Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The good 'ol boys of GIRLS

The story of how we jammed out with a band of 5 boy named GIRLS is nothing if it isn't a love story. But let's get this straight right now. It's not my love.

I'm not particularly a fan of this San Fran Band. I personally don't find them very appealing or talented. I was also not incredibly excited to see them in concert. I was least excited to invite them (and their entourage of groupie followers) to jam in my house.

But alas, for my roommate Emi, this was all a dream come true, or rather, a dream manifested.

So, sometimes you just gotta take one for the team.

As it turns out, they are all mature and intelligent enough to appreciate the city of PITTSBURGH, so are obviously not half-bad humans.
But the story is best coming from a fan rather than a critical critic so to know more about the band girls, check out her blog!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Going Green: The Copa Canabica

Tudo Bom? Tudo Legal!!

I’m a firm believer in God/the universe bringing each person and situation into your life for a specific reason. Each person has a lesson, if we can really take the time to look at it and appreciate them for what and who they are. So when another almost 6 foot tall brown girl named Sativa walked into my life, I figured we could have fun turning Buenos Aires upside down, I didn’t imagine that she would teach me so much about myself.

It’s not often that you meet someone who is willing to completely embrace the essence of their individuality so fully, while still maintaining their belief in their complete connection with the universal being. It’s often off-putting to people like me who have been so conditioned to pay mind to external measures of achievement and normality. Though, I’ve taken on what will be a life long journey of decolonizing myself from societal restrictions, I know that I continue to stumble over my own limited definitions of “should” and “should be”…often formed by a very geopolitical view of my surroundings.

As a self described extra-terrestrial, and employee of the universe, each day I became more and more impressed with Sativa’s ability to completely embrace and manifest her desired reality. She woke up smiling, went to bed smiling, and at some point just let me know that no matter what I ever did to her, she would forgive me because she loved me. She always ran into the right person at the right time, and was never afraid to express exactly what she wanted.

I think the most impressive part of her character to a self-diagnosed “Life Add-er” like me was her ability to bravely embrace her decisions while being flexible to what the universe brought her.

Our simple friendship ended up in a three week cohabitation, and my roommates and I were brought into the interesting adventure of her life and work. Sativa, as you might have been able to guess from her name is a marijuana writer, activist, model, talk show host. Her home base now in San Franciso, during the “harsh” California winters she lives and works in different parts of the world covering the world Canibus Politics.

I’ll just say now that I am definite supporter in the decriminalization and legalization of Cannibus. First of all, the audacity of a government to criminalize the growing and use of a PLANT for it’s own benefits is beyond infuriating. Second of all, the uses of this magical plant are endless way beyond the beauty of THC. The worst side effects seem to be like the most benign of the dwarfs—sleepy, hungry, and happy. The amount of people of color who are locked up on simple marijuana charges actually makes me want to vomit a bit. And the “war on drugs”, another ideological war of false pretense, as we all know, (and which the current Drug Czar has finally admitted) is just another method of locking up people of color and undesirables.

All this said, my last touch with Cannibus politics was in 10th grade, when I wrote a 20 page paper on the legalization of Marijuana. If you want to call my refusal to change my topic, and my disinterested acceptance of the only C I would ever receive in English, valiant, I may have in the past. J

But, I must say that I have a new found respect for those who are fighting in the streets and in the court rooms for Marijuana, instead of on their back porch with a Dutch after a hard day like most Americans. To publicly claim and fight for something that most have become used to hiding in polite company.

Through Sativa, we have been introduced to countless Argentine growers, smokers, writers, political activists, and supporters of this controversial plant. We’ve learned that in Argentina, similar to in California, though the higher courts have decriminalized marijuana it is still a local offense. There is much less of a stigma attatched to marijuana here—as there was not as much of the government propoganda that the United States pushed. People see it as something that you should do in your home, behind closed doors, rather than such a moral misgiving of the lazy and lost youth. But I do have plenty of friends who light up in the streets, whether as their own form of protest or because cops will often walk right by you.

The latest adventure through the world of green was the clandestine but oh-so-legendary Canibus Cup of Buenos Aires. In this annual event that happens in most major cities around the world, the underground community of growers and activists, and aficionados come together in a democratic process to judge whose ganga strain is the most pleasing to tha people!

Our host, Sativa would learn of the super exclusive event through some of the biggest activists in the South American pot activist community, and they would release the secret location the morning of the event.

When Sativa received a text from her activist friend, late the night before telling us to meet at the location at 9 she told us. “It must be 9 at night, what kind of stoner is going to get up EARLY?”

