Monday, June 30, 2008

I Love Cows But Not Beef

During this summer, you won’t catch me in a barbeque eating a cheeseburger, or in a baseball game eating a hot dog, or in a fast food restaurant eating a chicken sandwich. And it’s not because I’m foreign to these environments, it’s because I’m a vegetarian.

Mainstream culture dictates that we consume unprecedented amounts of meat, but—unfortunately for them, and fortunately for me—I’m not conforming to those standards.

Since becoming a vegetarian, I feel freer; I feel that my relationship with this beautiful earth and its gorgeous creatures has strengthened.

But those around me seem tenser, acting as if they have to compensate for my meatless meals.

I don’t want people to think of how I’m suffering since my diet is different, I want people to think of how
animals are suffering since their diet is the same.

The virtues of compassion and social justice, which spiritual leaders the Buddha and Jesus preached, aren’t limited to human affairs. Moral decency is about how we treat each other, as well as how we treat the environment and animals.

Instead of being a sheep like most of society’s members, I lead. And I lead not because it’s the cool thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do.

As Gandhi eloquently said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I’m doing my part…are you?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hip-Hop Thru Her Eyes

The following is a heartfelt response to “Hip-Hop Thru My Eyes.” It was brilliantly written by my girlfriend, Ury Jerez. She reiterates some points I made and introduces her own reflections into the Hip-Hop discussion:

I completely agree with you Christian. Hip-Hop definitely “captures the soul and the struggle of the people of the ghetto.”

It has served as a tool for today’s generation of African Americans (and other minority groups) to portray the adversities being faced by people in the underprivileged “ghettos.”

Although Hip-Hop has been greatly criticized for its violent lyrics, artists such as Tupac Shakur have, indeed, used this form of oral communication to raise awareness about problems that affect the African American community.

In songs such as Words of Wisdom—which happens to be my favorite one of them all—Tupac openly discusses different forms of racial oppression, in addition to explicitly blaming the “system,” or government, for the inequalities among social classes. This song will always and forever occupy a very special place in my ipod.

And Tupac's music should certainly “be studied in classrooms, along side the sonnets of Shakespeare and the poetry of Langston Hughes.”

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hip-Hop Thru My Eyes

One music genre captures the soul and the struggle of the people of the ghetto: Hip-Hop. Indeed, it has often glamorized violence, drugs, guns, prison, and sex; it has also degraded women and homosexuals.

But amid the commercial garbage—which is willingly sold by white record executives—is beautiful art that articulates the rage, the plight, and the perseverance of minorities.

Unfortunately, however, most people are only exposed to a glimpse of what Hip-Hop truly is. They, therefore, come to believe that it is simply misogynistic, materialistic, and narcissistic.

When judged through the white supremacist lens, Hip-Hop is merely a product of a cultureless, disturbed group: young black men. The truth is, however, that artistic geniuses such as Tupac Shakur and Nasir Jones compare to the likes of the white worshipped Mozart and Beethoven. To objective listeners, the difference between these musicians is not quality but context.

Although Tupac grew up in a fatherless, poverty-striken home with a crack addict mother, he created music that transcended racial and socioeconomic lines, revealing unyielding truths about life, and vividly describing the world of underprivileged, disenfranchised individuals.

While clearly a virtuoso, Mozart lived in, as black intellectual Cornel West would say, “a deodorized, manicured world,” giving him a pronounced advantage over contemporary African Americans economically, socially, and psychologically.

In retrospect, it is incredible how some rap artists produced such amazing music when marginalized by their society and neglected by their government.

Since their impeccable lyrics paint pictures as descriptive and meaningful as Van Gogh's drawings, works like Tupac's
Me Against The World and Nas' Illmatic should be studied in classrooms, along side the sonnets of Shakespeare and the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Brief Introduction

First and foremost, welcome to my world; I thank you for joining me on this exciting journey.

This medium will be used to express my views on politics, culture, society, and, more generally, life.

The origin of my blog’s title
“The Ghetto Times”is simple. One part stems from my love of The New York Times, which I read daily. The other part stems from how I see the world: through an intellectualized, ghettoized prism.

My perspective
with all its flaws, contradictions, and imperfectionsis grounded in liberalism, rationality, and the ideals of the Enlightenment.

Yet my perspective also stays true to where I’m from: two Dominican parents, public school education, poverty, welfare, crime, section 8, and, most recently, divorce.

Ultimately, I plan to fuse these elements in order to provide the audience with an uncensored version of my experiences and viewpoints.

Finally, it is noteworthy that my blog will be updated frequently
most likely, twice a weekand even more when my life is in eventful stages.

Your feedback—random readers, friends, and family members—is of upmost importance to me. Be honest, direct, and critical!