I Am A Dominican York

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

I am a Dominican York. According to the Urban Dictionary, a Dominican York is either a Dominican immigrant living and working in New York City or an American-born person of Dominican descent who was raised in NYC.

Originally the term was used derisively to refer to the drug dealers and criminals that were deported back to the Dominican Republic after being incarcerated in the states. Dominican New Yorkers have been slowly adopting the term over the years, sans the negative connotations.

I am a Dominican York. That term succinctly defines my existence. I was born in the U.S., but was raised in the Dominican Republic from when I was three months old until the age of five. Inside my little apartment in Washington Heights, it was the Dominican Republic; Mami ruled, Merengue played and mangu eaten, but outside of it, New York City and its accoutrements; Hip-Hop, graffiti and pizza beckoned.

I am a Dominican York. My parents on the other hand, even though they have lived here since the early 70′s, are Dominican. My mom has only a few words in her English language repertoire and while my dad has a more extensive vocabulary, the words he knows are usually curses and only uttered when he is inebriated. I still recall with horror the one incident that encapsulated our different and divergent worldviews.

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Uptown Barbershop Trending Topic: Infidelity

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Before we get into this, it is a must I provide a little context. My barbershop is the quintessential Dominican barbershop. Tons of people, music blaring, barbers dancing as they perform their duties. In short, a hive of activity; in many ways it is a place where a party is taking place and they just happen to cut hair. This is the kind of barbershop where you may find yourself being served little plastic cups of sweet espresso while you wait for your cut, as a whole host of street peddlers enter and exit the establishment to hawk bootleg DVD’s, clothes, sunglasses, watches. Maybe even furniture. Another thing that takes place at my barbershop and others like it is conversation. Straight up, loud, unfiltered, non-politically correct, sometimes anachronistic, man talk.

Photo Credit: Briana E. Heard

The topic on this particular outing was infidelity. For the most part, the general consensus among the barbers and the clientele was that women by nature will eventually cheat on their mates, so in order to mitigate the hurt from that inevitable occurrence, it was better to cheat before she does. In other words, pre-emptive cheating; cheat before getting cheated on. That way when the fateful day came, and everyone here was sure it would come; one could at least keep their head held high with the knowledge that they had their fair share of trysts, two-timing, affairs and adventures.

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Signs of Troubled Times – Pics From the End To End For The 99% March

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Muhammad Ali

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Hustle Hard…

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

I find it absolutely absurd and at the same time, cosmically comical, that my whole way of being, my philosophy, the very essence of what I am about, could be described or better yet distilled into a saying on the inside of a fortune cookie. Really? But there it was. God has a sense of humor. But it’s true, right now; that little bit of fortune cookie wisdom succinctly describes my modus operandi. One of my mottos is “never not working”, a concept which I heard through Kristoff via his indispensable, informative and insightful blog, Rebel Socialite. Even though it is not correct English, it is on the money. My life is my work.

At the end of the day, coming from where I’m from, I don’t see any other way. My mom came from the Dominican Republic in the early 70’s with nothing but determination, hard work and hustle and was able to make ends meets for her children as well as the extended family. Now that I am a father of 3 beautiful daughters, I see that my grind not only provides financially but also instills a work ethic to emulate.

The word hustle is at times viewed negatively because it is associated with drug dealing but hustle is not about an occupation or a trade. It is about working hard everyday to make your dreams come true, whether you work in a factory or you own the factory. My mom, who is an old-school Dominican woman that absolutely hates drugs, is a hustler. Latinos in general and Dominicans in particular have hustle hardwired in their DNA. Being that I am a Dominican New Yorker from Washington Heights, aka the hometown of hustle, my hustle is on some mutant ish. I will not be stopped. I can’t, I have too much riding on my success.

So there you have it! Get yours or get yours taken. Hustle hard!

