TV Shows Pop Culture

Watching “Jane the Virgin” in Spanish brought me closer to my mom

Before I sat down to watch Jane the Virgin, I thought it would be completely unrelatable. After all, I wasn’t a virgin, and I definitely wasn’t accidentally getting pregnant.

However, after watching it for the first time, I found that so many aspects of the show resonated with my life. Jane the Virgin is a refreshing drama and comedy that showcases the life of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, a  religious 23- year old virgin who has planned out her whole life and is completely on track for her own personal success.

I thought I wouldn’t resonate with the show— but I was wrong.

She is studying to be a teacher and she dreams of being a published author. She is also dating Michael, the perfect man for her. Everything in her life is going the way she wants it to until she accidentally gets artificially inseminated and becomes pregnant with another man’s child.

This satirical telenovela allows viewers to feel a roller coaster of emotions. I loved it so much that I rewatched it again in Spanish with my mom. 

The idea for this stemmed from a feeling that I wasn’t spending enough time with my mom. After all, I had just graduated from college and moved back home after 4 and a half years. It was a hard adjustment to start spending time with her in person rather than just having a few late-night calls a month. We had never watched a show together, so I thought it would be a great idea as a way to bond. 

This show touches many important issues for the Latinx community

Shows are also great conversation starters, and Jane the Virgin was not an exception. This show touches on so many important issues for the Latinx community including matriarchy, religion, immigration, sexuality, and the idea of family bonds. We laughed, cried, and definitely grew closer during the months we spent watching this show. 

With the female protagonists and lead actresses, Jane the Virgin does an amazing job at highlighting the different experiences that women face in life. While Jane is ‘little miss perfect’, her mother Xiomara is an outgoing and eccentric dance teacher with dreams of having a singing career. She had Jane when she was only 16-years old and Jane never got to meet her father until she was 23 because her parents split when her mother got pregnant. Jane’s grandmother, Alba Villanueva, is a deeply religious woman who helped raise Jane and made her vow to not lose her virginity until marriage.

I love the fact that this show is centered around the relationship between the women of the Villanueva family. The relationship between the women in my life is very similar. My grandmother, who I’ve always considered a matriarch, raised 6 daughters, my mother and my aunts, who I will always look up to as the strongest women in my life. My mother raised myself and my 3 younger sisters all on her own. Our relationships and the life experiences they taught me about are part of what defines me and who I am today. I was raised by strong women, and it was beautiful to see the same kind of powerful female energy captured in the show. 

Alba’s story of becoming an American citizen after being terrified of getting deported for almost 30 years is one aspect of the show that resonated with me. My parents are immigrants, and the whole immigrant experience, in general, is one that many of our Latinx families can relate to, especially because many of them came here to start a new life just like Alba. My mom definitely teared up when Alba had her citizenship ceremony, because it brought up memories and feelings from when she went through the process. It also came at a time when immigration became an important issue in this country. 

I’ve had many important conversations with my mum as a result of the show

Jane the Virgin also includes representation of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a subject that my mother and I never sat down to speak about, but the show definitely enabled us to have that conversation. There were various lesbian women on the show and even some gay men. At first, I could tell that my mom felt a bit uncomfortable watching lesbians making out on TV, but, after some time, she accepted it. And she wanted the characters to be happy. That was progress for someone who comes from a culture and family that is not very approving of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m glad that she was exposed to the topic through this show. 

Not only does this show touch on important subjects of sexuality, but sex itself. Jane, who was a virgin when she had her son, finally loses her virginity in the third season. Other characters freely explore their sex lives and own them. Jane’s mother, Xiomara, dates various men throughout the show and openly talks about her sex life with her daughter. Eventually, Jane’s devout widowed grandmother confesses that she is scared of having sex because she hasn’t experienced pleasure in over 30 years. Jane even takes her to buy a vibrator!

This was a very touchy subject for my mom and me. When I confessed to her that I wasn’t a virgin she got a bit upset at me but, eventually, we came to terms with the fact that sex is a natural part of the human experience. 

Watching Jane the Virgin in Spanish not only helped me appreciate the language even more, but it opened my eyes to so many important issues that we do not talk about enough in the Latinx community. Many of the important conversations that I have had with my mother recently have been a result of this show. I am grateful for this intricate but refreshing portrayal of my community. It is a gem of our generation.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

What HBO’s Insecure can teach us about our own friendships

Spoilers for season 4 of HBO’s Insecure.

