Monday, February 22, 2010

Mom: You should’ve made me Black

Mom: You should’ve made me Black

If you could choose to be of another race, would you chose differently than what you are today?

I pose the question, because to put it bluntly, I’m not too happy with my Latinos right now.

And why should I be?

Every time I turn around I’m hearing or seeing firsthand how Latinos are continuously failing to be supportive of one another’s ventures.

The end result of that lack of support is a stagnation of progression that has us existing in the 60’s, while our black brethren take leaps and bounds forward so much so that Puff Daddy, P-Diddy, Diddy, Sean Combs or whatever name he goes by these days, has the financial means to purchase his son Justin a $360,000 Maybach Benz for his 16th Birthday.

Talk about a Sweet 16.

Please tell me what Latinos have the financial means to do this for their offspring?

I’m sure there are a few out there. I’ve just never heard of them.

But don’t get me wrong… it’s not just about the fancy car, more so about what the car symbolizes to American success…

It’s more about the fact that Mr. Combs has built an empire powerful enough to employ hundreds of African Americans into positions of power. In turn giving them the financial stability to send their children to the best educational institutions money can buy and afford them the opportunities that will ensure their continued success in life.

How’s that for the progression of a race in forty-years?

And as much as I’m not happy about the direction of Hip Hop, the billion dollar industry has spawned more young Black millionaires than any other business ever created… spawning even more job opportunities for young black Americans.

Bad Boy, Def Jam, Rockefeller, Cash Money and G-Unit to name a few have displayed enough loyalty and unity to each other to create young, powerful entrepreneurs who create, market, promote and sell everything from music and movies to fragrances and fashions the world over.

Will my Latino Hip Hop success stories please stand up…? We’ve had some right?

Well we had… well there was um… what were they called again… um… it’s been a while… Oh yeah, we had the Terror Squad. Unfortunately, the only Latino representation of a real Hip Hop crew died and was buried with the late great Christopher “Big Punisher” Rios.

So much for Latino unity in Hip Hop… The End!

And even if we were capable of building great Latino teams, I’d love to know who’d support them?

Because we’ve certainly proven that we don’t care enough to support one another’s efforts.

What impresses me most about Black people is how they’ve been able to prop one another up and work together towards significant progress in politics, music, film, fashion and anything else you can name.

They’ll take to the streets and make sure they have a voice at the table. They’ll mentor one another in business and even support their shining stars by raising college tuitions to send their most gifted off to school.

Me, well I’ve been accused of disrespecting the Young Lords when I asked them why they’re not around mentoring the next generation of young Latino activists.

Excuse me; I didn’t know it was disrespectful to seek knowledge and guidance from my elders.

Same thing happened to me when I questioned the Latino elders in Hip Hop… Again, I was being disrespectful for questioning their lack of support of the younger generation of up-and-comers.

Excuse me again… my bad!

Seems we Latinos can take a page out of the blueprint that was clearly laid out in the 80’s by the “black pack.”

Ever heard of them?

It was a crew of black comics on the come up including Eddie Murphy, Robert Townsend, Arsenio Hall, Paul Mooney and Keenen Ivory Wayans, who went on to change the face of African American film while supporting one another’s projects.

There goes that word support again…

Apparently they understood that there was power in numbers and if they were going to breakdown doors and change the face of film, they’d need to do so in unison.

They wrote, acted, directed, produced and co-produced each other’s works. And to this day they remain relevant in the industry.

But what impresses me the most is that they did it together… together… together… together!

We Latinos make movies, as is the case with Franc Reyes’ The Ministers and no one shows up to the theaters.


Because we’d rather go see Paranormal Activity than support John Leguizamo, Luis Antonio Ramos, Manny Perez and any other number of Latinos cast in the film.

We don’t have an Oprah Winfrey, but when Soledad O’Brien works hard on a piece about Latinos in America, we call her a pendeja on feel good social networking sites such as “Being Latinos” Facebook page.

