Welcome to Born Bicultural USA

Born Bicultural USA is a blog for curious thinkers to gather for a constructive and respectful dialogue on racial diversity in the United States.  The purpose of Born Bicultural USA is to gain understanding through sharing.

I believe this dialogue is valuable because: 

  1. Biculturals can feel misunderstood and even isolated
  2. Everyone has a fundamental desire to be understood and included

From my first breath, I encountered an existence that has been Hispanic and American, Black and White.  Balancing these colors and cultures has provided a unique experience.  I’ll share mine.  Please share yours. 

Note: You don’t have to be “Born-Bicultural” to contribute to this important dialogue.  All curious thinkers of every color and culture are welcomed. 

For a list of blog topics being discussed on Born Bicultural USA, please click here.

FATHERHOOD AND THE STRUGGLE

Father's Day

Fortunately for many fathers, the path has been straight, solid, uninterrupted. I’m sure you have your challenges, but for the most part, you met The One, got married, have healthy, gorgeous kids and share your photos on Facebook. You deserve your due. Here’s to you, the Facebook Father, you lucky son-of-a-gun. Cheers!

But I know many fathers whose pictures never make it to Facebook who also deserve a recognition all their own. On days like today, I can’t help but to think of:

The dad who had to hire a private investigator to find his kids when they were effectively kidnapped and taken across state lines without dad’s approval. That pursuit lasted years. You found them. It hasn’t been easy, but that father-son love is present today and that’s what matters.

The dad who lives on the east coast while his son lives in the southwest with his mother’s new family. I know you’ve tried hard to be that awesome father despite the time and distance. Your relationship with your son seems a bit icy now, but I trust that your efforts will be recognized and your bond with your son reestablished.

The dad who was married twice and took both of his ex-wives daughters as his own. They both recognize you as their father because that’s exactly who you have been and will forever be. Your testimony amazes me. Your love for your daughters is nothing short of inspiring, and they love you right back. There is no “step” in your fatherhood.

The stories go on and on. These dads will never boast about their story. They are humble like that. They just father hard every day, often in the face of less than ideal circumstances.

Big ups to you fellas who quietly go about your business of caring for your children, often without enough recognition and appreciation. Happy Fathers Day.

A JERSEY BOY’S LOVE LETTER TO SOUTH FLORIDA

Dear South Florida,

Originally from the shadows of NYC on the industrial northeast edge of New Jersey, when I first washed up on the shores of your young region, I was a young teenager. I was an ambitious lad with a chip on my shoulder. You were an ambitious region with a chip of your own.

It was the late eighties and your only local college football team at the time was dominating, Dan Marino was rewriting the NFL record books, and you were still accepting logo suggestions for your upstart NBA team. South Florida, you seemed like the place to be. I immediately noticed your buzz. Everyone appeared to be excited a lot of the time. I wasn’t sure exactly why, perhaps the yearlong warm weather, or the college national championships, or the 2 Live Crew, or the loud colors, or the beaches, or…whatever the reason, people were moving from one good time to the next.

After Cuba but Before Miami, There Was Jersey.  Photos from NJ and NY, From Late 70's thru Early 80's. Includes my sister Lourdes, my parents and my abuela.

After Cuba but Before Miami, There Was Jersey. Photos from NJ and NY, From Late 70’s thru Early 80’s. Includes my sister Lourdes, my parents and my abuela.

Don’t be upset South Florida, but I recently returned to North Jersey. It was just for a visit, though. Like you, the immigrant stories of struggle-to-success are all over my hometown. I drove down Morris Avenue in Union, NJ, which runs along the perimeter of Kean University, the third largest state school after Rutgers and Montclair State. It’s grown soo much since I used to drive by their campus as a kid. More buildings. Bigger buildings. It’s presence looming large along Morris Avenue. It’s clearly not our father’s Kean anymore. It’s a new day for Kean and North Jersey. Like us here in South Florida, they are going through growing pains. Kean is currently at the table with state and local governments as well as big-pharma (the pharmaceutical industry is huge in New Jersey and own their fair share of land). Kean is negotiating for increases in space to expand their physical footprint and the transformative opportunities higher education institutions are suited to provide. As a staunch believer in education as the most powerful tool to uplift society, I’m pulling for Kean.

