The 2 Pictures above were drawn by a brotha named Gilbert Igabe from Kenya and Uganda
Posts Tagged With: mc enigma
Shit was everywhere.
I hadn’t understood the saying, “this tastes like shit,” until I’d inhaled a deep breath of hot air filled with excrement and urine vapor in my 8ft x 8ft cell that I shared with 6 other men at the police station in Juan Diaz. I hadn’t done anything wrong or committed any offense, but I was locked up abroad.
Bishop and I were kicking it with our newfound family in the barrio Concepcion in Juan Diaz in Panama City, Panama. The night before, there was a comparsa (a neighborhood parade where everyone is dancing outside and people have instruments, clink pans and pots, and sometimes men dress up as mystical creatures with dresses). Bishop was living in Caledonia with his woman at the time who practiced Santeria, and I was living on Calle 16 en Ciudad Radial. Everyone was out, even Caballo Loco, an old man and known character in the neighborhood who was notorious for dressing up like a woman and dancing on people when inebriated in the comparsa.
It was close to midnight when the police came. The comparsa died and people dispersed. Bishop had left a little before, returning to his cougar in Caledonia and just as I was about to head home, I was advised to spend the night and leave in the morning because it would be safer and the police were out. Whenever our Pana-fam told us that the police were out, it was to warn us that they occasionally apprehend and detain men at their discretion. The next morning I found out what they meant.
It was around 7 am when I’d walked from Concepcion to Ciudad Radial, my barrio. Before reaching my gate, I doubled back to the chinito (corner store owned by chinese people) around the corner. I bought some coco-flakes and milk that I thought I’d be eating moments later in the comfort of the Sweatbox.
On the way back from the chinito, I’d turned onto Calle 16 and was footsteps from my gate when the police came. They hopped out like the gestapo with M16s and uzis drawn. My hands reached for the heavens and I froze. With several firearms aimed at me, one officer took the lead in questioning me.
“Tiene cedula,” the officer asked.
I gave him my passport and explained that I was from the US and was an english teacher in Marbella. I spoke in english first, then broken spanish because my white co-workers at my job said to always speak english when the cops stop you. It had gotten them out of a lot of trouble, so I thought, I’d have similar luck. Little did I know.
The pig (a euphemism for the police primarily used by people of color, but not limited to said group, sarcastically) looked at his cohorts then looked back at me and said, “tiene plata?” I looked puzzled as if I didn’t understand what he meant, so he unstrapped his handgun that was attached to his chest holster and asked me again.
I kinda got the feeling that he meant business this time.
I reached deep into my pockets, unravelling both to show that I was broke. Some change fell out as I did this, so I slowly went to pick it up. It was about 75 cents. As I was counting it, the officer got aggravated and slapped the change out my hand and handcuffed me.
At gunpoint I was put into the back of the police truck and handcuffed to another detainee. This particular man was rambunctious, cursing the police and threatening to hurt them. The police kept telling him to shut up, pointing their large weapons at him. Our wrists were joined by the cuffs and as he got rowdy swinging his hands, he pulled me. I was trying my best to create as much distance between us in the back of the police truck, just in case they chose to shoot him.
I later learned in the cell that he was aggravated because the police apprehended him while he was walking down the street with his 3 year old daughter. The cops took him and left her in the street.
We arrived at the station and were escorted off two at a time. We were taken to the back, searched down to the undergarments (down to the birthday suit). All personal possessions, like keys and phones, were taken.
No charges, no rights being read and no phone calls. I was off the grid and completely unaware of what was going to happen to me.
We were walked outside and around the side to the holding cells.
The gust of funk that let out when the officer opened the cell door could’ve burned the ugly off the face of Mick Jagger. It was that putrid!
One by one the other captives entered.
I looked at the officer and said “por que?” He motioned with his uzi to my back to enter the cell.
To be continued….
