Posts Tagged ‘New York University’

The State of Puerto Rican Politics in New York City

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Boricua Power

The National Institute for Latino Policy
invites you to a roundtable

Discussion based on José Ramón Sánchez’ new book
Boricua Power: A Political History of Puerto Ricans in the United States

Tuesday, May 15, 6:15pm

NYU Wagner
The Puck Building, 2nd Floor Conference Room
295 Lafayette Street (and Houston Street)
New York, NY 10012-9604

(B,D,F,V to Broadway-Lafayette, N,R,W to Prince Street, 6 to Bleecker Street)

Roundtable Participants

Alicia Cardona
Author: Rambling on Random Thoughts and New York Puerto Rican Women Achievers

Arlene Davila:
Professor, Anthropology, Social and Cultural Analysis (American Studies)
New York University, author: Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos and the Neoliberal City; Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People; and Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico

David Diaz
Distinguished Lecturer in Media & Politics, City College (CUNY);
formerly senior correspondent and anchor on WCBS and WNBC-TV

José A. García
Senior Research and Policy Associate, Demos: A Network for Ideas
and Action; and author, East Coast Latino Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Manual

Mickey Melendez
Author, We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords

Councilmember Melissa Mark Viverito
Democrat representing District 8

Joseph Wiscovitch
President, Wiscovitch Associates

Respondent

José Ramón Sánchez
Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of Urban Studies,
Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus

Moderator

Angelo Falcón
President and Co-Founder, National Institute for Latino Policy; and author, Atlas of Stateside Puerto Ricans,
and co-editor, Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City

Co-sponsored by the

Women of Color Policy Network
at NYUWagner
RSVP with
Wynnie Lamour 212-334-5722 or wlamour@nlcatp.org

“1968: THEN AND NOW”

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

September 2 – November 22, 2008

**Media are invited to the opening reception on Friday September 26, 6-8 pm**

The Department of Photography & Imaging in the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has announced the full list of artists represented in 1968: Then and Now, an exhibition of approximately 75 works by 56 artists. It includes letters, photographs, paintings, prints, video, and installation pieces. The exhibition will open on September 2 and remain on view through November 22. 1968: Then and Now explores an era when a multitude of social movements climaxed in discontent with political order, particularly in the United States, that was rooted in domestic racial inequality and imperialist foreign policy. It also serves as a reflection on the presence of the memory of that period in our hearts and minds 40 years later. Curated by Deborah Willis, university professor and chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging, the exhibition combines historical and contemporary images that construct diverse stories about the culture of resistance, beauty, power, and the notion of disenfranchisement. “Today, our world is saturated with iconic images that reflect upon and draw from 1968,” said Willis. “The work on view will transform the viewers understanding of identity, resistance, war, and peace.”

Artists, filmmakers, and writers in the exhibition are: Michael Abramson, Derrick Adams, Terry Adkins, Emma Amos, Tomie Arai, Anthony Barboza, Kalia Brooks, Máximo Colón, William Cordova, Robert Crawford, Romi Crawford, Bruce Davidson, Thulani Davis, Manthia Diawara, Howard Dodson, Ellen Eisenman, Kianga Ford, Roland Freeman, CocoFusco, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Regie Gibson, Pete Hamill, Heather Hart, Leslie Hewitt, Ptah Hotep, Jessica Ingram, Karen Ishizuka, Miriam Jiménez Román, Otabenga Jones, Melvina Lathan, Marc Lepson, Builder Levy, Arturo Lindsay, Margo Machida, Adál Maldonado, Elaine Mayes, Iris Morales, Tadaki Nakamura, Lorie Novak, Ademola Olugebefola, Paul Owen, Norman Parish, Esther Podemski, Fred Ritchin, Martha Rosler, Juan Sanchez, Charles Schultz, Robert Sengstacke, Jamel Shabazz, Stephen Shames, Clarissa Sligh, Robert Stam, Margaret
Stratton, Florence Tate, Hank Willis Thomas, Hong-An Truong, Deirdre Visser, and Carla Williams.

