Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who we? We Filipinos: Jacksonville Pinay/Pinoys represent (Part II)

Jacksonville's Filipino Pride Day behind the scenes crew. Jo Alvaro center in yellow, David Garcia in black. Photo credit: Jeff Enriquez.

This is part II of reflections on Jacksonville's first ever Filipino Pride Day (FPD), which occurred on June 20th. Below, I am pleased to present some very special guest interviews. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend FPD, so I asked a few questions to some bruthas who worked in the trenches of FPD--they experienced the sweat, grit, and grime, but also the smiles, joys, and satisfactions of this huge community project. I grew up with these fooz, so I trust and respect their unique perspectives and reflections.

Below, David and Jo comment on the Filipino community in Jacksonville, their immersion in the community, their involvement in FPD, the future of FPD, and hip hop! Good job my brovas!

DAVID GARCIA- Filipino Pride Day Stage Director

I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I got involved with Filipino Pride Day through a family friend, Audrey Aviles. I got assigned the task of “Stage Director.” I am so happy with the turnout, the volunteers, and the togetherness. I couldn’t ask for more.

I’ve always hung out with Filipinos growing up. When I went to college at the University of Florida, I got involved with the Filipino Student Association. FSA held events and meetings and of course parties that were always packed. It didn’t matter if you were Filipino or not, people loved going to FSA events. Some of the big events were Def Talent Jam and Barrio Fiesta. DTJ has maintained its hype throughout Florida and the southeast for close to 20 years (shoutout to Walter!). It is a dance/band/vocal competition pulling talent from all over the South. I was lucky to not only help plan it during my college years, but I also given the opportunity to host it in 2003 (DTJ: Royal Rumble).

The Filipino community in Jacksonville is strong in numbers, spread out, and consists of multiple groups/associations/clubs/crews/barkada. This is why FPD was so successful. ALL of the groups got together and did something as one. In all of my 27 years living in Jacksonville, I haven’t seen something that beautiful in Jacksonville. We Filipinos, Inc. (led by Rosabel Hill), the nonprofit organization that put the event together, moved mountains. Folks from high school, college, young adult, to senior citizens pulled together and found this common bond. Parents got their kids while kids got their parents involved and it was sick (meaning good)! Being involved with this event made me see how Filipinos are intertwined with different levels of the community.

FPD has so many people not only thinking about next year-June 12 (from what I hear). But thinking about how we can bring our people together. Its creating an answer for kids who ask, “Who am I?” Something like this will change Jacksonville. It will change how people see Filipinos. More importantly, I hope fellow Filipinos will appreciate each other more. It will encourage other cultures to do the same. Jacksonville isn’t a place where culture thrives. But it will be. Volunteering and working with people you never worked with before, and seeing what you can create or be a part of is an amazing feeling.

Everybody was at FPD. From kids running though the fountain, to lolas with their fan in the shade, families with teenagers. People came from Gainesville, Virginia, Tampa, Orlando, and Georgia. The crowd was definitely mostly Filipino, but white, black, Hispanic folks came thru as well. It didn’t matter if you were preppy, thugged out, urban, or wearing a duster. People were constantly flowing in and out.

I’m still excited about FPD two days later. For a first event, the bar is extremely high for next year. From an audience perspective, I haven’t heard one negative comment. I had an awesome team of close friends and folks I just met. The emcees keep everything moving very well and their energy was up until the end. I don’t know how they did it. The performances were high quality. DUUUVAL has got some talent, son!

Vanessa of Systematics gettin funky

Hip hop is strong in Jacksonville. Systematics is an up and coming crew that has the potential to be on ABDC. Believe me. They would rip it up. Crème de la Crème always brings it. They are the reigning champs of Def Talent Jam. Rap groups Ultimatoz and 4Pnoize represented performing songs in Tagalog. Most people cannot make it look or sound as good as these guys did. People that didn’t know what they were saying were bobbing their heads. They made me proud!

FPD will be around next year. Chismis has it that it may be a 2 day event. Who knows? I think Jacksonville and its surrounding areas have so much talent that it has potential to be as big as Los Angeles’ Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture. I want to thank all the stage hands and volunteers! You made this event a success!

David and Jo troubleshooting. Whew!

