The Alphabet of Enchantment Island: An Interview with author Yajaira De La Espada on decolonizing child imaginations

To listen to the episode please follow this iTunes link or you can listen on Stitcker.com here.

From the first time I heard her story and her idea of a children’s book that captures the history of colonization in Puerto Rico, I was overwhelmed with bittersweet joy. I wished I had been able to read something like that when I was a little girl.

I remember the moments in my life when I read about some of the most influential figures in Puerto Rico’s struggle to be free: Pedro Albizu Campos, Lola de Tio, Lolita Lebron, and even indigenous Caciques that fought the conquistadors. Spain and then the United States, both invaded and repressed anyone who dared mention freedom for Puerto Rico. It was hate and ignorance that led us here. Puerto Ricans have every right to govern themselves, and this is the story our children must learn.

Because while we are living in the country that promotes equality, freedom and democracy it takes little to ask ourselves what is wrong with the Puerto Rico situation. It becomes imperative to take our story to the American public and highlight the need to give a colonized people their Freedom.

So I hope you’ll join the growing Puerto Rican movement that says that no country should cede it’s sovereignty to another.

This is why the work of Yajaira De La Espada is so important. She is an afro-latina/afro-Boricua that embodies the fierce warriors that are emerging to tell the stories that have long been denied to us or hidden from us.

A children’s book that highlights the history of colonization…
She hopes that the book will be a resource to encourage children to thoroughly imagine what a free and sovereign Puerto Rico looks like.

This is the work that our people in the Diaspora and in Puerto Rico are starving for, and have been waiting so long to see. I know that Yajaira’s work is special, I know there’s a market for it… because in every face I meet through my activism, I see the spirit of a people who are ready to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

Yajaira has been working to publish her work and I wanted to bring her story to all of you so that we can support it and someday soon hold it in our hands as we share the stories of our ancestors with our kids, nieces and nephews.

“I am raising funding for a picture book I wrote entitled, The Alphabet of Enchantment Island. It is an A-Z love letter to mi isla del encanto and an ode to AfroBoricuas past, present, and future. I would love your support. Please share with your community.”

You can support Yajaira via her go fund me here:

https://www.gofundme.com/yayaalphabet

Her contact information is:

  • Instagram/Twitter: @yajairawrites

Other interesting highlights from her conversation was her work in a Texas town with a large Mexican community: “They didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them” and the children she taught inspired her to work on a culturally relevant curriculum or culturally relevant children’s stories.

It was also alarming to hear her insights into the education systems and how flawed they are, from removal of librarians and counselors, to the unwelcoming environment for students from other countries and especially those displaced from Puerto Rico.

We discussed representation of afrolatinos in film too and the work needed to bring awareness to that as well. Yajaira highlighted past examples of representation, like Sonia Manzano from Sesame street, and Christina Vidal in the show Taina. But we spoke of recent examples to represent Puerto Rico as well, like “La Borinquena” by Edgardo Miranda and Miles Morales in the Spiderverse Movie.

And representation is so important because often the gatekeepers say things like “Puerto Ricans don’t read” or there’s no “Market” for a book on Puerto Rico’s history of colonization. But this is just the same old story, the same discrimination Puerto Ricans have always faced… and it’s up to us to fight that and say that our stories DO MATTER.

Un Sueño realizado: An interview with Gloriann Sacha Antonetty Lebron about Racial Justice in Puerto Rico

This week I spoke to Gloriann Sacha Antonetty about Racial Justice… A topic that impacts Public Health in so many ways. This was one conversation I’d been wanting to do for so long. One of the interesting pieces of this conversation was around Images of Oppression in all, but especially Puerto Rican history books, and how the education system is in many ways biased – because it doesn’t provide stories that give a holistic picture of our African descendants that were brought to Puerto Rico and enslaved.

We spoke about the fact that this imagery matters because no child would want to associate with images of slaves and people who were chained. So she spoke about the need to highlight those Afro-Puertoricans that made great contributions in history and to the Puerto Rican community. Giving children a perspective that instead celebrates the accomplishments of our African ancestors is so important.

We also spoke about experiences of discrimination on the island. From experiences in the workplace, to simply visiting a pharmacy, and the salaries of black women – it’s clear that racism does exist everywhere and in Puerto Rico it is not acknowledged enough. Gloriann noted that it is important to value our African descendants and heritage, and I absolutely agree with her.