TRIBUTE TO ED VEGA YUNQUE _ NOVEMBER 15, 3PM -7PM AT PRDREAM, 1355 Park Ave at 102nd St

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

vega-yunque.190.jpg

NOVEMBER 15 TRIBUTE: A non-stop, ongoing reading of Ed Vega’s “The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle” — Magical Realism comes to Loisaida (and now El Barrio)! Bring your copy!

*****

September 9, 2008
Edgardo Vega Yunqué, Novelist of the Puerto Rican Experience in New York, Dies at 72

By BRUCE WEBER
Edgardo Vega Yunqué, whose novels and stories about life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan were picaresque, combustive and sometimes flamboyantly comic expressions of the Puerto Rican experience in New York’s multicultural maelstrom, died on Aug. 26 in Brooklyn. He was 72 and lived in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The cause was probably a blood clot, said his daughter, Alyson Vega, who said that he died suddenly during a visit to the emergency room at Lutheran Medical Center and that his family had not been immediately notified.

Mr. Vega Yunqué, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico at the age of 13 and spent his teenage years in a Puerto Rican and Irish neighborhood in the Bronx, resisted characterization both as a writer and as an individual. Angered by the expectation of Latin writers either to document ghetto life or to “dabble in magic realism,” as he put it, he was known as a contentious man with a philosophy founded on the sanctity of self-expression, and he wrote with a voice that was lyrical, insistent, irrepressible and often scathingly satiric.

In “The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisada Jungle,” (Overlook Press, 2004), he cast a comic, sardonic eye on the American response to the Sept. 11 attacks. His latest book, “Rachel Horowitz, Puerto Rican Sex Freak,” an earthy send-up of sexual politics, was scheduled for publication this summer but Overlook canceled it after a dispute with him.

“He was an iconoclast of the first order,” said his agent, Tom Colchie. “Ed was always cantankerous about editing. He would say, ‘I’m not going to be any publisher’s fuzzy-wuzzy.’ ”

With a counterculture-ish perspective and a penchant for florid turns of phrase and hyper-punctuated sentences, he had a literary relative in Tom Robbins, though his work often had a political fierceness about it as well.

His best-known book, “No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain’t Never Coming Home Again” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), is a sprawling tale of two families, one Puerto Rican and one Irish, and their intertwining over several generations. The Vietnam War plays a central role and so does American jazz, not only thematically — one main character is a pianist who walks away from the chance to play with Miles Davis when he joins the Marines — but stylistically as well, with narrative strains wandering improvisatorily away from the main tale and finding intricate paths that bring them back again. Julia Livshin, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said it was a “powerhouse of a novel” that “brings vividly to life, with its polyphony of voices, the simmering ethnic stew of the great American city.”

Edgardo Alberto Vega Yunqué was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on May 20, 1936, but he was raised in the town of Cidra. His father, a Baptist minister, moved the family to New York in 1949 when he took over a Spanish-speaking congregation in the South Bronx. Mr. Vega Yunqué was a radio operator in the Air Force, and during one home leave, he was asked by his sister to help clean out an estate in central New York. In the attic he found hundreds of paperback novels — by Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway and others — and he began reading them voraciously. That spurred him to write novels.

Mr. Vega Yunqué attended New York University and worked as a community organizer before publishing his first novel, “The Comeback,” in 1985. His other works include two collections of stories and the novel “Blood Fugues.” (HarperCollins, 2006.) In 1994, he founded the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center on the Lower East Side as a home for theater artists, dancers and visual artists, and he ran it until 2000, when he stepped down, his tenure marred by fierce disputes between the mostly Hispanic theater artists and the mostly white visual artists over the center’s management.

Mr. Vega’s marriage to Pat Vega ended in divorce, the culmination of what his daughter, Alyson, and his stepdaughter, the singer Suzanne Vega, described as a tempestuous home life. Her stepfather was passionate about knowledge and passed that zeal on, Suzanne Vega said. “But the thing that made him a great writer was the thing that also made him dangerous,” she added. “Any boundary or restriction he took as a red flag.”

