Leaders Are Not Born Or Made, But Nourished By The Community

Rap music was born in the south Bronx...but so was salsa and bachata music. The question is: where are the Latino players in what is, today, a multibillion dollar industry?
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When I think of entertainment, I think of Will Smith, Adam Sandler, Jay-Z, Eva Longoria, Juanes and Marc Anthony. You see, como tu I flow back and forth between pop and Latin culture. Like many of you, it's who I am. It's my essencia!

Entertainment -- especially music -- is a universal language. For many of us, Latin music and artists touch us a little differently...how could it not? When I see or hear someone that shares my culture on a public platform such as radio, TV, movies, magazines or online, I tune in more.

When I think of politics, of course I think of President Obama, & Mayor Bloomberg, but I also think of Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence, Rhode Island; and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and when I think of or see Latinos in leadership positions, my awareness goes up a notch, as I see myself and my community in them. Whether they know it, like it or not, they are representing me and my community.

I remember growing up in Brooklyn and spinning my parents LP's on the radiola, listening to Hector Lavoe, Johnnie Ventura y su combo show, Los Angeles Negros, Sandro de America, Julio Iglesias, Camilo Sesto, Jose Jose and others. I would also tune into the radio to hear my favorite Americanos, like Queen, Billy Joel, Rick James, Lou Rawls, The Rolling Stones, and of course Michael Jackson (who, at the time, was part of The Jackson Five). I had to feed my Americano musical desires from radio, because my parents did not own any LP's of Americano music. They could not even pronounce their names! (Today my mother loves Usher's song "Yeah!"... When she hears it, she moves to the meringue beat, go figure! guess it's the Dominican in her...)

Back to the past for a minute: I flowed back and forth between musical worlds and I loved it! Later on rap music came into the scene. I remember my friends and I mixing tapes with a beat box and two turntables, for the fun of it, back then there was no industry, no known artists, and no platform for this music. MTV helped changed the game when they launched, although at first the suits did not want to embrace this music. Later they launched "Yo! MTV Raps," it blew up and the rest is history.

Witnessing and living the transformation of this music into a culture, that today has a presence and influence in fashion, marketing, sports and Hollywood was eye-opening to me. Rap music was born in the south Bronx...but so was salsa and bachata music. Many young Latinos were heavily involved in these movements through break dancing, DJ's, parties, and producing. The question is: where are the Latino players in what is, today, a multibillion dollar industry? Big Latino names such as, Russell Simmons, or P Diddy, are nonexistent in this industry. Por que? Some will say, "Latinos were left out."

I would venture to say that, this is not what happened. This case deals with a musical movement, but therein lies the reason why our communities just do not rally in support of movements in politics, business, immigration and so on. As a community we do not create opportunities for ourselves on a grander scale. We don't take the bull by the proverbial horns and own the situation. We very rarely come together to have a dialogue with and much less with an end game in mind that deals with supporting each other in education, policy, immigration, jobs, our youth & senior citizens and giving back. Active involvement like this creates leaders and in order to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower. In closing: some leaders are born, but many more are created and nourished by "la comunidad."


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