Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Real Santa Clause Can Be Found In The Water / #socialresponsibility #executiveFUNction @surfershealing

There are countless souls across the country and the earth itself who bring hope through action to others. It is because of these spirited minds that others are also emboldened to follow suit and continue to spread a chain of love far from the original catalyst of positive change. Is it not then that life becomes immeasurably more rich when we softly enter into each others lives by serving one another?

There is a man and his family who is active in such a manner. He and his band travel the world spreading goodness, hope, joy, laughter and a deep faith that there is altruistic love out there and that it is seeking to enter into as many hearts as possible. This man is Izzy Pascowitz and his band is called Surfers Healing. Those who know of them can attest to the tremendous gift of time, energy and the monumentally relentless drive Izzy and his merry band of surfers and volunteers bring to the life of individuals on the autism spectrum and with intellectual disabilities, such as Downs Syndrome. Each year they travel half way across the world to far flung lands like Australia and load up their surfing van canvassing America, one mile at a time like committed soldiers of lovingkindness. Their is no cost to the participants for what they do though a great amount of manpower, money and life is spent to make it all happen. In fact, this is what Izzy, a former professional surfer, does with his life. He is like the real Santa Claus, only he gives abstract gifts of joy, hope, love and happiness, instead of material gifts that we can hold in our hands and see with our eyes.

Down to earth and humble, before going back into the water with another participant, Izzy told me that none of the surfing gang gets paid either, aside from getting food (usually a cheeseburger) and lodging when they are working far away from home. It is not about the money. It never was. His definition of success is a marked contrast from the kind of success mainstream American’s are sold on, that of lots of money and material acquisition as the harbingers of a job well done. No, Surfers Healing shatters that supposed ideal and makes a different kind of ‘old school’ success, that of smiles on faces and uplifted hearts of individuals who usually have few to no friends. These are people who find it difficult to communicate as you and I, and are generally limited from living a typical life with all the independence and opportunities for growth that most of us enjoy.

It does take a whole team of people to do what Surfers Healing does year in and year out. Corporate sponsors like the Ford Motor Company help by affording the non-profit organization with custom long boards, the surf van, safety gear, tents and all the knick-knacks that are needed to be a professionally-run organization of scale. Local volunteer groups, as well as police, firefighters and EMT personnel also have become a standard presence in each of the surfing events, making the whole endeavor a united community effort that brings therapy to hearts far away from the actual participating surfers on the waves. Everyone gets something good out of it. Even the local economies get a boost when Izzy and the Surfers Healing gang rolls in to the neighborhood. Their return visits each year are awaited and have become hallmark community events for each of the grateful towns that host them.

I have covered their north-east coast events for two years now with the making of short films to showcase this phenomenon to the world. The concept of social responsibility is emblazoned by each person that puts their shoulder to the plow to make it one perfect day for each person with special needs. No matter how big or small their part is in the orchestrated symphony of simply being their brothers keeper, each helping presence matters and together we make everything function like clockwork. 

The therapeutic gift to the heart is untold.

Out in the water, where the real miracles happen, the youth and adults for whom everything is done for intuitively discover the healing effects of surfing on the brain and body. From the proprioceptive blast of waves hitting and surrounding the body, to the executive function skills challenge of staying upright on the moving surfboard, each novice surfer enjoys a thrill like no other, turning apprehension into utter excitement and a desire to go forth and do it again. The ability to manage, orchestrate and direct oneself in a goal-directed and persistent manner is the definition of executive function skills, a set of abilities mostly found to happen in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (forehead area). With surfing, these “EF skills,” plus the right and left hemispheres of the brain go on-line in an intensive way, creating new neural thinking patterns, or actual brain circuitry which affords new insights, perspectives and modes of thinking not before entertained. To that end, the surfers with special needs become more confident, have a discernible boost in self-awareness, and tend to turn into a special breed of good-natured warriors, even after just catching one wave. Check out these videos below to give you an idea. You can get a birds-eye view on all the action starting on the beach and delving into the waves on youtube.com: CoachBill007.