I used to think it was founder Lance Rios’ fault that there seemed to be nothing but ignorant dialogue going on there.

But then I realized in his defense that he was listing topics such as “Who is Pedro Albizu Campos?” And while only five people commented on that topic, you had 125 ignorant Latinos dialoguing about how good J-Lo’s ass looked in a certain dress at the VMA’s.

How’s that for Latino intelligence? Not our proudest moment to say the least.

So again, why the hell wouldn’t I want to be black at this point?

I’ve drawn a great deal of my inspiration from the likes of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King and I don’t see the Latino equivalent anywhere in sight.

So why wouldn’t I want to be black?

I see Terry McMillan selling millions of copies of her chick lit books, but Linda Nieves-Powell can’t sell 50,000 copies of her book Freestyle?

Why wouldn’t I want to be black?

I see Omar Tyree selling million of copies of his urban fiction books, but Daniel Serrano can’t sell 25,000 copies of Gun Metal Black?

Why wouldn’t I want to be black people?

I see Tyler Perry bringing the real black experience to the screen and even those who hate on him and say his films are stereotypical bullshit go see the films anyway.

So why wouldn’t I want to be black?

I’d love to be supported like that.

And then we have the nerve to wonder why we’re underrepresented in Hollywood, on film, in the bookstores, in the media?

You ever think it’s because they don’t believe we’re viable, sellable, marketable talent?

I’m invited to share my book at the NAACP Centennial Author Pavilion for the 100 Years, 100 Authors event… I’m invited to do a documentary with the National Black Programming Consortium… I’m invited to do black talk radio to promote my book… I’m interviewed by Black Beat Magazine but not my own Urban Latino Magazine…

Yes, THIS Urban Latino Magazine, the one I’m blogging for right now.

So tell me Latinos… Why on God’s green earth… would I not want to be black?

Yes, I’m ready to have my Latino card revoked. I don’t speak Spanish anyway.

When you all figure this thing out called Latino pride and Latino unity I hope you’ll have me back someday.

For now, I’m off to the other side… the black hand side.

I’m not sure if they’re going to make me an honorary member, or if they’re going to have me at all… But so far, they’ve supported me a lot more than my own people.

And I’m not sure how moms going to feel about this blog…

But mom, you truly should’ve made me black to begin with.

I’d have more role models to look up to that way.

Cojelo con take it easy… mi gente!

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.


  1. The struggle of the Latino identity has been a constant and challenging one. The community still has not resolved who they are as a people. Once Latinos realize who they are and what they want (most the American dream), the community will grow in leaps in bounds. Just as Irish American, Italian American, Jewish Americans and African Americans. It's our turn now. It wont be easy, but I am hopeful. I'm not sure when, but I do believe we eventually will, I just hope that it is our generation that becomes the agent of change.

    Good read and food for thought. And I do understand your frustrations, however... You are who you are. Latino.

