Music Mondays | Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiement


Blurred genres. Just all vibes and feels. Sounds of trumpets, good base lines and melodies.  I have been really drawn to music lately that is innovative.  Innovative in the ways that artist innovate. Music that turns life into a technicolor dream that dances in front of you and makes you low-key shrug your shoulders while waiting for the metro train to arrive on your morning commute. Music that brings positive energy and vibes to get you through your day.

Music is life. My connection to life is often mirrored by music. So this must be the stage I am in trying to find the beauty in life through the only way I can – through my eyes – through my heart and soul and through the experiences afforded to me because I am alive.

Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment debuted with the album Surf last year. According to a music review done by the A.V. Club, The Social Experiment is a collective of musicians and producers versed in jazz and hip-hop; Donnie Trumpet is the alias of Nico Segal, whose horn is frequently a lead instrument; and Chance The Rapper, while prominently featured, is one of more than a dozen singers and rappers who come and go as any given track demands. From what I have read folks like Migos, B.J. the Chicago Kid, Janelle Monae, B.O.B and more have been featured but we don’t know where or on what track because the album was released for free without features mentioned.

I have been listening to this album for a solid three months and really like the sounds. I have mixed some of the tracks from the album into my regular playlists.

The first song that really caught me was “Sunday Candy” an ode to making love on Sundays.  A romantic, wistful neo-soul almost gospel song that invites us to the church of love making in a very slow and necessary way. Tracks like “Nothing Came to Mind”, “Familiar” and “Wanna be Cool” round out this album in a very eclectic way. This is not a hip hop album even though Chance the Rapper lends his vocals to each track minus nothing came to mind cause as the song title indicates – doesn’t seem like words were adequate for this track.

Check it out if you have not already. This is something I will be bumpin’ into Summer 2016. Sometimes you can extend that new album feel especially for the rooftop celebrations and bbqs.



From the Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter | what we can learn about movement building.


The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was held 53 years ago on August 28, 1963. It was on that Wednesday, 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, that nearly 250,000 people converged on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to demand civil and economic rights for African-Americans in the United States. The March on Washington, as it came to be known, marked an important turn in the fight for Civil Rights because of the enormous impact it had on national legislation and public opinion. Simply put, it proved the power of mass organizing.

The March on Washington eventually resulted in the signing of Civil Rights Act, which was built off of a continuous momentum that allowed for the formation of broad coalitions between labor, civil rights, faith-based and student groups.  The accomplishments of the 1950s and 1960s cannot be forgotten or lessened — they are cornerstone victories in American history. The wave of sit-ins in the 1960s brought the formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The founding of the SNCC propelled the civil rights movement into a new era that drew, fostered and trained a generation of radicals who led the dismantling of racist Jim Crow laws. Without the organized direct action of the SNCC, the world wouldn’t have witnessed the violent and ugly face of voter repression, segregation and overall disregard for Black lives in this country that was demonstrated by the Freedom Rides and the Lunch Counter Sit-Ins. It was this type of direct action that has informed the current resistance movements’ occurring across the country today.


From Ferguson to Baltimore, it is clear that the intensifying repression being directed first at Black communities and then at working-class communities is a direct result of the conscious policy decisions made by powerful interests. The reality is that many urban Black communities are experiencing severe economic and social deprivation that cannot be understood without looking at the cause-and-effect relationship between these conditions – the Capitalist system and processes like “free trade.”

Many of the gains made during the Civil Rights Era were diminished as a result of neoliberal economic policies. The ruling class’ response to the last major crisis in Capitalism was to slash social welfare, privatize and eliminate public services, rewrite legislation to favor corporations, and attack unions – thus, further cementing the need for coalitions between racial and economic justice movements.


The visible proof of these claims can be seen with the deindustrialization and the flight of capital in urban cores. Cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Oakland, and affiliated cities like Flint, Michigan, South Bend and Gary, Indiana, and East St. Louis, Illinois – where Black communities are concentrated – these cities tell the story of the failure of neoliberal capitalism to provide long-term quality employment for workers which has increased the gap between the rich and poor. After the 2008 economic crisis, the economic challenges that faced black people in this country became even more devastating.

