Walking that walk in the inner city – Guazabera Insights

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Febo speaking to inmates at Hudson County Correctional Facility. (image via YouTube)

In light of the daily debates taking place on social media and beyond about crime, drug use/abuse, and protests about police in inner cities, it’s nice when you see someone actually walking the walk behind the talk.

Dennis Febo of Guazabera Insights, LLC, is one of those people.

I’ve known Febo (though, virtually, not in person!) since 2013 through my college sorority network. (My sorority, Mu Sigma Upsilon has a brother fraternity (Lambda Sigma Upsilon), which Febo is part of.)

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.54.52 AMHe founded Guazabera Insights in 2010 as a health and educational services provider whose mission is to raise social consciousness and uplift communities. They do this through the dissemination of cultural and social consciousness education in communities of need, while addressing the social issues that affect communities through organizing and action.

Most of the work is done in Jersey City, a large and diverse city right outside of Manhattan in which 52% of its population speak another language other than English in the home, and, in some wards, citizens still struggles with crime. The organization also provides employment and internship opportunities in Jersey City and Paterson, N.J.

Each weekend, Febo and others from Guazabera Insights hit the streets to educate the public on healthier lifestyles. He explains why in this video, which was shot recently while engaging with the public in Jersey City’s Journal Square.

But the work doesn’t stop on the streets. How about helping the incarcerated at Hudson County Correctional Center, which many wrongly assume are beyond change, with a reintegration program?  Febo, a fantastic public speaker, does that, too, as illustrated in the video below.

You can watch a more comprehensive video of Guazabera Insights’ work at the Hudson County Correctional Center here.

A Brooklyn native, Febo graduated from the University at Buffalo with a master’s degree in Humanities Interdisciplinary: Caribbean Cultural Studies, studied in Havana, Cuba and Bahia, Brazil. His master’s thesis, “Sazón Batería y Soberanía: Puerto Rico in the Dance for Self-Determination,” is a documentary regarding Puerto Rican Sovereignty. He also attained a bachelor’s degree in Latino Studies, concentrating in history and politics.

Learn more about Guazabera Insights here.

On ‘Ghettoside,’ black-on-black crime, and ‘Broken Windows Theory.’


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The shootings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the ensuing debate surrounding the killings and related protests, caused some of my friends, and obviously, people in general, to respond in a way I soooo dislike

  • “Why don’t they protest when they get shot by one of their own?”
  • “Why doesn’t the media make such a big deal about black on black crime?”

These questions are problematic for several reasons that have been aptly outlined by both columnists like Ta-nehisi Coates (“The notion that violence within the black community is “background noise” is not supported by the historical recordor by Google. I have said this before. It’s almost as if Stop The Violence never happened, or The Interruptors never happened, orKendrick Lamar never happened. The call issued by Erica Ford at the end of thisDo The Right Thing retrospective is so common as to be ritual. It is not “black on black crime” that is background noise in America, but the pleas of black people.”) and academic scholars (“Giuliani presented no evidence that Black communities are not actually addressing violence in their own communities.  It’s also useful to point out that based on the most recent crime statistics from the FBI in 2011, the White-on-White murder rate was .0014% of the population, while the Black-on-Black murder rate was .0069% (with rounding), a difference of .0055%.”) who can be found with a quick Google search.

These comments also demonstrate a complete lack of empathy on their part, which I can only attribute to ignorance, as in legitimate naiveté about the majority of folks who live in high crime areas, and what they really want. My guess is they must not know too many families affected unnecessary violence, be it on the victim or perpetrator’s side.

Lastly, they must not understand that, although it seems the media is ever present, thanks to the 24 hour news cycle and budget cuts due to the Internet and what it did to print journalism, resources within media organizations aren’t what they used to be. Gone are the days when a journalist would be assigned to cover crime in every single town.

As a newspaper reporter, I remember what it was like to camp outside of a victim’s home in hopes of catching a family member for a quote about what they were feeling. (It was not my favorite part of the job. Many times dreaded those interviews.)

Do people really think people living in high crime areas are happy about the state of their neighborhoods? Or that if someone gets killed next door, it’s no big deal? It’s so much deeper than that.

LUCKILY for us, journalist Jill Leovy has a new book in which she studies the epidemic of unsolved murders in African-American neighborhoods and the relationships between police and victims’ relatives, witnesses and suspects. I’m looking forward to this book, because it’s clear it’s not just from the perspective of victims, but it covers how the police respond to crime in tough areas.