  2. Ivan, Ivan, Ivan. I have sent you a private message regarding my appearance in your blog. As much as I’d like to say thank you for the shout out, it’s wrong info. The book is still selling. I am still receiving fan mail and am receiving constant reviews on The book is frequently reserved at libraries across the U.S. and I continue to hear from fans via Facebook and email. Is it selling like TWILIGHT? No. Could there have been more of a promotional push from Simon and Schuster? Possibly. I guess we can all assume that there are always a myriad of reasons as to why every writer doesn’t experience the glory of being featured on NY TIMES Bestseller list. Think about the number of books that get published every year and then the few that actually hit that list. Are all those other books crappy books? No. Not all. Some may be. But publishers aren’t giving us checks because they think we may fail. They give us our checks knowing that they just bought something they believe is good. Here’s what I believe about Black. Latino. Whatever. I believe that when an idea is good. It’s good. Period. Whether the messenger or manufacturer is of color or not, a great fucking idea transcends race. How many authors have written great American novels? Not many. Work of excellence will find its light—even if it takes a lifetime. Good works, although never great, will find their audience as well. Brilliant works will do well. Brilliant commercial works will do even better. Great books will have their moment. Good books will do the job that they were intended to do. The same goes with actors, the same goes with movies, the same goes with every product that a person buys. We buy product to enhance and enrich our lives. I personally buy product that makes my life better. When I buy a movie ticket, I want to laugh loud, cry hard and experience a journey that allows me to broaden my mind. I NEVER BUY ANYTHING BECAUSE IT IS LATINO. And do not do me the favor of buying my product because it is Latino. It would be an insult to me if anyone did that. Buy it because you heard that Linda Nieves-Powell can write. But please do not buy my product because Nieves sounds like a Spanish surname. There is no easy answer to our diversity problem. Because that’s what it is. We are a very diverse group of people who happen to share Spanish surnames. But we are truly different. We cannot expect all Latinos to be the same that would be small minded. We are varied intellectually, socially, economically, on so many levels.
    I have chosen to pave the way in my way. Eventually I believe that will pay off. I believe that greatness comes from paving, excavating, exploring, working, challenging yourself intellectually, knowing who came before us and what their greatest contributions are continuing to learn all that there is too learn. And here’s my last thought on this, I believe like you that there is much confusion about who we are and what are place is in this country, especially when it comes to product marketing. It seems in America Black or White is much easier to deal with. Advertising companies don’t want to deal with the Asian, Indian, Arab and Latino presence. Eventually they will have to but here’s what will happen. A kid, let’s say a Latino kid, with a brilliant and saavy mind will create something extraordinary that is specifically Latino but that somehow works for all America. And what will happen? All those Latinos that decided to go Black or go White will jump on his bandwagon. See, that’s the problem we are still waiting for the bandwagon.

  3. Linda,

    I believe you know how much I admire, love and respect you. The reason I featured you in this blog is because you are one of the Latina writers I greatly respect and whose work I enjoy, whose work my daughters, mother, etc enjoyed. And it’s that reason that I am saddened that you’ve not sold 500,000 or 1 million copies of Free Style. It’s that reason I compare you to Terry McMillian, because your work relates to our experience and it deserves that push. Without the Latino support, without the numbers being in six-figures, the Simon & Schuster’s of the world fail to market and promote us accordingly, making it even harder to get to those numbers we deserve. This is why I included you, to open these discussions amongst the readers in hopes that they’d realize they are doing us a disservice. In my eyes, “WE” the consumers are the failures.

    As Franc Reyes would say, we’re quick to say we won’t support anything just because it’s Latinos… but how many bad books have we read, bad movies have we seen, bad music have we purchased? So to say we won’t support just to support is a disservice to ourselves.

    We need to be that change Mr. Moe is talking about. We need to make Terry McMillian’s, Tyler Perry’s, Oprah Winfrey’s, who can in turn promote and push us, so we’re not so hard to market to the masses. So we’re our own audience and consumer…

    Only then will we begin to build our legacies of success.

    My public apology to you if in any way I made it seem as though your book was a failure. Quite the contrary, I meant to use it as an example of a great book that should’ve been a NY Times Best Seller… And my hope is that it is a sleeper hit that will do huge numbers… But regardless you’re audience is there and your book still sells, because the work is great!

  4. Thank you. As I mentioned before, this community has to stop pointing fingers and start becoming better, smarter, and more determined to create their own pathways. No one said the life of a pioneer would be easy. Unfortunately we are still building a foundation here. I always disliked the guilt trip that Latino artists put on their Latino supporters. If we have to get angry at our people, as a way of getting them to buy our product, oh man, we've done something terribly wrong. Instead, create product they can't refuse to buy. Also, I'm not blind to the Latino marketing problem. There is one. I was invited by Telemundo to speak on a panel about Advertising to Latinos during Advertising Week. There was an auditorium full of professionals who were just as confused as we are about how to handle marketing to Latinos. I made some suggestions. But because Latino is an ever evolving word, it is difficult to pinpoint any concrete strategy that will work. It isn't black and white for us. It's not even brown. It's complicated and what Latino means today will be different in 10 years. Guaranteed. Thanks Ivan for being a voice we need. I admire you and support you because I believe in your words. I don't always agree (smile). But I believe in you!

