I Love The Shabazz Center!

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

This past weekend, I had the honor of moderating a panel on marketing at a place that is very close to my heart, the Shabazz Center. It is the place where the iconic Malcolm X was slain but conversely it is the place were his legacy lives. To be moderating a panel in that sacred space, hallowed ground if you will, with all those amazing pictures and paintings of that larger than life giant was for me a very solemn and special moment. Thanks go out to NoMAA for choosing me to moderate that panel and to the esteemed panelists.

Continue reading

The Infamous Washington Heights Nutcracker

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

If you know where to go uptown, you can get totally shit-faced for a mere $10. I’m not talking about happy hour at any of the many excellent bars, pubs and lounges of the neighborhood. No, I am talking about the elusive and enigmatic elixir known to the locals as the NUTCRACKER. This is the story of this storied concoction. Many fights have started, many babies have been made and plenty of people have gotten completely and utterly twisted – all because of this mysterious libation. This column will not only reveal the ingredients of the drink but also tell the tale of the person who first brought this potent potion to the streets of Washington Heights and beyond.

Photo: Briana E. Heard

The first time I tried a Nutcracker was back in the year 2000 when my barber, who will be referred to as Fatyul (pronounced fa tuile) to avoid any legal ramifications, offered me one as she cut my hair. Ever the entrepreneur, Fatyul decided to sell the mixed drinks on the side after noticing how well they sold at the Flor de Mayo restaurant on 83rd street and Amsterdam. After obtaining the recipe she began to sell them out of a cooler she kept next to her barber chair. For a paltry 10 bucks you received a heaping 32 ounces of alcohol laced goodness in a large plastic soup container. My haircut that day took longer than usual because almost every other minute someone was stopping in to buy more of her modern day moonshine. I couldn’t care less though as I was mid way through my Nutcracker and I was feeling euphoric. I ended up having 2 more Nutcrackers and needless to say I wound up whispering sweet nothings to the toilet bowl later on that night.

Continue reading

From Monte Cristi To The Major Leagues: Nelson Cruz’ Journey To Baseball Greatness

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Even though I only watch baseball during the playoffs and being a New Yorker I am more of a Yankee fan, this recent article on Texas Ranger Nelson Cruz on the local Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas news channel WFAA really struck a chord. Reporter Rebecca Cruz and crew took a trip to the DR to Nelson’s hometown of Monte Cristi to speak with the family and learn more about his journey to the majors. In the accompanying video, Nelson parents, grandmother and siblings as well as Nelson himself, give you quite a touching look into his rise to baseball greatness. I couldn’t help but choke up when his father tells the reporter how proud he was of his son and is practically in tears. I totally empathize with Nelson when he states, “Everything I am is because of them. They teach me the right way to be, how to treat people, how to be a better person. Everything I am now is because of them.” Amen, hermano – stay excellent.

Click here for the article replete with a poignant video.

By the way, the Wall Street Journal has dubbed Nelson Cruz the new Mr. October for his record smashing six-homer performance for Texas in the American League Championship Series. “Only four other players—Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Chase Utley, and Reggie Jackson—have hit even five home runs in a postseason series.”

Click here for that article.

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

The Uptown Driving Manual: Part 1 – Get Your Mind Right

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Photo: Paul Lomax

This is written for anyone who has either never driven Uptown or those who have but didn’t make out too well. You have to understand; driving Uptown takes a whole different mindset. Whether you’re coming from New Jersey, the Bronx or even other parts of Manhattan, realize that once you enter Uptown territory, using whatever bridge, highway, street or avenue that got you here, you better have your A game, if not, it won’t be pretty. It’s not just the locals and cab drivers you have to watch out for but basically everyone on the road. The UPS dudes, the city bus drivers and even the ice cream truck drivers, all those people drive like maniacs.

