All posts by Bohemia Chronicles

But words though..

Ask me any day what kind of music I like, and I will tell you hip hop. Don’t ask me if it’s old school or new, but know it’s definitely not that mumble rap and it’s certainly not Migos. I’m currently loving “Clipping.” so check that out, but to be warned don’t listen to it too loud, the afro-futuristic, electronic, sci-fi sound is definitely a lot to take in the first couple of times. Hip Hop has always told a story, and that’s what I love. The feeling of completion at the end of the song is so similar to finishing a book.

And that’s what it is meant to be. Hip Hop and Rap are forms of storytelling, it comes from the voices of people otherwise not heard. Those in urban, disadvantaged communities found a way for their story to be told and it started something so great in music. Hip Hop is a revolution in itself. It is something that can take the old and re-brand it and shape it into something new. Need an example? Take a look at Hamilton. No one aside from historians, could be bothered to care about Hamilton until it was revitalized, and modernized into an amazing musical, from then on everyone wanted to know about the life story of Alexander Hamilton, and those who know the music can tell you what Hip Hop has done to assist in the renewed interest in the Revolutionary War era and the interest and understanding of the Political system. The songs from Hamilton do so much more than convey the story and feed information. It breaks down the barrier of time and makes the characters, our Founding Fathers, relatable. I myself, am very much of a Lafayette, at least according to the “Which “Hamilton” character are you?” quiz on Buzzfeed. But when listening to the album you get a sense of how each respective character is, and what they stand for, and their developmental arc throughout the musical. Hip Hop has a way of telling stories that eliminates the frills and it gets down to the bare bones.

The next best thing about Hip Hop is it allows the tough stories to be told. So many claim that Hip Hop is violent but that isn’t always the case. In terms of the older hip hop, or the more true hip hop, it’s the story again. It’s the experiences of a person, so if that person has seen someone get shot or had to deal drugs in the past that is their way of expressing it and coping with it. Hip Hop has a very psychological element to it. Think on this for a moment. Those who come from good backgrounds are able to afford the necessary mental care and treatments after a traumatic event, those in underrepresented and disenfranchised areas are not given the same resources. When someone goes through something traumatic an emotional outlet is needed. Some paint, some exercise, some make clay sculptures, but when these options aren’t available to you the best you can do is verbalize your feelings. One truth of living in the underrepresented areas, is there is a large population of minorities, mainly African Americans and Hispanics, and if there’s one thing these cultures have in common it’s their proclivities for rhythm and beats, and musical talent in general. So one is able to take the pain or joy of their experiences and combine it with their culture around them and make music that tells their story. They can heal through this process.

I love spoken word. I don’t believe I’m any good at it, albeit I’ve never tried. Spoken word is the root of Hip Hop, it has no music behind it, it is raw and emotional and life-changing. There is something so amazing about the art of speech that true spoken word artists have. One thing that should always be minded is the fact that spoken word is more than speaking. Which sounds confusing but the reality is almost anyone can speak but those who have mastered spoken word, have the talents of understanding inflections, and flow. Spoken word isn’t on paper and thus it focuses less on how the words look and more on how they sound. To every spoken word piece there is an ebb and flow that makes every listener feel something, the back and forth creates such an auditory pleasure that when you find the right piece you feel like you could start change, that you alone could create change and it sometimes only takes 2 minutes to listen to. A two minute revolution and revitalization. Every spoken word piece I have heard sounds like the artist is trying to sell me something and at the end I will always buy.

Hip Hop is something that can cause change and those in power are aware of it, and to help this come full circle, here’s a fun fact. Currently in Russia, China, Thailand, and Turkmenistan Hip Hop and Rap is being used to assist the respective Government’s draw younger crowds, encourage voting and spread the political parties agendas. Whether the youth and general public agrees with them or not, there is something to be said for the effort that it would take. But in all of these countries Hip Hop started as a way to disagree with the Government and begin revolutions and form change, it was all based on the underground communities and was almost banned in many cases. Until the Governments decided to wield that verbal weapon against them.