Throughout the show, we have seen Issa struggle and try to find her way, having to lift herself back up after the many times she’s fallen. We’ve seen it all. From always having to speak up for the Black community at a job she hated, to feeling so unwanted and unsatisfied in her relationship with Lawrence that she cheated on him. Issa has been through a lot, but so has her best friend Molly.

Molly has been through her own emotional rollercoaster. From countless failed relationships to being undermined at work, and even finding out that her father cheated on her mother, Molly has had to rise up from many challenges that her own life has thrown at her. In a way, their constant struggles have always brought Issa and Molly together as the women reflected on life and gave each other advice on how it could possibly be better. 

This series has been a refreshing take on the friendship of two young Black women in a humorous and quirky way. I have always been able to relate to Issa and Molly’s friendship, especially because I associated it with what my best friend and I have. Throughout our 10+ years of friendship, we’ve attended university together, become part of each other’s families, and have helped each other through multiple breakups. Now, friends also fight, we’ve all been there. But when it comes to Issa and Molly, I’m sure the audience of this dramedy wasn’t expecting season four to showcase the downfall of their friendship.

As the season started playing out, I finally understood how the sly remarks and missed phone calls could somehow cause small arguments and then eventually lead to one of the biggest blowouts of the show. What really went wrong, you will ask? I would say the lack of communication.

Issa and Molly have always prided themselves in their Self-Care Sundays, where they would update each other on life and what have you. However, after their Sunday hike at the beginning of the season, the two never got back to their weekly ritual. They would often miss each other’s phone calls and it was hard to witness how they weren’t showing up for each other and they both felt the same way.

It was definitely about the timing. While Molly was dealing with her new relationship with her bae Andrew, Issa was busy planning an entire Block Party festival event. Both of these things take time and energy, so it was no surprise the two were not speaking regularly. But this lack of communication caused tensions to rise and that’s when the drama started. In episode three, the women started taking jabs at each other for their past relationships at the supermarket. It was a very cringe-worthy moment in their friendship, but this was also when they silently acknowledged that there was something wrong. Each woman in their own stubbornness did not want to confront the other. 

I definitely could relate to this moment in my own friendship. There have been times throughout the years when we each get so caught up in our own lives that it becomes difficult to keep up with each other. One of our biggest fights happened due to a similar lack of communication and I was sad to see Issa and Molly going down the same path. Communication is key. When something is wrong, we talk through these issues and make time for the people we care about. 

Boundaries are also important. It was respectable of Molly to set boundaries and say no when Issa asked her if she could ask Andrew (Molly’s boyfriend who works at Live Nation) to help her find a headliner for her block party. Was it the right move on Molly’s end? I personally think friends should help each other out no matter what. Instead of letting it come to that, they should have talked about whatever was going on. 

Real friends help and support each other no matter what. When I need a break from my family, I can always count on my friend. When I need her to do me a favor or connect me with someone, I can always expect her to do so because that’s the way it’s always been. But when Molly didn’t want to help Issa this made me question her integrity and whether or not she still cares for Issa’s success. 

When Molly found out that Issa still had Andrew’s help through another mutual friend, Molly was so upset that she publicly confronted Issa at her own event. This was a massive blowout where the two insulted each other and said some pretty hurtful things. Now, it’s ok to express honesty. If Molly was upset about Issa’s lack of boundaries, it was her right to say so. Just maybe in a different, less public, setting. Real friends tell each other how it is, even if it’s something the other person may not want to hear but is important. Just be straight up! Don’t judge or insult your friends, just be honest with them. 

After big fights like this one, someone always has to be the bigger person and reach out to the other one for forgiveness. When Issa reached out to Molly she was met with hesitancy and uncertainty on Molly’s end. It’s questionable whether things will be able to work out between the two women, especially at the end of the episode when Molly is dealing with a breakup and Issa is dealing with the drama of dating her ex-boyfriend.

Sometimes love isn’t enough. These kinds of long term friendships would not be possible without communication, support, and honesty. Support your friends! As I witness the downfall of Issa and Molly’s friendship, I see opportunities for learning about how to be a better friend and become immensely grateful for my own friendship.

