Bolivia’s Carnival: An explosion of color

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Photos: Felipe Abreu

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People in the Bolivian city of Oruro are gearing up for carnival.

This year’s celebrations start on 30 January, but the main days will be on 5, 6 and 7 of February when thousands of people will congregate in Oruro.

The carnival dates back more than two centuries and is one of Latin America’s most colourful.

Photojournalist Fellipe Abreu and reporter Luiz Felipe Silva recorded some of its highlights in 2015.

See more via BBC.

Who are America’s homegrown terrorists?

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PETER BERGEN

Excerpts I thought were interesting from an excellent interview with Peter Bergen, a terror expert who actually interviewed Osama Bin Laden many years ago. He is national security analyst for CNN and author of the new book “United States Of Jihad.” Though he appears on CNN quite often, he doesn’t get to speak at length on cable TV the way he did in this interview with Terry Gross of Fresh Air:

“You know what’s interesting, since 9/11, we tend to think that terrorist attacks against the United States must be conducted by foreigners because on 9/11, it was 19 foreign-born Arab hijackers recruited by al-Qaida. In fact, every lethal terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, whether in Fort Hood or Boston or San Bernardino, has been conducted by American citizens or legal permanent residents. And so some of the hysteria about refugees coming into the country and performing acts of terrorism is very overblown. Certainly about 10 refugees have been involved in relatively minor jihadi terrorism crimes, like material support for a terrorist organization. And – but really, if you were concerned about lethal attacks, it’s been American citizens or American residents.”

“I think the good news is that we’ve really managed the threat, we, the United States. And also the American Muslim community is a largely – pretty well integrated in a way that is not the case in Europe. If you look at the perpetrators of the Paris attacks in November or you look at the Charlie Hebdo attack, I mean, these people who perpetrated these attacks grew up in these rather grim (unintelligible) suburbs, which are like the projects, the French projects. They are – many of them serve time in French prisons. One of the most astonishing statistics is less than 10 percent of the French population is Muslim, yet almost as much as 70 percent of their prison population is Muslim. So we’re looking at a very different problem here in the United States than you’re looking at in Europe.”

“… terrorism is statistically a very minor problem in this country. Yet, you know, you’re – in any given year, you’re somewhere between 3,000 or 5,000 times more likely to be killed a fellow American with a gun than you are to be killed in the United States by a jihadi terrorist. I mean, those numbers speak for themselves.”

On why an American-born person would become a jihadi?

“… there’s a wonderful quote from the philosopher Immanuel Kant – from the crooked timber of humanity, not a straight thing is made. And I think it’s almost the motto for this book because when you really look at why somebody, you know, decides to kill a number of his fellow American citizens – and of course the perpetrators are usually hes – you know, it often becomes a very complicated answer to that question. It’s not, you know, yes, there is some sort of a bin Ladenist ideology in there. But often there’s personal disappointments, a desire for recognition, seeking to belong to something, seeking a cause. But of this three – we looked at 300 cases plus of Americans convicted since 9/11 of some kind of jihadi terrorism crime ranging from the relatively minor to the major, such as murder. And the profile we found was average age 29, a third married, a third kids, as educated as normal Americans, mental problems actually at a lower incidence than the general population. And so you’re looking at middle-class – these are not young hotheads of the popular imagination there. You’re looking at kind of middle-class, married, you know, late 20s. And in fact, when we came to that conclusion, we didn’t know that the San Bernardino attackers, one of them is 27, one is 28. They were married, they had a child. The male perpetrator had a job earning $70,000 a year. They were very much solidly part of the American middle class. And so why did they turn to violence and kill 14 people just arbitrarily? You know, that’s a really big puzzle. I mean, you could try and explain it by they were influenced by al-Qaida’s ideology and ISIS’s ideology, that they objected to American foreign policy. But lots of people object to American foreign policy and don’t go and just arbitrarily kill 14 people attending a Christmas office party. At the end of the day, that’s fundamentally, I think, inexplicable. And it may get to the nature of evil itself, which is it’s often pointless and often inexplicable no matter what the scale, you know – whether we’re looking at the crimes of the 20th century or whether we’re looking at the smaller crimes that we see in our own country.”

