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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The last night before gentrification: The 77' NYC Blackout

I remember my aunt (who will undoubtedly toss some cents at this post) telling us it was a blackout. 
My grandmother or maybe my mom, was skeptical. On this mid July day 40 years ago I was a tiny child and the day was still brightly lit at something passed 7:30 PM or probably later based on what came next.
Also the TV was on. Contradictory to any "Blackout" talk the house offered, Roger Grimsby a name who bore a a news man on Channel 7 to fit it, joylessly told the news of the day, and I'm certain (due to my strange memory) he was talking about power outages. The household debate between a girl, her adult sister and their mom raged on, loudly.
I'm pretty sure my mother pointed out to her youngest sister that the TV was still on. My Aunt, then a young teenager was frustrated and in full "nobody listens to me" mode.
Perfectly, during the conversation involving the TV, Roger Grimsby and the electricity in our building went out.
"SEE!!!" came rising from you-know-who.
We lived on the 12th floor. A rarity for a non-housing project non-luxury building in Brooklyn. Crown Heights in fact. Fun fact I can see that building from my current kitchen window. The universe circles.
Back 40 years ago, the TV off, the apartment now light by large unblocked city and sky facing windows the conversation finally had a chance to lurch forward. "What is happening" "How much" "How long" started new branches of conversation each digging into the topics and planting new roots.
My memory, and I trust it because at that age I'd seen nothing like this before or since in real life, tells me that before the TV went out, part of my mom and grandmother's argument, against "blackout" was that the city's skyline was lit up as the sky became twilight, that strange time when man-made light and sun we're both present and visible, windows making a mosaic of clear parallelograms each inlaid on rectangles themselves.
The memory I'm slowly baking to is seeing sections of the city in order from uptown to down, begin to go lightless. It looked like at least ten blocks at a time, switching off, orderly, a simple procession. That, as I recall was what got the debate stopped. I feel like my mother had pointed out that the city had lights "SEE!" and she pointed. And then the illumination of the dominions began to fall, and made way through the isle of olde Dutch robbery.
When all Manhattan was out, we all turned our heads or bodies, expectantly to the TV, where Roger, still without joy or even astonishment, continued speaking to us. It seemed to take a small pause in time for him to finally get the news and then in a flash, he the tv, our dining area lights, all gone.
It seemed to be connected says my memory, that within 1 minute there was a screech of tires and then a scream, from the intersection of Park Pl. and Classon Ave, 12 stories (and more) below.
We ran to our terrace (another rarity in Brooklyn then and now) and looked below to intersection:
Darkness punctuated by long swords of car headlights was most easily seen. At street level, people argued, glass broke, people ran. For light, for their lives. From their fears, and back then unlike now, many of those fears was likely.

Ironically in 2017 you could say it was lit, and yet the opposite.

When the dark was full, we lit candles, cautiously opened the apartment door to the knocks we heard in the hall. It wasn't risky, the building was full of doctors, nurses and the administrative staff whom all worked for the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital (now apartments! #gentrification) Our neighbors came around with flashlights, checking on everyone.
We stayed in that night, of course. The elevators didn't work, and who wants to take the stairs to a perceived and darken hell.
We could hear yelling, occasional screams, and car horns intermittently all night. It was probably the most chaos I ever or have since heard, but it didn't seem that much crazier than 1977 NYC to my tiny ears, just more consistent and without ebb. The sounds lasted until we finally fell asleep. At least I did.
During the 25+ hour long blackout, parts of Brooklyn burned; Especially, in Bushwick and along it's border with Bedford-Stuyvesant (back when Bushwick was still able to reach north west toward Marcy Av. Many apartments went up and many more small businesses were abandoned by small business owners, and later by insurance companies and bank loan officers. 

Some areas were not to return to prosperity until the plans drawn up in the weeks and years that followed that night, were set in motion.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Brooklyn Creative Market : Crown Hts Sat. 6/4 meet B'Klyn's newest creatives!