  5. Why be black? When being white things would seem to be so much easier. Roughly 1 in every 10 black adults is in prison and 1 on in 7 have lost the right to vote. They contribute to over half the population in prison and only make up about 13% of the population. The numbers in that regard are staggering and latinos can not compare.

    I think as far as the so called success stories we see in Pop-Culture America do not compare to the people who are considered to be rich.
    Its like having the menatilty we came from nothing so when we have something we need to show it off.
    I mean do you think Bill Gates or the Waltons look at Jay-Z and Puff and say damm they paid. They are not even on their radar. The Rich elite rarely show their face unless its to do some corporate take over or merger.

    As far as Latinos not supporting each other, I still think its early in the game to call it.
    We are still dealing with the fact that we are so the same yet so different. Do white people walk around and ask each other what kind of White are you? But we do, not a day goes by that I dont hear a negative remark about Mexicans. Yet Mexicans make up the majority in the Latino population. Many Puerto Ricans who have been here since the 50's have lost that connection to the island and would consider themselves American before anything else or claim to fall under one flag of Latino. And the rest of Latinos who immigrated here in the 70's and 80's are seeing a 1st and 2nd generation of Latino-Americans making every attempt to be accepted into the mainstream. Its to early to call it how long have Italians, Germans, Jews and African Americans etc.. been here?. It took a minute for each to assimalate and be accepted as a equal or have the line blurred where they are acceptable and marketable.
    R&B and Hip Hop went from being black music to be accepted by the world. But it took time, it didn't just happen.
    On the other hand I think alot of it has to do with White guilt and at the end of the day white folks are the ones getting paid. They still own everything. The publishing companies, production, music labels, etc.
    It is a fact that the Latino market is growing, do you remember seeing a morning cartoon with somebody that looked like you? Cuzco, Handy Manny, Dora, Diego etc. or even our own Sitcoms or Sketch comedy shows or Late night Talk show. Its happening we need to support and push those who are working hard to open doors for the next generation.
    How can Latinos support a Latino Film when one you rarely see one and they are rarely promoted properly. Corporate America has to see they can make money off you first. It takes more then talent and hard work its going to take money.
    This is the United States of Corporate America, and they decide when its your time to blow. (pause)

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  7. loved the article. You had many great points, and I've often wondered the same. Where is our representation? Why don't we support our own? In schools, we are given lessons on every other race except our own. I've had to do my own research in order to educate myself about influential latino contributers. "we as a consumers, are failures." I couldn't agree more.

  8. You want a made for movie Latino story? Consider this: This story is of Mr. Joe Sanchez Picon, a good friend.

    My name is Al Bermudez Pereira, retired NYS Correction Officer and author of my new book, "Ruins of a Society and the Honorable."

    Like in the 1973 movie Serpico, played by actor Al Pacino, the story of an honest cop Frank Serpico, who was face with the dilemma of working within a corrupted police department, Joe Sanchez was also an honest cop who despised the act of criminality, but foremost despised corruption.

    In a New York Daily News article dated July 16, 2008, written by Editor, John Marzulli and titled, “Fired NYPD cop writes gritty book to set record straight,” Joe Sanchez story was told.

    More than two decades after he was terminated from the Police Department, the highly decorated supercop who terrorized bad guys in Washington Heights, still loves the job despite everything he was put through.

    I speak about and honor former NYC Police Officer, Joe Sanchez Picon and many others. Joe served in Vietnam, lost many comrades and was wounded, receiving a purple heart. He later became a NYC ambulance driver, a NY/NJ Port Authority police officer, a NYC police officer, a US Postal worker and finally a NYS correction officer where we met.

