Archive | June, 2008

B.A.C.C.A Youth Reflection: New Soul in this Strange World

Posted on 25 June 2008 by admin

You walk in. You see students towering above you by about a foot—some that look old enough to be your teacher. There are no more single-file lines walking down the halls. You no longer have to go to the office or the bathroom with a partner. What is this strange world, and how will you ever survive?

“The hardest thing to adjust to was the work, and being required to really push yourself in order to get grades that you previously breezed through in elementary school,” says Elena, a 15-year-old sophomore at Walter Payton. Remember your teachers in elementary school, reminding you daily to do your homework and get started on your big paper due next week?  That isn’t necessarily the case in high school. While most teachers during your freshman year will do their best to ease your way into the high school environment, it can still be quite difficult. Amalia, another 16-year-old sophomore at Walter Payton, said, “Coming in freshman year, everything was kind of so sudden I hardly knew what to do with myself.”

High school is on an entirely different level. There are a lot more students, and thus a bigger difference in maturity levels, intelligence, and social skills. However, that doesn’t mean it will be any more difficult finding people to relate to and become good friends with. With more students comes a greater mixture personalities and interests. John Angelo, 16-year-old sophomore attending Walter Payton, “embraces Payton’s diversity.”

So, how can you prepare for high school? A lot of your preparation will depend on your own determination and your experience at your old elementary or middle school. Coming into high school, you could have come from the top 5 in your previous school, but as Elizabeth, a 16-year-old sophomore at Walter Payton states, “coming to high school I was and am competing with all the kids that were in the top 5 of their classes.” You can either work hard and do your best in order to adjust to this new workload, or slack off and fall behind. Anna, another 16-year-old sophomore, suggests, “Talk to and meet as many people as you can. Not only will you make close friends, but you will also create a network of people that you can look to if you ever need any help in a class, with homework, or if you need to know an assignment…”

Regardless of the difficulty, you may end up considering high school some of the best years of your life. Elizabeth comments, “There is a lot more freedom to learn what you want and more opportunities to learn how you want.” “It was generally fun, and it was also great to meet people that I have a lot in common with, which generally didn’t happen in elementary school,” says Elena. Chelsa, 16, provides another perspective. “I think the best and most fun part about high school were the teachers. They were really cool and helped me become independent.” There’s freedom, fun, and support from your teachers—so, just make the most of it and enjoy it while you can . . . because if you thought elementary school went by fast, high school is only four years and will fly by that much quicker.

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Entonce Magazine: Keeping the Story Going in the Barrio

Posted on 25 June 2008 by alejandro

A few years ago, a young Puerto Rican entrepreneur began the popular urban magazine, Entonce. If you are already familiar with the magazine, you know that its pages have featured interviews with some of the most popular music figures in the Puerto Rican/Latina/o community. If you are still in the dark about Entonce, we hope to introduce you…

La Voz: What lead to you to create Entonce magazine?
Entonce: Most of us Puerto Ricans like to talk a lot so I thought it would be profound if there was a magazine that our youth can relate to, enjoy, and possibly learn something from, and what better name than Entonce – it’s how you keep a story going. Plus my mom always told me I had the gift to write and that I had to start my own business. She’s been a big inspiration. God Bless her.

La Voz: What do you hope to accomplish with the magazine?
Entonce: To make the world a better place… It’s not easy being Puerto Rican/Latino. Entonce wants to touch more lives and say things that no other magazine says. We want to continue with our uniqueness and originality. It’s a complement when we see big companies emulate us. We are a family company. We stay real; we haven’t sold out. This is real life, it’s not corporate mumbo jumbo.