I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at ledblackNYC@gmail.com

Confessions of a Sneaker Fiend…

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

My life-long addiction to sneakers began innocently enough with Kangaroos. You remember Roos; those were the sneakers that had a pocket with a zipper on the side. My friends and I would all keep a dollar in there just in case you had to buy a slice or some lemonheads or something. But the first sneaker that really made an impression on me was the Adidas Shelltoe. My older brother, who is ten years my senior, had a pair with the blue stripes. Those sneakers were about 50 bucks, which at the time was a whole lot of loot. They were so beautiful, a work of art in footwear form. My brother hardly wore his new expensive kicks with the fat shoelaces. I remember one day my mother was in my brother’s room watching her novelas (Spanish language soap-operas) when I decided to make my move. While my mom was engrossed with her show, I took the opportunity to deface my brother sneakers with a magic marker. I still don’t know why I did it. Was it jealously because I couldn’t have those beautiful sneakers or revenge because my brother was a big bully? Well anyway, when the shit hit the fan I blamed my cousins instead of owning up to it. Let me tell you, my cousins got the beating of a lifetime. They still, to this day, remind me of the beat down they received at the hands of my uncle.

Once I hit Junior High, P.S. 143 in Washington Heights, I was a full-fledged sneaker addict. My mom knew how important sneakers were to me, so even though she couldn’t buy me new clothes all the time, she kept my sneaker game tight. Every few months my mom would buy me a new pair of kicks. I started to get recognition for my kicks and I was hooked. I remember, I was the first kid in school who had the blue Air Revolutions as well as the blue and orange Patrick Ewing kicks. The Ewing’s eventually got stolen from my locker at the High Bridge Public pool – so I in turn, stole some other poor unfortunate soul’s sneakers so I wouldn’t have to walk home barefoot. The one sneaker from that era I wish I could get my hands on again is the special edition Run-DMC snakeskin Adidas shoe. They were so next level; I was the only cat in the whole hood to have those.

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The Bust Down: Loosies

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Loosie [pronounced Lu-See] – noun

A loosie is a single cigarette that can be purchased illegally in some of the bodegas and smoke shops of the neighborhood. But be warned, if the proprietor of the business doesn’t know you or you look like a D.T. (undercover cop), you will not be able to obtain said loosie.

For the most part, a loosie is synonymous with Newports but a few of the smoke shops also offer Marlboros. Back in the day, when I was a kid coming up, loosies were 10 cents. Now that a pack of cigarettes are like a hundred dollars, a loosie can be purchased for the ungodly sum of 75 cents. Some enterprising individuals are buying packs and selling loosies themselves, just to support their habit and make some money on the side.

Another term that is affiliated with a loosie is a bust down. The bust down is when you give someone else the remainder of your cigarette. The way it works is that as soon as someone you know sees you with a loosie, they will shout out – ” let me get a bust down”. But, now that a loosie costs 75 cents folks are much more reluctant to give bust downs. In fact, people are actually smoking their loosies all the way down to Brownsville, which is the very end of the loosie where the tobacco meets the filter.

Related Words: Loose, Stogie, Cancer Stick

Loosie in a Sentence:

A young man walks into a smoke shop after a long day of work and shouts at the Arab man behind the counter, “Yo Habib, let me get a loosie.”

Dominoes = Dominican Chess

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

If baseball is Dominican’s favorite sport then dominoes is our favorite pastime. In the DR everybody, from the youngest to the oldest, male and female alike, spends countless hours playing dominoes. I like to joke that kids here in the U.S. grow up with an X-Box and kids in DR have a box of dominoes. It is that ingrained in the culture, so it is only natural that the love of the game has continued on American shores. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom and dad playing dominoes with friends and family. Before I could even hold all the fichas (domino pieces) in my hand, I was joining along.

To even use the word “playing” might be considered by some die-hard aficionados as sacrilegious because to them dominoes is not a game – it is more like a science. Dominoes is Dominican Chess. That is how serious some folks take it. To watch a game of good players is to observe a highly sophisticated and synchronized contest of wills and intelligence. Never mind the animated banter, insults and biting humor, these people are really in deep concentration with a laser like focus on the game. The barbs and talk is more of a ruse than anything, another way to keep your opponent off-track. Great players think several plays ahead. They know what each player has in their hands without looking.

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