We are currently living in a world where, in my honest opinion, good music is hard to come by. It’s all very perfectly primped, and polished, and has an aesthetic that it is not trying to stray from. Many artists sound so similar they might as well be the same person. But Hip Hop is something that is able to stand the test of time. It’s in a rough spot right now thanks to SoundCloud rappers, but true to it’s form it get back up and finishes the story. It stays as a way to express opinions and tell stories.

Blindspotting
Start at 2:22
Black Panther/F*** Batman
Accents

The Trouble with Passing

Hi, My name is Shannon Murphy. Born in Ceiba, Puerto Rico and I call Luquillo, Puerto Rico home. I was raised between there and Pennsylvania. I am a Taurus. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. I have a Bachelors in Psychology. And I am Latina. But I am also passing. Now for those of you who don’t know what Passing is. Here’s the Urban Dictionary Definition, “When a light-skinned person is so close to the white race, it seems¬†as if¬†that person is white.” And in the current state of the Union, life is without a doubt easier when you are lighter.

Now Passing comes with a series of benefits that I take advantage of, even sometimes unknowingly. These benefits usually stem from White Privilege. A matter that is very divisive and that many people try to avoid talking about, to the point where after reading some of the definitions I have decided to not even include it because it would’ve just stemmed a troll war. But any way…What are these benefits?

Well for starters, when I speak Spanish, the remarks from the Caucasian race tend to be something along the lines of “Wow, it’s good to speak two languages. How did you learn to speak it with no accent? Did you study abroad?” Versus when my darker mother, or even ethnically ambiguous sister speaks Spanish they get the response, “This is America, speak English”

Another? When I’m in the mall, and the alarms go off, no one questions me, security hasn’t ever been called and I’m told it’s just a machine error and to have a good day. But when this happens to someone darker, they get to be pulled aside, security comes around, and have their bags and receipts checked.

Or my personal favorites, the joy of being able to wear dreadlocks, or a head-wrap without a problem. Getting to dress up the way I choose, with big door knocker earrings, and F*** Me Lipstick, in a plaid shirt, leaning like a Cholo, without a second glance. While those who pass by would say that I look “bohemian”, “exotic”, “ironic” and “Urban” cause they think they may have seen Kylie Jenner wear the same things. While those with more melanin are questioned on their cleanliness, their affiliations, their religion, and their legality. I get to be tattooed and not have anyone question the ink for the way they look, for their meanings, are they gang related? No, they’re expressions of me. But for other Latinos, they could mark you as a banger.

Because I am passing, no one really questions my ability, my prerogatives, my reasons for doing anything or being anywhere. I am just simply allowed to exist when I want and where I want because I am Passing. But I try to be vocal for those that don’t have these privileges in the least white-savior way possible, cause at the end I am not white, I don’t identify as white, and I will never identify as white. I am Latina, I was raised with Spanish music, eating Spanish food, asking for “bendiciones”. When I was sick, I got vaporub, when I was bad I got “La Chancla” and when people commented on my hair I was told I was lucky I didn’t have “Pelo Malo” even though that isn’t a thing . I have explained plenty of times that I know my privilege. I am a light skinned Latina, who speaks English with no accent, and my code-switching is at the top of it’s game, and my name is violently Irish causing no immediate conflicts.

The fact that I can be abundantly open with my emotions and never really have to check myself. I can say borderline whatever I want, and criticize however I please and when I am critiqued, I will be judged by what I have said and nothing more. My race will not be a factor, the way I speak will not be a factor, and the color of my skin will not be a factor. I will not be labelled as the “Crazy Latina” or the “Feisty Puerto Rican”.

The trouble with Passing is the fact that I am given privilege that others deserve more than me. Minority stories and experiences have value and should be heard and the fact that there have been numerous times in which that story has to come out of the white filter to be accredited is simply wrong. Minorities want to be a part of the narrative, they have worth, and lessons that can be learned through them. So when one is told that their experiences aren’t enough and aren’t valued until the white community has decided to validate them, well that is infuriating.

