New music by Calle 13 features Tom Morello, Julian Assange, & Kamilya Jubran

Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 1.45.39 PMAfter nearly four years of not releasing music, Calle 13 is back with a single that’s sure to go viral.

The track is called Multi_Viral.”
“It represents a universal discomfort, it speaks about courage, about what lights the wick, and it manages to cause a chemical distress in your body,” says Residente of Calle 13. “It’s about the actual connection amongst people that exists on a global scale.”
The song features the participation of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, an activist who is accused of being a hacker and leaking classified information. Also a guest is Tom Morello, who Calle 13 has worked with in the past and RollingStone magazine deems as one of the best guitarists of all time. Palestinian singer-songwriter and musician, Kamilya Jubran, is also on the track. 

Annual Toy Drive for Bronx Military Families

Image from last year's toy drive
Image from last year’s toy drive

Bronx, NY –– Nov. 13, 2013 – On Friday, Nov. 15, Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Greene will join officials from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo and children from PS 205 at Zoo Center to kick-off Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.’s holiday toy drive to benefit Bronx military families.

In honor of the start of the holiday season, school children from PS 205 will be on hand to donate the first toys of the year.

The partnership between the Bronx Zoo and the Borough President on the toy drive has become an annual tradition. The Bronx Zoo will serve as a collection point for new, unwrapped toys donated by members of the community. Toys will be collected through the end of December and will be distributed by the Borough President’s office to local veterans and active-duty members of the military and their families.

In appreciation for their generosity, those who make a qualifying donation of a new, unwrapped toy at any of WCS’s wildlife parks between Saturday, Nov. 16 and Tuesday, Dec. 31 will receive a free ticket to the Bronx Zoo or New York Aquarium depending on location.

Toys will also be collected at the other WCS wildlife parks. Toys collected at Central Park Zoo and Queens Zoo will be donated to families in need within the communities they serve. Prospect Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium will collect toys to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Toys donated at the Prospect Park Zoo and New York Aquarium will receive a ticket to the New York Aquarium. Visit

‘Pure Bronx,’ new urban lit by Mexican American author

Castillo-Garsow with her mentor and co-author, Mark Naison.
Castillo-Garsow with her mentor and co-author, Mark Naison.

If you’ve ever walked around an urban neighborhood in a major city, you may have noticed them being sold on tables set up on the streets. They are slim novels, and usually depict people in the cover art. They are urban fiction books.

Also found in bodegas, urban fiction (also known as street lit) is one of literature’s fast-growing genres.

I recently got a chance to interview New York’s Melissa Castillo-Garsow, a Mexican-American author and Yale doctoral student. Her first street lit novel, Pure Bronx, which she co-wrote with her mentor, Fordham University professor Mark Naison, is set in the Boogie Down.

Read my interview with Castillo-Garsow, in which she gives her thoughts on the origin of the book, but also about health and fitness (the story appeared on the Latino-centric health and wellness website, Vida Vibrante), here.

But, below, she talks to me about the characters of Pure Bronx, Khalil and Rasheeda, a young couple from the South Bronx, trying to make it out of the ghetto and have a taste of the prosperity middle class Americans take for granted.


Gina Vergel: Dr. Naison mentioned (in an interview with the student newspaper, The Ram) that the story has a social justice aspect. Why did you two include such an aspect in this story?

Melissa Castillo-Garsow: Social justice for me is something that has always been a major part of my life. I originally did not like English or writing classes- the stories and main characters (mostly white male) never resonated with me and neither did classical language like that of Shakespeare. I was a good student, but I struggled a lot and didn’t enjoy reading very much. I first began to write because I proposed a column for the high school newspaper about human rights. I was a member of Amnesty International (one of two or three at my school) and was deeply concerned that people my age did know about what was happening in the world. Since then, everything I do has must have some sort of social justice aspect – I wouldn’t consider it worthy of my time, otherwise. Art for Arts sake is just not how I function. Art, writing, even academia (in the model of someone like Gloria Anzaldua) should invoke thought and emotion.

What many of the Street Lit books lacked, Dr. Naison and I found, was that aspect of social commentary. They often ended very tragically through the trope of the inevitable result of ghetto life, or overly glamorized monetary aspects of “the Life.” We wanted to provide an alternative narrative – that involvement in illegal or unsavory activities does not define you. Other possibilities are available and fulfilling, especially if you commit to social justice and your community.

GV: What can you tell me about Rasheeda’s character? 