In addition to Suzanne and Alyson Vega, both of Manhattan, Mr. Vega Yunqué is survived by a son, Matthew, of Amagansett, New York; a brother, Jay Vega, of Cape May, N.J.; a sister, Abigail McGlynn, of Queens; and a granddaughter.

For Puerto Ricans, Sotomayor’s Success Stirs Pride

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

By DAVID GONZALEZ
New York Times (August 6, 2009)

In the summer of 1959, Edwin Torres landed a $60-a-week job and wound up on the front page of El Diario. He had just been hired as the first Puerto Rican assistant district attorney in New York – and probably, he thinks, the entire United States.

He still recalls the headline: “Exemplary Son of El Barrio Becomes Prosecutor.”

“You would’ve thought I had been named attorney general,” he said. “That’s how big it was.”

Half a century later, the long and sometimes bittersweet history of Puerto Ricans in New York is expected to add a celebratory chapter today as the Senate confirms Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Her personal journey – from a single-parent home in the South Bronx projects to the Ivy League and an impressive legal career – has provoked a fierce pride in many other Puerto Ricans who glimpse reflections of their own struggles.

“This is about the acceptance that eluded us,” said Mr. Torres, 78, who himself earned distinction as a jurist, novelist and raconteur. “It is beyond anybody’s imagination when I started that a Puerto Rican could ascend to that position, to the Supreme Court.”

Arguably the highest rung that any Puerto Rican has yet reached in this country, the nomination of Judge Sotomayor is a watershed event for Puerto Rican New York. It builds on the achievements that others of her generation have made in business, politics, the arts and pop culture. It extends the legacy of an earlier, lesser-known generation who created social service and educational institutions that persist today, helping newcomers from Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Yet the city has also been a place of heartbreak. Though Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship in 1917 and large numbers of them arrived in New York in the 1950s, poverty and lack of opportunity still pockmark some of their neighborhoods. A 2004 report by a Hispanic advocacy group showed that compared with other Latino groups nationwide, Puerto Ricans had the highest poverty rate, the lowest average family income and the highest unemployment rate for men.

In politics, the trailblazer Herman Badillo saw his career go from a series of heady firsts in the 1960s to frustration in the 1980s when his dreams of becoming the city’s first Puerto Rican mayor were foiled by Harlem’s political bosses. Just four years ago, Fernando Ferrer was trounced in his bid against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

All those setbacks lose their sting, if only for a moment, in the glow of Judge Sotomayor’s achievement, which many of her fellow Puerto Ricans say is as monumental for them as President Obama’s victory was for African-Americans. It has affirmed a sense of Puerto Rican identity at a moment when that distinction is often obscured by catch-all labels like Latino and Hispanic – and even as it is subjected to negative comparisons.

“Many elite Latin Americans have implied that Puerto Ricans blew it, because we had citizenship and did nothing,” said Lillian Jimenez, a documentary filmmaker who co-produced a series of television ads in support of Judge Sotomayor’s nomination. “But we were the biggest Spanish-speaking group in New York for decades, and bore the brunt of discrimination, especially in the 1950s. We struggled for our rights. We have people everywhere doing all kinds of things. But that history has not been known.”

That history is in danger of disappearing in East Harlem, long the cradle of Puerto Rican New York. After waves of gentrification and development, parts of the area are now being advertised as Upper Yorkville, a new annex to the predominantly white Upper East Side. While the poor have stayed behind, many of East Harlem’s successful sons and daughters have scattered to the suburbs.

“We have a whole intellectual and professional class that is invisible – people who came up though the neighborhood, with a working-class background, who really excelled,” said Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy.

“But it’s so dispersed, people don’t see it. They do not make up a real, physical community, but they have the identity.”

For those who paved the way for Judge Sotomayor, embracing that identity was the first step in charting their personal and professional paths out of hardship. Manuel del Valle, 60, an overachiever from the housing projects on Amsterdam Avenue, made the same leaps as the judge – to Princeton University and Yale Law School – but preceded her by five years.