The idea for Leovy’s book came from a blog she started (The Homicide Report) back in 2006 while working for the Los Angeles Times. In her new book, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, she examines one of the most disturbing facts about life in America: that African-American males are, as she puts it, “just 6 percent of the country’s population but nearly 40 percent of those murdered.” (source.)

In this recent interview with NPR’s Fresh Air, she discussed how she managed the carnage and the pure emotion of family members of murder victims she came across as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times:

“It’s not the carnage that’s horrible, though. It’s the grief and the sadness of it that is – that will make your hair stand on end, and that is very, very difficult to deal with. The actual fact of bodies and blood is much easier to deal with than what you find when you go to somebody’s house five years later and they’re still shaking and weep instantly when you say the name of their loved one.

In fact, “The Homicide Report” was the easiest homicide reporting I did in all my years of homicide reporting, and there was a reason for that. And I knew it going in. I think in some ways, at that time, I needed it. It’s because mostly, I was dealing with victims’ families right after the homicide. That’s a time when – in the normal course of reporting, that’s when you usually meet victims’ families – that first 48 hours, that first week, maybe, before the funeral, and, you know, that’s the easiest time because people are in shock. They are in a state of suspended disbelief. They don’t know what to think. They’re kind of frozen and wide-eyed, and it takes time with something as traumatic as homicide for the reality to sink in. And so it’s a lot harder to interview people three months later, six months later. Two years can be a really grueling point, I found – five years, very, very grueling. Homicide grief is very distinct, I think, from other kinds of bereavement, and the trajectory of it can be different.

Another great part of this Fresh Air interview with Leovy is her insight into how police handle these crimes, and how they’re viewed by these communities. Simple it is not:

“Police hear that all the time: ‘You don’t care because he’s black. You’re not going to solve it because he’s black.’ And it’s very interesting, I – in terms of Ferguson and some of the other recent controversies – I was thinking that this is so complicated because there is, very definitely, a standard black grievance against police that you hear in South LA, that has to do with the generally understood problem – too much consent searches, we say, in LA, too much stop-and-frisk, too heavy of law enforcement, too much presumption of guilt when you take stops.

What I hear, when I’m in these neighborhoods, is a combination. It’s a two-pronged grievance. There’s another half of that. And the other half is, I get stopped too much for nothing, and the police don’t go after the real killers. They don’t go after the really serious criminals in this neighborhood. They’re stopping me for what I’ve got in my pocket, but I know someone who got killed down the street. And they haven’t solved the homicide, and yet, that second half seems to never break out and make it into the national dialogue about it. To me, it has always been that double-sided grievance of too much of the wrong kind of policing, not enough of the policing we actually want in these neighborhoods.

Hear the audio interview, or read the transcript, here.

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And check out these other related stories, including one where a 17-year veteran of the LAPD says community members can stop police brutality by cooperating with police, and this one, in which the architect of ‘Broken Windows’ defends his theory.

The Year in Wiener News: 2013

Rejoice! This post is NOT about Weiner.
Rejoice! This post is NOT about Weiner.

Relax, this post has nothing to do with Anthony Weiner. It is an end-of-the-year roundup on wiener news, though! (And special thanks to a friend who suggested I write this.)

Before we get to it, let’s all agree that as far as 2013 is concerned, it was a monumental one in news:

We got a new Pope, a shitty-I.T. department-like Obamacare rollout, a royal baby, and a tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon. There was a massive fertilizer plant explosion and fire in West, Texas, a terrifying tornado in Oklahoma, the government shutdown for an extended period of time, we lost Nelson Mandela, and that gem of a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, and later arrested for domestic violence. (His girlfriend dropped the charges, of course.) And that’s not all. CBS Pittsburgh compiled more here.

The year also brought us more social media by way of Instagram and Vine videos (watch some hilarious Vine vids here), chats that disappear via Snapchat, and Twitter and Facebook continue with high engagement from their users.

On my Facebook page, it was a big (no pun intended) year for news of everyone’s favorite male member: the penis! I’ve rounded up some of the year’s best peen news nuggets below.

Look before you sit.
Look before you sit.

Best international penis news (tie): Australian man avoids jail for choking ex after she bit his penis: It’s only fair. She bit him first. And from the African continent, Snake bites man’s penis in Ghana public toilet.