I never planned on releasing this project or even telling this story. It was an intimate gift forged in the hopes of rekindling the flames of a past love. I am opening up, becoming vulnerable and sharing my experience.
Thank you for your time,
written by mc enigma of Negros Americanos
We’d initially met in Newark Penn Station through a mutual friend, playing matchmaker. Up to that point, I’d only known she was Ethiopian and a fan of the Pharcyde. When we first met on the PATH platform, I was instantly enamored. Eyes so pure and beautiful that they could pacify the fiery heart of any warlord and a smile that was a blessing to behold, all packed into her petite frame no taller than a broomstick.
She extended her hand politely and I smacked it out of the way and hugged her. We laughed.
The night consisted of walking the New York streets, stopping by Fat Beats (R.I.P.), S.O.B.S. and a long talk at Washington Square Park that sealed the deal. On the way home, “I Ain’t No Joke” by Rakim was the first sound that came out of her radio. When she showed me her CD collection, I fell even deeper. She was smart, kind, beautiful, and a fan of hip-hop! I was sold!
Here’s the catch, she lived in Montreal and was just home visiting family for the summer. I didn’t care how far she lived; I knew I wanted her to be my woman. We’d spent a lot of time together, getting to know one another. Before she headed north, I applied for my passport.
Days before my first trip to Canada, I’d been listening to her copy of Revolutionary Vol 2. by Immortal Technique. After hearing the song “You Never Know,” I immediately bought a phone card and told her I loved her.
“Time waits for no man.” – Jean Grae
We’d spent the next three years while in college visiting each other at least once a month, taking buses, trains and sometimes planes, crossing international boundaries to sustain our love for one another. Each summer we managed to find housing together or near one another in NJ. We had the type of relationship that made onlookers marvel at our chemistry and genuine love for one another. I’d gained a great girlfriend, lover, and best friend.
After college we’d lived in New Haven, CT for a year while I was working at Yale. That’s where everything started to change. There weren’t any violent arguments or tales of scandalous mistresses; we simply began to grow apart.
Before we broke up, I asked her if I were to quit my job and pursue my dreams of hip-hop among other things would she support me? I’d argued that it was a young man’s game and that I’m fully capable of getting my Master’s and Doctorate later in life, but to influence the youth with messages of positivity, as a young emcee, would be more effective with the gifts that were bestowed upon me. She honestly said “no.”
Neither of us wanted to initiate the break up. We were prolonging the inevitable. Towards the end of the relationship, I was Donnell Jonesing, thinking that the grass was greener on the other side. We broke up over the phone through international lines.
“Her last words were ‘please don’t leave me and I hurt her.’” – mc enigma
While in Panama I’d gotten word that she was coming back to NJ from Mali. Disillusioned with the single life and nostalgic of my first love, I planned to make the S.A.R.A.H. project. I would put all my heart and soul into it and give her a gift based on our experience that no one else in the world can! I hoped it would reconnect us. I’d been listening to Elzhi’s Out of Focus ep and he had a song called S.A.R.A.H. which meant (Someone As Real As Her). It was the perfect title for the project. It fit. (That’s what she said!)
Within two weeks I’d written, recorded, mixed, and designed S.A.R.A.H. I worked tirelessly, perfecting the project as best as I could, adding subtle touches and seemingly random inside jokes to make it unique. It was finished days before my plane ticket back to NJ. I’d decided to share it in secrecy with a couple of my and her female friends, curious of their opinion and seeking advice because winning her over meant so much to me. I sent it to 10 friends, yet I noticed it was downloaded 50 times. I was furious! I trusted that they wouldn’t share it and I was 48 hours away from delivering the project to her in-hand. Bishop the Eastside Nappyhead told me that it spread so fast because I’d asked that it was kept secret. He urged me to continue to share it among our female networks “in confidence,” knowing that it would spread like wildfire because people couldn’t keep a secret, especially those that were familiar with our relationship.