This Saturday June 4th on the rooftop of the Brooklyn Children's Museum will host the Brooklyn Creative Market and you should stop by.

Why and What's this? 

It's a gathering of youth entrepreneurs, new and emerging young people from their teens up, who are being granted an opportunity to bring their Fashion, Music, Photography and art in general, to the public and gain valuable business and marketing experience.

The event will feature a youth lead pop up shop for young creative entrepreneurs to showcase their products and services to the world.

50+ creatives will display their work in Art, Fashion, Food, Photography, Music and more.

  • Live performances
  • Two DJ's
  • 50+ vendors
  • INteractive activities
  • Pitch competition where one  business will win $1,000 for their startup.

For some it will be the first time they're bringing their creativity to the public and for all it will be an incredible boost to confidence and self-determination.

I'm proud to say I helped support this event and as a result 6 of the best entrepreneur's business plans will receive $1000 to act on their ideas.

It's exactly the type of thing many of us talk about, giving real world business opportunity and experience to creative young native Brooklynites in a way that helps them focus and build their future careers.

Here's where you can receive your (free) ticket:

Here's a link with more details on registering as a vendor

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

RIP PhifeDawg, aka Malik Taylor and some of 90's NYC

(Above a still from the music video for "Jazz/Buggin' Out" by "A Tribe Called Quest" (1991) featuring a then mostly desolate DUMBO waterfront in the background. Of course that building behind them in this shot is being made currently, into condos.)

Phife Dawg is dead at 45. This one personally hurts.

"Phife Dawg" aka Malik Taylor was a lyricist and key member of hiphop's ground breaking group "A Tribe Called Quest"

Some folks rant about people mourning the death of entertainers or celebs, and if you're kind of fan of "A Tribe Called Quest" then Malik Taylor aka Phife Didd-dawg was the energetic essence of that, but he was also the dude I'd see on the regular in NYC. Specifically in video game arcades where he'd hold down a machine for hours, beating anyone who foolishly stepped to challenge, or just rocking the machine by himself. If you have no idea who I'm talking about let me take a few lyrics from the man himself to explain:

"Now here's a funky introduction of how nice I am Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram I'm like an energizer cause, you see, I last long My crew is never ever wack because we stand strong"

From "Check the Vibe" by A Tribe Called Quest
(This video shot with contours of a desolate DUMBO in the Background)

Phife on his preference of women:

"I like 'em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation Told you in the jam that we can get down Now let's knock the boots like the group H-Town You got BBD all on your bedroom wall But I'm above the rim and this is how I ball A gritty little something on the New York street This is how I represent over this here beat"

From "Electric Relaxation" by A Tribe Called Quest,

Phife On fidelity:

"Original rude boy, never am I coy You can be a shorty in my ill convoy Not to come across as a thug or a hood But hon, you got the goods, like Madelyne Woods By the way, my name's Malik The Five-Foot Freak Let's say we get together by the end of the week She simply said, "No", labelled me a ho I said, "How you figure?" "My friends told me so" I hate when silly groupies wanna run they yap
Word to God hon, I don't get down like that."
Also From "Electric Relaxation" by A Tribe Called Quest

Phife On life(kinda):

"I never half step cause I'm not a half stepper Drink a lot of soda so they call me Dr. Pepper(sad! He was referring to his indulgence of sugars that led to his diabetes) Refuse to compete with BS competition Your name ain't Special Ed so won't you seckle with the mission I never walk the street thinking it's all about me Even though deep in my heart, it really could be I just try my best to like go all out Some might even say yo shorty black you're buggin' out"
From "Buggin' Out" by A Tribe Called Quest,

Damn! Imagine being 20 years old and those lyrics play over Tribe's dope beats as you walk down the street, into the club, off to class, Phife aka #MalikTaylor made an introduction, lines for anyone feeling the vibe, especially someone young as he was then, trying to find their way.