On why someone with an infant [such as the San Bernardino shooters] would want to martyr themselves:

“… what is quite unusual is that the, you know, that the wife was involved in murdering other people. We are beginning to see some kind of a weird form of this Islamist extremist feminism in which these Islamist extremist groups are recruiting females. And I’ve also assembled – myself and my research team have assembled another database where we look at every named foreign fighter who’s gone to Syria to participate with ISIS or one of the other jihadi groups. And we’ve found that about a fifth are women, which is unprecedented. When you look at the past jihads, whether it was the Afghan war against the Soviets in the ’80s or the fighting – the Bosnian Muslims fighting against the Serbs in the ’90s or (unintelligible) jihad, women were fundamentally not involved at all. But here, we’re seeing women volunteering to go to Syria and sort of embed themselves with ISIS.”

Listen to or read the rest of the interview here.

 

Happy Black History Month

I know, that the shortest month of the year is devoted to honoring black Americans is a disgrace, but being that it is Black History Month, I wanted to share some of the awesome work by faculty from Fordham’s African American History department:

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The archive, made available through the Department of African and African-American Studies and Fordham Libraries, consists of downloadable audio files and verbatim transcripts of interviews conducted by researchers from 2002 to 2013.

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  • It wasn’t enough for Aimee Cox, Ph.D., to volunteer at a homeless shelter in Detroit, where she took notes for her research on how teenage girls there were coping with a broken system.

Cox, an assistant professor African and African American studies, ended up becoming the shelter’s director while she was still working on her doctorate at the University of Michigan.

Her shelter experiences are now documented in Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship (2015, Duke University Press).

Watch a clip of Dr. Cox on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC here.

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  • Christina Greer‘s research and teaching focus on American politics, black ethnic politics, urban politics, immigration, quantitative methods, Congress, city and state politics, campaigns and elections, and public opinion.

Dr. Greer was named to City & State’s Class of 2014 “40 Under 40 Rising Stars” list. Her book, Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream (Oxford, 2013), was awarded the National Conference of Black Political Scientists’ 2014 W.E.B. Du Bois Distinguished Book Award, and her next book will recount the history of African-Americans running for president.

View video of Dr. Greer’s appearance on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show talking national politics, race, and voter identification cards.

 

 

How one candidate changed when running for POTUS

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Christie at a NAACP event in 2014.

In Chris Christie’s first term as New Jersey governor, he nominated a black, gay mayor to the Supreme Court. In 2013, when Chris Christie was running for re-election governor of New Jersey, he  won endorsements for his reelection from black church leaders, and NBA star, Shaquille O’Neal. He eventually won, enjoying majority Latino support in the vote.

Also in his first term, Christie nominated an Indian-born Muslim to Superior Court in Passaic County, N.J. As WNYC’s Matt Katz reports, “when conservative critics alleged that the man, Sohail Mohammed, was going to implement Muslim Shariah law, Christie unleashed his famous temper.

“‘This Shariah Law business is crap,’ he said. ‘It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies. It’s just ridiculous to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background.'”

This is a far cry from Chris Christie, the presidential candidate, in 2016. He’s running in almost entirely white New Hampshire and Iowa. And he’s been endorsed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who had told the NAACP to kiss his rear end and alleged that President Obama hates white people. So what changed.

Listen to Katz’ report on WNYC to learn more.

Colombia’s Monsieur Periné & L.A.’s Buyepongo to play free concert in Philly!

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Two of today’s most acclaimed Latin music groups, Monsieur Periné and Buyepongo, will play a free, all-ages concert on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 8pm at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

The concert, which will be webcast on xpn.org, kicks off the second year of the Latin Roots Live! concert series, featuring live performances inspired by Latin Roots, the bi-weekly series heard on World Cafe®. Latin Roots explores and exposes to American audiences the vast variety of music from Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. World CafeⓇ, NPR’s syndicated popular music program, is produced by WXPN/Philadelphia. Latin Roots on World Cafe is made possible by the Wyncote Foundation. Latin Roots Live! is produced in partnership with AfroTaino Productions and made possible by the William Penn Foundation.

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Monsieur Perine

Monsieur Perinė is one of the leading bands in Colombia’s thriving new music scene, and is quickly becoming more popular worldwide since being voted “Best New Artist” in the 2015 Latin GRAMMYⓇ Awards. With its unique blend of sounds, the group has earned itself its own genre called “Suin a la Colombiana,” noting a cultural, artistic, and rhythmic fusion of traditional Latin American music, gypsy jazz, and a French adaptation of American swing music.