The interview highlighted also the need for solidarity and taking part in conversations with others on how to gain the tools to fight racism both externally and internally. I felt so glad to hear her suggestions on how to address racist sometimes subtle aggressions in your day to day.

And finally I spoke to her about what she’s most passionate about. We spoke about her youth, and constant search for magazines with women that looked like her and her family. The way her father would go everywhere he could to find her a copy of Essence. And in speaking to Gloriann about her passion, her dream of creating a magazine that represents afro-carribean women, I realized that her vision will change the lives of so many women and little girls. I’m excited to keep following her work and I hope you’ll pick up that copy of the first magazine here: www.revistaetnica.com.

Although much needs to be done, I truly believe Gloriann’s children, all children, will see a world that values and celebrates Black women/men and the impact of Afro-Caribbean people.

NOTE: I started the Episode with a Music recommendation from Gloriann – IFE

A powerfully progressive synthesis of electronic sound and Afro-Caribbean language, ÌFÉ is a bold new musical project from Puerto Rico based African American drummer/producer/singer Otura Mun. Mun, an Ifá priest or Babalawo in the Yoruba religion, has been a vanguard artist in the Puerto Rican music scene since his arrival there in the late 1990’s, producing critically acclaimed albums and songs for many of the islands most important musical voices. Founder and Director: Otura Mun. Musicians: Beto Torrens, Anthony Sierra, Yarimir Cabán

This is the Cover of the Book mentioned in the interview for the classroom, which is designed to address Racism and revise the way we speak of our African identity.

Bleeding Borinquen: An interview with Alvin Velazquez and Armando Pintado on the Cofina Agreement

This week – Puerto Ricans face a life-and-death decision…

Reporting for the first time this year from Puerto Rico, I wanted to cover the most pressing issue happening on the island right now. On the eve of a major and possibly historic decision in Bankruptcy law, it is important to understand how the COFINA Agreement that is coming before Judge Swain on January 16 will affect the health and future of Puerto Ricans on the island.

So to help us understand it I am joined by Alvin Velazquez, Associate General Counsel for the Service Employees International Union– and SEIU representative in the bankruptcy proceedings in Title III in Puerto Rico. Before he worked for SEIU, he was Executive Director of the Commission to Audit Puerto Rico’s Debt. Alvin has a Finance and Commercial Litigation background, and works in the labor movement on financial and tech issues.

I’m also joined by Armando Santiago Pintado, coordinator for Hedge Clippers. He is coordinating a campaign in Puerto Rico in efforts to lift up what’s happening with hedge funds in PR relating to the islands debt. He’s worked in the past as a Policy advisor and in Policy research, but currently is part of the field campaign supporting organizations in Puerto Rico fight back against Wall Street greed. Hedge Clippers is a “group working to expose the mechanisms hedge funds and billionaires use to influence government and politics in order to expand their wealth, influence and power. We’re exposing the collateral damage billionaire-driven politics inflicts on our communities, our climate, our economy and our democracy.”

The start of the episode opens with a song written in 1929, Lamento Borincano / “Puerto Rican Mourning” – which was a song that “illustrated the economic precariousness that had engulfed the Puerto Rican farmer” Borincano refers to the name of the island before Spain colonized it.

The lyrics are symbolic of the current state of the island, because it tells the story of the “Jibaro” or countryman who cannot make a living and sadly reflects “What will become of Borinquen, my God, what will become of our children and our home….”

In many poignant ways, the lyrics reflect what is happening in Puerto Rico, as Islanders ask themselves what will become of their children, their homes, their healthcare, and their family’s well-being if this Agreement is signed by the Judge. We are left to wonder if there is any humanity left in Puerto Rico, with Debtors extracting every last penny from a territory designed to fall into poverty, and still hurting from the most catastrophic hurricane in US history. And many more will continue to prey on the island if together we don’t send a message that this agreement goes counter to human dignity and human decency. The conditions created by this deal, will exacerbate the issues happening and lead to worse health outcomes for millions of people. In many ways- the outcomes will be not be seen, because when it comes to Puerto Rico, it’s easy to simply not see the inhumane way that Wall Street has stripped it of revenue for decades – causing Puerto Ricans to lack access for even basic services. It is a fact that we would not have had to bury so many of our loved ones, if the billionaires that live in high-rises in New York City had not aimed their sights on our already bleeding Borinquen.