What is most beautiful is the camaraderie of the team and how Izzy fits into the whole equation. Surely, it takes a village to do all this, but it is Izzy who fuels the fire that stokes the hearts of all involved. It is Izzy’s epic commitment to you and me, to the voiceless, to the physically challenged, to his own family, his country and God Himself, who is love, that keeps everyone going and making Surfers Healing what it is today… a gift to mankind.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Finding Love in the Most Unlikely Places / #MerryChristmas & #HappyHanukkah

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah to all across America. Today’s essay is simple and affords a glimpse into my operations as a private Special Educator to a student of mine whom I call #theCowboy and #DearLeader. I have worked with him for a bit over seven years. He likes to ride horses and communicate with statements and declarations.


December 24th, 2016, about 1400 hours (Zulu time)
New Canaan, Connecticut

I was on the job with #theCowboy as we walked into a saloon called Tony’s Deli. #TheCowboy opened the door and established his presence, letting it be known to all present that he was interested in a buffalo chicken wrap. Being headstrong, he would not be deterred and made it clear throughout the New Canaan saloon that he was there. I hovered over him as his coach, though he makes me feel like I am the Secret Service to Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader. #theCowboy is a lad who knows what he wants and when he wants it. 

We sat down by the entrance next to a young couple. #DearLeader, who is on the autism spectrum, chose to have a hearty salad while he waited for his wrap. As is his custom, he ordered me around to get him ‘Very Berry’ juice boxes in repeated succession as he sat and held court by the entrance to the corner saloon on the outskirts of this quaint mountain town.
With food and drink before him, #theLeader was copacetic and at ease though the establishment was bustling with activity. The staff eyed me and greeted me with smiles and called me by a moniker they have chosen for me, ‘Daddy Yankee.’ Of course, my smile and laughter at this belied my bristling nature inside as I laughed off the comparison to the Reggaeton star from Puerto Rico. What could I say, I was wearing a fedora and black hooded jacket, all part of the Secret Service uniform I use as I play the dual role of Special Educator Coach and protector extraordinaire to #theCowboy.

In front of us was a young couple eating who let us share a table with them. They must have been no more than twenty-five years old. I could tell both had an intellectual disability. They were at peace with one another and behaved like a total lady and gentleman. It was nice to see these two adults side by side. I asked the fellow if we could join their table by the window and he was most gracious with his manner and words asking me to go ahead by all means.

 I was happy for the young couple. Many a times, individuals with severe disabilities spend their lifetime alone and without friends. It is a hard reality that is quite common, so I was overjoyed to see these two enjoying a meal together and being so comfortable with one another. Their was a nice peace to them, as if they had known each other all their lives and were seniors at the relationship business. They were quiet and orderly as they had their meal. 

Kim Jung-Un, my student who is on the autism spectrum, was all smiles with momentary cackles here and there which would quickly subside into orders for another drink or letting me know he was all about the buffalo wrap, come hell or high water. After some time, the nice couple chose to move to a quieter spot in the locale. #DearLeader proved to be much to boisterous for their sensibilities. They were so kind as I motioned and said that we would move and they could stay. In the nicest terms, the fellow let me know that that was not necessary as he and his lady friend moved to a quieter spot. He doted on her. I could tell their was love between them. Afterwards, on their way out they both smiled my way, he came over to shake my hand, and wished me well as he and his woman exited the building. I thought the welcome encounter most interesting as I watched them depart side by side.

Did someone help match them up? Did they grow up together? Did they find each other recently? Whatever it may be, love was present in the silence of their lunch date together. Few and far in between do I see that level of comfort and close heart-connection between two. It was nice to behold and reminded me that yes indeed, God is love.

