most likely just tourists themselves wanting to experience Seattle as I did…

I locked eyes with one of the men, who quickly turned away. I suppose they didn’t want to be in the habit of inviting confrontation around that very sensitive time.

I can only imagine the racism and hatred they must’ve felt, and still feel to this day when
Americans get angry and want to lash out at someone who looks like a terrorist.

Makes me think back to a time when the KKK would grab any Negro boy off the street and hang him on a tree simply for being the same skin color as someone they perceived as the enemy.

Reminds me of the Arizonians sitting on the border waiting to shoot any wetback they see
coming across “their” line, into “their country…”

And it definitely looks like the type of racism that is drummed up when intolerance and ignorance are mixed with anger causing a disastrous outcome, such as the stabbing of a Muslim cab driver, Ahmed H. Sharif, by a 21-year-old film student, Michael Enright just a few weeks back.

It took time for me to learn tolerance… and I believe I’m a better man today as my focus is always on over-standing… which means choosing to understand on a higher level of thinking…

Recently, I’ve tried to understand all of the controversy surrounding the mosque being built at
Ground Zero and in the end it still merely equates to nothing more than intolerance.

The intolerance, not of a religion that when taken out of context can lead to radicals killing innocents… But the intolerance of “all” who practice that religion and everything they stand for…


Intolerance, coupled with the ignorance to not be understanding of the fact that radical ideologies have existed in every religion since the immersion of mankind and still exist to this day…

One need only look at radical Christians slaughtering abortion doctors, killing innocents while trying to protect innocence… Does that make sense to anyone?

When I think of 9/11, I don’t focus on the pain of the day as much as the stories of those innocents who lost their lives early on that beautiful morning simply because of intolerance and ignorance.

I think instead about people like New York City Firefighter Peter Bielfeld, who was out on medical leave the morning disaster struck. His fate dictated that his medical appointment that morning be located across the street from the World Trade Center…

His f
ate dictated that even though he wasn’t released to go back to work after being wounded in a Bronx fire, that he was still a firefighter… still a hero… still a man who cared about all of humanity…

His fate dictated that he was a family man who would write a farewell note to his family before heading into the already burning towers…

He said goodbye in a note and he never came home again…

I truly wonder how he’d feel about all of the ignorance and intolerance taking so much of the Medias attention away from the real stories of that day…

The stories of women and men like Peter Bielfeld who ran into
those towers to save lives, no matter what color, creed or religion cried for help from inside…

The story about the morning intolerance got the best of humanity… But humanity still survived!




Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Final Blog… About My Blogs?

A Final Blog… About My Blogs?

There is a famous French Poet by the name of Charles Pierre Péguy, in whose writings I’ve found myself to be very much a reflection in the mirror of his work.

It is said that his words were so powerfully influential that his mere writings sent men to war in the 1914’s. Yet he was not merely a literary activist. And in backing the profound words that he wrote – his actions would ultimately cost him his life.

Péguy enlisted to fight in World War I and he was subsequently killed while leading his men on the battlefield during the Battle of the Marne on September 5th, 1914.

However, his words are alive and ring as true to this writer today, nearly 100 years after his death, as I’m sure they rang true to those men who followed him into battle – to their own deaths.

“Freedom is a system based on courage…” ~ Péguy

I wonder who amongst us these days truly feels free.

But even more importantly, who amongst us has the courage to speak up and to speak out against the systems that are failing us, even worse, failing the next generation in ways previous generations were never failed.

When I write these weekly blogs – I am always eager to see who will step up to the literary podium (comments section) and voice their opinions.

Good or bad, different or indifferent, in total agreement or total disagreement – I just want to read the peoples concerns.

Unfortunately what I find every week is zero comments, one comment, two comments (if one is mine), and on a really, really good week – three comments, again, if one is my own.

“A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket...” ~ Péguy

How prophetic.

For those of you who’ve read my work – you’d certainly understand that my words are being pulled one at a time from the very depths of my gut… I don’t know how to write any other way – nor would I ever care to.

However, these days I’m wondering if it’s even worth the pain of withdrawing these throbbing truths from my soul only to end up with zero comments at the end of the week.

Confession: writing these blogs takes a heavy toll on me emotionally and physically.

Do you think it’s easy week after week to do research on topics destroying this country from the financially difficulties of our generation in Die Peasant… Die, in which I wrote, “We were losing our lives, our jobs, our homes, our pension plans and life savings, while at the same time making the richest people in America 700 Billion dollars wealthier. What a sweet deal for them, huh?” (2 Comments).

Or when I wrote about how far behind minorities are in the race for a better education in The Art of the Question, in which I wrote, “The indigenous people were no better than roaming packs of wolves looking for their next meal and they seemed to prefer white meat… The Puerto Rican Nationalists were terrorists. Shit, kind of looks like CNN today showing us how all Mexican’s looking for a better tomorrow are “illegal’s” and “aliens” at the same time…” (2 Comments – 1 mine).