We all shrugged, and figured that the experienced one probably had a better idea of how these things work than we did, and we all slept pretty late into the afternoon. I cooked a big dinner then we went to visit a friend at a beautiful bar.

At around 2pm, Sativa woke up and with a preoccupied look on her face.

“I think we are missing the Canibus Cup,” she said worriedly, as we all ran around getting ourselves ready as quickly as possible.

I strapped up with my camera, laced up by Pocahauntus boots and I was ready to infiltrate and document this most curious event.

We went flying to the secret lugar, which was in a nice part of town in a bar cheto. One of Sativa’s friends came to get us, led us through a back corridor, through the back of the kitchen, and then we walked into the yellow lit cloud of a bar.

The view upon entering the Copa Canabica

Comparing and bartering the goods

Growers were posted around with huge zip lock bags of their plants for others to sample and take along with them. Huge blunts, joints, circulated, as huge Valcano balloons inflated and deflated and changed hands and breath. The attenders traded tips, cards, buds, seeds, stories, and generally enjoyed being in company of others who shared the same interests!

Sativa was ecstatic to work the crowd, and at some point sighed and said whistfully

“It is so nice to be around my community.”

Argentine activists and writers from Haze Magazine
Argentine cannibus activists, writers, and cultivators

She was even asked to hand out the prizes to the announced winners, all types of green, growing, goodies including lamps, and scissors, seeds, and books.

The premios were awesome goodie bags fit for king growers

It could have had something to do with the fact that Sativa, my roommate and I were some of the only girls in the entire event of around 100 people, but the community was incredibly welcoming and friendly. We made friends with growers all over Buenos Aires and Argentina, and in general everyone was sweet, considerate, loving, and polite. Can you imagine that assessment of a crowd at a booze summit? I think not. (Obama and Skippy's meeting doesn't count, kids!)

Bomb dj de reggae y dancehall spinning all day long

The beer was free, but the crowd hardly drank. Instead, we passed the hours dancing to a dj spinning reggae and talking philosophically to new friends and growers. It was one large communion of laughter among a crowd of agriculturalists, college graduates, writers, activists, politicians, business owners, and students who just happened to also be very passionate about a plant! It was not quite the stereotypical image of a weed centered event, in that no one got thrown in jail for some stupidity, no one ate 38 cheeseburgers, and the night didn't dissolve into a "drug-crazed abandon" of murder and loss of morals. Sativa couldn't have been more overjoyed!

"This is the culture that I like to promote--the stoner intelligencia!" She commented to me. "All of the movies that come out about stoners are stupid. The characters do dumb things, they have dumb ideas, and they lead uninspired lives. There are so many people that are uninformed and think that marijuana makes you dumb or can cause addictions. With my work, I want to uncover the large society of brilliant smokers. There are so many of us who are educated, doing awesome things, and just like to smoke a lot of doobies."

The hours that we were there I couldn't help but think how much more I would like bars if they were filled with smokers rather than drinkers. Gone would be the constant threat of fights and violence, gone would be the pathetic image of tiny girls clutching on to toilet stalls, of having to refuse to let friends drive, of deaths caused by alcohol poisoning, of conversations reduced to unintelligible screams. The counter-intution of the outlawing of a pacifying plant does not escape me...

The growers left huge chunks of color buds in the tip jar, and though most preferred not to sell, they would willingly give or share their harvests with anyone who was around. This beautiful system of barter left my roommate with a jam jar of green to take home for her birthday, and a promise of a new plant for the house. (This promise was later fulfilled).

Needless to say, after my excursion, I was tired and hungry from all of my picture taking and filming....so we wandered on down to get some awesome pumpkin curry at this Indian restaurant with some of the growers. Perfect ending, to an awesome day, and hopefully this song can make your day too!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Futbol contra Football

A Futbol versus Football Challenge!

Canada lining up for a friendly thrashing
Fireworks after the game.

In actuality, my weekend of the bicentennial consisted in very little reflection on the historical and political aspects of Argentina’s independence. After my decision to stay firmly OUTSIDE of Afro-Argentine politics, I really just wasn’t in the mood to go to any of the celebratory events. Call me a hypocrite but I just wasn’t in the mood to rub elbows with a lot of the people who just made politics feel so slimy.

Instead, I got to spend some nice quality time with the roomie, doing what she loves to do most—WATCH FUTBOL!

May 24th we all went to the goodbye game before all of the Argentine players started officially playing for the Mundial. My roommate shook her head in disapproval as she explained the importance of this game to me. (Why did I know so little about the things that matter so much?)

