Sunday, October 02, 2005

Philly Rican for A Day

Yesterday I hopped the bus and headed to the City of Brotherly Love to participate in Taller Puertorriqueno's 19th Annual Book and Craft Fair. Many thanks to the wonderful staff at Taller, especially Carmen, Celia and Francisco for making me feel at home. If you are in or near the Philly area, you must stop by Taller on 2721 N. 5th Street to check out the multimedia exhibit called "Not Enough Space." The exhibits features the paintings and words (both written and spoken) of Puerto Rican political prisoners Oscar Lopez Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres. Can you imagine living -- let alone creating art -- in a 6 x 9 cell that you must share with a stranger? Oscar and Carlos have for more than 25 years, bringing new meaning to the term resistance.

And Taller's Julia de Burgos Book and Crafts is no joke either. I may have to make a day trip back to Philly just to a hundred bucks there. We used to have a Puerto Rican bookstore in New York City on the Lower East Side called Agueybana. We lost it to gentrification and the proliferation of superstores like Barnes & Nobles and Borders. Don't get me wrong -- I can spend hours at B&N. But if there's a book I can find at an indepedent bookstore -- especially if it is owned by people of color, women or its employees in a workers co-op -- I buy it there to support, and I encourage all of you to do the same.

Shout outs to filmmaker and scholar Frances Negron-Muntaner for recommending me to the great folks at Taller and my homeboy Rafael "Papo" Zapata, Assistant Dean and Director of the Intercultural Center at Swarthmore College. After my reading and signing at Taller's impressive bookstore, he and musician Lucas Rivera (y'all have to peep his website) took me to a great Thai restaurant. Then I missed my 8:30 bus back to Nueva York because I just assumed that there was a bus every hour.
I had to wait for the 11:30 PM bus so it was back to Papo's crib on the SEPTA train. Once there we took in the end of "Sugar Hill." I love a damned good B-movie. You know a flick that doesn't try to be more than what it is and does it well. Seems like Wesley has made quite a few of 'em. "Undisputed," anyone? And Michael Wright is such an undderated actor. After "Sugar Hill" we switched to the end of "It Could Happen to You" which is based on a true New York story of a cop who, in lieu of a tip, promises a waitress he will split his winnings with her if his lottery ticket hits. When it does, he honors his word giving her half of his four million dollar jackpot. Of course, the film took some poetic license by having the married cop and separated waitress fall in love, but this story actually took place.

Anyway, Papo and I get a big kick out of watching Rosie Perez do her thing even if she's playing the stank wife of the cop who cares more about spending the money than fixing her failing marriage. All of sudden, we spot beloved Puerto Rican poet Pedro Pietri, playing a customer in the diner. Papo said, "You know Rosie got him in that movie!" I'm inclined to agree because Rosie's conscious like that which is why I'm a fan.

In a few hours, I'm off to Bryant Park to participate in the New York Times's 1st Annual "Great Read in Bryant Park." I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I'm sharing the "Only in New York Panel" with some heavy hitters including Pete Hamill and Frank McCourt. I mos def gotta give a shout out to the Times for recognizing that if you're going to have a panel about authors who write about or are inspired by New York City, someone has to represent hip hop. I'm blessed that it's me.

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