The irony here is that neoliberalism was started under the banner of “small government” yet, while the state made slashes to social programs it massively expanded its policing and prison system – a system that has disproportionately ensnared people of color and poor whites. Not only were economic opportunities limited with the exportation of jobs under NAFTA and other neoliberal policies but Black people began to be incarcerated at alarming rates.


Black Lives Matter Leaders: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi

The Black Lives Matter organizers, whom are mostly young Black queer women, have intentionally unraveled the notion of a post-racial America and exposed the pervasive patterns of racism in the U.S. They have also revealed the limitations of the Democratic Party while highlighting the traditional liberal establishment’s inability to respond to the economic and social crises that we are currently experiencing. And although there can be no denial that the Black Lives Matter movement is propelled by the history of the civil rights movement they have their own distinct style that is explicitly more progressive than the non-violent civil rights movements of the past.

The most recent demonstration of this was at the Netroots Nation convening this past July, where Black Lives Matter protestors directly confronted progressive Presidential candidates about what they will do to address the needs of Black people in this country. Specifically, these protestors pushed Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to think about what they will do to not just reform the criminal justice system, but to also dismantle racial injustice in the United States. Shortly after the confrontation at Netroots, both the Sanders and O’Malley campaigns had responses to the protestors that included the acknowledgement that Black Lives, in fact, Matter. That is the power of direct action.

What we can learn from both the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Civil Rights Movement is first, that the what ever movement you are trying to built, it must be situated in the broader struggle for social justice. Without building coalitions and partnerships with other struggles we will get nowhere. As we, continue with any type of movement building with our communities, we will also need to maintain a deeper analysis of how your movement can partner with Black Lives Matter. Worldwide those with darker skin tones have bared the burden of oppression for far to long to not build solidarity to try to advance racial justice in the U.S. In building a larger organized movement,the next step is to move forward a broader agenda of economic, racial, and social justice. By doing this, we further our understanding of how each struggle and movement is linked. We become better advocates for our communities and stronger coalition partners – more equipped to fight for our cause.

Second is the importance of direct action. Speaking truth to power can be difficult but it is necessary. We have a responsibility to keep those that create these policies accountable for the decisions that they make on behalf of our communities. We need to be asking questions of our elected leaders even if it makes them uncomfortable.

Learning from justice movements of the past will help us shape our future and continue to be politically engaged moving forward. If we are able to situate each current struggle in the broad historical context we will be able to create strategy that is building off momentum of the past.  We have the power to change this and move forward an agenda of true equality and justice for all by building coalitions and confronting power head on.


Music Mondays | Raury


Raury [pronounced Rory] is being considered a music prodigy of the next generation. At only 19 years old, he has fused together an interesting and eclectic sound. With supporters like Kanye West, Tom Morello and Big K.R.I.T it is easy to see the wide range of sounds that this young musician has managed to create.

I ran into his music through a random playlist on Spotify named “Happy :)”. One of my secrets to finding new music that I scan playlists on Spotify. If I find a new song I like from a new artist I will go to that artists’ page to see what else they got. Thus far, this method has been fruitful.

The first song I heard by Raury was Friends ft. Tom Morello. Rage Against the Machine was a favorite of mine through my angsty teenage years especially as I transitioned into building my political consciousness at the age of 18 and 19. So to see Tom Morello featured on this track by an artist unknown to me intrigued me.

“All We Need” is the latest album by Raury – it debuted this past October. I am still re-listening to his music and learning to train my ear to his sound. Instinctively, I feel as though Raury’s hippy, electronic, hip hop vibe is a perfect sound match to my personality. I feel very connected to this new sound. It is unlike anything I have heard before , okay, it may exude traces of Kanye, Pharrell and a little Kid Cudi. Artists who usually throw caution to the wind when it comes to their music because for them creativity is king. These artist ignore the “typical” rules of hip hop.

Building upon different sounds, the folksy hip hop rhythms, I encounter with every listen inspires me  to create. This maybe the new wave of music that we hear on the radio. But, what is even more inspiring is the message that is being expelled out of my headphones. From statements about the environment, to black bodies being murdered, to the political climate we are living in, Raury points out the social inequities experienced by young black men in contrast to a whimsical melody.