Friday, December 23, 2016

We Are Not Enemies, But Friends / @israel @epiclypaslestined @un @whitehouse

Palestinian skateboarders message Israel

A mindset of living side by side in peace.
Should we keep fighting world without end?
Tit for tat, around and around we go

The youth skateboard here and there
They keep moving forward
They waste no time in ideological positions

The bombs, they do burst
The communities, they do become destroyed
Tranquility settles in for a while
the rumble of skateboards begins again

In such soft ways 
does liberty and freedom
take hold, move and grow
In such manner
is the life of people reborn


The United Nations, in essence, can be a place where countries communicate with each other on a diplomatic, global level. 
  1. How do different peoples practice living side by side with each other when their political views are in stark opposition? 
  2. What are the actual available neutral venues for such people coming together in a peaceable way?

It is a silly thing, skateboarding. A quiet sport of focus, sustaining attention, functional balance and goal-directed persistence. It is so silly that a Palestinian girl and an Israeli boy could possibly find themselves honing their craft side by side to each other, learning from each other, talking with one another and laying the new groundwork for friendship with each other.

Build skateparks that bring together the Israeli and Palestinian youth. It may be too late for the older folks to figure things out, but it is never too late for those young at heart to start anew.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

In God Our Spirits Become Unstoppable / #socialresponsibility #positivedisruption #saveAmerica

Set ups, frame ups, hidden agendas arrive my way.
I rise up and laugh them off.
You can’t stop me.
I will continue to attack apathy.
The world is small and flat.
Prepare for intellectual and spiritual war.
Throw me anywhere, I spring back.
My spirit is unquenchable.

“But if any man love God, the same is known by him.”

1 Corinthians 8:3

Love is not just a soft feather. 
Love is long-suffering, willing to endure onslaught and wrath.
Love is magnanimous and unstoppable, fierce. 
Love is the man and woman who says I shall not fade away from the sea of apathy before me.

Can I live in peace with my neighbors and also fight the gross apathy of the American heart? Can I fight the evil that is abortion and maiming of human brains with unsafe vaccine practices and still walk at peace on the streets of the land?
Can I bring my heart to the fore and all my drive to quash this apathy and destroyer of all that is the United States of America? Abortion and damaging the human brain with vaccines is destroying us from the inside out on the spiritual and physical level.

The Lord sais to live peaceably with our neighbors, to love one another as God loves us, to love Him with all our spirit, with all our body. God sais he wants our wills to be aligned to His. Not to subscribe to a ‘philosophy of positivity’ above everything else. Peace at all costs is a mindset of appeasement and weakness.  It would be as if we give our minds to others to control, to tell us right from wrong when the truth is always before us.

Why should I stay quiet? Why should I tow the line and operate against my soul? Let God avenge the murder of my first child. In the meantime, I will shine my light on the grossness that is perpetuated on the land.

I shall not stop until there be peace in the land or the good Lord call me.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Things That Matter / Two Poems & a Reflection

Things That Matter

Clean running rivers matter
Music that calms the heart matters
Parents who adore their children matter
Finding time for good laughter and dancing matters.

Is it only when we loose everything, or have everything taken away that we begin to appreciate what we had?

More than money and things, the people in our lives matter the most. The money can purchase comfort and security, but it can not buy us love and fulfillment. I know this. You know this. My childhood family use to be very wealthy. We had everything. We had an over abundance of money, houses, exotic vacations, the best schools, fast sport cars, nice clothes and money in the bank.

But the Lord giveth and He taketh. Who can understand Him? Though he lives in us and dwells in us, his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts.

As an adolescent, I had asked Him to make me a Field General in his army. An army that you cannot see with your eyes, but only feel with your heart and understand with your mind.That in that way, it could be that contentment and unalloyed joy may find me, rather than I search for it. 

Little by little, and sometimes very quickly, everything was taken away. Even my clothes, even my dear children. I was pushed down under the water still being able to breathe. All I had left was a fire burning in me from the inside out. I was left on life support by God’s mercy. He stripped everything away… with love. 

In that state I rolled away from life support, pulling everything off me and holding my fire within me. God’s love had arrived. My Lord was priming my soul, raising the fire he put in me. A fire which utterly consumed me. It brought me to ashes. Now I am a different creature. I put off the old man and put on the young heart.

