© 2017 by Shantel Sosa

Jeremy Rios

My name is Jeremy Rios and I am a twenty-four-year-old Bronx born Latino. As a first generation American, I feel it’s important for me to state that my cultural identity is as important as my ethnicity and my nationality.

 

Currently, I’m a photographer, community organizer, and former educator. My biggest struggle is running my life the exact way I’d like it to be. There are multiple reasons that contribute to the lack of control I feel I’m experiencing such as a current financial struggle, past substance abuse that detracted me from doing well in college, not having a clear sense of identity, and not having my priorities in order. I found that I had rehabilitated myself. During this time, I didn’t sleep because I was abusing stimulants in order to attend school and make money both legally and illegally. Rehabilitation meant leaving the pressures of school for a semester to focus on working and making money legitimately by teaching and working for a photography studio. It meant getting sober and it meant focusing on getting out. After graduating I left to explore Europe for a month and I realized traveling was something I needed in my life. It allowed me to finally experience something outside of myself the best way possible. When I returned home, I reprised my role as a teacher for a month and a half before I eventually gave it up and left again. This time I left for a two-week road trip across the northern half of the United States and then I spent a weekend in Toronto, Canada for Thanksgiving. In between the last two trips I had also moved out of my mother’s apartment into a friend’s apartment in Harlem to gain some sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, since I couldn’t find a job that could support me living on my own, I quickly ran out of money and had to return home. Though I solved one issue, I’m still trying to overcome my other obstacles. 

    My main aspiration in life is to be able to produce renowned stills and films in the future. I’ve always been fascinated by the work and creativity that goes into stills, films, tv shows, and other media productions created for our viewing pleasure. One of the reasons I took up photography was to figure out how to take a well-lit photo without using a flash. My father would always use flash to take a photo, even on an even, well-lit cloudy day. Knowing there was a way around using a flash, I decided to buy a $200 camera and figure it out myself. Today I am working towards establishing my name as a photographer and visual media producer by collaborating with artists that have a common goal. In five years’ time, I would like to be working not only with Bronx based art and fashion collectives in terms of photography but I would like to be aligned with production studios. I also want to be able to service my community, something I’m currently doing on a small scale. Being a part of Project X is just a stepping stone in the community activism I want to build more on. Project X itself has the potential to become bigger than what it is now but it also has the potential to also be a part of something bigger as well. 

    Growing up in the Bronx, I saw two sides of it. The Bronx was like a coin to me, the face one side, that everyone knows about because it’s a part of a bigger history. It’s the history that gets told down through generations, the history of struggle, the history of overcoming a battle and charging forward. Eventually, it loses meaning because the face is really just seen at face value, it’s the only surface.  On the other side of the coin is the meaning that no one knows unless one is there to experience the “why”. The why is the chosen symbols and ideas that have meaning. The meaning is the resulted curbed understanding of what life is and what life could and should be. Growing up in the Bronx unveiled what life was full of, but it also conveyed what life could be once I took ownership of the environment that bred and groomed me. I grew up in two different areas of the Bronx. The first was in the mid-North region formerly known as Bainbridge, now Norwood. At the age of eleven, my mother and I relocated west to the most southern part of Riverdale which is still in the northwestern area. At the time, Bainbridge was riddled with crime and my mother saw it too dangerous to keep me there. Riverdale offered safety, a higher level of sanitation, healthier choices in nutrition, and a chance at a better education. I couldn’t see these wonderful things because I was still living on the first side of the coin, I couldn’t see the second side of the coin. The reality is that my mother through her struggles to try to provide every opportunity for me to progress forward was unveiling the second side for me and unfortunately I wouldn’t see it for almost a decade. This isn’t to say that Riverdale was better than any part of the Bronx because it wasn’t and still isn’t, it just happened to offer the better things in life. I spent my high school years going to school in the South Bronx, hanging out with friends in the South Bronx, engraining myself further on that first side of the coin. Going down this path would eventually give me a glimpse into the struggle. I would have to go down a hole to finally come out the other side knowing that the struggle is seeing someone sacrifice everything to make sure I would make it, that I would be able to have choices in my life, career and more. This is only a small portion of what growing up in the Bronx allowed me to see.

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