- Posted August 10, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Everyday racism: Your stories
Everyday racism: My stories
Through all my life, I have seen racism in all ethnic groups. I am puertorican so that makes me American citizen. But no for been American citizen they see us equal. I had a really bad experience with a immigration officer coming back to USA from Colombia in Orlando, Florida heading back to Puerto Rico. I handle the immigration form to the officer and he told me why did I write living in USA when my address is in Puerto Rico. I told him that the forms don’t ask for an address, it apply for countries and wrote USA. He told me in a very despective way that Puerto Rico is not USA. I told him to read my passport where is said clearly Puerto Rico, USA. I ask him when he travels to Puerto Rico if he will be treated differently or as a second class citizen. He fold the passport and handle it to me in a nasty way. I remind him to not forget history of the civil right movement and the dream of Martin Luther King “All man should be treated equally”.
I was inspire to write the story of Twinkle: Nobody can still my dream; writing about been treated as a second class citizen, despair for being poor, rejected for the color of the skin and even being bully.
The story of Twinkle (Centellita) is part of my message so we could open are eyes that this is still happening in United States and in the whole world.
Let’s stand up tall and should to the whole world to treated each other’s as equal.
This a boy called Twinkle; his name was not a positive thing because in his country “Twinkle” is a meteor fallen from the sky or very noisy lightning. Actually, it was not that he was a bad boy but, rather, that he did not allow anyone to trample him.
Centellita was despised, not for being mischievous but for being extremely poor. He grew up in the Bronx, NY where everybody was poor and he was the poorest of the poor. He was not permitted to play with the other kids.
The mothers would tell their children “Don’t hang out with Centellita because he is going to be thief and a drug addict. What’s more, he is going to end up in prison at a young age but not you. You are going to be doctors, engineers, lawyers; so don’t you gather with that boy.”
I ask the reader if at eight years of age you are told such negative things, how would you end up in the future? According to psychologists, bad. Centellita, however, had something very special: he was a dreamer. What do you think was going to happen by prohibiting the rest of the children to play with him?
Like all children, the would always manage to be together but whenever the mothers saw them together they would shout, “I don’t want you playing with my boys because you are going to be a junkie, a thief and you’ll end up in prison. Not my kids; they are going to be upright men, doctors, engineers, lawyers… They cannot share with your kind. Furthermore, you are filthy. Look at yourself; your sweater is torn; you live from welfare and we don’t.”
Centellita would reply, “I don’t know if I’m going to be a doctor, a cop or the President of the United States and that I live from welfare but I’ll never be what you say. I promised my mom and I am a reliable man. Some day I will take her away from this poverty and I will not lose my dignity. I swear it.”
Some conviction, Centellita had! I wanted to be like him. Even today, I want to be like him because at times I get discouraged for lacking convictions. His mother did not know what was going on; he hid it from her. He did not want her to get in trouble with the other women for he knew her temper. Nonetheless, just like everything under the Sun, sooner or later it is discovered.
Some time thereafter, his mother decided to move back to their homeland where Spanish was the official language. Centellita did not know it because he only spoke English in the Bronx and did not attend a bilingual school there. In his home country he was registered in school because his mom, of course, wanted him to learn something. Despite being dyslexic, she had expectations about her son’s education.
One day, in a classroom, the teacher asked him to read something and he replied, “I don’t know how to read in Spanish.”
And in front of the whole class, she yelled at him, “What are you, a retard?”
Another name; first, thief, junkie, a prisoner to be and, now, mentally challenged. What else could a child be called? Surely, some would probably say I crawled. But no, he always kept the promise he made his mother so she would be proud of him.
At twenty-one, in a pastry shop or bakery, I don’t know how it is called in his country, he met the teacher who had called him a retard. You know that children’s faces change but that of teachers’ do not, hence, the teacher did not recognize Centellita and he said to her, “I want recite you something.”
Serene beach that envelopes its offspring with light, such brilliant task.
Its sand conquers the most deserted skin,
The sea with its majestic beauty influences some greatness.
The sky covers your skin and mine for it is a witness of your warm surface.
A small tree of abundant foliage seems a pristine and shiny castle.
Determined feet that walk on the sand,
Determined hands that hold hard.
Words that come out and only the soul hears within.
It is the simple language that conquers your face.
The teacher replied, “What is the matter with you sir, are you mad?”
“No. I am that retard in your Spanish class that could not read nor write. Now, I am a poet and a writer.”
She did not excuse herself and it was the best thing she could have done. Since her comment was like the fuel that impelled him to learn how to read and write.