I boarded my plane from Tocumen Airport in Panama headed to Newark, NJ to meet her and deliver the project. I remember scrambling, renting a car and running to a friend’s house to press up the cd. I wanted to give it to her before midnight. Everything was on schedule and optimistically I hit the Garden State Parkway headed for her house.
When I arrived we embraced, but it wasn’t like before. The hug was hesitant on her end. I disregarded it and we talked for a while. Anxious and apprehensive, I asked her to come to the car and I said I had something to show her. I gave her the cd and asked her to put it in. We sat there and listened to all 28 minutes of Someone As Real As Her. She smiled from ear to ear at first, but then she kept shaking her head at parts that I thought she’d be ecstatic to hear. She said she enjoyed it, but then said that I didn’t have to do it. Hmmm…
We saw each other for a couple of days, but the hugs were distant and so was she. There was a huge invisible wall between us. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I thought my plan was fool-proof. In a Cinderella-esque way I thought I held the glass slipper in my hands with this project, but little did I know, she’d already moved on.
I was and still am well versed in rejection, but this was my first love. She’d moved on completely and I was stuck, holding onto something that no longer was. I was devastated.
On the flight back to Panama, I felt like an inadequate failure, and in an effort to combat my desperate stupor, I began to write while on the plane. The song “The Flight Back” from L.y.l.e. Rainy Season, written over the Atlantic Ocean, was about that trip, flying back to Panama defeated, alone, and heart broken. By this time, I returned to Ciudad Radial on Calle 16 in Juan Diaz, Panama City, Panama. I recalibrated my focus from pursuing love lost to making music and building our base as Negros Americanos in Panama. That year I’d written 5 solo albums, 3 joint projects, and had an excess of 150 songs between Bishop and me that could end up anywhere.
I chose to release S.A.R.A.H. because it symbolized closure for me and I believe to date, it is my most popular project. The love that went into it was real. The love I had for her was real and I’ve got her to thank for many lessons and for introducing me to this energy known as true love.
Although things didn’t turn out as planned, my efforts weren’t in vain. I acted out of love and if you are fortunate enough to find true love, hold onto it. Travel for it. Pursue it to no end. Love is the ultimate and it is worth all of our time and attention. Tell them you love and appreciate them every chance you can and help them realize their own worth and beauty. Let love live and grow.
I am hopeful that this project, which is birthed in love, inspires more love.
One thing that Negros Americanos is really all about is Bridging together different people and fostering better cultural understanding. Especially throughout the African Diaspora. An event like the Indigo Sun Conscious NYC Boat Ride is wonderful because it gives Africans from all over the earth a chance too come together on yacht to fraternize and network. Also, there will be lovely food from Cafe Khufu(Egyptian), Nafi’s Hot Condiments (Senegalese) and Yemi’s Mesob Ethiopian Catering (Ethiopian). There will be a Fashion Show, performances (which Negros Americanos will be rocking full set) and more importantly the change to meet some great conscious individuals…check the promo video its going to be a hell of a ride.. AUGUST 18, 2013 …BOAT BOARDS 7 PM NY Sky Port Marina corner of FDR and E 23 st. Join The Facebook event by clicking this link
So it’s like this, mc enigma and I had the great pleasure of meeting the two lovely pole dancers you see in this intimate performance at a show we had in Montclair, NJ at the Adinkra House. They were in their civilian attire at the time, and it wasn’t until we ran into them again at a showcase at the Center stage cuts barbershop in Newark, NJ which is actually a large barber shop with a stage for performances (great idea), that these lovely ladies told us that they were indeed pole dancers and expressed interest in collaborating on their recital in July. I didn’t quite know anything about pole dancing, or its community, I was ignorant so to speak. I thought it was stripping and that had nothing to do with the Negros Americanos brand. What I found however, was that the pole dance world is one of exercise hard work perspiration and dedication. Actually all the things that make up Negros Americanos. Yes there are sexual and sexy elements, but its is more of an athletic art to me and it is beautiful dagnabit! So these lovely ladies attend Alter Ego Pole Fitness and Wellness Studio In Newark NJ. They bought us up there and we agreed to do the show. The video that you see before you is the result
This event was put together in part by a lovely Panamanian born/raised New Yorker that (like us here at Negros Americanos) has a passion for uniting Latinos and Blacks, as well as bringing the hidden history and stories of Afro Latinos to the forefront…You know of course Negros Americanos had to be part of something like that…It makes perfect sense, even though we are not technically Afro Latinos, our experiences have allowed us to be adopted and christened as such…If you are in the general NY Metropolitan area, hopefully I will see you there !!!!