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Self-Care Fashion Lookbook

Boobie Billie: the Instagram icon who knows how political fashion can be

Meet Boobie Billie: Instagram influencer dog whose stylish and quirky posts have expanded her platform to almost 200K followers. I had the chance to chat with Boobie about her philosophy on self-care, and talk about how she is using her platform to shed light on some very important issues regarding racial inequities.

Based in Brooklyn, NY, this Italian Greyhound-Chihuahua mix has taken over the internet with her unique style and handbag collection. She has been featured on platforms such as Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Insider, and has participated in various Instagram takeovers on these well-known accounts.

As a lover of dogs and all things fashion, I started following Boobie a few months ago. I loved to go on her page and see her cute outfits. But I also love her persona and how unapologetic she is in everything she does, including speaking out about the current political climate and making sure that she can use her platform to uplift the issues we are facing in these times.

She’s even been encouraging her followers to vote and take action against the injustices that have recently reignited the Black Lives Matter movement.

A refreshing fashion icon of our time, Boobie brings light and positivity to her followers, not only by slaying in every outfit but also by encouraging them to practice self-care and self-love. 

Besides taking the internet by storm and uplifting her followers during the pandemic, she has been supportive of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. In the past few weeks, Boobie has used her platform to uplift Black voices and Black-owned businesses. She’s even been encouraging her followers to vote and take action against the injustices that have recently reignited the Black Lives Matter movement.

Boobie Billie began sharing her outfit of the day posts in December of 2019, and from there, she has expanded her platform to also include storytelling and entertainment for her followers. She uses her Instagram stories and the highlight feature to showcase her uniquely bold, lively, and cheeky personality. 

Some of her most iconic outfits include accessories such as sunglasses, sneakers, and tiny designer handbags from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Fendi. Even her sneaker collection is probably better than yours.

Even her sneaker collection is probably better than yours.

When she’s not rocking her iconic fashion looks, you can find her head wrapped in a towel, cozy as ever. Sometimes she will be using a jade roller for some TLC. Boobie swears by self-care, stating “Honestly bbs, it’s something you can do to ground yourself every day and I love that for you. She knows that with a global pandemic going on and with stay at home orders all over the world, self-care is essential.

In one instance, she even challenged her followers to send her pictures of them engaging in self-care and in exchange sent them a cute collage of herself for their Zoom backgrounds. When asked what self-care has looked like for her during quarantine, she said “It’s all about keeping up with the things that make me feel gorgina and reclaiming that time for myself. Because if you’re not there for you, you can’t be there for them bbs.” 

She is a self-care icon.  

Boobie Billie also recognizes that systemic racism affects literally everything, even fashion. Realizing this was crucial for Boobie, especially in knowing how important the anti-racist movement is – not only in this chaotic political climate but also for the long term. Her platform has made her realize that she needs to be more conscious of the brands that she supports and works with. Moving forward, she will continue to think about how fashion is political and how she can use her platform to amplify Black voices and brands. 

In a recent post, she wanted to bring Black-owned businesses to the forefront with her outfits.

Boobie Billie also recognizes that systemic racism affects literally everything, even fashion.

Her caption said, “There are literally SOOO many gorg black-owned clothing and accessory brands doing FABULOUS things. Starting today, I’m going to do a better job of bringing them into my looks, so that more bbs can discover them.” Boobie knows that she can continue to support the movement with her platform and through her fashion choices. 

 She states, “I wanted to be there for my bbs in every way I could and make sure I was using my reach to get resources out there …  But going forward, there are so many ways to help keep the movement going. To me, that means choosing different accessories or brands that are just as fabulous and amazing but don’t get as much support from the mainstream fashion world. If a little fashion Italian Greyhuahua like me can do it, we all can bbs.” 

Not only has she shared various resources for folks to take action in these times, but she has even encouraged her followers to vote in the upcoming elections. She is a civically engaged icon that many of us can learn from.

In a time where many celebrities and other leaders have been silent, it is refreshing to have her on our side, advocating for the cause and sharing resources on her platform. In one of her recent posts she captions, “And to all my bbs who are BIPOC, I love you so much and I’m behind you every minute of every day.”  

As a rising influencer, we are excited to see where Boobie Billie takes her platform in the future and all the marginalized voices that she will be able to uplift through fashion.

“And to all my bbs who are BIPOC, I love you so much and I’m behind you every minute of every day.”  