It's very important to note these albums came out over 20 years ago, when HipHop was still a largely unknown genre, and when images of HipHop ranged from under budget to cliched. Yet A Tribe Called Quest powered by Q-Tip's fertile visual imagination, he and Phife's lyrical flows, Ali Shaheed Muhammad's dope beats and all three of their combined energies created videos which were imaginative, bugged out (sometimes literally, as shown above) and always full of Black and Brown faces.

Smiling faces, Hard Faces, Happy Faces, Dancing Faces, Living Breathing on the Block from Bk to Queens, faces. Us just living, being, us.

For a great example check out this video for "Oh My God" which was shot on Monroe (btw Marcus Garvey and Monroe *below) in Bedford Stuyvesant.

I can't begin to express what it was like in the 90's to click on "Video Music Box" (running on a public tv station channel 31 here in NYC at the time) and seeing the block my family lived on, and the people of Brooklyn I recognized as everyday people being the setting for the music of the moment. Tribe was a part of the culture that elevated an unseen NYC for millions of people.
If you're reading this and you've never heard of any of this, it could because while Phife and A Tribe Called Quest (#ATCQ) were pioneers in a jazz infused melodic hiphop that plotted the course for hundreds of lyrasis and producers to come, most notably The Roots, so you may not have heard Tribe on your radio but it didnt matter or as Phife might say:

No need to sweat Arsenio to gain some type of fame No shame in my game cause I'll always be the same Styles upon styles upon styles is what I have You wanna diss the Phifer but you still don't know the half.
From "Check the Rhime" by A Tribe Called Quest
"Rappin' is an art, coming straight from the heart So forget the chart because the action can start."
From "Hot Sex" A Tribe Called Quest (on the Boomerange Movie Soundtrack)

Me, I used to be a gamer, hardcore, and like others I'd go to the city to play the best in the land. I saw Phife regularly in the arcade. Occasionally I'd stand by and watch his gamer skills. He was totally unpretentious. A regular dude like everyone else, flexing skills at a serious hobby, concentrating mad hard, or cracking jokes.

Dudes would come and try talking him up, but usually not, cause Phife was busy leveling up. And if you know, you know how that goes. After a while my visits to the arcade were just to come and go. I'd step in and right back out cause if Phife was on deck nobody had next.

Phife is a part of my NYC, my Hip-Hop my memories. 

Seeing him struggle with diabetes in the "A Tribe Called Quest" documentary was rough, but like anyone would, I'd hoped he was recovering toward a happy ending.

45 is young. Way too young to go.

(Recent photo of Malik Taylor aka "Phife Dawg" Photo credit Andrew H Walker/Getty)
"You on point Phife?" Yo Rest in Peace man.


(Apologies for the wack spacing throughout this, I will be overhauling this blog soon)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Let's Play Politics without Playing Dumb 2016

Hi, good to see you again.

Once again "It's been a long time, I shouldn'ta left you..."
Life has kept me hyper busy, I was away most of last summer on a film series (I'm blessed) but there is so many thoughts I want to share in response to some wonderful and intelligent friends’ comments on social media, especially Facebook, who seem to have caught what I call "Trump-itis".

You know the condition caused when people are exposed to so much Trump coverage that alarm bells go off in a person's subconscious and results in them spending a lot of time and posting a lot of words discussing Donald Trump’s presidential chances with no eye or ear to the fact-based realities of his chances of being the next President of the United States.

So in short I wrote all this. Trump has little chance of being president of the United States, if a majority of the electorate shows up.

Now I do have a lot to say about a lot of recent NYC and of course especially Brooklyn news, like the planned streetcar line, the method of redevelopment in East New York, the (I'd estimate) 500 new units of housing coming to small area of Crown Heights destined to shift lift further from "affordable", and best of all The Brooklyn Community Foundation, a non-profit that is directly and positively impacting Brooklyn communities.