    While in NYPD, Joe was very active, outspoken and involved in seven gun battles on the streets of New York City. In one of those gun battles his then partner, a woman police officer, was the first to receive a combat cross. Joe also lost two buddies in Williamsburg Brooklyn, a police officer and sergeant who were executed while on duty by a man named Luis Velez.

    In 2007, Joe wrote a self published book, True Blue, A Tale of the Enemy Within. Everything mentioned above is included in this book and then some. The entire reason for his dismissal from NYPD is mentioned in this book. I'll be brief about it to state the reason behind his dismissal.

    Joe knew a lieutenant who was involved in corruption; he also knew the lieutenant was involved in child pornography. During a baseball game they bumped heads and Joe told him to stay away from him. One thing led to another and the lieutenant made it very hard for Joe, which led to several confrontations between the two.

    During one of those confrontations, Joe told the lieutenant he would turn him in and reveal his sexual activities with children from the Dominican Republic. The powers that be got together, formulated a plan and had Joe fired for a drug bust made previously. No other officers involved in the same bust were mentioned.

    One of those who made the bust was his partner Herman Velez, who later retired as a helicopter pilot and is the original member of the 1950s Doo Wop group, The Eternals.

    Joe won all his hearings and the court requested he be reinstated, but he broke the blue wall of silence and the NYPD commissioner wasn't having it. He did not only rat out a cop, he ratted out a lieutenant. Joe was not aloud back to NYPD. I then met Joe when he became a NYS correction officer at Sing Sing Maximum Security Prison.

    Joe was recognized by many convicts he arrested on the streets and several attempts were made on his life during his tenure as a correction officer. Joe later left and moved to Florida in 1992. I retired and moved to Florida in 2004. We now live 15 minutes from one another and found each on the internet in 2007.

    This is truly a made for movie story, its like putting together two movies, Serpico and American Gangster.

    Joe is truly an honest and courageous man, he deserves someone in the publishing and movie production industry to take a good look at his life and seriously consider this truly remarkable man's life.


    Al Bermudez Pereira, LLC.

  9. Al, Bermudez Pereira, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your friendship and support. The fact that I was given another chance to get back into law enforcement with the help of The New York Department of Correction, was a blessing in disguise. God works in myterious ways. As you said, I came in contact with many inmates I had once arrested. Many were surprised to have seen me wearing a blue uniforn again... and not the color of green as inmates wear in New York. Working at Sing Sing and Coxsackie State Prison was not easy for me. I had to watch my back every minute, especially from those I had helped sent to prison when I was a cop. But I was glad that I was able to work and help other correction officers and inmates as well. At times some inmates would approach me and quietly tell me they were glad when I worked their area, for they knew I was there to make sure all was safe and secured...and I would never turn and run when the s..t hit the fan. My last injury at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, which is known as "Gladiator School", was when I saved an inmate's life who was being stabbed by another inmate, when all hell broke loose in the main yard during recreation time. This incident almost got be stabbed and put me out of commission. I decided that it would be best for me and my family to say adios and retire. I also want to thank you for adding my story to your book, "Ruins of a society and the Honorable" The book is an intriguing read with so many stories of people that you came in contact with throughout your life, be they the good, the bad and the ugly. God bless, -Joe Sanchez Picon

  10. Great read. I enjoy your passion. You should be mad. You should be very angry. So what are you doing to build and support Latinos? How can I support your endeavors?

  11. Ivan -- All very important points that many of us need to take to heart and explore what we can do to further the Latino image, which is under attack at the moment. Linda's response alsi brings up points that truly ring true. I also appreciated learning aobut you and your book. There seems to be a disconnect between West coat and East coast latinos, even in this day and age of social media. I totally agree with you on the topic of the Black community embracing Latinos (Black and otherwise). I see it in the awards shows. The NAACP that has increasingly been honoring Latino talent that is sometimes overlooked at the Latino awards shows. Great reading you...I will continue to do so. Thought this might be of interest to you, since again deals with being of supportive of our projects...

  12. sorry for the typos...needed to do better proof reading