JO ALVARO- Filipino Pride Day Stage Direction volunteer

I first got involved in Filipino Pride Day when I was approached by Sherwin Estanislao of 24VII Entertainment and World Martial Arts to participate in on-stage performances. After some thought, I opted to help behind the scenes since I had no training in Filipino Martial Arts (that and I’m fat and don’t wanna take my shirt off in front of a crowd lol). I met with the FPD staff for the first meeting at Fickle Pickle and went from there. Also, I visited a close friend of mine in L.A. who encouraged me further to join in and help out with FPD. After seeing the folks and culture on the Westcoast, I was inspired.

Sherwin Estanislao vending for 24 VII Entertainment

I was born in VA Beach, VA and moved to Jacksonville, FL in 1991. I can practically call myself a Jacksonville native, being here a good 19 years. When we moved to Jacksonville, FL the Filipino community was very far from what we were used to compared to Va Beach, but we were pleasantly surprised at how many Filipino families were in our first neighborhood we moved into (Monument Oaks). The area we are located in JAX is a lot of Navy families, due to the close proximity of Naval Station Mayport.

Some years passed and my family joined an organization called "Couples for Christ." My siblings and I were a part of their youth program, "Youth for Christ". The organization was largely Filipino and mirrored that of the Fil Am organization we were a part of back in VA Beach.

The Filipino Community in JAX has long been spread apart, and in some cases completely disconnected, due to various factors. (Large city, different class, different origins, etc.) From my experiences the community is split up mostly by location … ex: Westside, Orange Park, Mandarin, Southside/ Arlington, Beaches/ Mayport, and now the ever-growing Northside community.

Although there is a large number of Filipino families in Jacksonville, I have always sensed a separation from these sides, to some extent or another. I think an event like FPD is critical to uniting the Filipino community in Jacksonville. Having participated in "Fil Am Friendship Day" in VA Beach when I was younger, the results are wide spread in bringing Filipinos of all different provinces, classes, sides of town, in one meeting place to enjoy in the celebration of their culture. It is especially important to have an event like this, in a place like the Deep South, where it is rare to see Asian influences, let alone Filipino culture, anywhere.

The division of the Filipino community I spoke of earlier, seemed to diminish when the event went on. We weren't Southsiders or Westsiders anymore…we were all Filipinos who lived in Jacksonville enjoying a day together…celebrating all things Filipino. FPD was truly a break through and a positive step forward, not only for the Fil Am community here, but for the city as a whole.

For me, I paid attention especially to the generation that came here in the late 80's/ early 90's and moved from places like LA, Va Beach, or even straight from the Philippines, those people who grew up in a Jacksonville where there were no events like this but kept their heads up in hard times of finding their own identity. I could only think of how proud they were standing there with their children in their arms and watching a Filipino on stage at the Jacksonville Landing.

For being the first ever event of its kind in North Florida, the showing was huge with head counts in the 10,000s at peak time (6pm count by Landing personnel). The vendors were selling, the public was buying, the performers were rocking, and the Landing was bustling with families and people of all types.

As for the hip hop acts, my cousin Vanessa Bautista rocked it with her crew Systematic but unfortunately I was not there for her performance. I did catch 4 Pnoiz do their thing which was very cool.

I am more of a Bboy, and there was talk of bringing linoleum to the event later on in the night for an open cipher in front of the stage BUT the music after the performances was mostly of the Electric Slide variety and Todo Todo.

I would just like to thank those who stepped forward and made this event possible, from the volunteers, to the sponsors, to the groups who performed locally and from out of state. Every element making this event happen was so important and made it a success.

Click here to read PART I of this topic

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Who we? We Filipinos: Jacksonville Pinay/Pinoys represent (Part I)

When you roll thru Duval, you fidna roll dirty. Noon crowd watching Ridgeview High School tinikling at Jacksonville's first ever Filipino Pride Day. Photo credit: Jeff Enriquez.

Creme de la Creme prove they can rise to the top at Jacksonville's Filipino Pride Day. Photo credit: Jeff Enriquez.

May I offer you a Chiquita banana and a chocolate superbaby? Click to enlarge.