Taking a cue from the black students at Princeton, he and the handful of working-class Puerto Ricans from New York pressured university officials to offer a course on Puerto Rican history and to admit more minority students. They saw their goal as creating a class of lawyers, doctors, writers and activists who would use their expertise to lift up their old neighborhoods.

“Talk about arrogance,” said Mr. del Valle, who now teaches law in Puerto Rico. “We actually believed we would have a dynamic impact on all the institutions American society had to offer.”

Judge Sotomayor’s nomination, he said, is a vindication of those efforts.

“We were invisible,” he said. “She made us visible.”

In New York, many have welcomed the judge’s visibility during a summer when the most celebrated – and reviled – local politicians were two Puerto Rican state senators who brought the state government to a standstill by mounting an abortive coup against their fellow Democrats.

“She really came at a moment when there is a public reassessment of the value of identity politics through this brouhaha in the Senate,” said Ms. Davila, a professor of anthropology at New York University who has written extensively on Puerto Rican and Latino identity. “Here came this woman who reinvigorated us with the idea that a Latina can have a lot to contribute, not just to their own group, but to the entire American society.”

But it is among her own – in the South Bronx, East Harlem or the Los Sures neighborhood of Brooklyn – where Judge Sotomayor’s success resonates loudest, for the simple reason that many people understand the level of perseverance she needed to achieve it.

Orlando Plaza, 41, who took time off from his doctoral studies in history about five years ago to open Camaradas, a popular bar in East Harlem, sees her appeal as a sort of ethnic Rorschach test.

“Whether it’s growing up in the Bronx, going to Catholic school or being from a single-parent household, there are so many tropes in her own story that we feel pride that someone from a background like ours achieved something so enormous,” he said. “This is the real Jenny from the block.”

And it is on the block, among the men and women who left Puerto Rico decades ago so their children might one day become professionals, where her story is most sweetly savored. The faces of the men and women playing dominoes or shooting pool at the Betances Senior Center in the Bronx attest to decades of hard work.

Many of them came to New York as teenagers more out of despair than dreams. Lucy Medina, who arrived in the 1950s, worked as a keypunch operator and in other jobs as she singlehandedly raised two children. Today, her son is a captain in the city’s Department of Correction and her daughter is a real estate executive.

Impressive as the judge’s accomplishments are, Ms. Medina is more impressed with the judge’s mother, Celina Sotomayor, who did what she had to do in order to raise two successful children in the projects.

“Her mother and I are very similar,” said Ms. Medina, 77. “I know what she went through. We sacrificed ourselves so our children would get an education and get ahead. A lot of women here have done that. We stayed on top of our children and made sure they didn’t get sidetracked.”

Ask the Locals, Yes, but Which Ones?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

By David Gonzalez
City Room Blog
New York Times (May 27, 2008)

Five celebrities were featured when the “Just Ask the Locals” campaign, with tourism tips, started in August.You know you’re onto something when even Brooklynites extend a compassionate hand to their mainland rivals in the Bronx. Yet that is what happened after my City Room post in mid-May about hotels, tourism and the Bronx. Boosters of both boroughs know they are often seen as provincial outposts that could never rival the imperial majesty of Manhattan Island.

Yeah, right. As they say in some parts of the city — actually, many parts — “Que si que?” That’s Spanish for “Say what?”

Similar phrases are probably being uttered in Mandarin, Urdu, Arabic and any other of the dozens of languages spoken in this city by the locals. Yet, one advertising campaign intended to encourage tourists to “Just Ask the Locals” has a lopsided view of who the locals actually are.

Granted, the campaign (the ads for which can often be seen in the small black-and-yellow rectangular box on the top-right of the City Room blog front) is big on celebrities, fashionistas and people who are famous and fabulous in some circles. And to be fair, some of the advice posted online by nonfamous New Yorkers actually reflects city life and attractions on the other side of the East River (as do a few of the celebrity videos on the site).