The game was a friendly scrimmage between Canada, and all of the Argentine players who would soon be going to play for their respective teams, facing off in the Mundial. Messi, Tevez, Palermo, and the rest of the Argentine greats would be doing their thing on la cancha.

Now, I am a West-African immigrants child, and a lifelong soccer player, but I have to admit that most of my life I was always more interested in watching American Football and Basketball. So, I know all of the rules of soccer (futbol) and I can definitely follow the game play from a players perspective, but I don’t know a thing about how the Mundial works, who the players are now, and which teams are the great powers these days.

Now, the game was awesome, the energy was amazing, and I think despite the super catholocism attached to Argentine nationhood, I think that if questioned the average Argentine man would pray to Maradona before saying his hailmarys. The mood of the city heavily depends on the outcome of their favorite team. The level of alcohol consumed doesn't really change much either way, only the tone of the drunken shouts. In this way, I felt very comfortable getting geared up to go to a game but I was a bit homesick for the rituals of my own Pittsburgh Steelers. After my suggestion to my roommate that a Steelers game might just blow her mind and convert her to yanqui-football fanatic, she tried to convince me that in fact, I would be converted to strict soccerism after witnessing the mundial.

Steelers Nation or the Argentine Religion:

Who does it better?

1.) Tailgating Traditions

So as our excitement built for The Depedida (the goodbye scrimmage), I asked my roommate where we would be tailgating. I understood the word didn’t have a direct translation but I explained, you know, going to the field early with friends and beer and getting hyped up for the game in the parking lot.

She looked at me quizzically and shook her head no emphatically. No, you aren’t allowed to hangout in the parking lot, too many people would get killed.

Death?? Oh word?

Futbol teams in Argentina are supported by hinchas or barra bravas, which translates to dangerous gangs. Membership in the barra brava does include chanting, waving enormous banners, and insulting the other teams hinchas, but signing on to a barra brava also means that you will literally RIDE or DIE for your team.

There have been hundreds of deaths in the Argentine soccer stadiums since it’s official conception in 1924, but there have also been a number of barra brava leaders who have been shot and killed off duty, in their homes, in bars, in their neighborhoods.

Check out some of the barra bravas facing off with each other, and generally whooping the ass of a small group of stadium police:

I’m going to have to say that in this sense, I prefer my Steelers Football. I’ve literally walked into a tailgate empty handed and seconds later was provided with Whiskey, a bowl of chili, and an invitation to go to accompany a new friend at a Pens game. There is something really special about the Steelers community that can unite the most disparate people. And, even when I’ve ran at the mouth to all of the opposing fans, I’ve never been pushed down concrete steps, whipped with metal chains, or generally felt that my shit talking was a life or death situation.

2.) Game Time Language

Watching my first Argentine soccer game with my roommate and her friends I started to feel foreign again. Maybe my Spanish wasn’t as good as I thought it was because every other word left me more and more confused. After a bit, I realized it wasn’t my Spanish, it was a different language--Buenos Aires Futbol . The most close knit communities begin to create their own insider and outsider borders with local and useful slang.

What would Steelers Games be without Pittsburgese, the language you have to hear to believe?

I can’t call you a real Steelers fan if you can’t decode the following statement.

“Yinz wan go dahnthan n get sum hoagies n crush some pahnders after the Stillers beat dem Brahns?”

Of course, Porteño Spanish rivals Pittsburgh in unintelligibility to outsiders. Generally, your beginning Spanish will get you nowhere here. In BAFL (what I can't abbreviate?) I’d have to say that one of my favorite futbal phrases is “Pechofrio” which literally translates to cold-chest-ed. It’s as if they have a freezer in their heart—those who play without heart.

One thing that Steelers fans and Argentine Futbol fans definitely have in common is the charm in their vulgarity.

Neither Porteños or Pittsburghers find any use for political correctness or subtlety. Things are best said loudly, and as straight forward as possible—especially on the field. This tradition cuts across gender, and age.

One of my favorite Steeler game experiences was meeting a fellow Steeler fan who took care of us at our tailgate. Clad head to toe in Black and Gold including stirped black and gold pants, and a black and gold jester hat, in reference to my friends small coffeemug, the first words out of her mouth were:

“What the fuck is that some type of sippy cup? You need a real drink, I swear to God!”

My favorite characters at my first steelers tailgate.

At my first Argentine National Soccer game, I saw a small girl about 7 years old with her father learning the traditional calls of Argentine futbol.