My favorite tracks on “All We Need” include Peace Prevail, Crystal Express, and Trap Tears. More about Raury in this feature in Paper Magazine. You can listen on Spotify or here’s a sample from YouTube, enjoy!

when you get published

i like to write. i like to read. i want to be an artist in my craft. i want to make the words jump off the page and grab you. i want them to dance in front of you and make you feel. i want to write more than about policy. i want to be dynamic. my first publication is set to come out in the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy this spring and i feel a little weird about it. i am happy. but i feel like this puts more pressure on me to hone my craft not just with research writing but with writing about our community in a real way and in sharing culture with the community. my writings are for my sisters, for my lovers, for my friends those that need to be nourished. publications are motivators.

Music Mondays | Dae Zhen

Dae ZhenIt’s August and my vibe has been mainly neo-soul, hip-hop and r&b. I go through ebbs and flows of music styles and albums that stay on repeat – right now its Jhene Aiko’s Souled Out. In late June, I went back home to the City of Angels and had a cool two week visit where I caught up with old friends, family, and visited my old stomping grounds.

It was around 2 a.m. in Santa Monica when a few old friends met a few new friends. We danced at the beach and then proceeded to take a dip in the ocean [we may or may not have been drinking heavily at a nearby bar.] Shortly, after our late night dip we arrived at my friends apartment. We talked music everything from Miles Davis to Jay-Z.

One of the homies said we had to peep this up-and-coming artist, named Dae Zhen. Turns out Dae Zhen is the homies younger brother. I was skeptical at first. LA is like a breeding ground for wack artists trying to make a name for themselves. But, at 3 a.m. while kicking it on the sofa craving some pizza, ’94 played on the screen,  I heard this sound and saw that face and asked to hear more.

A few weeks later when I returned to DC, I decided I had to listen some more – so I did. I have even incorporated Dae Zhen’s music into some of my playlist’s and sent his tracks around to friends. I downloaded his albums and have officially become a fan.

His sound is one that is smooth, deep, witty and soulful. Somewhere between Childish Gambino, J. Cole,  with a 90’s hip hop vibe. It is hard to believe that he is only 22. His first album – Women and Wordplay – is a great primer into the world of his sound. He has recently dropped another album called Dipset which is just as addicting.

After about a month of consuming everything that he has put out. I can say I fully co-sign his sound –  its everything you want to hear this summer.

Music Mondays| Las Cafeteras “Mujer Soy”

In honor of Womyn’s HerStory Month, today’s music Monday features the East LA band Las Cafeteras. Las Cafeteras formed in 2008 with the purpose of documenting the histories of their neighborhoods through music. They understood the importance of oral history and wanted to continue the historic culture of storytelling. They started as students of the Eastside Café, a Zapatista inspired community space in East LA where they brought the influences of culture, storytelling and poetic music of Son Jarocho, a traditional music style from Veracruz, Mexico. Their progressive mission translates into their music and they seek to honor women and challenge masculine language, by feminizing the name of their group name by calling themselves, Las Cafeteras, rather than Los Cafeteros.In that same vein, Mujer Soy is a song that honors the life and struggles of everyday womyn.

This video captures the everyday life of Maryann Aguirre, a fierce woman of color from the Eastside of Los Angeles. The video follows her as she faces the daily challenges of work, single motherhood, & the pressure of being a leader in her community. However, she faces those obstacles with hope, patience & dignity.

Also, featured in this video is the organizing power of the Ovarian Psycho-Cycles an all womyn’s bicycle collective from the Eastside of LA.

You can download this song by clicking here.

Music Mondays | QUITAPENAS

On this Monday in Washington, D.C., its starting to look more like spring – the sun came out and the snow is starting to melt. I have been craving the sunshine and music that takes me back to the summer nights in Los Angeles.

I just learned about this band from sunny Southern California. QUITAPENAS which translates to “take away your worries” and they did just that for me this week.  Their Afro-Latino inspired polyrhythmic beats whisk you away to an earlier time. Just close your eyes and imagine you are in the middle of a street party surrounded by beautiful brown bodies dancing to the beat of the music. Yes, that is what I think of when I hear the sounds of QUITAPENAS.