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Buyepongo

Afro-Latino Buyepongo’s sound was forged in the Compton area of Los Angeles in the 90s, reflecting the music of their culture and times. With deep roots in South and Central America, Buyepongo draw heavily from Latino musical culture, taking their cues from traditional roots music of Colombia, Haiti, Belize, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Buyepongo creates a vibrant, polyrhythmic sound by seamlessly fusing merengue, punta, and cumbia. The group’s pulse and power is built around the drum and guacharaca, giving them an upbeat, tropical flare.

“There is no language barrier to the party with Latin Roots Live,” said David Dye, host of World Cafe. “Our first year featured packed houses for every act and attracted a cosmopolitan slice of Philadelphia music lovers. 2016 starts off with a super bill to keep things moving.” In 2015, its inaugural year, the Latin Roots Live! concert series featured GRAMMY-nominated Chilean artist Ana Tijoux, high-powered cumbia band La Misa Negra, Latin folk star Gina Chavez, Philadelphia’s own Eco Del Sur, and percussion ensemble with Venezuelan and Argentinian roots, Timbalona, to name a few.

The Latin Roots Live! concert on Tues., January 19 will take place at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and showtime is 8 p.m.. To RSVP for free admission, click here (http://xpn.org/latin-roots-live).

On the holidays… and change

christmasChristmas will never be like it was when I was a little girl. This is a post about how it used to be, and how things have changed. Lots go through it, and now it’s our turn.

When I was little, we didn’t have much — I will never forget one Navidad in particular in which my dad gave my brothers and I $3.00 each in a white letter-sized envelope. I wasn’t sad about the lack of toys for gifts, but felt awfully embarrassed for my father and told him it was OK. But it was awkward. I recall vividly that he handed us those envelopes on our way out to visit with family. We stuffed our stash in our rooms and piled into the car. The holidays were here and we were going to have a good time as we knew how!

Christmas time was filled with a jolly (yeah, that word describes things perfectly) times with our small, yet close, family.

My tio Raul (my father’s older brother and without question the uncle I was closest to) and tia Yolanda were always a part of it, as were my (distant? Not really, try super close!) cousins, Maria and Susy, whose mother, Mari, was my tio Raul’s sister-in-law. My aunts on my mother’s side (Mirta, Nina, Chiqui), their children/my cousins, and my maternal grandmother (abuela Esmeria) would get visits from us, as well. Gifts weren’t aplenty, but food was cooked with love, Colombian music—courtesy of my dad’s record player—filled the living room, and good times were had.

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The only way we can see my abuela now is by flying to Miami.

As we grew older, most of the family moved away to warmer climates. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the late 1990s and things haven’t been quite the same every since. My maternal grandmother, now in Miami, would go on to develop Alzheimer’s, and later, my tio Raul, also in Florida, would find out he, too, had Parkinson’s.

Somewhere in there, I was married, then dealing with the spouse’s alcoholism. Then I was separated, and divorced. Throughout it all, there were no tears on my part, only would’ve, could’ve, should’ves. It’s like I lost my ability to feel.

Cousins got married, some moved away, and, as happens, life gets in the way. There are work and parenting commitments, as the next generation of children have to be raised, and so, not surprisingly, intimate family gatherings hardly take place.

Today, Dec. 23, marks four years since my tio Raul passed away due to Parkinson’s disease related complications. I got to see him at a nursing home a few months before he passed, and, honestly, I know he’s in a better place today. I miss him terribly, but Parkinson’s can be an awful disease. I say can be, because I acknowledge there are other illnesses that are much, much worse.

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My Tio Raul (left in L photo, center in R photo)

But Parkinson’s eventually imprisons one in their own body. It starts with nerves and muscles, but eventually takes your voice. I remember when I visited him, I could hardly hear him. I kept a happy face and joked around, as I always do, but it is awful to see. I didn’t want him to feel that way.

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The last time I saw my uncle in 2011. With my cousin Maria (L) and my tia Yolanda (R.)

Meanwhile, back home, my father was still as stable as the Deep Brain Stimulation surgery he had in 2006 could keep him. He hadn’t had the Parkinson’s tremors in a long while, but his voice and ability to speak were eroding, and rigidity was taking away his independence via walker. He became wheelchair-bound, but he was home for every holiday.

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Dad at two different Christmases.

However, this will be the first Christmas without him in the home while we have Christmas dinner, for instance. Here are some tips on how to cope with grief and loss throughout the holidays, courtesy of Fordham professor Lisa Cataldo.