Kean University of New Jersey

On my way back home to you, South Florida, I could not help but to draw some parallels with your own public institutions of higher learning, anchored by FAU (Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton) to the north and FIU (Florida International University in Miami) to the South. The public university offerings here in South Florida are impressively and rightfully better today than they were when I arrived to start high school here in the late eighties. I check into your FIU, my alma mater, with regularity. A drive, bike ride or stroll down the west end of Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street) in Miami, reveals this grand, dynamic, sprawling public research university bustling with energy, creativity and intellect standing tall. The people coming and going are speaking every language conceivable. The tapestry of ethnicities is beautifully woven across the university as it is throughout much of your region. In short, it’s clearly not your father’s FIU anymore. It’s a new day for FIU and for you, South Florida.

FIU - Home of the Panthers Modesto Maidique Campus, Miami, FL.

FIU – Home of the Panthers
Modesto Maidique Campus, Miami, FL

I am grateful to my North Jersey upbringing because it taught me early that everything worthwhile must be earned and education and hard work are keys to a better tomorrow. As for you, South Florida, I’m thankful to you for soo much, including, but not limited to:

• EDUCATION: When I arrived, I didn’t have a high school diploma yet. Now, I hold multiple degrees from Miami’s excellent state university. Thank you, South Florida.
• ECONOMY: When I arrived, I hadn’t held a paying job yet. Working at the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop flea market with my mom on weekends and at the Lou-Al Thrift Store during the week, the small business my parents owned, was more a labor-of-love and strict compliance with parental authority than anything else. Now, I lead my own growing business in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. Thank you, South Florida.
• ENTERTAINMENT: When I arrived, we cheered for the Seikaly-led Miami Heat to bring us that elusive first NBA win in franchise history, which came 18 games later. Now, UD, Wade & Bosh have hoisted the NBA Championship trophy multiple times. Thank you, South Florida.

Heat Lifer

Miam Heat. From Rony Seikaly to Dwyane Wade. What a fun ride. #HeatLifer

We’ve come a long way, South Florida, and the best is yet to come. You are bigger, better, faster and stronger than ever before. I’m doing my best to keep pace and trying to help others do the same.

I guess what I’m saying is…I love you, South Florida. You’ve made me better. I will do all I can to return the favor.

(Deep Humble Sigh)

What’s your “Thank you, South Florida” story?

40 For a Day (Top 10 List)

According to the Social Security Administration, my life expectancy is 81.9 years.

For the class of 1974, we’re effectively at the halfway mark of life, the end of Act 1. We’re at intermission (I’m looking at you Derek Jeter, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Jimmy Fallon, Eva Mendes, Penelope Cruz, Susan Osorio, Andy Señor Jr., Danny Pino, Fernando Horta, Dennis Whittinghill, Gina Giordano and the rest of the distinguished class of 1974).

Today is my birthday. For a day, I’ll have been alive for 40 years exactly. As of tomorrow, I start living my 41st year on this fascinating marble we call earth, Lord willing.

On this 40th year of life, let’s call a time out, take inventory of where we are, what we’ve learned in Act 1 and where we want to go in Act 2. Here’s my (sorta) top 10 list of things I’ve learned from Act 1, in no particular order:

  1. Not everyone from Act 1 will make Act 2, and that’s okay. Learn, love and move on.
  2. Some of the most interesting folks you may ever meet are in your future.
  3. Almost nothing lasts forever, nothing. Don’t fight it. Embrace change.
  4. Chill, zoom out and appreciate the awesomeness of now.
  5. You’re in control, so take it. Success is largely a decision.
  6. Forgive. Haters gonna hate. Hate may score a few points, but love conquers hate.
  7. Love those that love you.
  8. Love those that don’t even know you. It makes for a healthier planet.
  9. Throw the rope back over the wall and help others.
  10. The best is yet to come.

For those of you who played a meaningful role in Act 1, thank you, truly. Good, bad or ugly, I’m a better person because of you.

Act 2 begins now…and I’m pumped. Image

ap

Run, Son, Run! (RIP Trayvon Martin)

Dear Alberto Jr. and Andres,

I love you but have failed you, my sons.

I’ve taught you a few ideals that have proven to be…well, idealistic.  Tonight, minutes after finding out that no one will pay for the tragic death of your peer, teenager Trayvon Martin, four previously held ideals were challenged:

1)   Mind Your Business

2)   Don’t Initiate Trouble

3)   If someone brings trouble to you, defend yourself

4)   If someone kills someone else, someone has to be held accountable

Boys, we live in Florida. Trayvon lived in Florida. Trayvon was a teenager.  You two are teenagers. Trayvon was a minority.  You two are minorities.  Trayvon died a senseless death.  No one was held accountable.