A fashion-icon, self-care star, and civically engaged queen, she is doing it all and using her platform to uplift her followers. So what’s next for Boobie? “All I ever want is to make everyone feel like the gorgina angel bb that they are, so I’m going to keep doing that!

Internet, can we please have more dog influencers?


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USA Immigration Coronavirus Politics The World

Due to COVID-19, I.C.E. is required to release children from immigrant detention centers today

America just celebrated Independence Day a few weeks ago, but not all people in America are free. Recent events involving the detainment of children in immigrant detention centers have made us question what freedom- or the lack thereof- currently looks like in America. 

Some people who live in this country are experiencing oppression due to the systemic racism and inequitable policies that hinder their socioeconomic advancement, and others experience captivity quite literally. In other words, some residents and undocumented immigrants are literally locked up and detained in detention centers. These folks are not free.

There are numerous immigrant detention centers run by the United States’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) across the country, which hold not only adult detainees but also children ranging from ages 1-17 years-old. However, thanks to a judge ruling on June 26 of this year, some of these family detention centers will be required to release the children due to their increased susceptibility the COVID-19 pandemic. These facilities are particularly confined, making the potential for spread inevitable. 

The ruling by Judge Dolly M Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California applies to two detention centers in Texas and one in Pennsylvania, where a total of about 130 children were still being held there in early June. Some of these children had been held there for over 20 days and are the ones who are being prioritized for release. According to her order, the children must be released either with their parents or to sponsors including available COVID-free non-congregate settings with the consent of their parents or guardians. Judge Gee also states, “The family residential centers are on fire and there is no more time for half measures.”

Judge Gee states, “The family residential centers are on fire and there is no more time for half measures.”

She’s right, and frankly, there is no more time for these inhumane conditions at all. The holding of young children in detention centers has caused widespread outrage and protest from many American people even before the pandemic hit. While this is already an extremely oppressive protocol used by ICE, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbates the abuse. These detention centers are extremely vulnerable places for the virus to spread. In fact, there have been various cases of coronavirus outbreaks among detainees of these centers, with both parents and children testing positive for the virus. 

In early June, I.C.E. transferred 74 people to Farmville Detention Center in Virginia in an alleged attempt to promote social distancing. The detainees were transferred from detention centers in Arizona and Florida, where cases of COVID-19 have been on the rise. Recent center-wide testing revealed that more than  70% of people at the detention center are positive with COVID-19.  Detainees at this detention center are so concerned for their lives that they are asking authorities to arrange a way for them to see their families because they feel like they will die in these detention centers. They are not only being treated poorly in terms of essential care, but also medical care, especially when it comes to coronavirus in which the care is nearly nonexistent.

Conditions in these detention centers can be compared to prisons, with overcrowding and almost no way to follow social-distancing protocols. Poor conditions in detention centers vary, but most include having to share common spaces with many people such as bunks, showers, phones, and medical facilities. Thus, the detention centers are easy hot spots while the immigrant populations who are held in these centers are increasingly vulnerable to the spread of the virus. Not to mention that because of their immigrant status, much of this goes unnoticed and uncared for. In a facility located in Arizona holding hundreds of immigrants, there has been a 400 percent increase in the number of cases.

I.C.E’s immigrant detention centers are continually used to hold immigrants who are facing deportation and investigation. Often, the parents who are detained also have their children held with them. The Trump Administration has been actively trying to reverse protections for migrant children and families, specifically the rule that they are not to be detained for longer than 20 days, proposing instead that they be held indefinitely. 

This administration has a history of trying to take away protections and dignity from vulnerable populations. 

Legally, the administration must continue to comply with regulations from the 1997 Flores agreement and ensure proper protections and conditions for migrant children. Young children who arrive at the border are often innocent and don’t know any better, and sometimes may even get separated from their parents while at these centers if their parents get deported. Now, people are calling out I.C.E. for not complying and holding children for more than 20 days in awful conditions.

In fact, people have been so outraged that thousands have even taken to protesting in cities across the country. Crowds gathered in outcry, demanding the abolition of I.C.E., the closing of the detention centers over the unjust treatment of immigrant families and children, and against I.C.E. raids in efforts to detain immigrants. Even detainees themselves have tried to protest against the conditions they are being held under, but have been met with violence from the guards and even getting pepper-sprayed in some instances. 