So posts on all that will come. However I’m going to put that on hold to address more of this Trump fascination.

First, I'd ask you to humor me and do this: swap Bernie Sanders for Barack Hussein Obama, and Donald Trump for John McCain (remember early 2008 John McCain? The very experienced, war hero, centrist who speaks plainly and has the support of all sides!!) and it becomes obvious that a lot of what's happening in media coverage year is playing out like 2008. Personally on the Dem side I know many friends support Hill over Bern, and that's fine because it doesn't matter. We all on the Dem side essentially have the same politics, it's a matter of who we prefer and trust (for a number of reasons) to enact and fight for a majority of those policies.

I believe voting matters, but given the opposition, at this point if the Democrats nominated that creepy robot in the new Boston Dynamics videos everyone will come around and support it. It doesn't matter, after the convention there will be one Dem candidate and we'll all support them.

After the Dem convention someone electric probably joins someone's ticket maybe one of the Latino-American political twin Castro brothers from San Antonio TX, and then they go campaign, with 2 (maybe 3) former Democratic presidents in tow, because the Dems won't make the mistake of 2000 again and not use the sitting president's bully pulpit to galvanize turnout among African Americans especially (which is one reason why the talk of if Bern can get support from the African American electorate is silly)

So no matter who is nominated on the Dem side, no significant number of voters on the Democratic side are going to defect to Trump, Rubio or Cruz. Just like no significant number defected from Hillary to McCain in 2008. I'm sure some people in 2008 refused to vote for Obama, but ultimately twice in the last two elections, with wars and soldiers abroad and a bad economy all making people feel unease, the majority of presidential voters picked the guy who supposedly couldn't overcome the heated anger of the Right wing.

Trump doesn't have the numbers to win. And the entire GOP set of candidates this year are too extreme (Except Kasich who interestingly, Trump's wins is pushing out of contention) to get any major traction with the entire electorate.

And a note about Trump’s “wins”.

Primaries in most states are closed, meaning usually when Trump wins he's winning ONLY among Republicans, he's getting no Democratic votes and no Independent votes because most of those voters are not allowed to vote in the Republican primary. For example in Nevada there are approximately 750,000 self-identifying Latino’ s in the state.

Of that number about 16% are and were able to vote in the Republican primary and Trump won 7% of them with the other Republican candidates splitting the remaining 9%. Trump declared that he had won the Latino vote in Nevada, and if you’re counting that 16% as the entire vote, yes his 55% of that 16% is a win, but it’s not near all the Latinos in the state. The Democrat and Independent self-identifying Latino's in Nevada are over 70% of all Latino. Trump didn’t "win the Latino vote in Nevada" he spun it, said he did, and everyone keeps repeating.Please stop.

Many people are writing, and endlessly reposting these and other numerically inaccurate stories about Trump, and Trump's chances and its a waste of time, energy and a distortion of reality. A better more important more long impacting story is about the remaining vocal fringe of unabashed racist Americans that make up a significant number of his supporters.

It’s a difficult habit to break, reporting sensationalism. The news media gets more money in views, paper sales, and TV ratings by talking up Trump, they think they have to. But it's as useful as when the NYC media pretends to be excited for a new New York Knicks and Nets seasons, knowing damned well they are not going to be anywhere near the championship when the season winds up.

The real issues are making sure more than 40% of the eligible electorate comes out to vote, because the national electorate swings overwhelming democratic. (It doesn't seem like that because of news and congress, but the congressional districts have been rigged by Republican (and sometimes Democratic) governors to corral people into voting districts based on their party affliction.

So I suggest the real issue is getting more people to vote. I suggest we share those articles about denial of voting rights, about voter registrations drives.

Post more articles about what people need to be sure and do so they are prepared to vote. That information better ensures a democratic win. Sharing the news on how much our vote matters is the best news to share this election season.