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Published On: Mon, Aug 15th, 2016

Let’s Focus On Legacy & Save Brooklyn’s 3 Kings Day Parade

So yeah… my focus lately has been on legacy.

I realize that once I am gone, that is all I’ll have left. I am not alone; I think about the elders. I think of the unsung souls and their contributions via community activisim, the arts, educators, small business owners, those who build institutions, fighting to stay relevant as perfect storms of erasure bear down upon them.

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Tony Rivera and his wife pose for a pic with Jesse Millan in San German Records

Last Thursday, I thought of Radames Millan.

I admit, I do not know much about the man; where he grew up, who he is related to and why he does what he does. I only know him via the cameo appearances he has made in my life periodically over the last 25 years or so as I walk in his store to buy, music, art, t-shirts and lots of coconut candy.
But I thought of him last week when my good friend and fellow creative Sarah Serrano, posted a link to an article from the Daily News referring to what’s become an unfortunate “turf war” on Moore St between the new residents and the those who have lived there for generations. Apparently, the dispute is about the Salsa music that has been streaming out of the same storefront that it has for over 4 decades! The new neighbor, what one might identify as a “hipster” or a “gentrifier”, created conflict when she started complaining about the noise, forcing Radames to endure a an ongoing series of court battles to retain the right to do what he has done for years in a neighborhood that has always loved him, until now.

 

This conversation admittedly is about gentrification, but only to an extent. It is also about accountability.

This is the reason that Papo and I created Capicu Culture.

Students From The Capicu School of Poetic Arts pay San German Record Store a visit in 2014

Students From The Capicu School of Poetic Arts pay San German Record Store a visit in 2014

You see, when rumors started circulating about new arrivals wanting to rename Graham Avenue and strip the neighborhood of the honor bestowed upon them (when?) on the naming of the avenue, “Avenue of Puerto Rico”, Boricua Facebook went ballistic! Post after post went up. People were appalled by what has happened to the neighborhood; many of them people who are currently struggling to keep their homes against a wave of organized displacement. We first heard of this disrespectful movement to erase the identity of the community at the Capicu Culture People’s Open Mic, when Maisha Morales, a local activist with deep ties in Brooklyn, was actively working on fighting this threat to Graham’s cultural integrity.

Before long we were back to watching World Star videos, clips of cute cats, and the latest political and celebrity chisme. We got lost in online debates about everything under the sun, forgetting about Graham Ave, Moore Street, Don Radames and San German Records. We forgot to preserve our legacy.

Over the next 3 years, fewer of us visited his store to buy CD’s as Pandora, Spotify and Itunes have replaced the traditional in-store music purchase. Many bought their PR Flags from street vendors wherever they set up conveniently located tables along the street, many of whom are not Puerto Rican but know what sells in early June. We have less musicians in the neighborhood, so the congas started collecting dust. (One day last week?) I walked into what was once a burgeoning dedication to our beloved island empty store and I asked Don Radames what happened.

His response made me to straight Facebook live; the video that went viral.


Don Radames didn’t even really talk about his store; he talked about how sad he was about the Three Kings Days Parade he has struggled to put up year after year to counter our erasure in the community, potentially coming to an end in 2017. He told me about politicians that promised money and only gave him 20% of what they committed to at the last minute, causing him to come out of pocket. This, all coming from a man who is already barely making it and who has seen the community slowly disappear at the checkout counter.

So I made the video to show you an empty store; a store full of things that make you proud but they do not belong to you because you have not made your way to his store. This store has more product than most souvenir shops on the island and yet we buy cheap knock off shirts from makeshift vendors with no history in this neighborhood.

The reaction has been overwhelming. People from all over the world (Yes, I got a message from Taiwan) telling me stories about their childhood trips to this store. One man who said he was brought to tears, urging me (like many have) to start a gofundme account so that we can save the Three Kings Day Parade. The countless Dominicans, Colombians, Costa Ricans, Panamanians and other Latin Americans who reminisced on listening to the beautiful Salsa music as they made their way to the store to buy pilones. I went into the store two days later, to find a store full of people. Don Radames’ wife and son working the store to help customers who had seen the video and came down to give Radames some support. A guy named Tony Rivera who came down to the shop on Saturday from Staten Island, pointed at me, gave me a big hug, “You are the guy from the video”. In fact, after I greeted the group of shoppers, Don Radames looked at me with a smile, “Diste un palo con ese video!,” and I swear I almost cried. I saw hope in his eyes.

That sounds good and all but is not over yet.

As I write this, the video has garnered over 165k views, 4,100 shares and 2,100 comments almost unanimously of support. I want to prove what can happen if we turn ” ragingslactivism” into action. I want to state for the record that I have no financial interest or arrangement with San German or the Three Kings Day Parade, but I would love to see them thrive to the point where they can hire me to take all of this to the next level.

Shout out to the Mommy Elf for stopping by and spending back to school money on Forecitas and Brazos Gitanos!

GET INVOLVED!

So the website is in the works… I know that many of you have been asking, I promise to let you know when that comes to life.

I am putting together a marketing team that will help the 3 Kings Day Parade come to life once again.

(want to volunteer? email me at 3Kings@SofritoMediaGroup.com)

I urge you to stay connected to our Facebook page to get updates on our work with San German and for opportunities for you to get involved, keep our traditions alive and create a success story that can be replicated at small mom and pop shops all over the country. Remember, we are only talking about one business in one neighborhood but this is happening everywhere.

I hope you will stand with us. Help us preserve this parade.

 

Check Out This Video of PapoSwiggity Talking About Gentrification

Abrazos.

George Torres.

The Activist Formally Known As Jibaro

(I bought my Purple Rain LP in San German in the 80’s)

Edited by Jani Rose 😉

Let’s Focus On Legacy & Save Brooklyn’s 3 Kings Day Parade