With conditions in these detention centers only getting worse, it is a crucial time to release children from these centers. By July 17th, families must make the vital decision to release their children or stay in detention with them. Many families are uncertain about the conditions to which their children may be released, but others worry that they may miss their only chance at letting their kids be free. Many folks are still fighting for families to not be separated by I.C.E.

Now that I.C.E. has a court order to release children by July 17th, they are currently reviewing the order and deciding what the next steps should be. At the end of the day, there are still children in cages whose livelihood is at stake. With I.C.E.’s track record of unjust and violent treatment of children, we have to continue to monitor this situation.

USA Politics Inequality

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez secures a second term in Congress and continues to inspire young Latinas

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly known as AOC, became the youngest woman ever elected into Congress in 2018 and since then she has taken the country by a storm. Recently, she secured her reelection as U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District for a second term at the New York Primary on July 23rd, winning over 70% of the votes from her district.

AOC had a high profile election back in 2018 when she challenged and beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowly. Since then, she has been one of the most talked-about politicians in America. With a platform based on progressive policies such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and the abolition of ICE, among many other things, she is a known advocate for the people as a Democratic Socialist. She even runs on grassroots campaigns, raising over $10.5 billion in her 2020 election campaign and refusing to take any money from big corporations. 

Also, as a Bronx-born Puerto-Rican woman, AOC is vocal about and doesn’t shy away from her background, being that she grew up in a working-class family and experienced first hand the needs of her community. AOC is not only a social justice warrior, but she embodies so many of the more important values of justice, equity, and bringing the needs of her community to the forefront of policymaking. 

I have been continuously inspired by AOC and the work that she does, as well as the representation she brings into politics. I will never forget when she got sworn into Congress wearing her signature red lipstick and hoops. When met with praises from young women for her boldness she tweeted, “Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a Congresswoman.” As a young Latina from the Bronx myself, AOC has taught me that professional success should never come at the cost of my identity. 

By using social media to her advantage, AOC has been able to win over many young people throughout the years. She takes to Twitter to engage her constituents and is even known for her Instagram Live sessions where she will perform regular tasks at home while talking with her followers. She is my definition of a modern-day politician and someone who is not afraid to use her platform or her voice to stand up for issues that are deeply impacting her community. 

Most notably, AOC believes that every American should have a decent living wage on the basis that no person should be simply too poor to live. She states, “I was born in a place where your ZIP code determines your destiny.” In America, this statement is very real, with the Bronx being home to some of the poorest districts in the country. That is why she fights for low-income New Yorkers every day. 

Just like her, I have not only faced many adversities throughout my upbringing in the Bronx, but also throughout my professional career, many of these rooted in the fact that young Latinas from the Bronx are rarely accepted in places of privilege. As someone who is pursuing a career in the public sector, I have learned a lot about the hardship that women of color face in these spaces. From having to code-switch in different environments to having all eyes on me when I enter a room with my big curly hair, I have experienced first-hand judgment based on my identity. 

AOC’s high-profile career means that those afflictions are most likely, and inevitably, multiplied. 

Though she has many fans, AOC is also met with a lot of haters, critics, and even death threats. One of her more famous trolls is President Donald Trump, who often takes to Twitter to publicly bash and criticize the young congresswoman on her background, policy proposals, and values, recently calling her an “embarrassing, barely literate moron” for a comment she made about billionaires being made in a corrupt system. Which, by the way, she isn’t wrong about and Donald Trump is just being a hater of anything far-left or remotely progressive, as always. 

However, despite all that has been stacked up against her she’s regarded every situation with much grace. Not to mention that she has maintained wisdom, poise, and morality along the way, knocking out each hardship with prosperity. AOC continues to show me that representation matters in politics as she advocates for her constituents in a way that only someone with lived experiences of the community could. 

The New York Primaries were packed with new candidates for almost every district, many of which were on the ballot for the first time challenging incumbents. In the Bronx, AOC had rivals who certainly did not believe in and even critiqued the work she currently does. 

As we all know and have learned through the current political climate, it’s OK to not agree with your favored politicians all the time. Even I don’t always agree with some of the things AOC says or some of the decisions she makes, but I do know that she has good intentions and keeps the overall needs of her constituents at the forefront of mind when doing her job. 

