[A Movement Grows In Brooklyn] – AfroPunk Fest

For almost a decade, it’s been called ‘The Other Black Experience’, the meeting of the minds, the Black Woodstock and even the greatest music movement of the new millennia, but most just call it AfroPunk! And for the second year in a row, I had the pleasure of connecting with other lovers of culture, fashion and music (Alice Smith’s vocals were amazing…Erykah Badu and the home grown surprise that was Mos Def tore the house down, the fans loved intensity of the Memorials and Janelle Monae’s crowd dive…EPIC! lol) This year’s lineup was just as insane!

AfroPunk Girls

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Helping Hands

“The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm..” And with that, not only are my hands busy today, but my heart is full! It’s almost bursting at the seams with gratitude in being able to give to those who are less fortunate. I did A LOT of volunteering during my college days and I’ve missed the camaraderie that can easily come from the smile of a stranger! So, in the spirit of giving, here I am at a local homeless shelter surrounded by comrades in gratitude! Happy Saturday, good people! 🙂

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Yo Soy Tu Gente — Viva Panama!!

I am an American. Born and raised in the shadows of rock n’ roll, apple pie and baseball. I learned at a fairly early age while standing in class with my hand over my heart, that I should always “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…” and while I am proud to be American and wave the colors of Old Glory (red, white and blue), it should be noted that I am just as proud to wave the colors of La Bandera Typical (also red, white and blue) and to be a Panamanian. It’s not something that many people would instantly know about me, as I don’t walk around with mola bags, caday jewelry or even a Panama t-shirt. And although I may not “look the part”, I am a proud Hispanic whose heritage and ancestry spreads as wide as Jamaica, Barbados, Costa Rica, Portugal and Spain. New York City, and most specifically Brooklyn, is slated to have the second largest Panamanian population in the U.S.

And so, it was on a sun drenched Saturday in October that revelers born in, transplanted from, or just in love with Panama gathered in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn to celebrate the uniqueness that we represent, at the 17th Annual Pre-Panamanian Independence Parade! Franklin Avenue, between Fulton Street and Empire Boulevard has traditionally been the epicenter of Panamanian-American culture and community and it was here where city and state representatives, singers, beauty queens and marching bands from all across the country (and even some visiting from Panama) put themselves on display for the world stage. Banderas, Polleras, montunos and smiles were widespread during this celebration! The music, the food and the sense of camaraderie were enough to make anyone feel like an honorary Panamanian that day!! But it’s officially today, November 3rd that we celebrate 109 years of independence — Viva Panama!!

This identity goes far beyond where I was born. It goes beyond what people may think they know about Panama — it’s so much more than just a Canal! It is demonstrated in the timbre of my voice, the way I laugh, the way I dance and the way I walk through my life. I am Panama.

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The Storm… And Mom’s Red Velvet Cake

So, with Hurricane Sandy barreling down on us and letting us here in the Northeast know what’s up, I’ve taken refuge at my Mom’s house. And even though she lives just a few miles away from the closest body of water here in Brooklyn, I couldn’t be more comfortable. We’ve stocked her shelves with all the necessary amenities: batteries, flashlights, a first aide kit, bottled water and food (including canned and non perishable items). I’m so happy to be spending time with my family, even in light of these events. And what really made me smile is when, just a few short minutes ago, she called me downstairs to join her for some tea and a slice of red velvet cake (besides cheesecake, it’s one of my favorite desserts!) So, the moral of the story is, take comfort in your family and BE SAFE OUT THERE, PEOPLE!!!

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Making Strides…

Fuscia, Cotton Candy, Magenta… It’s the color of the day. The affect cancer has on families/ friends so often goes beyond words and it’s something that no one should ever face, but unfortunately so many often do. Specifically, breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women this year. But breast cancer is also the most preventable, with a 92% survival rate. It’s great to know the facts, but today is about standing strong in LIFE. Cancer has had a personal effect on my life and today I’m walking for those in my life who have survived (I love you Teresa and Edna! And my girl Ebony — I see you, Eb!) and sending light and love to those who have not (Te amo Marcella, estas en mi corazon para siempre). October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month…Get those boobs checked, people! We all need you here!!

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Jump Up and Wave!!

New York City is known by many names: “The Big Apple”, “The City That Never Sleeps” and the “The Capital of the World” are only a few that describe this ever changing Metropolis…but I just call it home!

I love this city! The hustle and bustle, the energy and the sense of community that’s all around me (New York often gets a bad rap by suggesting that it’s every man for himself here. But when we’re called upon, it’s amazing how we band together!) This melting pot known for it’s yellow cabs, Broadway lights and the best bagels anywhere, came together in droves on Monday for the 45th Annual West Indian Day Parade!! There was a rainbow of flags being waved, enough jewels and glitter to make any fashionista blush, people who danced to the beat of their own drum (most notably a photographer who happily walked around topless and was willing to pose for pictures — all in plain sight of the fuzz! And a colorful character who referred to himself as Lady Gaga’s Grandma!) and smiles and laughter that were infectious! This celebration of the unofficial end of summer is one of the biggest parties in Brooklyn, reveling in heritage and cultural pride (I’m proud to represent El Puente del Mundo –¡Viva Panama!) lavish costumes, awesome food and music that will make you whine, bacchanal and jump up and wave!! Even I couldn’t help but get in on the fun! (Thanks for the candid snaps, Mr. Mathias!)

So if you ask anyone at the parade, the census would be that this colorful annual spectacle brings Caribbean culture to life in the most ornate, jubilant and thrilling of ways! So, grab your flag, represent proudly and jump up and wave!!!

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