Years later, Centillita decided to go visit his old friends, the “doctors, engineers and lawyers” he left back in the Bronx. He went around the whole neighborhood en reminisced of the good and bad moments but focused only on the good ones because he wanted to enjoy summer in New York. While walking along a block he came across one of the mothers that did not allow him to play with her son; she turned pale and, trembling, said, “You’re not dead?”
“Dear madam, I am very well alive!” said I.
“You are Centellita, aren’t you?”
It had been years since he was last called by his childhood nickname.
The lady goes on, “But, aren’t you in jail?”
“Don’t insult me; I am a respectable man in my country.”
Centellita inquired about her son, the doctor, and she paled again; shaking, she told him that her son had passed away. He thought that, as physician, he had been assaulted and murdered but she said, “No. He died of AIDS in prison.”
He looks at her and embraces her with pity thinking of what had happened. I don’t know if he ever thought of me but I did. I had a lot of memories of him when he cried as he saw his mother shake me. The boy only wanted to play, as all kids do. The advice he got was good but the examples were bad.
You know what the difference between the two boys was? That no one could rob Centellita of his dreams.
The day a human being allows others to rob his or her dreams, would be the day they stop being human. God gave us the power to dream!
Do you want to know who Centellita is? It’s me.
Felipe Rivera alias Centellita.
OBSTACLES ARE TO BE OVERCOME
My life has been established on overcoming obstacles, at times, taller than me, but not by being so they have stopped me. When I was a year and a half old, Manolín González, my grandfather from Playa Ponce (Puerto Rico) had a fishing boat that caught my eyes due to its flashy green and yellow colors. It was tied to the dock close to (Marta González’s) my mom’s wooden house. I wanted to sail on it but there were several obstacles to subdue. First, my mother would not allow it; therefore, I would have to escape without letting her see me. The second one was that the boat was tied with a knot that only fishermen can undo and I was too young to know. Third, boats at the dock, after being untied had to be pushed and mounted almost simultaneously.
Well, I overcame the first one. I threw sand in my mom’s eyes; not literally, just that she did not see me leave the house. Then I untied the boat. How? I don’t remember, but I did it. The last and most difficult task was yet to be accomplished: push and mount at the same time. Here things got difficult for me. I began to push but I did not have enough time to get on and I ended up hanging between the dock and the boat. My fingers, so small, were slipping as the boat slowly kept on its way. I held hard onto the boards with fear of drowning. As I began to slide off, I thought it would all end there because I was weary from hanging and the water was already up to my neck but a very strong hand pulled me up. It was my uncle, Pedro Juan González (Pijuan), god sent, because I do not remember how he showed up or having yelled for help.
Today, I understand that when one less expects it a friendly hand appears. Not only did my uncle save me but, years later, he taught me how to sail and row properly. Those three obstacles are the first that I remember. The first two, I overcame on my own but for the third one I needed a helping hand. So, it is neither bad nor foolish to let someone lend a hand; even more if it is someone in relation with our future or our life.
In some things, I compare myself with this character. And it is how we handle obstacles and worries. You know? Centellita was despised a lot for belonging to a needy family. Many people even thought that he would end up in jail but he promised his mother that he would never cause her any sufferings of the sort. Once he went through an embarrassing situation in which he would be booked and that he would cast aside his promise just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Centellita was with some friends searching for rejected toys in the garbage of a store near his house in the Bronx. They were all very happy with their bags full of defective toys that, nonetheless, would accomplish their main purpose: to play. Nearly there, at a few steps from home, a patrol car stopped and giving for granted that they were thieves, the policemen began to holler that they were officers and to freeze. They got scared and ran but their paces were no match for the tall and athletic cop that caught and pulled on him. Crying and kicking, he yearned for freedom as he thought of his mother. What would he say to her if this cop would take him to jail even if he was innocent? He tried to explain but he was only mocked; he was held so tight by the shirt that his breath was being shut off. The only thing that came to his mind was to kick him in the shin and he did. He managed to get loose but not for long. He was caught again but this time harder making the boy cry more. But, as always, the helping hand appeared; a young lady who babysat whenever his mother went to work explained to the policemen where the toys had come from and the kids were set free.
Many times, due to a misunderstanding, someone can steal our dreams. The policeman did not know about the promise Centillita had made to his mother nor that he had sworn to be an upright man. That officer could have ruined the boy’s life due to a simple misunderstanding. Thus, he did everything he could to free himself. Kicking was a good means of defense and it gave time for the babysitter to see him. At that time, she was the helping hand.
Obstacles are not ends but a motive to prove that we are capable of vanquishing them, over and over again. Even if we must work in a team: the helping hand.
Publicado por Felipe Rivera