It is with extreme pride that I write about my folks in J-Ville... Duuuuuuvaaaal... the 904. Jacksonville, Florida, the town where I grew up, hosted its biggest Filipino gathering--Filipino Pride Day (FPD)--on Saturday, June 20th at the Jacksonville Landing by the St. John's River in downtown. This supposed location of the first landing of Euros on the continent served as the space for the largest and first-ever Northern Florida Filipino festival (not provincial or faith-based). Tampa has been for 14 years hosting the impressive PhilFest event, but remains inaccessible for many Filipinos who live far away from Tampa. So, for Filipinos and friends of Filipinos in Jacksonville (and also parts north of Jacksonville, such as Georgia), FPD played an important role in forming community and creating cultural spaces for a historic Filipino demographic in Jacksonville that may very well be the largest in the state.

From polynesian dances, a fashion show, R&B groups, "traditional" Filipino performances, and hip hop acts, FPD delivered on its promise to bring the very best and very diverse mix of Filipino talent. Organized by the non-profit group "We Filipinos, Inc.," FPD also hosted an array of food and merchandise vendors as well as provided free health services.
The news article on the left provides more detail about the event, where performers, organizers, and participants endured 100+ degree sticky Florida weather. It was a historic moment for the Filipino community, and many of my close friends and family helped out and participated. There is talk that it will become an annual thing. Let's hope so.

Listen, festivals are not perfect. As with the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC), we see the heroic amount of energy, time, and dedication to organize a large-scale event. On a side note, FPAC is looking for Filipino talent to apply to perform at the 18th Annual FPAC! Bambu is the program co-director (my position last year)! Every year, these events can be improved on in terms of logistics, organization, leadership, and especially budget.

As for FPD, it is only in its embryonic stage, so I cannot wait for it to grow, mature, and serve as a productive and constructive venue for the Filipino community in North Florida. All Filipino festivals develop through a process of drama, all subscribe to elements of cultural essentialism (often offensive/silly to actual indigenous or Muslim people in the archipelago), and all will not please every single community leader or participant. But it cannot be denied that these spaces provide crucial centers for developing a sense of pride, dignity, and community for a people (especially young people) who have been denied it. This is so important in a place like Jacksonville, where Filipinos are extremely scattered geographically, generationally, labor-wise, and socio-economically.

If FPD becomes more and more successful, it would contribute to my faux-controversial article here, which argues that today more than ever we have opportunities to go from "Fobby to Fly." Yall always been fly, now FPD can be a venue to express that flyness! I will be interviewing some folks who helped out with the event in upcoming posts.

For now, here are more pictures courtesy of the talented photographer, local Jacksonville Pinoy, and legendary local DJ, Jeff Enriquez:

Duuuvaaal! Handle it.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

That link to Juneteenth

Tomorrow many in the U.S. will be celebrating "Juneteenth." I just thought I'd throw some interesting notes about the holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas in 1865...two and a half years after the official Emancipation Proclamation.

From Juneteenth.com:

"Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863."

It is worth mentioning that some folks are advocating for making Juneteenth a national holiday, with Congress passing a number of acts signifying the importance of the holiday.

The material, epistemological, and cultural connections between Filipino history and Black history is something that deserves more attention. So in honor of Juneteenth, I'm gonna throw around a few significant moments in Filipino/Black history, which weaves threads around emancipation and Juneteenth...
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896):
This U.S. Supreme Court ruling justified the separation of Blacks and Whites. This decision legally, morally, and culturally justified subsequent actions taken by Whites in their treatment of Blacks and other non-Whites. In short, Whites were thought to be set apart for a more glorious destiny...separate from Blacks, Mexicans, Asians, Natives, etc. (Thus anti-miscegination laws, "colored" schools, and anti-Asian immigration exclusion laws). By distinguishing the "other," subordinating of people of color would define meanings U.S. citizenship, white humanity, white labor, etc. Two years after the Plessy ruling, the U.S. would occupy the Philippines and wage war, genocide, and attempt to "domesticate" Filipinos, as they attempted with newly freed Black slaves in the U.S.

Philippine-American War (1899-1910ish...):
This began the U.S. colonial project in the Philippines. Along with Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawai'i, and Cuba, the U.S. tried to become a player in the world of imperial powers...at the expense of Brown lives. Ignore the 1902 ending date of the war as indicated in Wikipedia, cuz it lasted way longer than that (still occurring today?) The repercussions of U.S. occupation is apparent today, with many Filipino immigrants who work as nurses or navy servicemen, a diaspora phenomenon reflective of agreements between the U.S. and Philippine elite. Oh, not to mention the Visitors Forces Agreement.