For more information on what COFINA is you can click on this link:

English Lyrics of Lamento Borincano/PuertoRican Lament,Mourning
He sets off happily with his cargo
To the city, to the city
Carries in his thoughts
A whole world filled with happiness
Oh, of happiness
He plans to remedy the household situation
Which is all that he loves!

And happy, the peasant goes
Thinking, saying, singing on the way:
“If I sell my wares, my dear God
I’ll buy a suit for my little old lady”

And his mare is happy
For he knows that the song is
All a joyful hymn
And then the daylight comes unexpectedly
And they arrive to the city market

The entire morning goes by
Without anyone wanting
To buy his wares, oh, to buy his wares
Everything, everything is deserted
And the town is full of need
Oh, of need
The mourning is heard everywhere
In my unhappy Borinquen,

And full of sadness, the peasant goes home
Thinking, saying
Crying along the way:
“What will happen to Borinquen, my dear God
What will happen to my children and my home?” Oh!

Borinquen, the land of Eden
The one that when sung by the great Gautier
He called The pearl of the Seas
“Now that you lay dying from your sorrows
Let me sing to you also
Borinquen of my love”

I’m a child of Borinquen and no one will change that
I’m a child of Borinquen and no one will change that
And on the day that I die, I want to rest in you
I love you, Puerto Rico, and no one will take that away!

Broken Promises and Broken Systems: Interview with Karen Rossi, documentary filmmaker from Puerto Rico

The Update

It’s been a month of tough conversations with my family, protests, and press conferences.

The anniversary of my stepdads death was also this month – so it’s been an incredibly difficult time for me and my family.


The Return to Boriken, Interrupted:

I had to deliver really heartbreaking news to my family over Thanksgiving about my move to PR. For those following this journey, I shared on Instagram that in fact, I can’t move back to Puerto Rico due to a colonial policy that continues affecting our communities. It is just one of many barriers that prevent Puerto Ricans from coming home…

After initially approving a remote move to Puerto Rico, my work found that tax laws are considered international in Puerto Rico, so moving would lead to loss of benefits, health insurance. They were only able to approve a move to another state. So I chose New York City, the place where Puerto Rican activists have been at it for decades, and historically where many Boricuas displaced by colonialism have chosen to make their home. Meanwhile the tax system benefits those outside the island, as a tax haven for the wealthy, but keeps families apart. In many ways, moving to NYC felt like I was breaking a promise not only to my mom but also to the Island as well. So it was a tough to tell her, knowing what had happened just a year ago…

And grief is a powerful thing… it breaks you, it overwhelms you in unexpected ways.

So I took some time from podcasting to focus on my family and simply enjoy being on the island. However, recent events in Puerto Rico led me out onto the streets. In this episode I cover my experiences at the protests in Old San Juan on gender-based violence and a Press Conference on toxic-ash dumping that is causing cancer and other illnesses in the population. Read more about the Protests at the end and also please support Colectiva Feminista En Construcción here, as well as the Coalition against Ash dumping here.

The goal of this podcast is not just to help raise awareness on our struggle but connect us to the solutions.

This Puerto Rican Movement is ours to lead.

I hope you will also listen in and share this week’s Interview with a Puerto Rican filmmaker whose voice is a powerful reminder that WOMEN will lead the next social revolution.

Thank you Karen – you spoke from the heart and you shed a light on the work we still need to do.


A Puerto Rican Documentary

Karen Rossi is a Puerto Rican woman and documentary filmmaker who just completed documentary called “Ser Grande/When I grow Up” about 3 young kids growing up in the Luis Llorens housing project in Puerto Rico.

She stated that she did this documentary when she started asking which organizations in Puerto Rico are tackling social issues from a preventative point of view. That’s when she found “Jovenes De Puerto Rico.” https://www.jovenesdepuertoricoenriesgo.org

From that question, “Ser Grande” came to be. You can check out the trailer here:  https://youtu.be/VOPR-uJbSpE

Karen also shares her work with AdocPR – a non-profit organization that brings together documentary filmmakers. And AdocPR has just released a web-based store that sells films by Puerto Rican filmmakers.