QUE HIJO DE PUTA!” (Son of a Bitch/Slut)

“PUTO” (Masculine form of whore)

about every 5 minutes. The vulgarity of the situation eventually became very endearing.

And how can you ever forget the handsome young man who (with fluidity) screamed

"Hijo de un container lleno de peteras nymphomenas!"

Son of a container full of cock-sucking nyphomaniacs!

That's poetry, folks.

After learning about eight new ways to insult someones mother

(my favorite being “LA PUTA QUE TE PARIO”—The whore that pushed you out) in one Futbol game, I turned to my roommate and told her that I loved this country more and more everyday. Perhaps it’s because it reminds me a bit of home.

3.) Legends of the Game:

Maradona. For those soccer fans, enough said. For the rest of you, I’m probably breaking some law by having to explain who he is while being in Buenos Aires. Here he is known as El MEJOR jugador del futbol en el mundo. The best futbol player to have walked the earth. His career was a legendary including this goal in 1986 against the Brits in the semi-finals the year that Argentina went on to become chapions. His personal character is perhaps even more captivating. After a long battle with drugs, and sexual escapades, and a balloon in weight, Maradona married his babies moms, went to rehab, and basically took back his demi-god status in Buenos Aires. He has his own talk show, cult worshippers and often engagnes in political commentary. His rhetoric is often uninformed, decidedly anti-yanqui-imperialist, and always brutally honest.

Maradona’s Goal vs Brits:

Volveremos, volveremos! Volveremos otra vez! Volvermos a ser campeones como en el '86!!

Myron Cope, The Bus, The Steel Curtain, Lambert, Cowher, …the list goes on and on and on. Though Argentina might have Messi, and Maradonna, I think that the general legendary status of the Steelers and the Steelers Franchise outweighs the few greats that Argentina might have. (Ok, so maybe this assessment was a bit biased.)

All i gotta say is "Yoy! Double Yoy"

4.) Stadium Food

I'll never forget the first time that I went to a Steelers game. A friend and I were super hungry and ready to get some wings from Quaker Stake and Lube at half-time. On my way back, when I ran into another friend, I had an attack of excitement and euphoria, and just dropped the whole damn delicious bucket all over the ground. I'm not ashamed to say that I literally got on my knees and screamed "Noooooooo!" over the grave of our finger-lickin goodness. Fortunately, after taking the bucket back to the counter like a pouting 6 year old, they hooked us up with a refill, and then some.

All that to say that the food options in the River stadium looked like concessions stands at an Alcatraz death match. Each grey cement stand had two options: pancho o hamburguesa, both grey and languidly bathing in their own grease on griddle. Packets of ketchup, and mayonesa were literally thrown across the stand tables. You can't even get a damn bucket of popcorn or peanuts. There are a few vendors that walk around with flat coke, and pitiful boxes of gum and chocolate wafers for exorbitant prices. After expressing my outrage with paying 5 pesos for a chiclet, the old man just walked away shaking his head.

I wish I could say that the panchos looked even this appetizing.

Favorite Game time Accessory:

Terrible towels. Beautiful black and gold, and so useful. Wave your towel to show your Steelernation support, then clean up the beer that the Sloppy Joe next to you spilled on your lap.

A valid enough reason to vote for Mr. Obama

Weapons. A mace. A bag full of hedgehogs. stadium seats, whatever they can get their hands on. The funny thing is that I've seen people almost get arrested at games for having a small bag of tree.

"I'm sorry, are those knunchucks sir? Ok, go right ahead in, I was just making sure that wasn't something dangerous like marijuana! "

Ok, so not eeeeveryone at the games are violent, but there is a complicit agreement with many of the barra bravas and the stadium police leaving which leaves people looking like this.

"My bad homie. I didn't mean to smash your face in. I thought you were from the other team."


I'll never forgot the day that my dad wrote me an e-mail about the Mundial, mentioning to me that Maradona was the coach of The Argentine team. Of course, I had known this for a while, being that my roommate has reminded me about everyday how incredible the man is. The funny part came afterwards:

"The Argentine Coach, Diego Maradona is well known in Africa. I think he is the second reknown South American player after Pele in Africa."

HA! Sorry Argentines, everyone knows that Pele is better. (I might get assaulted in my sleep for this one...)

After this, Maradona seems to have really stepped up for the position this year. He's left all of the baby mama/drug/going off at the mouth drama behind him. He is now just a joy to watch and hear at press conferences. His story of rags to riches, to drugs, to rehab, to drama, to shining image have come to a somewhat triumphant apogee in this Mundial.