The heart unleashed does not take on water

The heart unleashed does not take on water,
it travels fast and lets itself be
in the twinkle of an eye, 
it makes itself known
leaping from one heart to the next.

The things that matter
are our relationship to the Holy Spirit
and each other. 
Nothing more, nothing less.

Here I am
still standing
Holding this stance
Knowing your eyes behold my heart

My Father, my God and my friend

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Way You Move, The Way You Feel / #selfexpression #coding #storydancing #autism #executiveFUNction

Children, as they grow up in their formative years form a great amount of their understandings of the world based on their experiences as they are processed emotionally and physically.

In this essay, I question how the emotional and physical processing influences behavior and movement. Do our experiences influence how we hold our body? Likewise, do our experiences, especially those in our childhood and adolescence influence how we hold our facial muscles?

I posit that the ‘processed’ experiences place a signature mark on our whole selves and we live out our lives with this coded information. I also posit that we are able to change, or re-code this information while toning our cognitive-physical health.

The way we walk, 
The way we hold our face muscles, 
the way we talk
the way we dance.

Their is a physical, emotional code that is created and affirmed and the ability to change that signature mark can be done practically through purposeful, meditative dancing. Some call it ‘dance therapy,’ others ‘movement therapy.’ I call it ‘story dancing’ because it is an exercise in redefining the skeletal, muscular, vascular and mental ‘story’ of ourselves.

Dancing integrates almost all the prefrontal lobe executive function abilities or skills identified and brings together both hemispheres of the brain in a easy sync that ‘flows’ to rhythm and beat. When we dance to music without lyrics, purposeful movement becomes therapeutic. Not having lyrics frees the person’s mind from having to process meaning of lyrics as they move allowing them to focus on recreating their own story through their purposeful, dance movement. Processed experiences directly enter new code into our bodies impacting the old code. With consistent practice in story dancing, our bones, muscle and brain receive constant new coding, just as a computer can receive new programming. 

Over the course of two years (2014-2016), I tested my theory and have discovered or become aware that, indeed, the human body begins to thrive anew through the act of story dancing. Sounds silly? Dancing can be seen by many as celebratory, an afterthought to life’s happenings perhaps. Purposeful, meditative dance movement is so outside the normal range of experiences  that it becomes tantamount to breathing new life or inspiration into a life that is not use to moving in such ways. Little by little, new found attitudes and a sense of greater confidence become evident in the practicing story dancer. Physical awkwardness dissipates and sequential dance movements become cognitively streamlined effortlessly. All the new movement to music then introduces an interesting dynamic into the person’s life, that of an inspired heart. 

An expressive communication, 
a release of tension, 
an affirmation of oneself.

With the onset of the ‘inspired heart’ the dance practitioner is emboldened to keep dancing and the benefits of the purposeful movement to music does become meditative and healing. Over time and with practice, it is as if a new person slowly emerges…bolder, more confident and with the feeling that ‘one has finally arrived.’

For the community of individuals with special needs, story dancing can become a breakthrough strategy and tool that delivers on multiple levels. Building up the ability to be self-expressive in people who are otherwise limited in their ability to communicate creates a lifeline of personal liberty, thus something as silly as dancing actually becomes a very important life skill. The only caveat is that he or she who coaches others must themselves first be accomplished in this purposeful story dance movement.

To see story dancing in effect please go to my YouTube page at: CoachBill007 and view some of my dance videos. Here are two to get you going:)



Saturday, December 10, 2016

John Glenn: 'The Rocket Legend' / #AllAmerican #humble #servantleader #statesman @nasa

We were on the frontier. Everything was uncharted territory. Nothing was certain. We began to push incredible speeds. Where we going? What were we going to do with the technology we were creating? Who would pilot the craft? Life and death hung in the balance each time.

“…and to the spirit of just men made perfect..”