What about a few weeks back when I wrote about our teenagers killing themselves (The Virtual Life of a Teen) via My Space beefs, a trend that has carried over to Facebook and Twitter, when I wrote, “Honestly, it isn’t easy to shock me… But the realization that one of his closest friends had been murdered over ‘tough talk’ on My Space, and the sad fact that he held him as he took his last breath, was enough to reduce me to tears of anger as he cried and told me the story of watching his friend die over nothing…” (3 Comments – 1 mine).

All very heavy topics from week to week which have also included random gun violence, the growing gang problems in our communities, the always hot religious debate and many others…

But the one that has me ready to hang up my keyboard and quit blogging is my last blog, which garnered “zero” comments.

It was “An Open Letter to Ruben Diaz Jr.,” in which I wrote, “So why then does Diaz Jr. merely release another copy and pasted version of his last press release during the previous bloody weekend and promise to meet with two people who have absolutely no damn idea how to fix the issues in OUR communities?” (0 Comments)

And true to my words, the NYPD – I’m assuming with some input from Diaz Jr., did nothing other than flood certain blocks in the Bronx with more Gestapo’s, foot soldiers, otherwise known at the NYPD prepared to harass 93% of the good people in ours neighborhoods to find the 7% they say are causing all the harm. Sounds fair right?

I want you all to understand sincerely that your silence does nothing for any cause…


I want you to understand that when you read one of my blogs and shake your head in disgust – that your reaction must be backed up with an action…

In this case, I’m not yet asking any of you to walk into battle with me and die in the trenches as Péguy and his men did in 1914.

But I am asking you to voice your objections in the comments section of the blog spot – not Facebook – to let the world know that you have the courage to stand up behind your words. That you can’t be silenced – that your words will eventually lead you to the truest definition of freedom.

I imagined someone forwarding the link of my last blog to Ruben Diaz Jr., in which I not only spoke about the problems plaguing this borough of the Bronx, but in which I spoke to solutions and actually left my real phone number in an effort to offer support and assistance…

And I imagined him upset as he read my words such as, “Does it make sense to anyone other than me that we need to reach EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE if we’re ever going to stand a chance in turning this thing around…”

Or when I went on to write, “And so sick of our elected officials, those I’ve supported, like Ruben Diaz Jr., not standing up and saying, “Come sit at the table with me… and let’s figure this out…”

I now believe Diaz Jr. would’ve reached the end of the blog in a bit of shock… Only to find out that there were “zero” comments to back up anything I wrote about – Thus giving him the false assumption that all of his constituents must be perfectly happy with what he’s doing to stop violence in the borough.

Next I imagined a huge smile run across his face as he sat back in his chair assured that the voices of the peasants will forever fall silent…

And then I grew angry and sick to my stomach that we truly have no voice, for a quiet objector is no objector at all…

Péguy understood this even 100 years ago when he wrote, “We must always tell what we see. Above all, and this is more difficult, we must always see what we see…”

If I’m alone in this fight, please let me know so I can silence my pen, for I no longer want to see what the rest of you don’t care to see.

Perhaps this blog shall go blind as well… and be silenced for a time…

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Open Letter to Ruben Diaz Jr.

An Open Letter to Ruben Diaz Jr.


News Flash: If you live in any ghetto U.S.A, you’re life is worth nothing more than a graffiti covered memorial wall. Unless you were really special, perhaps then you’d receive a press statement mentioning your own bloody demise – nothing more, nothing less.

This past weekend the Bronx traveled back in time to the early 90’s and saw at least 9 shootings, claiming 14 victims and 2 deaths. Harlem saw the Wild Wild West at its best with another barrage of 50 shots being fired by the trigger happy NYPD, leaving another Twitter gangster, Luis Soto, dead at the scene.


And if all of this bloodshed wasn’t enough to welcome New York back to yesteryear, the Northern Manhattan police precincts have seen a 58% increase in shootings this year.

The early news conferences about the bloody weekend were cute, with Moneybags Bloomberg holding up a bullet proof vest with a slug artistically protruding from it – only to find out days later it was put there by a fellow cop – not another piece of shit street thug as they’d want us to believe.

But what bothered me even more than the lies being reported by the media was yet another empty statement from our very own Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Diaz Jr. is supposed to know better; he himself having survived the tumultuous era of the 90’s when we were witnessing our friends lives lost on a quarterly basis as if we had to lighten the growth potential of minorities in the hood or risk overpopulating the areas.

