Thursday, December 27, 2007

On Felipe Luciano
By, Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani

Just a few points I would like to say about Felipe Luciano. He was not only a member of the Young Lords, but he was also the first Chairman of the Party - when the Lords was at its peak. As a member of the Central Committee, he was perhaps one of the leaders of the Lords who was most in touch with the street folk (as most of the rank-and-file members were from this segment of society); and he most represented them, despite the fact that he was college educated. In addition, Luciano is as much at home with his "blackness" as he is with his "latinidad" ("Latinoness"); and he does that without adopting "African-Americanness" but drawing upon "blackness" within Puerto Rican culture. Also, Luciano at one part of his life (while in prison) was part of the Nation of Islam. Currently, he is a reporter such as is former Lords Central Committee members Pablo "Yoruba" Guzman and Juan Gonzalez, as well as former Lords' lawyer Geraldo Rivera. Out of all of these just mentioned, he (and Juan Gonzalez, columist for The New York Daily News and Democracy Now! co-host with Amy Goodman) is certainly the most involved in the community till today.
I remember first hearing his poem "Jibaro, My Pretty Nigger," as a teenager when my mother would play Eddie Palmieri's LP recorded at Sing Sing.
(See and,%20Vol.%202:1921156099). Once I became conscious, I committed that poem to memory and performed it at the African-American Association's talent show during my senior year in high school. I, of course, had to censor it and take out the word "nigger" out for the facility advisor to the club. It loses its affect and meaning by censoring this word, since, as Luciano explains in the original that "...bloods as we often say in the South, if you love someone, 'that's my nigga,' so it's called "Jibaro, My Pretty Nigger." (See the book
Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy for more on the history of this word and its usage).
On his use of the term "jibaro," as he explained, "You see the thing about jibaro is that he is often consider a hick, but in fact he is the ancestor..." This newer version of the poem from Def Poetry is slightly different from the original. (See Furthermore, Luciano attached the jibaro to it's true roots as the Black maroon of Puerto Rico; by that he opposed the lie (and broke down the hegemony) propagated in Puerto Rico in the 20th Century that the "jibaro" is descended from the large White Spanish population that migrated to the island in the 1800s.
By being one of the original Last Poets, he was one of the original rappers. In that regard, he helped to shape what would be known as the mceeing (rapping) element of the hip-hop culture. For more on Felipe Luciano, from his own words see Michael Abramson's Palante: Young Lords Party. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971).

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