Hebrews 12:23b

John Glenn was a man of quiet composure and reflection with anability to stay calm, cool and collected under great pressure. Rising up through the ranks as a test pilot before moving onto flying rockets, Mr. Glenn became the face of America as it strove in at lightning speed into a new era. The world would never be the same again. A door had been opened and would not be closed. Soon enough, after the successes of John, droves of satellites and future space missions went on the docket. The “space race” moved into a fast sprint and America’s outlook on who it was and where it was going suddenly changed. What was before deemed impossible, was now possible. We had left earth and seen it from afar. We had proved that we could send manned-rockets and safely await their return. 

John Glenn’s fortitude in being the man who went into the test rockets, and ultimately the rocket that would propel him past our atmosphere also propelled the imaginations of not just Americans, but people the world over. Life would stay the same on earth, and yet would be different altogether afterwards. 

A servant through his service to the “city on a hill,” John Glenn continued to serve in less harrowing ways as a congressman in Washington D.C. Throughout all his time he remained a gentle and principled man untouched by the excesses and trappings that come with political power. His constant service to the United States is a feat unto itself and is testament to his champion mindset of ‘never giving up,’ and going above and beyond the call of duty. 

Will we ever get another John Glenn? I bank that America is full of us who are willing to go forth for God, country and each other as brothers and sisters. His life’s example showed that you can reach the top through service unto others, only we must be brave, willing and able to take on the challenges of each day, pushing ourselves past what is enough and accepted into trailblazing into new territories and domains.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

“I read the news today, oh boy!..” / #RememberingJohn #JohnLennon #positivedisruption #socialresponsibiility

A counter-culture firebrand rising up from the basements of hole-in-the-wall bars. 

Nothing was guaranteed for him or his rag-tag group of misfits who made jarring music banned by the light of day, but wholly accepted in the recesses of the night by young people wanting a departure from the norms of society.

Still revolutionary decades after he arrived on the scene, the music he and his band from Liverpool made tore the sound of music as it was known and rewrote the rules on how life was to rock from henceforth.

John Lennon and The Beatles were a very present part of my upbringing. He was killed the year I came into the world. His life was suddenly and abruptly brought to a close. The music would stop playing in one way, though his recordings and that of The Beatles are etched into the fleshy tables of many a hearts. Discovering John Lennon and The Beatles’s ‘rock and roll’ was in itself a declaration of liberty by the listener back in the day as it was for me to blare ‘Revolution’ with all the bass I could muster decades later as a child. 

Was it the music of older people? Could have fooled me. The melodies are timeless and original, making the sound unique and riveting. Pick up an album and all the songs are great. Surely, it took the whole band to make the sound they are known for, but it was John Lennon who was the director of the band and the overarching leading genius that brought in a great deal of the passion, drive and energy that baked in a richer definition to the music.

The motives behind a great deal of his outspokenness against war and the racial and economic inequality present at the time all came from a place of altruistic love. That is to say, he was a man who wanted to help bring in peace on earth and he used his platform as one of the world’s leading musicians to call for positive changes. He was in effect, positively disruptive and practiced social responsibility across the totality of his life’s work by being able to influence people throughout the world to simply think differently about life and what it means to each of us. 

Far from building him up past his measure, John Lennon deserves to be honored for the love for which he loved all through his music and actions. All you do need is love. Love IS all you need. He was correct and the song of his heart did in fact make its way into many hearts and minds giving John, in a very real sense, immortality through us.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Honoring A Veteran / #Dad #fathers #therealdeal #socialresponsibility #TeamUSA #servantleadership

I want to honor my Dad who I last saw last on December 6, 2014. He passed at midnight in the Veterans Hospital of San Juan, Puerto Rico on December 31/ January 1, of 2014/5 at the age of eighty-four.

One of the best things I learned from my late-father was the over-arching value of cultivating a champion mindset. It is what we call the ‘growth mindset’ today. Every day was important and he approached it with all the readiness and enthusiasm of every day before. He also valued preparedness. Being prepared.