He’s supposed to know better because he witnessed his friends swap their identities for drug addictions, head off to Correctional Universities for educational opportunities in the field of how to stay sane in the penitentiary 101 and how not to catch a buck-fifty (scar across the face) in the yard; coursework on their way to advanced degrees in survival of the fittest.

Yet even worse, he witnessed his own friends lose their lives and that is enough to make him an expert on the subject matter of senseless teen death and violence in our communities.

An expert who should have the unique ability to directly apply what he knows the streets to be, with what he knows success to be…

In my strong opinion, he’s supposed to be able to fix this because he knows the root causes of the problems as well as the answers to the solutions.

So why then does Diaz Jr. merely release another copy and pasted version of his last press release during the previous bloody weekend and promise to meet with two people who have absolutely no damn idea how to fix the issues in OUR communities?

It means absolutely nothing to anyone that he is meeting with Assistant Chief Carlos M. Gomez and District Attorney Robert T. Johnson.

How I’d love to be a fly on that wall, even if I had to sit in Bloomberg’s shit to hear what was being said…

Maybe they’ll come up with ways to arrest more minorities for spitting on the sidewalk, you know lock them up for those quality of life crimes before they really do something wrong.

Or perhaps, they’ll find ways to flood the “high-crime” areas after the shootings take place…

Yeah, because it always makes me feel safe to see cops in the neighborhood after they’ve locked everyone up for the shootings that took place last week.

Makes perfect sense to me!

Once again, I have to ask how many emails and personal face-to-face impromptu meetings do I have to have with Diaz Jr. offering sound advice in hopes that this time he’ll actually hear what I’m trying to say.

Does it make sense to anyone else that we need to reach out to ALL of the community leaders, to ALL of the youth advocates, anti-gang advocates, anti-violence advocates, ALL of the business owners, ALL of the faith based leadership, ALL of the parents who actually care to get involved, ALL of the educational institutions – specifically the teachers who feel handcuffed to make real change?

Does it make sense to anyone other than me that we need to reach EVERYONE,
EVERYWHERE if we’re ever going to stand a chance in turning this thing around?

At the end of the day isn’t this all just common sense? Isn’t it about engaging the community in a way that makes them and keeps them vested in the futures of their children and the children they watch grow up? Isn’t it about opening up dialogue to the people that actually see the problems occurring on their stoops, corners and parks on a daily and nightly basis?

Why the hell are we not being involved in planning sessions that force us to be proactive as
opposed to reactive?

Can someone please put me in the passenger seat and let me drive this out of control bus reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in the movie Speed and watch me steer us back into the fast lane towards controlled and positive change, change that can be measured, seen and felt.

It’s funny how every week someone is asking me to get into politics, something I never wanted to do. But more and more as I see the inaction of our elected leaders I’m led to believe I just might have to start prepping myself for a future in office.

Why? I guess because I’m tired of the lack of concern and compassion for my neighbors.

It’s time we elect people who cry when a perfect stranger is gunned down because they see
themselves standing over the coffin of those they lost the same way…

It’s time someone lets me put ex-convicts to work, who after spending ten, fifteen and twenty years in prison for drug related offenses become the best kinds of mentors to guide the youth back towards reality.

Our teens are stupid… And guess who made them stupid? We did!

Our teens are fearless until you put a real ex-con in front of them who won’t tolerate disrespect from the likes of a little wanna-be gangster looking for love in all the wrong places.

Our teens believe that tweeting about being thugs is the best way to live their lives, just as Luis Soto tweeted before his death this weekend, when on July 23rd he wrote, “I go 2 da grave b4 I be a bitch nigga!”

It’s high time that we introduce them to real gangsters who show remorse for the mistakes they made in life, such as the Wild Cowboys drug crew who I was able to interview on the radio a few weeks back.

And who clearly stated that they’d NEVER glorify a lifestyle that led them straight to jail for 25-to-life. And whose few members remain free are ready, willing and able to combat the false truths being spread by all these fake ass rappers out here pretending it’s perfectly normal for us to kill one another and rap about it in a song, cause it has a nice beat behind it.

Watch me put artists, musicians, actors and creative geniuses to work to educate the youth about our past greatness and our future possibilities.

Watch me heal all the damage that’s been done to our youth utilizing art therapy and writing therapy…

Watch me find the answers for those that already have them so that we can begin to rebuild our communities.

As the rapper Supa Nova Slom powerfully states in one of his songs, “I’m so sick, so sick of being sick and tired…”

Sick of seeing my people die for nothing… sick of seeing people read my blogs and go back to their daily lives as if this doesn’t affect them… sick of action not being taken.

And so sick of our elected officials, those I’ve supported, like Ruben Diaz Jr., not standing up and saying, “Come sit at the table with me… and let’s figure this out…”

Ruben, I’m waiting for your phone call… It’s your move brother… 347.517.3252.

Be like Spike and Do the right thing



Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.