Thanks everyone who participated in voting in the the online voting segment of the Afro Punk battle of the Bands Competion 2013. Thanks to you all Negros Americanos came in first place, but that is only 1/3 of the battle. We are in the top 16 bands out of about 150 along with great bands such as Fartherout, Sol Ardour, Brittany Campbell, Rosemary Fiki Band, Echo Sonic ,Mighty Paradocs, and King Holiday just to name a few. Join us June 3rd 7:00 pm at Free Candy, which is at 905 Atlantic Ave, 2nd Fl, (between Waverly Ave & Washington Ave) Brooklyn, NY 7:00PM to 10:00PM, as we get Rambunctious in there and move to the 3rd phase of this contest, which will be the Final 4 showdown, and that is on June 14th at the same time, but we aint in there yet. We need to rock the house there and win, so if you are in the general NY C metropolitan area come down and rock with us…Hit us up for tickets at NegrosAmericanos.com also if you have Facebook, reach out at our Negros Americanos Facebook Page. Thanks and we will see you in there…
By now you feel like you know me a bit don’t you? You know about my cougar love affair, you know about the decrepit housing project we lived in together in Panama, but do you know the real reasons that prompted our journey to central America? I have to admit that before the year 2009 I had no idea what a Panamanian person looked like, thats not to say that I didn’t know plenty of Panamanians, I just didn’t know anything about where they came from.
The first time I realized I was talking to a Panamanian person, was at work. She was an interesting person, with a great sense of humor. Interestingly enough during the short time that I met her I was watching a program on the US invasion of Panama, something that happened when I was but a newborn, nonetheless I never heard of this event and the unjustified violence and brute force used on the Panamanian people. The woman that I worked with was unmistakably black and her accent was so caribbean I swore that she was Jamaican or something, but then i heard her speaking in spanish. Now it wasn’t the first time I heard a black person speaking spanish. I’d known some black Dominicans, but the fact that she spoke in a Caribbean style intrigued me. I asked her where she was from and she said Panama. Wouldn’t you know that after meeting her I would run into countless Panamanians who all were full of pride for their home country.
Going back even further, I knew mc enigma most of my life. Probably since we were about seven. We went to different elementary schools in Plainfield but he actually went to the same school as my cousin. I would always see him when I went with my grandmother to pick my cousin up from the after school program. It was actually in middle school when we started putting raps together. mc enigma graduated from NJCU and got a job working at Yale as a Union organizer in Connecticut, and I stayed in Plainfield working and was still in school and trying to make my way. The year was 2010 and it was getting crazy in Plainfield New Jersey. In this small city of about 45,000 or so there were several murders and I started to notice a growing trend of blacks and latinos killing each other. Once mc enigma found out about the murders he decided to come back to Plainfield, and we lent our time working for the Plainfield chapter of the Newark based People’s Organization for Progress(POP). After the notable murder of a teenager in the city we both canvased the neighborhood where the crime happened to talk to the people and realized that the majority of the neighborhood didn’t speak any english. Our message was useless if the people couldn’t hear it. We wanted to be able to reach everyone in the community and ease the tension and fear. With that same mentality, we began to think; “Hey, if we can learn spanish we would be able to make the same type of classic music that we make in english and be able to grab a way larger fan base than otherwise.” Imagine when we learn other languages as well, we will be unstoppable. The idea for Negros Americanos was now born.