Yet, Mike Tomlin, taking the Steelers to their 6th championship was Pittsburgh's own triumphant Obama victory. The youngest head coach to ever get their team to a championship was a beautiful, beautiful, black man.

Both coaches are unafraid to show their affection for their players (Maradonna with kisses, Tomlin with chest bumps). Both are unafraid to show their emotion during a game. Both are super super charismatic characters.

Mike and Maradona showin their love for the game.

I love them both, but since someone obviously has to win this round, we are going to have a tie-breaker. The only way that we can break rivalries like this is through a competition of pure SWAG and SEXINESS.

I think we all know who wins this round...

Even Victoria's Secret is crushing on our coach??

Victory Dances:

After an incredible goal, touchdown, victory is when our truest, deepest, spirit come out. Sometimes it comes out in screams, in violence, in jumps...and it's always best when it comes with a lil bit of groove.

Compared to the other NFL teams, The Steelers, haven't necessarily been much of a dancing squad. But, here's just a bit of the groove that we KNOW can come of out these men.

Though Argentina is NOT a nation of dancers, one of their best likes to get down on the field. From one of the toughest villas in Argentina, Tevez is darlinged in Argentina for the way that he smiles and celebrates after every goal. He dances a cumbia villera, something similar to an Argentine gangsta' rap.

Check him out, getting down with the get down!

Gotta say, that I never thought I'd say this...but the Argentines are taking it away in the dance off.

In fin, I'm not going to tally up to figure out the winning team. Though its an incredible experience to live through the mundial en Buenos Aires, I would NEVER give up Steelersnation citizenship to join the evangelical force of Argentine futbol.

What's more... I hope Argentina gets beat by an African country for the mundial title... There, I said it, and i'm not taking it back!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bicentennial: 200 Years and counting of denial

Millions of people showed up to see the Bicentennial Celebration. 900,000 people's daddy's weren't glassmakers. A few people actually saw the celebration. This photo will also be used to play Where's Willis aka Find the negro en Buenos Aires. Good luck.

This week Argentina celebrated the Bicentennial, the 200 year anniversary of the La Revolucion de Mayo. While La Revolucion de Mayo is comparable to our American Independence day, official independence from Spanish Colonization didn’t come for Argentina until 1816. These celebrations actually commemorate the first steps of rebellion that would catapult Argentina into their fight for independence, including their rejection of the Viceroy, and the formation of their own local government.

To be very honest, before all of the noise that was made about the 200 year anniversary, I was none the wiser to all of the intimate details of political rebellion. I will always know the 25 de Mayo for the very specific way that students all over Argentina recognize the Afro-Argentine community, who at this time made up a striking ONE THIRD of the population of Buenos Aires. Yup, I’ma say it again…about 33% of the population of Buenos Aires was considered black according to census data carefully examined by scholar George Reid Andrews. Slaves, and freed Afro-Argentines made up a huge part of the port city, were hugely important in wars of independence, and yes, in the cultural development of Argentine identity—so how are blacks portrayed in the 25 de mayo celebrations?

Two years ago, while conducting interviews of members of the black community in BsAs, there seemed to be one collective memory that constantly resurfaced and caused some anxiety amongst Afro-Argentines…

“We don’t learn about Afro-Argentines in school. We learn a little about slaves. Then every May 25, students act out the Revolucion de Mayo events, and someone gets their face painted black with cork to play the slaves selling empanadas. After that, they disappear, we never talk about them again..”

So, Argentines like to celebrate independence day with a little bit of children in black face? But, I mean, who doesn’t….

Another Cape Verdean interviewee told me that each year the schools would pick their child to play the slave, because, well frankly, there aren’t too many colored kids to choose from. One year, in an ironic twist, he put his foot down and insisted that she play the role of the elite.

With pressure from groups such as INADI, INDEC, and Africa Vive, Argentina’s official posture on Afro-Argentines has become more inclusive, and dedicated to opening up the national imagery of European mixture. This year they have agreed to officially rewrite history accounts of Afro-Argentines, and will conduct a census that for the first time in a hundred years will include Afro-Descendiente as an option! Unfortunately, huge government sponsored events like the Bicentennial celebration really show just how much the Afro community will have to battle for itself to receive their proper recognition.

This is the official propaganda that the Argentine National Broadcasting Station put out:


What is striking, is the acknowledgement and inclusion of the indigenous part of the Argentine identity—it isn’t often that you see BROWN people in advertisements, especially not for the government. Ads and commercials that come from Buenos Aires have a tendency to idealize the blond and blue eyed rather than give an accurate representation of the spectrum of brown that exists in the country.

