Notes From A Native Daughter, Ep. 124: Frances Negrón Muntaner

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For those of you who don’t know, Frances Negrón Muntaner is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, curator, scholar, and professor at Columbia University. And, I assure you there are many and plenty more accolades, but you can Google. My utter fascination with her is her depth of soul. Frances must come from the ages of the sages or philosophers, for she is wise and grandest of all, humble. She is a thoroughbred class all her own, and I’m not just saying that, ‘tis true.

Since it is Father’s Day, I’m going to connect the dots. I met her about seven years ago through a mutual friend, and the day we met, she shared she was preparing to go to Cuba. At the time, I was helping Nelson González and dad, with their masterful album, Obsesión. I wanted to have a quote from the legendary Omara Portuondo and was trying to figure out a way to get her a copy of the CD, per her preference. And so, on that day, when Frances said she was going to Cuba, it was like divine intervention. I asked her if she would take the CD and she said yes. I gave her credit “for being a Dove” in the album’s book. The skinny is we got the quote:

“Danny, gracias por darnos el privilegio de escucharte interpretarestos temas de lujo, que viniendo de ti, son pura melodía y sentimiento. Quemanera de interpreter amigo! Sigue adelante con esa energía y ese encanto propio de los de tu tierra. Como siempre una voz maravillosa!” 

Which brings me back to Frances. Just as my life has been impacted and shaped to love and respect arts, artists, and culture, Frances’ life was shaped by her father, who gave a little 8 or 9-year-old Frances the task of proofreading his doctoral dissertation! No puedo with the freakin’ cuteness and endearing picture of this scene.

In episode 124, I ask her about this foundational part of her life, and she goes into it. I mean, what a guy, he did not underestimate his young child, to the contrary, he empowered her for the rest of her life.

Frances’ work speaks for itself. The latest still making the rounds is Valor y Cambio (VyC), a grand contribution to society with a report coming out in a few months. She describes VyC as:

“a public art installation that combines principles of just economy and community currencies and storytelling to achieve three goals…The first goal was to provide a platform for people to ask themselves and reflect on the question of value. What do you value?…The second goal was to introduce the idea of community currency…and the third goal that the project has…is to provide an experience of a solidarity economy that’s not organized around profit or accumulation…”

Listen. The 45-minute talk that covers a gamut of topics from how Puerto Rican society is based on enslavement to how ultimately, “people value a joyful life and they know that joy doesn’t come necessarily, and not that it’s unimportant, but it doesn’t come from money.” It’s worth listening to all this in her voice. We, puertorriqueños of all stripes and society at large owe her a big thank you, because like I said at the top, for being a Dove.

Last, she’s always popping up, you can also catch her next week 6/25 at Sancocho*Live, “A Virtual Stew of ‘Non-Essential’ Thinkers and Makers” organized by The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center in partnership with #PRSyllabus and the CUNY GC Center for the Humanities.

Happy Father’s Day to all the good Dads out there.

Live long and prosper

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