#VLPowerSummit: NYC Leadership Tour Kick-off Event, Lemon Andersen and Establishing History Through Personal Stories and Poetry [Exclusive] [Part IV]
This is a continuation of #VLPowerSummit: Voto Latino Launched it's Four-City Leadership Tour in NYC on April 11-12, Exclusive Interview with CEO Maria Teresa Kumar [Part I] ; #VLPowerSummit and the #VLInnovatorsChallenge: Voto Latino's President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar Shares the Development of the Tech Contest [Interview] [Part II] and #VLPowerSummit: Breakfast Plenary, Business and Community Leaders, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and Unidos Latinos [Exclusive] [Part III]
Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr. exited the stage at the Voto Latino Power Summit on April 12, and Voto Latino's CEO and President Maria Teresa Kumar thanked Diaz for his powerful and well-chosen words before she called up a man whom she simply called Lemon.
Sometimes credited only as Lemon, Lemon Andersen (born Andrew Andersen) is a Tony Award-winning poet, spoken word artist and an actor, who was an original cast member of "Russell Simmons' Def Jam" on Broadway, and he has shot four films with Spike Lee. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the 39-year-old Norwegian/Nuyorican artist has become well-known for his contributions, teachings, spoken-word and theater appearances. Spike Lee introduced Andersen's play "Country of Kings" in New York City in 2009, and since its debut, it has appeared on three continents. His newest book, ToasT, was commissioned by the Sun Dance Institute, and was put on by the public theater in 2013.
"I follow in tradition of Nuyorican poetry... has anyone ever heard of Nuyorican Poets Café? Anyone ever heard of Piri Thomas? Jesús Papoleto Meléndez? Sandra Maria Esteves? Those storytellers and poets... I take honor and respect when I follow in that tradition. I take pride in the Nuyorican Poets Café. So, I'm gonna share some stories, now, if that's alright?"
Andersen began his first selection by stating, "I want to introduce you to my mother, Mili." Andersen's mother, Milagros "Mili" Quiñones, was a Puerto Rican-national, who died from complications of heroin abuse and AIDS. The poem began, however, by focusing on Lemon and the changing climate of his neighborhood, observed by the fact that the famous arcade that he used to play hookie at now sells eggnog lattes during the winter. It highlighted pre-9/11 observations, old UNIQUE boutiques, Goldman Sachs, daydreaming of Battery Park lifestyles and putting up with the "punkness of a Park Slope sycophant repertoire" and "Redhook school zone bullying," and so much more, including Coney Island moments and his mother's sassy Puerto Rican-style rhetoric. Andersen conveyed his mother's ability to flaunt her five-feet of tough tenderness and rare proud/less Puerto Rican.
My Mother Millie is 5 foot full of tough tenderness a rare proud/less Puerto Rican By way of a Campo called... http://t.co/Ihclj46w4r
— lemonandersen (@LemonAndersen) April 23, 2014
Andersen, who hosted a workshop, entitled "¿Y tú Quién Eres? - Sharing the Story of Self" on Saturday morning (April 12), followed that poem with another; but Andersen first commented on his dedication to offering workshops and enabling writers to better share stories. He remarked, "No, I didn't graduate from Harvard or Yale, but I teach at them."
The second poem was about his abuela, and stated that all those with grandmothers were expected to understand the words. The poem is so quick and curt, however, that it is over before it can truly be treasured. The third poem began, "For Rosie Perez..." and proceeded, "The day Rosie Perez showed her disco-tight, lightening hips and Mama Africana lips in the opening credits of 'Do the Right Thing,' I knew the truth: that the Nuyorican soul will be immortalized in the pictures. I sat there in the Bensonhurst dollar movie matinee next to Vinny and Jackie Boy, stuck at seeing somebody that looks like my sister. Front and center; Public Enemy-rattling Bedford-Stuy backdrop, crunch-peddle, brownstone, horn-blaring, Professor X colored... Rosie's doing this for us. She was dancing like she owned that vinyl purse."
"Vanilla-dipped-in-chocolate," Rosie would become a poster on bedroom walls because her ever-enticing presence would demand it, the poem informed. He noted that in Brooklyn: Puerto Rican and Dominican and Black love went way back... "like Dominicans in the Middle Passage." The poem then evolved, mentioned the flavor of those who he's closely related, "the true united colors of Benatar." In his words, he named a cousin who went by Chino with an Asian persuasion; a grandmother who was Black enough to own forty acres and a mule; and a cousin who was white enough to know obscure verses from easy listening ballads.
PHOTOS: Voto Latino Power Summit 2014 in NYC: A Decade of Celebrating & Empowering Latinos
He powers on to talk about how his people are the best dancers; and how touching the swaying hips or behinds of Latina women would result in juevos being lost. He remarked that he hope that those women make it out of the ghetto; and he also dwelled on Latinos having a reputation for partying like "we don't play," prone to raiding baby showers and "starting a party in your hallway." The poem concluded with the simple and fierce statement, "to be Puerto Rican is to be fly, but to be Boricua is to be flyer." Andersen's unique humor and mid-90s Brooklyn tone has prompted an interest in the artist, and has earned him a devout following. Accolades-on-accolade can't nearly account for the presence and passion of the three-time felon and freshly aware artist, who happy shares his upward journey, which has been marked with missteps.
Tweets by @LemonAndersen
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