What is still troubling is what the ad does not show. The quote in the advertisement comes from a document written in 1810 by Mariano Moreno, a very important figure in establishing the first local government, and starting the first free press newspaper.

The video clip comes from the following passage:

La libertad de los pueblos no consiste en palabras, ni debe existir en los papeles solamente. Qualquier déspota puede obligar á sus esclavos, á que canten himnos á la libertad; y este cántico maquinal es muy compatible con las cadenas, y opresion de los que lo entonan. Si deseamos que los pueblos sean libres, observemos religiosamente el sagrado dogma de la igualdad. ¿Si me considero igual á mis conciudadanos, porque me hé de presentar de un modo, que les enseñe, que son menos que yo? Mi superioridad solo existe en el acto de exercer la magistratura, que se me ha confiado; en las demas funciones de la sociedad soy un ciudadano, sin derecho á otras consideraciones, que las que merezca por mis virtudes.

The irony here is in noticing what is left out from Morenos words. They carefully snipped out (from this passage and another passage that they use) each phrase in the series that included any mention of slaves. Though impressive amounts of Afro-Argentine slaves and free people fought in these wars and revolutionary processes, there was not one parade, ceremony, or visual acknowledgement of the Afro-Argentine community during the whole week long celebration. This blatant dismissal of the black community during this important event is quite telling of the type of public memory and identity that Argentine officials are trying to maintain. As the nation and the international community looks onward, the government continues to privilege pride in certain and identities while contributing to the invisibilization of the Afro community.

Luckily, the Afro community did not hold their breath waiting for the government to recognize them as an integral part of the Argentine nation. There were various marches, and a calendar of Diasporic events organized by IARPIDI, an anti-racism and discrimination organization in Buenos Aires. The events were inclusive of the entire diaspora, even those more recent immigrants, who also contribute to the current development of what it means to be "Argentine". The Afro-community marched, held drum workshops, capoeira classes, presentations of documentaries, musical performances--all proceeds going to an organization that helps Haitian refugees. Now, call me a hypocrite if you must but, I still had a quite sour taste in my mouth about Afro political events and thus, i opted out.

Happy 200 years of independence Argentina...we can only hope that one day you'll also be freed from this identity crisis that so plagues you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Name Game...

“Estoy Arto”

is the fun phrase of the week. It means

I’m fed up.

And I am.

Now, I never imagined I’d make a good politician. I’m way too fickle, way too brutal, ungraceful, and undiplomatic with my opinions. I don’t like having meetings about having meetings, voting about voting, and I have a tendency (or rather a learned familiar habit) to interrupt people with rude sounds. (Ok, before you jump in and call me a LIAR, I’ll admit that perhaps this isn’t too far from modern politics.)

During my college years my preference was always to work on the doing end rather than the legislative end. Yes, I can advocate for youth, but if I have a choice, I’d rather just work with them.

But, when my friend Fede became president of the Diaspora and when I became friends with other members of the political groups I ended up showing up to the meetings. I’d have to meet with Fede or my advisor (another anthro-activist) afterwards. I didn’t necessarily have a reason NOT to participate but today, I came to the end of my rope.

After a meeting, I came home furiously to my roommates and immediately began cleaning and organizing the kitchen cabinets. I screamed about the politica de orto, all of the boludeses that these people talk about. I can’t handle it anymore.

Estoy arto.

Today I had gone to a meeting that had started in a certain luna de miel period in differing Afro groups; two groups with “rivaling” ideologies had finally agreed to sit down together to work. The biggest problem outside the Afro-Community is invisibility. How can you get what you need if no one will admit you exist? And the biggest problem within the community is that 27 little groups of 2 black people arguing about “how” they exist.


As I told a fellow black scholar who just came down to study Afro-Argentines…it is awesome fodder for an anthropologist. 26 groups who refuse to work together because of ideological issues? How do you have a visible afro population of about 2%, and have 36 organizations? Why do you have TWO groups of Haitians with similar acronyms? Why do you have La Diaspora Africana en Argentina, and Africa y su Diaspora, and why can’t they work together?

I have my own opinions. Cough(Selfishness, Selfishness, Trying to capitalize off of victimization)

If in my heart I was a real academic, before I was an activist, I would love to figure that out. Instead, I passed the question onto another worthy academic with only a short time in Argentina, and told her to have fun with it, because it made my heart hurt.