So let’s learn from this, boys.  You are not allowed to hold your ground.  You are not allowed to defend yourself.  Minding your business won’t save you.  Not initiating trouble won’t matter.  By the time your little five-year-old brother is your age, we pray things will be different.

So here’s the updated lesson: If you’re followed, even if you’re just out minding your business, run, son, run!

Screenshot_2013-07-14-09-29-00-1

When in Rome, Do You

Roll Tide! Go Irish! Roll Tide!! Go Irish!! Roll Tide!!! Go Irish!!!

The chants echoed loud and proud on this early January night in Miami.  40 THOUSAND Alabama fans packed the house.  Another 40 THOUSAND Notre Dame fans filled out the balance of Sun Life Stadium.

Sun Life BCS

So there I was, the odd fan out, wearing my FIU school colors, gold and blue.  As I walked around the stadium before kick-off, the atmosphere was charged.  Both fan bases were dreaming of a championship glory and both were definitely having tons of fun supporting their respective school.  I wanted in on the fun.  Despite some early hesitation, I decided to purchase a t-shirt.  I figured “when in Rome.”  Besides, the t-shirt would be a nice memento of my first ever national championship game while at the same time allowing me to join one of the team’s infectious enthusiasm.

20130107_192458

I couldn’t purchase an Alabama t-shirt because that team was lead by Miami’s public enemy number one, Nick Saban.  So that left Notre Dame.  I overpaid for their shirt, put it on and did a lap around the stadium prior to kick-off.  The next thing you know, Notre Dame fans from every direction are chanting “Go Irish” and confused by my lack of participation.  I just couldn’t do it.  I’m not Irish. My only connection to Notre Dame is the fact that their school colors are similar to my alma mater’s colors.  I went from FIU odd-fan out to Irish imposter.  To add insult to injury, Notre Dame got rolled by The Tide of Alabama.  So much for joining the fun.  The lesson: when in Rome, do you. From this point forward, any gold and blue I’ll put on will belong to the gold and blue of FIU.

                                                           Go Irish Panthers!

IMG_20130107_182937

The Land of Misfit Souls

Born Bicultural USA

“Is he down?”
Growing up in North Jersey and later in Miami, that’s the question I would occasionally hear as people searched to understand what’s up with the new kid.
Looking back, what they really wanted to know was:
  • Should we accept him?
  • Does he accept us?
  • Does he fit?
  • Or is he a misfit? misfit. misfit…
Makes ya wonder: Am I, are you, are we…misfits?
Dr. Brené Brown, Social Work Researcher and Professor at the University of Houston, suggested in her popular TEDx Talk that:
Brene Brown - TEDxHouston
“(Human) connection is why we’re here. Connection is what it’s all about. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The ability to feel connected is neurobiologically…why we are here…Shame is the fear of disconnection.*”
So if the point is to connect, what connects us? Is it our race, religion, ethnicity or any of the host of ways we organize, slice, dice, label and segment…

View original post 97 more words

The Land of Misfit Souls

“Is he down?”
Growing up in North Jersey and later in Miami, that’s the question I would occasionally hear as people searched to understand what’s up with the new kid.
Looking back, what they really wanted to know was:
  • Should we accept him?
  • Does he accept us?
  • Does he fit?
  • Or is he a misfit? misfit. misfit…
Makes ya wonder: Am I, are you, are we…misfits?
Dr. Brené Brown, Social Work Researcher and Professor at the University of Houston, suggested in her popular TEDx Talk that:
Brene Brown - TEDxHouston
“(Human) connection is why we’re here. Connection is what it’s all about. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The ability to feel connected is neurobiologically…why we are here…Shame is the fear of disconnection.*”
So if the point is to connect, what connects us? Is it our race, religion, ethnicity or any of the host of ways we organize, slice, dice, label and segment each other?
If like me, you are fortunate to share meaningful connections with folks from a broad spectrum of races, religions, ethnicities, etc., I suspect that your ability to connect may stem from two key factors: (1) shared experiences, and (2) open, curious and respectful minds regarding those experiences you don’t share.
In this land of misfit souls, we may all never fully fit, but if we understand and respect our universal desire to better connect with each other, we all may fit together just fine…and that makes you down in my book.  How ’bout yours?