But back to those celebrities. According to NYC & Company, which is behind the campaign, 27 people were chosen to participate in the campaign’s first two phases. Of those, six are black, one if half Korean and the rest — about 80 percent — are white (or, appear to be, anyway). That’s non-Hispanic white, by the way.

Mind you, the actual percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the city is 35 percent, according to the 2000 Census. Hispanics, who can be any race, accounted for 27 percent, black/African-American 24.5 percent and Asians accounted for 9.7 percent.

Jane Reiss, the chief marketing officer at NYC & Company, said the campaign was committed to representing more of the city’s diversity in terms of people and places. The personalities featured in the first two phases — “citizens of the city” who donated their time and wrote their own copy — were found through personal connections, a public relations agency and recommendations from partners of the tourism group.

Willie Colon, the salsa musician and sometime politico, has been working with the group for a while now, she said, and he is scheduled to shoot a video for the ad campaign soon.

“This campaign is evolving,” Ms. Reiss said. “We have a list of people we like to reach out to. It is very diverse. Ugly Betty is coming to the city, and we’re reaching out to America Ferrera.”

Ugly Betty is a New Yorker. America Ferrera, however, only plays one on television.

However, the cast of civic boosters was assembled, the travel tips seen on parts of the Web site hew toward the tried-and-trendy in Manhattan, by and large. Alan Cumming suggests a club on the Lower East Side, Sean Combs favors drinks at the Mandarin Oriental. One designer raves about custom-made shirts at Barneys, while another suggests that tourists check out the bargains in the flower district.

And while Deborah Harry recommends a club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she also promotes Kenkeleba Garden in the East Village as “one of my favorite little-known places.”

By these standards, the other four boroughs could be called “little-known places,” too.

The absence of any Latino celebrities — even Jennifer Lopez, though she and Marc Anthony live on Long Island now — is disheartening but not surprising to those who notice such things.

“Latino culture is invisible in this city,” said Arlene Dávila, a professor at New York University who has written about the intersection of culture, ethnicity and the city. “You have this whitewashed city, a very upscale city, free of ethnicity. This is a city which is more than a quarter Latino, and you cannot find a celebrity who is Latino? Hello!”

If by celebrity you mean someone who appears on television, another scholar has some bad news. Clara E. Rodriguez, a professor at Fordham University, looked at the casts of the most popular prime-time shows and found that even those set in New York featured few recurring Latino characters (as opposed to the janitor who shrugs and keeps sweeping when being questioned by a police officer in some cop show).

“People want to envision New York as Manhattan, where it is white, urban sophisticates and well-to-do,” she said. “It’s an old view of New York City, even if the shows are set in modern times.”

The 21st Century City – Five Borough Edition – has a little more flavor and fun. While the Bronx Tourism Council has yet to return a phone call from two weeks ago, regular e-mail messages from the Bronx Council on the Arts consistently laud dance, theater, exhibits and concerts from the borough that gave the world doo-wop, salsa and hip-hop.

The history of those last three genres can actually be traced, just by walking up Prospect Avenue, starting at Samuel Gompers High School (where Grandmaster Flash got his start), past Casa Amadeo (where Mike Amadeo still presides over a music store that has attracted generations of Latin artists), and into Morrisania (where vocal groups once harmonized on street corners and stairwells).
That’s just one street.

Then there is Brooklyn, whose borough president, Marty Markowitz, apparently never misses a chance to promote its people, neighborhoods and attractions. He thinks the “Just Ask the Locals” is a good start, and he praises the city for promoting tourism in recent years.

But, he added, consider these locals:

Mos Def, the actor and rapper? Brooklyn.
Jhumpa Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist? Brooklyn.
The Mighty Sparrow, King of Calypso? Queens, mainly.

“But he’s got a place in Brooklyn, too!” Mr. Markowitz said. “Whatever Brooklyn doesn’t have, Queens does. Between Brooklyn and Queens, we represent the world.”

Quick, somebody call Staten Island.