On this gem of a day, La Diaspora Africana (my organization of choice because of familial ties and ideological openness) had finally gotten La Diaspora Africana (a group especially ideologically concerned with keeping their organization racially “pure” and “true”) to agree to begin to work towards an Acto de Congresso that will happen before November.

This upcoming summer (winter for yall in the NORTH Americas) is one of the most important first steps in the Afro community—the first census that will include the choice of “Afro-descendiente”. The first time in hundreds of years that definitely (well, as definitely as a census can be) a number can be taken of the amount of negros are in Argentina.

Now, of course, most people don’t know that this is happening. And really, why would they? But, this important event should be publicized and the people should be aware of it. Well, this plan of action would be the topic of discussion at this meeting if only we could stop talking about oh, I don’t know, WHO HAS THE HISTORICAL RIGHT TO CLAIM A NAME THAT HAS BOTH “africa” AND “diaspora” IN IT BECAUSE APPARENTLY THEY ARE TOO SIMILAR FOR SOME PEOPLE.

Yes, for about two hours, these were the topics of conversation

-Somehow people are not bright enough to tell apart organizations with TWO different names: Africa y su Diaspora, y La Diaspora Africana. They are absolutely, the same thing apparently.

-The possibility of going back into archives of flyers to find out which group actually started using the phrase first—handling this “name” situation LEGALLY

-It was actually said that this was a question of “moral y ethica”.

-An e-mail had arrived at the wrong group, and so this meant that there was obvious confusion and the ideologies had to be kept separate.

Now, a few of the members of the Diaspora are professional activists, which is to say that they are shameless in their ability to continue to push their organizations agenda….no matter how silly that agenda may be. But as Fede or the president of IARPIDI an anti-discrimination group would try to direct the conversation back to ya know, this once in a lifetime opportunity to start to bring afro-organizations together, to get voices heard, to get people COUNTED…. It was actually suggested that the two groups could NOT work together before an issue like this was adequately solved. How can we be able to trust each other?

This is when ETHIC & MORAL were brought up…

Now, on this mention of evil name stealers—I had to scoff a bit, and make a rude noise. I can’t help it, I told you.

With a few sympathetic voices trying to speak sense into the people, trying to remind them that they were arguing over a brand name, when they were trying to represent millions of people in the community. Worse, if was as if they were living in a big shit pile and arguing over whether it should be called PoopooPile or ShittyCaca. When you have no goals or plans for advancement, no unity, no power to help the masses of people who don’t come to your meanings, who cares what you call yourself??? Trying to convince them to put away the issue for at least a few meetings, then they could settle it….

After two hours, I had to leave. I’m just not made for all of this politics. More music less politics. More music less politics? More music different politics!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Sadly, the color fades here on the blogger so you'll have to check them out on the website!

As I’ve told you, my friend Fede owns a popular hip-hop shoe store here in Buenos Aires. His family, recognizing the growing niche that is the hip-hop, and urban styled community in Buenos Aires, started their clothing line many, many years ago. His shoe store was started just recently, and it is currently in its process of being refurbished, and revamped.

During a lunch meeting we had one time he told me all about the terrible luck that he had with photographers. One tried to charge him 10 pesos a shot for thousands of shots, one took 2 weeks to do the shots he needed then they were terrible. He spoke pretty harshly about the last girl, who he still generously paid, who was still asking about what other shots he needed.

He wondered if I could help him with some shots he needed. I said that I definitely could. Could I? I had never done product photography a day in my life…but somehow my mouth had decided that I could.

Well, the day of question came quickly. An e-mail warning me that he was expecting a shipment of shoes the next day, a confirmation the next day and my requested presence at his house that evening.

Of course I called my man, who is actually trained in these things, and he assured me that the process would be easy as long as I had two lights, and the reflection board. Check!

Well, with a bootleg foot tripod, stacks of shoe boxes, an acrylic light board, a black drop cloth, and two florescent lights, we took about 500 beautiful, yup BEAUTIFUL DAMMIT, pictures of…tennis shoes.

Most of them appeared to be knock off Chucks with special twists (hello kitty…color-changing Velcro strap on and strap offs). Sativa, Fede, Ceci (his wife), and I did the damn thing.

And so was my introduction to product photography. And it was good.

Check out kicksdom online here!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Brasil: A Gostoza Your Shame Cave

As a recent college grad and a habitual night owl, I’ve seen 6am plenty from the back end. In Buenos Aires the traces of sun begin to kiss the sky. I see 6am as a hazy reintroduction to the world. After hours in the dark and fleshy universe of hip-hop clubs, 6am stained sky is proof that the world hadn’t stopped after all, and brings me back from an alternative universe. To look 6 am in the face is otherwise something I would describe as ugly, and painful. 6am pries eyes open with the violence of red flashing letters, and its dirty chalkboard sky. Its always a bit too cold to leave the bed, no matter the temperature. And even once I’m up and sitting, at 6am I’m hooded and mute—the grumpy hedgehog of the morning.