The Web-Based lease share this link and support their movement to create a platform for more diverse voices in Film:

https://www.adocpr.org/latiendita/

In the News:

Documental boricua “Ser grande” es recibido con entusiasmo en La Habana @ElNuevoDia http://fw.to/uLOfptj

More about AdocPR:

AdocPR is a non-profit organization that brings together several generations of documentary filmmakers in the country with the aim of promoting the development of documentary film, and improve our working conditions. .

Protests, Press Conferences and the Illegal debt

The Protest was covered in multiple mediums but this article is a great start if you want to learn more and how to support the movement to address Gender-based Violence:

To learn more about the Toxic ash dumping you can review these 2 sources that cover the issue very well:

You can also follow a few coalitions that organize on the island to protest the legislation and trucks that dump toxic ash:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=576408199198172&ref=br_rs

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=209727199117675&ref=br_rs

https://www.facebook.com/groups/678202402352487/?ref=br_rs

Judge Swain and the COFINA Agreement has been in the news recently and the links below show how you can take direct action to help stop legislation that will adversely impact the lives of Puerto Ricans. You can learn more in the links below:

Posted by Diáspora en Resistencia on Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Community Health and the Young Lords: Ivelyse Andino Interview

This week – I’m excited to share a conversation about focused on what it means to engage with your community. I chat with someone from a Social Impact organization about health in communities, as well as the history and work of the Young Lords/Black Panthers in public health.

Ivelyse Andino was a wonderful guest and provided some interesting insight into how we can use the power of the community to better the health of our people. She is the founder and CEO of Radical Health – the first #Latina-owned B-Corporation in NYC.

What struck me as we chatted was that she is part of a radical movement that has been around for some time, and the more we discuss these radical solutions, it will revolutionize the health of our neighbors and ourselves.

I was also really happy to hear that Ivelyse was so excited to meet another Boricua involved in #Healthcare #technology and who also explores the #SocialDeterminants of Health. Her advice to the rest of us in the Diaspora: Don’t stop learning about the Puerto Rican history and how you can keep building up the Puerto Rican community and connecting to the networks near you.

 

As Ivelyse says: “The beauty when we can come together” and take part in building up our people.

Don’t miss out on this important chat and share it. We love hearing from you and learning what you enjoyed about the podcast and what we can do to make it even better. [borikenpodcast@gmail.com]

Ivelyse Andino Bio: http://www.radical-health.com/ivelyse/

Radical Health Social Media:

PBS Article on the Young Lords:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/puerto-rican-radical-group-young-lords-retake-new-york-city-multi-museum-exhibit

About:

“Radical Health is a minority – women owned, social impact organization.

We started with a crazy idea – What if people – doctors, nurses, neighbors, family caretakers, got together without an agenda or any pretense and began talking about a way we can change health as we know it? Through these conversations Radical Health was formed. Radical Health turns the paradigm of top-down medical treatment on its head by activating  community members to become engaged partners in health care and to become change agents in addressing disparities in their neighborhoods.

The US healthcare system is broken. We spend $3T annually in clinical care to solely provide “sick care”.  Minorities and other historically marginalized populations, are disproportionately affected by health disparities, resulting in higher hospitalization rates,  lower life expectancy and over $60B in lost productivity annually.  Radical Health mobilizes  those from marginalized demographics such as LGBTQI, formerly incarcerated, undocumented immigrants,  and disabled populations to leverage their lived experience to impact health disparities, build community and generate supplemental income.

Radical Health mobilizes those suffering from health disparities to become agents of change in promoting health, thereby shifting knowledge, power, and resources to those who are most in need.

Radical Health is leading the transformation from a paternalistic, “systems know best” paradigm, to a community-driven approach where engaged and motivated community members influence the delivery of health care.  These are network of people not just invested in their own wellbeing, but in that of the community. Through our community-based approach we build out the networks and relationships that impact health outcomes which allows for enhanced provider – patient experiences and reductions in unnecessary ER visits. As a result, we see related impacts in education and public safety, and ultimately a flourishing economy. Our radical approach redefines the status quo and creates pathways to meaningful employment, community strengthening, and re-investment of funding to the people through health and technology.

We know that the task ahead of us is not an easy one, but we believe in the power of community – collaborating to create change. We invite you to share with us your thoughts on what Radical Health means to you. Sign up to be a part of the movement. Share with a friend. Partner with Radical Health to start a project in your community. Together, we can make a difference.”