Instruments of Empire. Buffalo Soldiers in the Philippines. From SFGate.

A Moment of Coalition: Black and Filipino Resistance during the Philippine-American War:
David Fagen was an African American Buffalo Soldier in the Philippines who defected from the U.S. army and fought on the side of the Filipino resistance (insurrectos) against the U.S. colonizers. A few hundred Black soldiers joined the Filipino freedom fighters, and here is a neat book describing the family of an Afro-Filipina descendent of a Buffalo Soldier.

Carter G. Woodson:
Noted as the "Father of Black History," Woodson actually served as the Supervisor of Schools in the Philippines. He describes some of his experiences in the Philippines, as similar tactics of "educating" Filipinos were used on African Americans. After his role in the Philippines, he wrote the book "The Miseducation fo the Negro" and inaugurated Black History Month (which started as Black History Week). Here is an excerpt of a bit of his biography from the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia:

"Woodson described a similar phenomenon in the Philippines where U. S. teachers trained at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Chicago, failed repeatedly in their efforts to teach Filipino children, all because they did not take into account the alienating materials of instruction...It was pointless to concentrate “On the story of how George Washington always told the truth,” he continued, for teaching Filipino children to read from books based solely on American myths and heroes would never prove successful. Woodson readily complicated these positions by suggesting that no “people should ignore the record of the progress of other races … We say, hold on to the real facts of history as they are, but complete such knowledge by studying also the history of races and nations which have been purposely ignored.”"

I know I've written about these topics before. But today seemed appropriate to return to some hidden history. Filipino history not only intersects but can be seen as flowing within the same circuit of "non-Filipino" histories. Why do people insist on keeping history so bracketed and separate? Maybe yall can enlighten me on that. I'm sure the answer(s) are complicated and contested.

Rock-rock on.
Good clarity on the Juneteenth myth. I agree:

"The Truth about Juneteenth" in the Grio
"...What Granger's proclamation mainly tells us is just how provisional freedom remained after the conclusion of the war. The promises of the Emancipation Proclamation were not only delayed in the state of Texas. Indeed, freedom was not guaranteed until the 13th Amendment passed, and even then, freedom proved to be provisional."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back to the New School--free album!

Picture taken by Ryan Andres
Click on images to enlarge

Now they dun did it! B-Roc and the folks at Turbulence Productions been steady on the grind with this one. And today they drop "Back 2 the New School" as free regalo for you. Get ready to learn your lessons. A review coming soon. (Congrats yall!)

"June 17, 2009 -- 12 MIDNIGHT. We now bring you BACK 2 THE NEW SCHOOL. A collection of songs penned, conceptualized and produced in 2 weeks. New songs by your favorite independent artists, as well a track from Singapore based Filipino MC Kwizyne. Enjoy this download, we will bring you a behind the scenes (video and pictures) of this release next week. Below are two links to download this release."


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Amber rocks the island beat

Amber, "Taas Noo"

Fil Am artist in the Philippines, Amber Davis, has a new single out called "Taas Noo," and the bruthas at SoulSonic have posted up about it in celebration of Philippine Independence Day (June 12). The song is about being proud and keeping your head high even though the homeland is "ghetto" and not under the most privileged circumstances. The song is pretty raw and is packed with positive, proud lyrics. And Amber not only sings (with a hint of auto-tune stylization!) but spits a hard rap-like chorus. Filipino emcee Gloc-9 laces the track with some fast, mind-dizzying Tagalog lyricism.

Like SoulSonic says, you can DL "Taas Noo" from Amber's website, but only for a limited time. (Hopefully we can still play it on embedded blogs? Prolly not.) You can also listen to samples of her other songs. Dang, who makes the beats? What! AND, she can sing way better than lotta folks on U.S. radio today. (And no, her other songs don't use auto-tune). Lovin the Pinoy talent comin out...Rewritin history without a pen...let the story begin.

It's really neat finding out more and more about "urban" music in the Philippines. Tagalog rap is just the tip of iceberg. We can't forget how R&B and club knocks always parallel hip hop's movement. I guess we've come a long way since "Bebot"!

