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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I Love Platanos!

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

This poem was conceived while I was at a resort in the Dominican Republic a few years ago, feverishly fiending for some Dominican food. It is only so much “international food” one can eat, especially when you are on Dominican soil.

It is a bit over the top with Shakespearian overtones but that is how I felt at the time.

I Love Platanos – An Ode to Platanos

Oh Platano, how we Dominicans love you
You are forever welcome at every Dominican table whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, entrée or dessert
You delight in all your incarnations; maduros, tostones, asado, mangu or mofongo
Can’t forget the pastellon or the platano con azucar or any of your many variations
I even had a fresh off the boat cousin who made Platano juice,
Umm umm umm, Delicioso
Your versatility never ceases to amaze

Oh Platano, how we Dominicans love you
You are the constant companion, the faithful friend of all Dominicans
Without you, rice, beans & meat is just rice, beans & meat
Who would eat Salchichon without your accompaniment?
You are the muse of all Dominicans mothers

Oh Platano, how we Dominicans love you
Woe be to those who refer to you as green Bananas
That borders on being racist
Bananas are bananas and platanos are platanos
I’m also not too fond of the term Plantain
Words tend to lose meaning when they become anglicized

Long Live Platanos!!!

I Love Platanos is an excerpt from my upcoming book, DR Travelogue.

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

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.

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