La Voz: What are some of the artists or issues have you featured?
Entonce: We featured Willie Colon, Fat Joe, Tego Calderon, Pitbull, Jaslene (America’s Top Model), R. Kelly…we discuss real issues like gentrification, racism, violence, self image and things that go on in the hood, music, love and respect for one another. Our job is to capture the positive to help better peoples’ lives.
La Voz: How has the Puerto Rican community received the magazine?
Entonce: They have received it extraordinarily well. It flies out of stores. And not only Puerto Ricans, Mexicans have been supportive as well. Entonce has a global love. The people love it and it is free. They support it. Thank God for our fans. I am a strong believer in reading. It takes you out of this world. People need to read more…

La Voz: Any advice for our Puerto Rican youth?
Entonce: Make positive choices. Create a spiritual foundation in your life. Lead and do not follow. Strive to reach 80 years old. Take care of yourself. Strive for your dreams; live happily in the present moment… Live each day, as it was your last. Every person should know right from wrong; choose the right path. Give more love…and you will get more love.

La Voz: What do you see in the future for Entonce?
Entonce: We are celebrating the 4th anniversary issue which will be released July 14 and will be available on the web at www.entonce.com on August 1. Expect to see a lot more of Entonce!

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2,000 Rally for “Community Investment Works”

Posted on 06 June 2008 by admin

On May 28, hundreds of energetic Humboldt Park residents from the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Pedro Albizu Campos High School, Roberto Clemente High School, Rebaño Church, the Near Northwest Neighborhood and others attend a rally on 26th and California to demand support for Gov. Blagojevich’s new initiative: “Community Investment Works.” This initiative would invest millions of dollars in our communities for youth programs, job development and social services. Two thousand rally participants made their message clear to elected officials: Support Community Investment Works!.

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Humboldt Park Youth Participate in Anti-violence Initiative

Posted on 06 June 2008 by admin

Young people representing the Humboldt Park community’s 10 public schools participated in a “town hall” meeting and a peace march and rally against violence.

The May 27th town hall meeting was hosted and moderated by Reverend Wilfredo de Jesus, Pastor of New Life Covenant ministries. 26th Ward Alderman Billy Ocasio, Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan were featured panelists. They listened intently for over an hour as young people shared their concerns and asked direct questions to these individuals.

There were frank discussions taking place, and the students didn’t hold back on their questions and comments. Some of their comments and questions addressed the need for more extracurricular opportunities as an option to gangs for the community, while others offered an insight into the fear, frustration, and desperation that many young people face every day. This was pointedly expressed when a student challenged Superintendent Weis on acts of abusing power by some police officers, an all too common occurrence in communities with high gang activity.

The town hall meeting was followed up two days later by an evening march/rally in Humboldt Park. Over 300 students, young people, and community members participated in the march from various points in the community and converged at the Humboldt Park boathouse where they were treated to dance, poetry, and musical performances by students. These performances highlighted the positive contributions of a generation and in a community where all too often only the negative is brought to light.

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Deep Loss at Heart of Artistic Expression: Humboldt Park Mural is Memorial to Mother and Two Sons

Posted on 06 June 2008 by admin

Alicia Coria and two of her sons, Ivan Castro, 8, and Diego Castro, 10, never had a chance. As they crossed North Avenue at Kimball on an afternoon last October, an 87-year-old driver lost control of his car, ran a red light and slammed into the mother and her children, killing them all.

The accident shocked the entire city and particularly devastating for students and teachers at nearby Stowe Elementary School, where Ivan and Diego attended. To express their grief and affection for the family, students and others almost immediately assembled a community shrine of flowers and candles at the intersection and maintained it until earlier this year. But on May 14, that temporary memorial gave way to a more permanent remembrance of the two boys and their mother.

Under the tutelage of artists Mike Bancroft and Anthony Marcos Rea, Stowe third graders created and installed a portable mural depicting bilingual idioms, silhouettes of children, and the image of the mother holding her two children. The idioms say in Spanish and English, “Respect Signs,” as an admonition to motorists to obey traffic signals.

The community art project was spearheaded by Stowe Principal Dr. Charles Kyle, teachers Nellie Windsor and Juan Fernandez, and Bancroft and Rea, who are artists-in-residence at Stowe under a project of the School Engagement Initiative (SEI) that implements similar efforts in four other Humboldt Park schools. SEI places artists in classrooms to create cross-disciplinary arts projects that address the culture of the community and issues of community development.