“People think they’re supposed to be happy during the holidays. This is supposed to be a time of sharing with your family, of positive relationships, of celebration and joy,” Cataldo said. “Many people feel alienated, because they’re not in that space, and that idealized image of the holidays only makes them feel the lack of those things more acutely.”

 

Two thousand fifteen has been a tough one for our little clan. My father fell and broke his hip on Jan. 21, 2015, and was in and out of hospitals, knocking on death’s door at least three times through March. Since then, he’s been in a nursing home, and it’s not easy. Sure, it’s a facility that can serve his needs 24/7, but this comes with much advocacy from us. You have to be there to make sure he’s not neglected. Any sign of a temperature or low blood pressure can spell trouble. A very bad bed sore he developed in February is only now showing signs of progress. (This after I had a very honest discussion with one of his nurses, who said he’s probably go to the grave with that wound. It wasn’t harsh; just real.)

In late August, I had to put my best friend, my 14-year-old black lab mix, Skunky, down. A cancerous tumor forced me to put him down and I still can’t believe I live without a dog!

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Me and Skunky in Washington Heights.

Thanksgiving was sad, but no one talked about it. In addition to the fact that my older brother, wife, and nephew moved down to Orlando, the house was quiet. My mom and I visited my dad in the late afternoon/early evening. My younger brother stopped by as late as visiting hours would allow. Out by 8 p.m.

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Christmas 2014, my dad’s last one in his house!                                              With my nephew, RJ, and my mom, Maria. 

My younger brother’s girlfriend’s mom and brothers came over, which was nice, but it was very low-key. When the patriarch of the family isn’t around, and can’t even eat due to Parkinson’s related swallowing problems, it’s just sad.

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Happier times, despite the Parkinson’s.

To make things worse, we have not quite dealt with our feelings. In one of the bad hospital stays, where a very bad pneumonia caused ICU doctors to have to intubate him, and even insert an I.V. of antibiotics through his carotid artery, my mom and I cried a little, but something about our family of five prevents us from outwardly displaying our fears and general grief. Again, it’s like we’ve lost our ability to not be numb.

There are frequent spats between us, about who doesn’t visit, or visit enough, and the person who is doing the most, of course, is my mother. She is trying to live her life, joining a YMCA and attending classes, and doing better at not spending all day at the nursing home, which is draining.

It’s draining because my father tries to speak to us and we can’t understand him. It’s draining because there are so many residents who don’t get visitors and look to you for any little conversation. It’s draining because there’s a certain smell, a certain way the staff there is overworked and stressed, and, most of all, because we know he’ll be there for the rest of his life.

It’s also disheartening to recently read about nursing home employees sharing pictures of themselves mocking or abusing patients on social media. It just adds to my guilt that I need to be there more. Working in New York, living across the river in Jersey City, and having to drive further north to the home in which my dad now lives.

There’s a lot of wondering what life would be like had he not gotten sick, or remembering what he was like before he was diagnosed. It’s pointless, but it comes up in conversation a lot when we get visitors.

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With my brothers. I miss my sister-in-law (third from left), now in Florida.

I think a lot about possibly getting Parkinson’s myself. I dream vividly; I always have, but telling my mother about how it can signal Parkinson’s really upset her. But I’m just being realistic about the fact that it can very much be genetic. I spend a lot of the time at the gym because of this, since exercise has been shown to slow the progression of the disease, something we did not know when my dad was first diagnosed.

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My nephew, RJ, lives in Florida now, and I miss him so!

I was never really big on winter holidays. I always liked the Fourth of July and summer in general. I dislike the cold, the dark coming early, and having to stress out about gifts. But we’ll do it. Christmas will be fine, but figuring out how to be with my dad when the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1 is another hurdle. (We’re not sure if visiting hours will be strictly enforced or whether we’ll disturb his three roommates.)

If I could have one wish for 2016, it’s that we deal with this better. It doesn’t seem like my younger brother and I have time for support groups or therapy with the full-time jobs and side gigs, and having to drive to visit mom and dad. But I’ll suggest it. We’ll see.

I am EMPHATICALLY grateful that my father is still with us. He doesn’t seem to be in pain many times, but as his nurses aide sometimes says when I’m in his room with her wonderful Haitian accent, “He seems miserable.” (I think it’s more aches that come with being bed-ridden most of the time.)

I pray 2016 brings us some better days.