The grandfather to my three children was a veteran of the ‘Screaming Eagles’ Airborne Rangers of the 101st Airborne Division in the U.S. Army. Dad also served in the U.S. Marines and was part of an elite expeditionary force in Korea ahead of the official start of the war. My Dad was an  ‘All-Army’ football player and also padded up for the Rose Bowl. He was there for virtually all my own football games, straight on through high school.

He was unstoppable in his enthusiasm for making the best out of every day and lived out his life with great humility and graciousness to all people, rich or poor. He would go out of his way to make it so and was known for this. 

He took joy in feeding the outcasts and homeless of Old San, Juan Puerto Rico with his church. He brought his children to feed the outcasts and homeless also.He made it clear that we were actually serving the Lord.

Dad would speak with his kids throughout the week, every week, like a coach always ready to build up his children. He would ‘lead us in prayer’ over the phone.

He called his three daughters his princesses and treated them as such. They doted on him hand and foot straight into old age. 

His eldest grandchild, who was 6 at the time stumped him and the seniors in the bible study time. No one could answer the question put forth, but my boy knew and spoke at length and with confidence. I was so happy that my Dad got to witness his grandson behave so.

I am grateful for the example of service to all my father showed across his life, be it for God, country, or his neighbor. He overcame tremendous obstacles on a continuous basis across his lifespan and was steadfast in his mindset and principles throughout.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Can a #SocEnt Cloud Platform Raise Americas Game? / Increasing The Current of #SocialResponsibility

Steve Jobs

Could a company like Apple see the global need to use our imaginations to empower the individual social entrepreneur with practical technology to run their enterprise? Can it warehouse this technology in one place?

Time and money are important components to any kind of entrepreneur and bringing in accommodations and modifications to how work is conducted is always entertained. Can a social entrepreneur cloud platform be created to this end? Would industries and individuals see the relevancy in helping generations of people who want to be socially responsible make a living using such a platform to achieve their community goals?

Building people up with education so that they can compete for the jobs of tomorrow sounds great, but how about we create the  environment to build people up with education and access to tools that can create the jobs of tomorrow?

Does integrating social good with business a creates social entrepreneurship dynamic which ultimately benefits both Main Street and Wall Street.  Is this focus in line with the founding principles of the United States of America... of serving and loving one another and doing the right thing. With our work culture becoming increasingly mobile, technologically-synced and social-media platform-aided is it not just as well that we raise up grade-level students and college-age youth to know how to quickly adapt, survive and flourish in such an environment?

An idea occurred to me which would rapidly connect aspiring social entrepreneurs with the right tools, allowing for strategy's, experiments and 'start up engines' to move more quickly.

What if we had multiple cloud platforms which were tailored for social entrepreneurs? Having a well-known cloud platform that specializes in allowing entrepreneurs to make and customize apps according to their needs would help the social enterprise stay aground and even scale their business. Currently, a person has to go to a middle-player who knows computer code and creates the app. There are programs that show you how to create an app and even kids use them to create their own, but their is no cloud platform that is like a supermarket of apps and tools to aid the social entrepreneur.

In effect, an online cloud platform for social entrepreneurs would directly help extend the life of the social enterprise, raise the quality of professionalism and stream-line pesky anchors that hurt many start-ups in the beginning, like maintaining financial and operational data or creating/ having software that allows for an enterprise to quickly scale. A cloud platform that continues to diversify and grow in its offerings to aid social entrepreneurs could help foment a constant current of civicness and economic hope in a community starting at the ground level.

The empowered social entrepreneur  leapfrogs over many difficulties by being technologically accommodated  by a growing and versatile social entrepreneurial cloud platform. Across time, the learning and experimental process would have people adding to the apps, tools and software. The cloud platform would, in effect,  cut out the middle-players who charge a great deal to make worthwhile apps as well as save a great deal of time by retrofitting a social enterprise with technological streamlining.  This in turn would make it easier for more people to enter the social entrepreneurship industry and increase the odds of fruitful work happening all across our communities.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

#ServantLeaders Simply Serve : A Dance Video / #teachers #police #firefighters #nurses #parents

#ServantLeaders Simply Serve : A Dance Video / #teachers #police #firefighters #nurses #parents Purposeful, meditative dancing expresses a story which we can rewrite starting in our bones, muscles and brain. This 'story dance' is calming, increases our range of motion, helps our vascular system stay nimble & redefines past trauma and deep stress.

