Ramón Jimenez, an activist that I have known and had worked with for close to forty years here in the South Bronx has passed on. He stopped breathing yesterday May 10th, 2016.
Ramón was an activist and one of the most intelligent persons that I have worked with. Together we wrecked havoc on many would be oppressors and developed new frontiers for our community. In the late 80’s he needed space for his law practice and I rented him an office in my suit of offices on 149th Street and Third Ave. I remember his office became a hangout for many activist (especially on Fridays). There, a lot of conversations and ideas flourished that eventually led to many organizations and movements too numerous to name.
Ramón was always a forward thinker. His second passion was sports. He was an avid Yankee fan, yet had major differences with the Yankee organization. As such I credentialed him to cover many NY Yankee press conferences and games for my company Latino Sports and warned him to stick to sports. He did and made us proud.
One day he convinced me that we should have a radio program for the English speaking Latinos. We debated the idea and we finally agreed that perhaps a Bi-Lingual sports program was more achievable. It was a novel idea and I set out to make it happen. I found a few daring sponsors and a fledging Spanish radio station, WJIT on AM that took the risk of allowing us to “experiment” on their station on the ungodly hour of 12 midnight.
I’ll never forget the inaugural night. We had no set agenda. We drove down together and decided he would speak in English and I would speak in Spanish. We would just adlib events that occurred, or were highlighted in sports. Who else would dare do something so crazy, but two crazy activists who loved sports from the Bronx. That was a common thread we both had. We had no fear of the unknown as long as we convinced ourselves that we were on the right side of history. When we arrived at the station, the engineers did not know who we were, or that we had booked an hour for our program were not going to let us go on the air if not for Ramón putting on his attorney hat and threatening to sue as we had already paid for the hour. That immediately solved the issue until they learned that we were not going to do the show in Spanish, but in both, Spanish and English. Again, they told us we could not do that. They explained that the station was a Spanish station and that we could only speak Spanish. Again, we had to threaten a legal suit. Finally we went on the air a few minutes before air time.
If that was not stressful enough what awaited us was worst. After we introduced our new program and ourselves: La Hora Deportiva, a bilingual Spanish – English Sports Program we began to talk about the sports of the day. In less than 15 minutes the board was lit up with phone calls coming in. They were from callers that were angry that their regular music program was replaced with “dos hispanos que ni saben hablar bien el español” (two Hispanics who did not even know how to speak Spanish). Though I spoke in Spanish I was using many Neyorican phrases that did not sit well with the audience. They demanded that we should stop torturing the language.
After the first 15-minute segment we went into commercials and Ramón and I were quickly evaluating what just occurred. We then decided to get into the politics. When we returned and one caller challenged our format of English and terrible Spanish I asked him if he had children. He answered yes, a son who was also listening. I then asked him if his son spoke English, he said yes. Ramón then jumped in and asked the son if he understood us. The son said yes. He asked him if he thought we needed a program to talk about Latinos in sports? The young man said, absolutely. I then jumped in and told the father in Spanish, “Usted ve, ahorra tiene un programa que los dos pueden escuchar” (you see, now you have a program that you both can listen to). The man calmed down and agreed that it was a unique idea and would continue to listen.
Another female caller criticized us both, Ramón for not speaking Spanish and me for not speaking it well enough. I then explained to her that we both were willing to learn and if we said an incorrect word that we were open to learning and callers like her should correct us. We explained that it was not our fault that our parents had to migrate here from our island and as a result we were who we were. However, we were willing to learn. The women applauded us and became one of our loyal followers. The program was so successful that eventually the station continued to change our time from midnight to a better and earlier time slot without charging us additional monies. Strangers in the street recognized our voices even before we introduced ourselves. As such, Ramón & I made history with the 1st bilingual sports program in the country.
One day, perhaps in a future book that I plan to write, I will share additional details of that show and several other sports and non-sports events that we not only made history, but more important, we were on the correct side of justice.
Unfortunately, Ramón, not being perfect fell into some misinformation that he began to spread about me that caused our relationship to sour. I still believe that it was all part of that same old plan to divide our community, especially our activist. No different to what happened to the Young Lords and to El Comité – MINP. When we are divided we are weaker and easier to oppress. Ramón was not perfect, but neither are any of us. But if you look at all of what he has done, he merits this article in memory to a man that gave of himself to help a community that desperately needed people like him.
I want to thank my friend, Javier Nievez who convinced me to attend a planning meeting of the Campaign for Fair Latino Representation at Ramón’s office last year. I was reluctant to attend, but Javier convinced me that the issue was more important than the personal. I did and Ramón and I were able to speak and once again work together. I also want to thank, David González who called me when I was in Puerto Rico to give me an update on Ramón. He told me Ramón was taken to Calvary Hospital. I knew what that meant as I had been there before for others who were about to exit this life.
Upon my return to New York, I decided to visit Ramón. I prayed for him in person, as I had been praying for him when I first learned that he had cancer. I lost my parents to that dreadful killer and knew what was awaiting him. I was glad that I got to see Ramón while he was still breathing. I don’t like funerals as I have seen too much hypocrisy in many of them and besides I rather see someone when they are still alive rather than when they are gone. The spirit and energy of the still living is more important than the lifeless and still body of the dead.
I trust that Ramón is now at peace and that his work while his spirit roamed on this life has indeed made a difference to many and that his work, like many of the work that many of us have done has planted the seeds for future generations to continue the good fight and to always stand up to injustice.