The mural,  a series of plastic silhouettes of students portrayed against a colorful background made with mylar tape,  is affixed to two sides of a cyclone fence surrounding a vacant lot on the northeast corner of North and Kimball. It was officially unveiled on May 17, during a ceremony attended by students, artists, neighbors and local officials.

“People were distraught about the accident,” said Bancroft, who has worked at Stowe for the past year. “This project is helpful in showing students that art can happen through a context. They’re not just doing it for art’s sake.”

But students aren’t the only ones learning through the North Avenue mural project or others generated by SEI, said Jorge Félix, of the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (IPRAC), which with the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) administers SEI.

“In addition to the artists training the students, the program is about informing local artists who are new to the community what the culture is like here,” he said. “Art can change minds and it can educate.” And through SEI, that process is a two-way street.

SEI is funded by LISC/Chicago, the City of Chicago Cultural Outreach Program and The National Endowment for the Arts.

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Puerto Rican People’s Parade celebrates its 30th anniversary

Posted on 06 June 2008 by admin

At two o’clock, on Saturday, June 14, Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican community will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the People’s Parade along “La Division.”

Before 1978, when the Humboldt Park Puerto Rican community first gathered to celebrate the People’s Parade, Chicago Boricuas traveled downtown to attend the city’s Puerto Rican Day Parade. However, the dislocation of the city’s parade from where Puerto Ricans lived motivated the Humboldt Park residents to create their own parade, thus taking ownership of their cultural expression, according to PRCC executive director, Jóse E. López.

López also noted that the People’s Parade was formed to have an event that addressed the social issues of the Puerto Rican community. “We could do parades, but unless they spoke to our reality, they become sterile.”

The issues that affect this community are manifested in the selected themes of each People’s Parade as well as the social message of the various floats. The first parade addressed police brutality in the community, which had been tragically highlighted by the killing of two Puerto Rican youths by Chicago police officers during this period. The mother of one of these two men, Virginia Cruz, who recently passed, will be honored at this year’s People’s Parade.

“Aesthetics as resistance – the act of community building” is the theme of this year’s People’s Parade. The theme relates to the Humboldt Park communities’ resistance to displacement through gentrification, according to parade coordinator, Leony Calderón.

Calderón, who also works at the PRCC’s Vida/SIDA, an AIDS education and prevention Program, said the average cost of putting together the parade is about $13,000. The funding for the parade comes primarily from the sale of advertisements, which have been printed in La Voz each year, for the past three years and in a separate ad book previously.

This is Calderón’s seventh year as parade coordinator, a position for which she is not paid but does as a volunteer. Her involvement in organizing the parade began when she served on its committee, under the leadership of, then parade coordinator, Josefina Rodríguez.

The first time Calderón attended the People’s Parade was as a high school junior at Latino Youth, an alternative high school located nearby the Pilsen area. Her advisor at the time, Roberto Sanabria, a current PRCC board member, told Calderón about the parade. She remembered the impression a large crowd of Puerto Ricans had on her.

Despite the challenges that Calderón faces in putting together this important community event, she said the final product is worth it.

“The day of the parade … when we blow the whistle and say ‘Let’s start,’ that’s the joy,” Calderón said. “That’s really why I do it.”

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Fijate: What does “Yo Soy Boricua” Mean?

Posted on 06 June 2008 by admin

Some might say that if you look-up the word “pride” in the dictionary what you will find is a picture of an exuberant Puerto Rican holding our one-stared flag attached to a six-foot stick. And if the picture could speak, it would be yelling “BORICUA!!!” Some might say this with a smile or rolling their eyes, but we could care less, because according to us there is something about being Puerto Rican that one who isn’t could ever understand. Puerto Ricans sometimes don’t understand pride ourselves, which can be dangerous. If we learn about our pride, our history, our identity, even partially only, then can we understand our obligation as Puerto Ricans to our fellow compatriots. If we really know who we are, then we could stop the crisis that is swallowing our community – before it is too late.

