Reclaiming Boogaloo : Alt.Latino The very essence of boogaloo music is about "bringing people together, creating conversation and creating community." How was it appropriated by white supremacists?
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Reclaiming Boogaloo

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Reclaiming Boogaloo

Reclaiming Boogaloo

Reclaiming Boogaloo

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Pete Rodriguez (center) on the cover of 1967's I Like It Like That, a pivotal boogaloo record, which has just been reissued. Courtesy of Craft Latino hide caption

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Courtesy of Craft Latino

Pete Rodriguez (center) on the cover of 1967's I Like It Like That, a pivotal boogaloo record, which has just been reissued.

Courtesy of Craft Latino

We are in strange times.

Boogaloo was a music developed in the 1960s by Nuyoricans who were listening to American pop music, James Brown, Tito Puente and Machito – young folks bringing together disparate sounds and cultures to make their own. But recently, an informal network of white supremacists and other hate groups have adopted the word "boogaloo" to signify an impending race war or some other form of mass violence.

How did this happen?

Hannah Allam, who covers extremism and domestic terrorism for NPR, says the term has become a meme for gun groups, gamers and Civil War history forums, but eventually morphed into the Boogaloo Boys, a gun-toting, Hawaiian shirt-wearing group agitating for apocalyptic war. In YouTube videos and on message boards, they joke about Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo, a riff on the failed 1980s movie Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Last week there was a Congressional hearing about the threat posed by groups who promote these violent reactions to societal change.

So this week we make the bold attempt to reclaim boogaloo and reinstate its original spirit in the face of those who would hide behind it for nefarious purposes. On this episode, we're going to hear from social anthropologist Elena Martinez, music historian Jim Byers, reporter Hannah Allam and Joe Bataan, an OG boogaloo vocalist who has a thing or two to say about the matter.

"It unconscionable that they would take a name and a genre that – its very essence is bringing people together, creating conversation and creating community," says Jim Byers, director of marketing at Arlington Cultural Affairs and host of the Latin Flavor Classic Edition on WPFW. "I've personally witnessed this music change hearts and minds. Maybe the music can find a way to do that again."

This is an extreme level of appropriation; the threat of deadly violence increases the threat level beyond cultural irony. It is a reminder that, in addition to the pandemic, we must never let our guard down against actual humans who would do us harm.


Songs Heard In This Episode

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