Now the question was, “how were we going to move to a spanish speaking country?” Panama was preferred because of the large population of black people. We knew that we would be able to maneuver there easier than other latin american countries that have as much of an economic boom as Panama was and is still having. So how were we going to afford it? We started to research how to live and work in a foreign country on google and learned that teaching english was the best route to go about. We saved up money and paid for courses for certification in teaching english, thinking that after taking the 3 month program we would be placed with a job. Nothing could have been further from the truth. We were told that we had to buy our plane ticket and physically travel to the country to look for a job. When I heard just how difficult it would be for me to find work, as I would be judged as a drug addicted Rasta because of my hair, I almost gave up on the dream. I didn’t want to starve out there. Once we got the certification, we bought a one-way ticket to Panama and we met another Panamanian woman in New Jersey, who would become our Aunt. She was so excited that we were going to move to her country that she told us we could move in with her sister for a few months to get ourselves together. We waited until the 5th of January 2011 and then we hopped on a plane to Panama City, Panama.
I was so excited to be out of the country and to be starting this new life, the goal was to absorb everything we possibly could, especially the language. As soon as we stepped out into the airport I realized that the “physical” quality of women in this country was unbelievable. I had learned that the best way to learn a language would be to find a significant other that doesn’t speak your same language. It forces you to learn in a more natural way. With that said, we treated the female hunt with the same passion we took on the job hunt. Trying to talk to every woman that I could possibly run into with my 5 word spanish, sticking my chest out as if my American-ness would give me access to all of these thick brown women. After reading several blogs on Panamanian women, I thought it would be easier, but I didn’t take into account that those blogs were written by white men, and the results would be a tad different for me.
Our adventure began in the neighborhood of Nueva Concepción, Panama, a humble neighborhood where you really feel a sense of community. The family we lived with was very black and proud, so when I hung out in the street I was in awe at the amount of black women with white or cholo (panamanian word for indigenous mixed with spaniard) men. I also noticed that some (not all of course) of the black Panamanian women that I tried to talk to would look me right in my face and then look ahead as if I didn’t even exist. One time I noticed that happen with me, but then when a fellow white American tourist tried to talk to her and she broke her neck to make sure that he was responded to. I was in shock. I started to learn about the “mejorar la raza” phrase that some women have adopted. It hurt me so to know that many of these women were not with these men initially because of love, rather because of self-hatred and the desire to have ‘pretty’ children who hadn’t been cursed with the same sun absorbing skin tone. At that point we made a conscious decision to promote black pride everywhere we went.
We couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. There was a water shortage in the country in the first couple months of 2011. We ended up taking bucket showers and using water from buckets to cook. Every day a truck would come around midday with water tanks and fill up our buckets. We had to conserve the water though and not use too much for bathing as it was a family of 6 or 7 including us and the same water had to be used for cooking, needless to say in a country so hot I began to learn how to caress my body with powder every morning. After the second month, the water started to come back. Now we could concentrate on trying to find out where all the hip hop events were and how to collaborate with other artists. That is the story that will be told in the next blog post.
Finally we have released the black soap opera/music video- “Rakatakas Necesitan Amor También” (Hoodrats Need Love Too) the video was filmed in the beautiful Afro-Latino Caribbean city of Puerto Limón, Costa Rica. An attempt at courting a woman hardened by an abusive relationship, and the dangers that come with these types of situations…….(Negros Americanos) This song is in spanish…for those that don’t speak spanish visit this link right here to get the lyrics translated in english
I felt something crawling on my hand. I fidgeted and woke up, staring at the peeling, diluted yellow paint on the walls of my cuarto (room) on Calle 16 en Ciudad Radial, Panama City, Panama. The day before, I’d cemented a hole in Bishop’s floor, when he was living in Ciudad Radial long before he’d experienced the enticing growl of the cougar. When I poured the cement-mix into a hole on the floor in Bishop’s cuarto, sporadically cement covered mice scurried out of the hole and into his apartment. We’d laid out sticky traps and whichever mice managed to evade those traps either found their way out of the cuarto, into a hidden crevice, or met the sharp end of our machetes. Critters were commonplace and that feeling of having your skin crawling became normal.