The last four days I have willingly heard the sound of 6am like sleighbells and rolled over and willingly kissed 6am in the mouth…the corners of my mouth crusted over with the smiles of yesterday. I am not a reformed early riser, but my duty was simple—answer to the call of the crashing waves that settled at my door step, and the rising sun. Refelct the brightness of the sun’s rebirth, and take the shape of the water I swam in—infinite, constantly progressing, and flexible

About a month ago, The Fulbright Committee, announced that we would be having our Regional Enhancement Seminar not in Uruguay, but in Brasil. As part of our grants we would be flown to Slavador to present our research to fellow Fulbright Scholars in the surrounding vicinity. They might have forgotten to mention that our hotel and conference would all be located on the beach front, so close that I could make out the brown of the surfers as my mind wandered during presentations.

Each day begins with a swim. I dry off a bit by way of sun then jaunt back to the hotel for a table full of fresh fruit and Bahian delicacies: platanos, cakes, breads, media lunas, meats, and cheeses, guyaba jellies, honeys, and everything good that I might have thought there would be on this planet.

I would watch presentations sticky with saltwater, bright patterned cloths absconding my bathing suit. Even the day that I presented my research, my hair was sandy and my skin barely dry from and afternoon swim. I admit it was actually my presentation that initially started my cozing up to the early hours. Despite my hope that upon graduating college, magically all of my life long procrastination habits would disappear—they are still alive and well!! After one week of promising I would sit down and create a presentation, I ended up having to make up a few hours before the day started to bubble all of my ideas and veultas of the past two moths into a 15 minute power point. I can’t say that this bout of procrastination led me to reform. I sat in a dining room of windows facing the beach and the cool morning sky with the smell of sweet platanos and ommelettes encouraging thte powerpoints to jump on to the page. (So I could spend more time eating...such a fatty at heart)!

The presentation went swimmingly, and I was reminded of just how much I enjoyed lecturing, teaching, and learning from an eager audience. Some of the most fun that I had during the conference was time spent lounging in the sun, discussing research with the fellow musicologists. If it wasn't a musicologist it was a historian giving me a bit more history on the dictadura, if it wansn't a historian it was a poltical theorist explaining to me the Uruguayan prison system, and it wasn't that it was a discussion on Fiere and systems.

It is possible that during my five day trip to Salvador, I didn’t stop smiling. I was glowing in a state of eternal gratitude.
  • I was thankful after living in a city crawling with people, to be in a small beach town. · I was thankful after two months of majorily being surrounded by Italianos Bajitos from Buenos Aires, that my general surrounding was brown and beautiful and sculpted from riding the waves.
  • I was thankful, after months of being offered white bread, empanadas, and milanesas to see plates of arroz con frijoles, platanos, mango, papaya, mariscos
  • I was estatic after two months of constantly being looked at and treated as an outsider, to finally look like I fit right in.
  • I was thankful to be surrounded by so many awesome thinkers, scholars, phD candidates, nerds, music lovers, lovers of knowledge
  • I was thankful to be surrounded by a language with a honey cadence and knee knocking propertie, ahhh menina.
I realized that Salvador was the first city in the Americas that I had ever been to where black people were the overwhelming majority and well, generally looked like they were part of my family. It was an erie feeling of returning home to a place that I had never been, stumbling around in a language that wanted to adopt me with sounds that I knew my mouth would someday make. The entire experience was a rebirth—my normaly constant sountrack of “work, work, work” took a tone of “worth, worth, worth” and I began to question my need for constant challenges, constant achievement, and constant doing.

Who would I cease to be if I ceased to do??

Atleast for five days, I was more than content being, shing, exchanging ideas with “colleagues” (yeaaa that’s right I said colleagues), listening to live music, drinking ice cold beer, dancing samba.
I came back healed from salt water, from the sun, from the beach, but most of all because Salvador truly pried open my heart and poured in the sunshine. Everyone noticed the difference in my demeanor and it seemed that I had found my new homeland. A land I’ll surely return to & that will always be in my heart. LINK TO

We had great roommate karma. my awesome and super brilliant roommate Kirsten
Group introductions

Sam (Filmmaker/Writer) Todd (generally a genius)