"Taas Noo" is a banger. Interestingly, it uses the very popular, hand-clapping, crowd pleasing Caribbean beat from "Never Leave You" by Nuyorican singer Lumidee. (Is there a freestyle music connection somewhere here?)

The ever-present Filipino-Puerto Rican colonial funk conexion has struck again! Please read Pro Brown's enlightening write up about Philippine Independence Day here. Aye!

Lumidee: "Take me to the Philippines, where platanos are wrapped and deep friend".

How Sweeet? Part 2

Speaking of Fil Ams in ads, the good folks at SOULFIESTA got me hip to this AT&T ad with DJ Neil Armstrong. The JabbaWockeez got electrolytes, Neil got megabytes.
Also, picked up Neil Armstrong's new Sweeet Part 2 from Fat Beats. As always, Neil delivers a clean and innovative mix of your favorite jams from today and back in the day. Not my most favorite of his mixes, but yall can blast it in your ride or at work. Cabbage patch in yo cubicle. Jerk at the gym. Hollow back in yo Honda. What have you.

For some reason, Neil got a knack with remixing Alicia Keys songs. Remember that Alicia Keys, Beres Hammond, Al Green mix in WarmFuzzy? Those first 4 minutes deserve an award. Sweeet Part 2 remixes "No One" with a Little Brother beat.
Jam tracks for your listening lobes. Click to enlarge. Via Culture Kings.

UPDATE: Interview with Neil Armstrong on BakitWhy:
Artist Spotlight: DJ Neil Armstrong

Monday, June 8, 2009

That's G, for JabbaWockeez

Gettin paid. And full of electrolytes.

Anyone catch the NBA Finals last night? The JabbaWockeez made a cameo in the Gatorade "That's G" commercial. That's kind of a big deal..

They made an appearance in other Gatorade commercials, side by side with Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell, among many other legends. This commercial probably showed during other big events, no doubt.

From dancing with Shaq at the All-Star Game to these "G" commercials, the JW's bossin.

Who woulda ever thought that hip bruises and holey socks would eventually...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Crooks and Rooks wins/That's gangsta!

Just want to send a quick congrats to Bambu, Patricio Ginelsa, AJ Calomay, and the rest of the "Crooks and Rooks" crew for winning the mtvU "The Freshmen" weekly video contest. I guess we'll be seeing this hot music video on steady rotation on mtvU this week. What happened to the music on regular MTV? Well, looks like mtvU, although not exactly perfect, is providing an outlet for indepedent artists and filmmakers, giving us new, local music that MTV used to provide. Outsource that shit... hey, I guess whatever works.

Bambu did an effective reaching out campaign through email blasts and website posts. This shows the extensiveness of his network, and perhaps the formidability of a Filipino hip hop generation? That's whats up. I even got my students to vote, so hopefully that helped a little.

If you haven't watched the "Crooks and Rooks" video, then you should peep it soon. In the video, Bam flashbacks to the early 1990s in Los Angeles, giving a glimpse into the drug trade and ganglife of young Filipinos in the area. This is an often overlooked part of Fil Am history, for one because many people who don't come from these parts are understandably disassociated from that history. And two, perhaps we tend to delegitimate a very real (and integral) part of the Fil Am experience for all of its violent and negative connotations. But gang culture (and its derivatives--"party crews," and so on) along with hip hop culture are woven threads in the fabric of our history.

Lakandiwa de Leon ("Filipinotown and the DJ Scene") and Bangele Alsaybar ("Deconstructing Deviance: Filipino American Youth Gangs...") have written about Fil Ams and gang culture, and note (especially Lakan) the intimacy between gang culture and the growing hip hop scene.

Would hip hop among Fil Ams be the same without gangs?

Some might remember John Castro's (of The Debut) mockumentary "Diary of a Gangsta Sucka", which is a satirical film about the glorification of gang culture among "safe" suburban youth. Not just isolated in the inner city "hood," as many of us know, ganglife also thrived in supposedly pristine suburbs (in whatever region of the U.S.), signifying the role of sociality of gang culture among young Fil Ams. Lakan and Bangele talk more about that, and Bambu definitely speaks about the productive organizing structure of gangs.

Hey, not the most beautiful or peaceful part of Fil Am life, but it's still part of Fil Am life.