#ServantLeaders Simply Serve : A Dance Video / #teachers #police #firefighters #nurses #parents

Watch video on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/UFUsOurC3qY

The Sun is Set to Rise Again over #LaHabana / #Fidel #violence #culture #vision #legacy #lackOfLiberty

“A vision is best taken on by the culture of a people when it is not forced,” I say to Fidel.

In Spanish, they told the two young teenage sisters to take off all their clothes. The two girls refused. A standoff ensued at the Jose Marti International Airport in Cuba.The authorities said they needed to check if they were carrying ‘contraband.’ 

Their mother and father had looked to get them on a flight out of the country after the new, ruling leadership had ordered these girls and many others to work in the sugar cane fields under the Cuban sun. The girls were adamant in their position and refused to comply. Anything could have happened at that moment. Ultimately, the authorities relented and allowed the young girls to board the flight to American soil. 

My maternal grandfather and grand uncle had a thriving law practice in La Habana. Life was good for my family but it came to an abrupt end when Fidel Castro and his band of visionary rebels forcibly took over the island under threat of murder and harassment. There was a new sheriff in town. His name was Fidel Castro. Music and dance ceased. People’s living wages plummeted. An enormous ‘brain drain’ of Cuba’s intellectuals fleed before the iron curtain of Castro’s disjointed picture of disproportioned communism shuttered culture and economy, freedom and liberty and ultimately, self-expression itself.

My grandfather, Enrique, took his wife and seven children to the United States and eventually settled in Amityville, New York for a few years, before relocating to the U.S. island of Puerto Rico. Winters were rough in Amityville. ‘Papi,’ as we all called my grandfather, was no longer a working lawyer with his own thriving firm, but was now selling insurance in New York City by the sweat of his brow. His two oldest children, the two teenage girls who withstood the Cuban authorities would go to work with him in the city, bringing in what income they could generate. Life had become tough, yet even so, the community of Amityville opened up its arms to my family with clothing and schooling for the children…my aunts and uncles.

Castro’s legacy could have been a different one if he would have refrained from violence and physical force to exact his vision, which in the historical opinion of my family and I, was completely unfruitful. Can a revolutionary’s vision gain traction if it forced upon a people? Do we win hearts by pointing guns and making them disappear into thin air if they do not comply? That is what Castro’s regime did. Eventually, in the years that ensued, people took it upon themselves to escape any which way they could across the Florida straits, even if it meant going by inflatable tubes and braving stormy seas and ever-present sharks. 

Now we are in a new era. President Obama’s overtures to thaw relations between the U.S. and Cuba has been met with mixed feelings by many within the Cuban-American community. Is it possible that a start had to be made somewhere? Was the Presidents graciousness in flying into Cuba an error? Does the President of the United States of America suffer from his words eroding the magnanimity of his action in placing his feet on Cuban soil? I think not. Is it not just as possible that the government of Raul Castro had no idea on how to break the impasse and our president’s actions were but the first foray into changing a dynamic which was simply impoverishing Cuba? Positive disruption had to be made to break the current socio-economic trajectory of Cuba and that process has begun, in deed. Not all cultural seismic shifts are recorded or immediately registered, and yet, they happen from time to time. If the cultural and economic exchanges continue to flourish between the U.S. and Cuba, time itself will look back and see that a new storyline was initiated which began to pave the way for the betterment of its peoples. One where the vision of what could be is brought on not by force and violence, but by increasing socio-economic opportunity.

New Citizens, New Country / #education #parents #teachers #USA

1. Who can understand economic oppression without the benefit of a solid education? Who can know how to see opportunity in the absence of...