As a young Latina from the Bronx, seeing someone like AOC as a high profile politician gives me hope that more people like us can go on to serve our communities. As she recently tweeted, her victory in the New York primaries on June 23rd shows that “the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It’s a mandate.” As we move forward in this unprecedented and highly political circumstance, I expect her to be nothing less than a key player. AOC is a change-maker that continues to inspire the masses of young public service leaders, in addition to young Latinas like myself, all over New York City.

USA Editor's Picks The World

So, what’s up with all of the fireworks this month?

Almost every night during this unprecedented June, cities across the country have been disrupted by the use of illegal fireworks. Complaints about these loud light displays have been record-breaking, with all 5 boroughs of New York City receiving 80 times as many complaints in the first half of June this year than in the same period last year. Cities such as Boston, MA, Oakland, CA, and Baltimore, MD are having similar experiences.

People are saying that not only are the fireworks keeping them up at night, but that there have even been countless injuries and issues related to enforcement as a result of the increase in use of the illegal explosive devices. So, I wonder, why is all of this happening?

In New York City, fireworks dance across the sky from the early hours of the evening well into the night, sometimes ending at 1 or 2 AM. Many people believe that the use of fireworks is an activity that youth have taken up because of the many months they spent in quarantine. They mention that it might be a way to relieve stress and have some fun. Others cite the Black Lives Matter movement as a motive for using fireworks –  to celebrate all that the movement has accomplished thus far. I’m not convinced. 

It is important to note that while fireworks are illegal to buy, sell, and ignite, this definitely has not stopped the distribution of the devices in the past. That said, however, it remains concerning that folks have been able to get their hands on high-grade professional explosives like the ones used in parades and not just the standard consumer fireworks which we would normally see. And, although the use of illegal fireworks in the summer months is not uncommon, the timing and substantial amount of explosive devices out in the streets every single day this month has definitely been questionable.

Fireworks are typically used closer to the 4th of July in celebration of Independence Day in America. But, as previously mentioned, this year we have seen a wide use of fireworks for the entirety of the month of June and seems to be very closely aligned with both the canceling of major parades all summer long and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

This makes me question, again, how people could even get their hands on them, and, more importantly, what is their motive? 

Well, there are some theories circulating around the internet that law enforcement and the government may have more to do with this than meets the eye. The use of these explosives has been disproportionately affecting low-income communities of color all over the city. Not to mention that some people are beginning to question how Black and brown kids are even able to afford these professional explosives for days and weeks on end. It simply wouldn’t be possible to sustain the nightly use of them if they were being sold to them at a regular price.

In addition, some folks add that this might even be a psychological warfare tactic used by the police to disrupt Black neighborhoods and communities. By providing citizens with easily accessible explosives and ensuring that they use them every night, they could be effectively disrupting sleeping patterns and trying to exhaust these communities in the hopes that protests will tire out or eventually come to a halt. There are even videos of police cars circling the streets in low-income communities during the early morning hours while sounding sirens with no clear motive – seemingly trying to create a disturbance.

In a time of political uproar, it could be their way of trying to stop the people from going out into the streets and demanding justice

Some folks even believe that these fireworks are being sold to youth by undercover cops just so that they can punish them later on for the possession of these illegal materials. In New York City, there have been numerous arrests, summonses, and tickets being handed out over fireworks complaints. With the current political climate and a reasonable distrust of police officers, many people are worried that this could lead to law enforcement taking advantage of people who are in possession of fireworks.

Or worse, other people worry that this could lead to even more violence.

Regardless, whether it is the government and police working against the people, or whether it is commercially driven due to the uncertain future of parades and large events, New Yorkers have very mixed opinions about the constant use of fireworks. Some folks do enjoy them and acknowledge that it is a way for people to bond with their community now that they are spending more time outside. 

However, other New Yorkers were so fed up with the nightly performances that they took it upon themselves to protest at Gracie Mansion, the home of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Hundreds of people drove by the mansion in the middle of the night and honked their horns to make noise and wake up the Mayor. They demanded he gets a taste of what their communities sound like in the middle of the night. 

Their protests worked, supposedly. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he will be creating an illegal fireworks task force to disrupt the increased use and possession of such materials. I’m not convinced, though, that the answer to even more frequent demands for police reform is an additional task force that will certainly be centered in low income Black and brown neighborhoods. Especially since we are not certain of the source of the firework displays in the first place. On the surface, this action seems like just another way for those in power to maintain control, complicity, and their beloved “status quo.” 