“How do you expect Puerto Ricans to move back here?” says Manuel Saldaña, 20, rhetorically, pounding his fist on a table, holding a list of phone numbers for vacant apartments in front of him. As he turns to look at me, his sky blue eyes reveals his frustration and a searches for answers, I wonder if we are reaching our last days as a Puerto Rican Humboldt Park.

Manuel had spent the day walking the inner blocks of a community that he once walked everyday, in search for a way to return home from a life of displacement. When he came from the island as a child, he lived in this ‘pedacito de patria,’ but like many other children of Borinquen, moved west to Belmont-Craigan. However, while yearning for the sights and sounds of this concrete tropical homeland, he realized that it is simply too expensive to return. When asked why he wanted to come back, he simply said, “Because I’m Puerto Rican.”

It is not to say “ya se nos vendieron” as some might comment cynically, masking their feelings of hopelessness in the name of “keeping it real” (When has cynicism produced anything positive or helpful?). Humboldt Park is still full of affordable rentals, homeownership programs, and even affordable condos for those who do want to return, but they are dwindling. Puerto Ricans are still one of the largest groups in East Humboldt Park and our political participation in electoral and community issues is unmatched. But for how long? If you are truly proud to be Boricua, you cannot just visit or show that pride once a year with a visit to the park and a cheer during the parade. If there are no Puerto Ricans living here, then there will be no power to make sure that we can justify having a weeklong fiesta, amongst other cultural and political events, organizations, and programs. Come back and Humboldt Park will welcome you with open arms. Stay and Humboldt Park will be thankful. Participate and Humboldt Park will grow and improve. Leave, and it will be only a few years until new residents have enough power in numbers and votes to make sure we have nothing to come back to. What does “Yo Soy Boricua” mean if there is no community to attach it to?

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Ambiente del Paseo Launches “Más Color, Más Poder” Campaign

Posted on 06 June 2008 by admin

On Saturday, May 24, Ambiente del Paseo held a BBQ fundraiser to launch its new campaign, “Más Color, Más Poder.” Ambiente is a newly formed collective recently launched by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center as one of Humboldt Park’s first LGBTQ organizations. The “Más Color, Más Poder” campaign seeks to raise awareness about and combat homophobia and transphobia in the Humboldt Park community. The May 24 Fundraiser, held at La Casita de Don Pedro and dedicated to the memory of Eric Rice, was a huge success.

Nearly 100 attendees of all ages enjoyed the food, music, performances by contestants in the 2008 Cacica Pageant, raffles, and statements by prominent community members and other officials. José E. Lopez, Executive Director of the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center, explained the historic nature of this event to the audience. While the Puerto Rican Cultural Center has a long history of supporting LGBTQ issues, homophobia and transphobia are continuing problems in the Humboldt Park community. The fact that this event was held outdoors at La Casita and attended by people of all ages, including many families, demonstrates the community support that Ambiente enjoys.

In her comments to the audience, Lourdes Lugo, Principal of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, spoke about the negative effects of homophobia and transphobia on the young people with whom she works. LGBTQ students are oftentimes the most likely to be rejected by their families and thus highly susceptible to dropping out. Rick Garcia, Political Director of Equality Illinois, celebrated the event’s success and reminded the audience of the passing of the non-discrimination bill in 2005, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations in the state of Illinois. The “Más Color, Más Poder” campaign will continue throughout 2008.

For more information about Ambiente del Paseo, contact Janeida Rivera at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center: Phone: 773.342.8023 Email: janeidar@prcc-chgo.org.

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Paseo Boricua Pageant 2008 -A Historic Celebration in El Barrio

Posted on 06 June 2008 by alejandro

The Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Vida/SIDA hosted its second annual Paseo Boricua pageant. The Pageant, which was dedicated to Bartolo Hernandez de Jesus, aims to develop transgendered role models within our community and demand that the Puerto Rican/ Latina/o transgender population has a voice and is respected. Only this way can our community begin to address the rampant issues of homophobia and transphobia.

On May 31, Humboldt Park residents and people from throughout the Chicagoland area, attended an event that challenges our community to rethink its paradigm of human sexuality. According to PRCC executive director, José López, “Human sexuality cannot be defined by masculinity or femininity: its profoundly human and spiritual dimensions must ultimately define it.”