Best medical development for a crooked penis news: FDA approves drug for severe curvature of the penis: Treatment with Xiaflex involves two injections of the drug into the penile scar tissue and a penile “modeling” procedure that involves manipulation of the penis by a healthcare provider. It sounds painful, but so is having a crooked peen, according to the article.

Traffic reporter Siobhan Riley says the drawing was innocent.
Traffic reporter Siobhan Riley says the drawing was innocent.

Best news anchor #fail related penis news (VIDEO): ABC12 news reporter Siobhan Riley was detailing which sections of Saginaw, Michigan, would be undergoing construction on a large map. As she laid out the grid plan, she unknowingly drew what appeared to be a large phallus, complete with testicles at the bottom. Hey maybe she had something on her mind.

Second runner-up: Awkward! Out of the Czech Republic: Large Penis Videobombs News Anchor During Live Broadcast.

Best Mike Tyson is involved in this one, so there’s really nothing good, better, or best, about it: The former heavyweight champions autobiography contained tons of surprises about his chaotic life. In fact, that he used a Fake Penis to Pass Drug Tests is the least surprising nugget out of this gem.

Best indecent exposure arrest-related penis news: He claims his penis was itchy, but according to police, this sicko was following a customer around in a store while jerking his chicken. Gross. A Florida man arrested on indecent exposure charges said he had to expose himself in a department store because his genitals were itchy.

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 4.16.10 PMBest King of Pop-related penis news: The guy may be in jail, but can we all wish some collective bad juju on him in the joint for talking about this in an interview? Eww. Dr. Conrad Murray: ‘I held Michael Jackson’s penis every night’

Best reason proof that “legalizing it doesn’t get rid of violence in the United States” related penis news: Money and drugs go hand in hand, which is why this probably went down: Four charged with severing penis of California marijuana dispensary owner.

Best breakfast-related penis news: I know the Brits like meat with their eggs for breakfast, but this is ridiculous: Man with penis stuck in toaster rescued.

Best “Oh, Colombian men!” -related penis news:

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They just can’t leave well enough alone, can they? See what happens when you try to impress your (I assume much younger) girlfriend? South Colombia man has penis amputated after Viagra overdose.

Best sports-related penis news:

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Rugby in New Zealand. Well, those tiny shorts they wear are pretty hot: Ex-NRL player Anthony Watts accused of biting opponent’s penis during Gold Coast match.

Best painful experiment-related penis news:

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 4.35.31 PMOh grandpa. Not this again: Fork stuck in man’s penis after bizarre sexual mishap.

Best science-related penis news: This may depend on your (personal issues) point of view, I guess: “The attractiveness of a larger penis is intertwined with height and body shape, new research suggests.” Penis size does matter.

Best architecture-related penis news:

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 4.41.55 PMPenis-Shaped Christian Science Church Doesn’t Look That Much Like A Penis, Architect Claims. Oh yes, it does, sir. Isn’t lying one of the 10 Commandments?

Second runner-up: Well, it’s not penis-related, but since when is a woman’s nether region not related to the penis? Architect Zaha Hadid Fires Back at Critics of Her So-Called “Vagina Stadium.”

Best “like The Hangover, only 10-times worse” -related penis news: Alcohol is the devil: Man found on road with his penis severed and absolutely no idea what had happened.

Best “guns are not for everyone” –related penis news: Hey, at least it wasn’t in the United States this time. Yee-haw! Philippine man accidentally shoots his own penis.

Best “school field trip gone wrong” -related penis news: Another one not from the good, old, United States. We’re more into teachers sleeping with their students, I guess: ‘Penis piercing teacher’ axed.

Which brings us to the best “teacher grabs penis” news: Of course, this one is ours. Oh, Ohio: Student: Accused teacher ‘put her hand in my pants.’

Second runner-up: Oh, Florida, you know I couldn’t leave you out of this! And, to boot, you know there’s a critical shortage of good math teachers when, “Jeanne Michaud, a Seminole County math teacher, had nearly a 30-year history of disciplinary problems, but parents said she was talented and could make even advanced courses fun.” Teacher fired over penis carving.

I’ll end the list with something that sits below the peen:

Best BALLS-related (non-penis) news:

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 6.10.24 PMHey, this body part is part of the penis family! Believe it or not, this incident was over a parking spot: Woman in China could face death penalty for killing man by crushing testicles.