Undoubtedly the increased use of illegal fireworks around New York City has been questionable and out of the ordinary during these times. As we gear up for the 4th of July weekend, it is very unlikely that they will stop. In fact, I suspect that usage will continue to increase. But, there is no question that we the people need to monitor this situation closely and hope for a quick solution given that it disproportionately affects Black and brown communities.

LGBTQIA+ Sexuality Pop Culture

Honoring Audre Lorde’s uplifting work for Pride Month

Audre Lorde is a legend and her work has quite literally changed my life.

As a self-described Black lesbian, mother, warrior, and poet, Audre Lorde was a powerful figure in the Feminist movement of the 70s and 80s, especially with her work in Black Feminism. Lorde has an impressive array of literature, including many pieces on intersectional feminism, Black lesbianism, and sexual liberation. As a Black woman, she owns her sexuality as part of her intersectional identity as she calls on other women to not let differences in their identities distract them from a common goal of collective liberation. This Pride month, I have gone back and read some of my favorite short pieces.

“The Erotic as Power,” is an evocative piece that was published in Lorde’s 1984 book, Sister Outsider. Focusing on the power of erotic female energy, she educates us on the reasons why this energy has been suppressed in women. She writes, “The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.” She goes on to explain that the erotic is not necessarily sexual and that is a false connotation that many seem to make due to the use of the erotic to please men. This erotic energy for men’s pleasure is the only one that is approved of in society, and women are forced to suppress all the other uses of this erotic power by a corrupt system.

Recognizing how powerful it can be to fully step into this erotic power can be life-changing for women and create change around the world. When she speaks of the erotic, she means “an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”

Imagine if women were able to feel empowered and put love into all that they did? Imagine if we could feel pure pleasure out of the things we did in life, and with who we are, for ourselves and ourselves only? The racist, sexist, and patriarchal systems we live in continue to suppress our power, and we must fight back. Lorde’s piece is an inspiration for all women, but particularly for Black women, the most oppressed group in America.  

Another one of my favorite pieces is Lorde’s essay “Black Women Organizing Around Sexualities”, where she calls out to her fellow non-lesbian Black sisters to not let their sexualities get in the way of their shared goal towards Black liberation. Now, I do not identify as a Black woman, but this piece was pivotal for me in learning about the struggles that Black women in our society face. Not only do they face oppression and racism, but the intersectional lesbian Black woman even face pushback from her own sisters. Lorde doesn’t believe that it is right for her to have to choose between being a Black feminist or a Black lesbian, because they are both part of her identity and both contribute to her oppression.

There is still racism, sexism, and discrimination amongst Black folks. In this piece, Lorde wants to call that out and bring unity amongst Black women because they should all unite to fight against the oppression of their community. She writes, “I do not want you to ignore my identity, nor do I want you to make it an insurmountable barrier between our sharing of strengths.” Black lesbians are still struggling for freedom and justice in the same way that heterosexual Black folks are, and this is why she emphasizes that instead of letting their sexualities divide them, they should organize and fight together.

When I reflect on these pieces, I think of all the ways that we are valuable, and how, by stepping into our own value, we are able to value others regardless of the different aspects of their identities. Lorde’s work is a call for women to unite in their fight for freedom.

In her essay “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”, she states that “as women, we must root out internalized patterns of oppression within ourselves if we are to move beyond the most superficial aspects of social change.” By touching on very intricate issues of classism, ageism, and heterosexism among the already deeply rooted racism and sexism towards the Black community, Lorde emphasizes how urgent it is for Black women to put their differences aside for the sake of their own people. 

As I mentioned, I am not Black and so I do not share the same experience that Black women do in this country. However, Audre Lorde has been a prominent figure who has contributed towards my knowledge about intersectional feminism and to my anti-racist education. I am compelled to honor her and her work, especially during Pride month.

Lorde’s work embodies Pride as she unapologetically owns every part of her intersectional identity, including her sexuality. In doing so, she inspired other women to do the same, and even to join her battle for liberation for all Black folks with all types of intersectional identities. As she writes in “The Erotic as Power”, “Of course, women so empowered are dangerous.”

Audre Lorde’s work paved the way for many women to step into their power, and she has taught me how to be a better leader, a better ally, a better woman.