MC-G: Rasheeda is definitely a strong female character. Raised in poverty, she is committed to bettering herself through high education, even when every aspect of her life provides her with other models or tells her its not possible. She overcomes many traumatic experiences without the guidance of a father or mother while assuming responsibility for her younger brother. I loved living with Rasheeda for the years we worked on this. She is so determined, strong and confident. But she is also sassy and fun. She is the one the keeps Khalil in check.

GV: Since the story is set in the Bronx, an area teeming with Latinos these days, how much do they come into play in the story? 

MC-G: Latinos are an important part of the story because they are a vital part of the Bronx. Like many African Americans, two of Rasheeda’s closest friends are Puerto Rican and there are also Mexican and Honduran characters. Khalil also understands Spanish from having grown up in projects with Puerto Ricans and other Latinos as well. At the same time we don’t glamorize relations in the Bronx – some of the African American – Latino relationships are friendship, others are antagonistic. But you will definitely find español in Pure Bronx!!

GV: You’re a doctoral student. What will your dissertation be on? What do you hope to do with your Ph.D? Teach? Any plans to continue with Street Lit?

MC-G: My dissertation is going to be on Afro-Latinos in 1920s and 1930s New York City. Afro-descended Latinos in this country are a completely understudied and diverse group in this country, especially in this time period. And yet, it was such a vibrant, artistic and important time in African American history. I want to uncover how Latinos (who because of their appearance and segregation were in very close quarters with African Americans) were relating or not relating to black culture and politics.

I do hope to teach, specifically Latino Literature and History, and perhaps some creative writing.

I also have a deep interest in popular culture – particularly Latino/a and Latin American Hip Hop. Currently, for example, I am working on a project about Mexican Hip Hop in New York. (Ed. That sounds interesting to us!)

Maybe more street lit? I’m not sure. We do have a sequel to Pure Bronx in mind. I guess it just depends on if there’s interest!

Read more about Melissa Castillo-Garsow on her website.

Alternate version of ‘Wake Me Up’ perfect for the DREAMer cause

Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 12.44.44 PMSometimes a hit dance song can become an ally for a cause.

Wake Me Up” is a song that all of my indoor cycling class instructors at the gym can’t get enough of. Eventually, the song became an earworm and I had to look it up on YouTube. Not surprisingly, it’s a monster club hit by the Swedish electronic dance music giant, Avicii.

The video for it follows a model-like girl who seems to live a not-so-easy life somewhere in rural America, but ends up happy because she rides a horse to an Avicii concert. (It’s as pretty as a fashion magazine spread.)

But the lyrics are deeper than that. And though Avicii made the song a global hit with his EDM production skills, I had to know about the man behind the voice. That’s where the story gets more interesting, as far as I’m concerned.

The vocalist (who is listed as a co-writer the Avicii track) is Aloe Blacc, a singer, songwriter, rapper, and musician from Southern California best known for his single, “I Need A Dollar,” from the short-lived HBO comedy-drama series, “How to Make it in America.”

Turns out Blacc, real name Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, was born to Panamanian parents and that may explain why he recorded a video for the alternate version (acoustic country and folk) of “Wake Me Up.”

Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 12.44.56 PM

Directed by Alex Rivera from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), an advocacy organization that advocates for day laborers and is staunchly against President Obama’s deportation policies, the video features undocumented immigrants, including DREAMer Hareth Andrade-Ayala, who arrived in America when her father Mario came to the United States in 2004 seeking a brighter future for his family. Mario is now facing deportation.

The song’s poignant lyrics are perfect for what Adrade-Ayala, and millions of other youth affected by the threat of deportation, must be feeling.

They tell me I’m too young to understand
They say I’m caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes
Well that’s fine by me

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

Watch the video below and read more about the director’s thought process behind the video via Buzzfeed.

Ask Charles Camosy Anything

Fordham’s Charles Camosy featured in Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish”

The Dish

He has a new book out:

For Love of Animals is an honest and thoughtful look at our responsibility as Christians with respect to animals. Many Christians misunderstand both history and their own tradition in thinking about animals. They are joined by prominent secular thinkers who blame Christianity for the Western world’s failure to seriously consider the moral status of animals. This book explains how traditional Christian ideas and principles—like nonviolence, concern for the vulnerable, respect for life, stewardship of God’s creation, and rejection of consumerism—require us to treat animals morally.

A bit about the author:

Charles Camosy is an assistant professor of Christian Ethics at Fordham University. … His early work focused on medical and clinical ethics with regard to stem cell research and the treatment of critically ill newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit, which was the focus of his first book, Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude…

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