Paseo Boricua’s very own “Latin Soul” hosted the Pageant. Each of the contestants represented a town in Puerto Rico. Contestants invested a great deal of time towards community service and a research project focused on different aspects of Puerto Rican culture. Contestants included Nena de Castro (Arecibo), Matty Rosado (Utuado), Shadiamond (Vieques), and Perscilla Figueroa (Lares).

Throughout the event, the crowd was delighted by several special performances. The first was Reina Valentino, a transgendered woman and former employee of Vida/SIDA. Last year’s queen, our first Paseo Boricua Cacica “Jade,” performed the last number of her reign of 2007-2008. She is one of the first transgendered persons to challenge homophobia and transphobia in our community. In prepartion for this year’s Pageant, Jade served as a commendable mentor to each contestant, sharing her experiences and challenges as Paseo Boricua Cacica. Nuestro Tambo, a local Bomba and plena group, was also present and excited the crowd with its rhythmic sound.

Additionally, pageant organizers recognized Ms. Ketty, one of the first trangendered Latina/o activists in Chicago. She was visibly touched when crowned honorary queen of the pageant.

One of the most significant moments came when Mikey Sanchez, the current president of La Casa Puertorriqueña, joined the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Vida/SIDA to make a historic stand and challenge homophobia and transphobia in the Puerto Rican community. On behalf of the Casa, Sanchez announced that pageant contestants and members of the LGBTQ youth group, Ambiente del Paseo, were invited to participate in the official Downtown parade and perform during the Fiestas Patronales. This is quite a historic development because it will mark the first time transgender female impersonators will perform in the festival.

Sanchez has taken a bold and courageous step by being the first president to open the doors of La Casa to the transgender residents. His actions and deeds speak of a leader who is not afraid to take a stand, not only, against homophobia and transphobia, but also in defense of an individual’s human right to represent and express themselves as they have defined and not how society has defined. It is the epitome of Doña Consuelo Corretjer’s vision and that which has been practiced for over 35 years by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Vida/SIDA – “Live and Help to Live”

The event concluded with judges tallying their scores of each of the contestants. In the end Matty Rosado was crowned as the 2008-2009 Cacica (Queen) of Paseo Boricua and Nena de Castro as Princess.

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Student Curators Create Monumental Exhibit on Puerto Rican History at New Library

Posted on 06 June 2008 by admin

Students from the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School have been working as curators. They are helping to plan and organize the first-ever exhibit of Puerto Rican materials at the Newberry Library, an internationally known cultural institution and research library in Chicago. In March, the students from Saul Melendez’s Puerto Rican Cultural and History class all received reader’s cards and were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the climate-controlled building where the rare and valuable materials in the library are stored. Since then, the student curators have worked to research and select the final objects to be shown, grouping the objects into themes, and crafting the final exhibit descriptions. The students had access to the library’s large collection of Puerto Rican materials including Spanish manuscripts from the 1600s, original rarely seen photographs, government documents, resources for tracing family histories, and maps from the Spanish-American War. “Few students get to handle things that are even a hundred years old, but we got to handle things that are four hundred years old,” remarked Warren Elmore, a student in Mr. Melendez’s class.

This has been a special opportunity for both the students as well as for the Newberry, as it is the first time high school students have ever curated an exhibit at the research institution. The goal of the exhibit, entitled “Puerto Rican History through the Eyes of Others,” was to allow students to learn how to do research using primary sources. It also provided students an opportunity to engage with history by speaking back to those who have tried to describe and define Puerto Rico over the centuries.
The exhibit came out of an ongoing collaboration with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Community Informatics Initiative. Some of the student curators will also be participating in this year’s “Community as Intellectual Space” conference hosted by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in collaboration with the University of Illinois. A reception for “Puerto Rican History through the Eyes of Others” will take place on June 11, 2008 at the Newberry Library (60 W. Walton Street). All are invited to celebrate the opening of this exhibit, which will be open to the public through July 12.

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