The problem that affects me most directly is I have the privilege to exist in two worlds but never fully in one. I could make my life easy and pass forever, take full advantage of a system that will be in my favor for the foreseeable future, but my roots are too strong for that, I stand with my people through thick and thin as they have for me. But when I come to exist in the Latino world, there’s always something just not 100% right about me, like a photocopy where the ink ran out and a small piece is missing. My name will continue to keep me sticking out like a sore thumb until I say my mothers maiden name and remind people “Soy Berrios”, with the rolled “R” but then sure enough at any party they may ask me to dance, and I love dancing, but that’s when Murphy comes out and my legs don’t connect to the ground in the right time, with the same rhythm and in the same tempo as my partners. Having dancing partners walk away from me because I don’t know how to salsa correctly, or dance bachata, I can’t even manage a simple two step. It makes me obviously the Gringa, and then comes the name calling, being Gringa, Blanquita, y Guera. When that happens I don’t know what to do. When I get harassed about being Latina, I can handle that. I have every fact down, and every rebuttal at the ready. But when I am called White, I feel myself shrink, I don’t know what to do or what to say because in my head I’m not white.

That Raza isn’t me. I benefit from the case of mistaken identity no doubt, but that’s not who I am. Soy Boricua, y esto es todo. But as long as I will continue to be am exception to the rule, and I continue to pass, best believe I’ll use that privilege to be the speaker for those who can’t. Because in the Trump-Era, the minute an accent is detected it quickly becomes discredited; when a foreign name is involved then the story behind it and the experiences are null and void, when you aren’t the perfect shade of white your voice and the mic you hold runs the chance of being turned off.

Until the day comes where every voice is heard the only advice I have is never be complicit, stand up, make yourself be heard. If you claim to be an ally do so in the fullest sense of the word, share the burden.

A las Mujeres antes que yo.

I’m bored.

“Pues pontes a limpiar.” “start cleaning” My inner (mother) voice goes. I look at my surroundings, take out the trash, organize my counter space, and fold my blankets. I look at my laundry, I just did it yesterday but the trick with laundry is it’s never truly done. So I take it the bathroom and start the hand-washing process, filling the buckets with water, adding the detergent and fabric softener, I tie my house dress up to stop it from getting wet( y asi tu sabes que soy una mujer viejita) (and that’s how you know I’m an old lady), and I assume the position, squatted aside the buckets taking my dirty laundry in hands and scrubbing them against each other.

I laugh, if my grandfather could see me now. Laundry day was a day of excitement for him when I lived in Puerto Rico, mostly cause it was the only day he would ever see me clean. He truly believes that I’ll never find a man because I don’t like cleaning and according to him I couldn’t keep a house to save my life…or keep a man. It’s a very antiquated thought process but it’s how he was raised.

Then I start thinking about his mother. Abuela Candita. I’ve never met her, only seen pictures and heard stories. Apparently she was a hard-ass, and I can believe it. The one picture of her that hangs in my grandfather’s house has her in what appears to be the living room, with an expression that just says “Atrevete.” “I dare you”. I think about how she must’ve looked when doing the laundry the way I am now. I wonder if she had a machine or had to do it by hand, and if my memory serves me right I think she had to do it by hand, going down to the river and cleaning whatever laundry she had and hauling it up, then hanging it in the Caribbean sun to dry.

Then I think of my other Abuela. Abuela Carmen. She had four daughters so I wonder if this process was more work or less, women are typically expected to take on the chores in a Latino family. But still, was it the same process?

Abuela Carmen and Myself

At this point I am almost done the laundry, but still thinking on the women before me. My Tia Nilda says the women in our family are Amazons, I’m never sure if she’s referring to the way we are built or our personalities. But I know she means our strength, both physical and mental. The women in my family are incredible, each in their own way, I look at my direct bloodline and I have my triathlete madre, my world-traveling, highly educated Abuela, and the matriarch of our family, the woman who started this line, my Bisabuela Carmen. My grandfather says that I will continue the line of strong women, he says that I remind him so much of my Abuela that it’s crazy, and he says Abuela Candita would’ve loved me for my strength.

And now the laundry is done, it’s hanging to dry in the Thai sun. Maybe the next time I’m bored I take a hint from my grandfather and just watch the day and listen to the birds.

Or just take a nap, like mom