Race Music Inequality

Dear Latinx artists, your silence is very loud right now

Social media and celebrities have played a huge role in the recent explosion of Black Lives Matter protests and anti-racist advocacy. Due to the influence that media has had in today’s society, many people respond to what prominent artists and celebrities are doing because of the reach of their platforms.

As someone who is bilingual, I am fortunate enough to be able to access celebrities, their content, and art in both English and Spanish. However, the current political climate has made me realize how problematic the Latinx community of artists can be when it comes to supporting the Black community.

Especially in these times, it is important to pay attention to what people with big platforms are saying, and silence is also very loud

The Latinx community already suffers from racism and colorism rooted in a deep history of oppression by our own people. Many older generations of Latinx and Hispanic folk have been taught that people with darker skin have less inherent worth, feeding into racist beliefs.

Historically, the entertainment industry has heavily relied on colorism and has perpetuated the belief that lighter skin is more beautiful. Even in telenovelas, lighter-skinned actors typically play the leads while darker-skinned actors played the villains.

This is the type of colorism that is maintained in the industry. 

The sad truth is that folks learn from what they are seeing on the media.

I see this in my own family members who are from the Dominican Republic and have darker skin. They have tried to lighten or bleach their skin to look more “beautiful” like the women they see on TV.

I see this in the way many Ecuadorians in my family tell me not to marry a Black man because God forbid my children are mixed and end up with darker skin and “nappier” hair than mine.

These are the kinds of mentalities that we have to challenge in our communities. 

There have even been many instances in which non-Black celebrities fail to acknowledge their privilege and the struggles of the Black community. Just recently a very prominent Latina rapper Karol G made a comment saying that “All Lives Matter,” and completely disregarded the point of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the past, even Latina actress Gina Rodriguez has made comments rooted in colorism and completely dismissing the Black community’s struggle. Antiblackness is alive and well in the Latinx community. 

Celebrities and artists must use their platforms to challenge these misconceptions about race and color.

This is not the time for Bad Bunny to completely go M.I.A. on Instagram just because, all of a sudden, he can’t continue to promote his music.

This is not the time for Jennifer Lopez to say that “All Lives Matter,” which is an argument that has been used as a counterargument to the Black Lives Matter movement. As young Latinxs like myself try to educate our communities, it is also important to artists who our family members look up to help us and help the cause.

The gag is…racism is bad for all of us.

Black, brown, or any other type of minorities are all affected by racism to some degree. It is time that Latinxs start to understand this and realize that we must fight for our Black brothers and sisters. In this time we want to educate Latinx and Hispanic folk who blatantly disregard their ancestry and participate in colorism.

As some of my favorite American and English-speaking artists have used their platforms to spread messages supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, I am highly disappointed in the lack of response from some Latinx artists and celebrities.  Now, I personally hate the narrative that you have to post all you do on social media.

It’s as if they’re thinking, “my donation to a local bail fund doesn’t count unless everyone sees it,” and I’m sure there are many celebrities who feel the same way. 

Even before the global pandemic and the recent brutal murders of innocent Black people, there were many celebrities who were donating to many important causes or participating in philanthropic work to some degree and not posting about it. I completely support doing that, but not in the current state of the world. 

Especially in today’s political climate, these false ideas about identity and worth of a human based on their skin color can be detrimental to some communities. The recent protests and lootings in my community of the Bronx have highlighted how some Latinx and Hispanic people are blatantly racist against Black folks, ignoring the intention behind the protests and feeding into the narrative that they are “criminals” or “thugs,” in some instances even supporting the actions of police because of their deeply rooted racism.

This is my call to Latinx artists and celebrities to use their platforms as a way to educate their communities about the danger of spreading racist and colorist mentalities in these times. This is a time in which we must unite to fight the white supremacy and all systems of injustices that are in place to help us fail. This is for our own future success and for the greater good of society. Please question your silence and acknowledge the privilege you have to be able to stay quiet.

As celebrities, their reach to millions of people from the Latinx and Hispanic communities is a privilege that should be used for good in these times.

I am disappointed that they have not gotten the message, but it’s not too late. Stand with us now as we fight for Black lives and fight for a more vibrant future in which the color of a person’s skin won’t be a death sentence.

This is not just a moment.

The Black Lives Matter movement won’t die down even if the protests do.

If Latinx artists don’t speak up, they will be adding to the polarization of marginalized communities of people and continue perpetuating racist and colorist beliefs.