I got out of bed and headed to the bathroom. I must’ve interrupted an orgy of cockroaches. Most of them escaped post haste, but the two that were the slowest now laid there together. I swept them up and out of my shower and snapped this foto, thinking it would be a good promo pic for the future. Don’t be surprised if this becomes the cover for “Buscando” off of my upcoming project L.y.l.e. Dry Season.
After I stomped the roaches and disposed of them, I realized I never put any shoes on! My bare feet squished the life out of those roaches and the thought of putting on sandals first didn’t cross my mind. I was sick of them. Yeah, they could survive a nuclear winter, but I was not about to be intimidated by their brood.
I only had running water 3 to 4 times a week and it was always late at night between midnight and 3am. I would have tanks, bottles, and buckets of water saved up from rain water, outside hose water, or from my shower when we had running water. I proceeded to commence my bathing ritual. I’d dip my washcloth in soap, give my body the twice over and drop a cold liter of water over me for the rinse. I tried to hook up my bathroom as best as I could. Was it a little grimey? Yes. But it felt at home.
I was changing,transforming, becoming one with the habitat. The same dude who’d carry hand sanitizer was now squashing roaches with his bare feet and using the sweat from the back of his neck to clean his hands when there was no water. Riding packed Diablo Rojos from Juan Diaz to Panama City, I got used to soaking in the sweat of others. Like sardines in a tropical sauna, people are packed into these cartoon and graffiti draped cheese-buses too damaged to be legally driven in the US as the main mode of public transportation. 25 cents can get you about anywhere on these vehicles, but there are hazards like drunk bus drivers, maliantes, near-death engines, and sometimes they race one another for passengers, often causing mayhem on the road. A young man and his pregnant girlfriend were hit and killed by a racing Diablo Rojo in Concepcion while I was living there.
The other option for transportation was hailing a taxi. There were tons of taxis, but that didn’t mean they stopped for me. I’d made myself as “non-threatening” as possible, cutting off all my hair and trying my best to look, sound, and act like Bryant Gumbell or Tiger Woods, yet still I had trouble catching a taxi. I remember one time Bishop and I were going to meet up with P.O.C. and we took a taxi where the driver was drinking while driving. I didn’t notice it until it was time for us to pay and leave. I gave him the money and Bishop exited the vehicle. I was in the passengers seat and as I was leaving, he grabbed my arm. Bishop and I thought he was trying to rob me or something. “Yo quiero aprender! I want learn english!” he yelled in his Panamanian Spanglish accent. The tension eased and we discussed classes. Never heard from or saw that guy, but I remember what I thought when he grabbed my arm.
If you didn’t want to ride a Diablo Rojo or take a taxi, there is the Metrobus, which used to cost $1.25 but now its more and you have to buy a Metrobus card and put money on it. Initially they were a step up because they weren’t as crowded, they would get you on the Corridor which helped you beat the traffic and they were air conditioned. After a couple of months, they became as crowded as Diablo Rojos and the air conditioning went, so they were more expensive Diablo Rojos with access to the Corridor.
Or you could always foot it. Walking in Ciudad Radial, you had to watch for your occasional stick up kid (chacal or maliante), corrupt police (which I’ll get into later), and tumor-ridden, pus-spewing packs of dogs that would run down on you if you had food nibbling at your limbs until you let go of your grocery bags, which become their reward for the raid and ambush.
Any way I looked at it, there were tons of risks living in the 3rd world, but I developed a real faith that has guided me, opened my mind and freed me. To make history you must take risks and explore new lands. Lets troop it.