The first thing you must do, and this is an important step, as bizarre as it may sound, is get your hands on some really hard, gutter Hip-Hop. Someone like Young Jeezy or Uncle Murder (you have to be gutter if your name is Uncle Murder) comes to mind. Believe me, even if you don’t like Hip-hop, the testosterone-laced music will put you in the right frame of mind to drive Uptown. Make sure you get the explicit version, you’re going to need all the curse words you can get to fuel the necessary fire to traverse the neighborhood. Make sure you put it crazy loud, as in the famous words of my dad, “a to le que da”. Seasoned Uptown drivers can skip the Hip-Hop tunes altogether. A dude like myself, could drive with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony playing whisper low and still handle things. But I digress.

The next step, and again, this is a big one, as it is a philosophical adjustment, is realize that you’re Uptown. You have left wherever you have come from and have entered uncharted territory. The comfort and solace provided by rules, regulations and niceties are in the rear view mirror, so its time to man up. The driving rules that exist in other places simply are not in effect here. Red lights, stop signs, one-way streets, anything and everything is up for interpretation. Shoo, up here, turn signals are for woosies. This is a place, where there is such a thing as a good triple parking. With this handy manual and a little chutzpah, you should be on your way. More to follow…..

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

#OccupyTogether

Heard thru my peoples at The Roy Ayers Project.

As the OCCUPY movement expands to all 7 continents, there have been millions of people who have been inspired, educated, and united through the process. The solidarity in the 99% is the theme for these posters, which are available for download on occupytogether.org where they encourage you to print them out and post them throughout your neighborhood. Here are just some of the posters from occupytogether.org, as they add new submissions each day. Appreciate the beautiful graphic design work as you are inspired by the worldwide movement.

Continue reading

Papa Bear & His Cubs

Click here to see the rest of the pics by Art By Dj Boy.

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

El Pale Part 1 – Los Sueños

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

If you don’t know what a Pale (pronounced pa le) is, chances are, that you are not Dominican. A Pale is any combination of 2 numbers that a person chooses as their pick for the Dominican lottery. Typically, depending on where you play your numbers, each Pale pays $1,100 for each dollar a person plays. So if your Pale were to hit and you bet 5 dollars you would win $5,500. The Dominican Lottery’s range of numbers is from 1 to a 100 as opposed to let’s say the Mega Millions, which is from 1 to 46. Back in the day in the 80’s, Dominicans in New York City only bet on the Dominican lottery on Sundays. Now a person can play their numbers, if they know where to go, any day of the week.

Another thing that has changed with the Dominican numbers game since I was growing up, is that is has pretty much been driven underground. Literally – one of the places that I have played my numbers was a basement that you had to go through a nasty urine smelling alley to get to. Not too long ago, one was able to play their numbers in anyone of the many bodegas that somehow exist in the Heights. Believe me, that’s a whole lot of bodegas. There are about 3 bodegas on each block in the hood. That is no longer the case; constant police harassment has sent the Dominican numbers game, better known as Los Numeros, in the Heights to less conspicuous places. Word of mouth is usually the way a person finds out where they can place their bet. It is usually in the back of a legitimate business, a bakery, a salon or a barbershop. In the corner of said business, there will be an older, sharply dressed Dominican man with a beret on his head (Dominicans called these hats boinas) and a toothpick in his mouth. That’s the numbers man.

Continue reading

Uptown Barbershop Trending Topic: Ismael Rivera

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.

October 5th – This day, however, the barbershop was eerily soundless. Instead of the usual, over the top boom bap of the blaring Latin music, I walked into a graveyard-quiet room full of people utterly entranced by the multiple tv screens playing the same thing. I know what you are thinking, an Uptown barbershop full of Dominicans in October, they must be watching playoff baseball. But no, unbeknownst to me, this particular day was the 78th anniversary of the birth of the incomparable Ismael “Maelo” Rivera.

For those that don’t know, Ismael Rivera aka El Bruju de Borinquen or his more famous moniker El Sonero Mayor, is in my humble estimation the greatest of all of Salsa music’s many giants. While I absolutely adore Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Hector Lavoe and the rest, you simply cannot have a serious discussion about Salsa without talking about Maelo. In fact, arguably the greatest Salsa band of all time, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, originally came about because of the unfortunate break up of Rivera’s and long time friend Cortijo’s band.

Continue reading