The Hebrew Mamita: Spittin’ Rootz, Rhymez & Religion

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The audience was treated to a history lesson of sorts, a cultural excursion filled with comedy, drama, heartbreak and redemption. The teacher: Doña Hidary. Pencils sharpened. Notebooks opened. Class was in session.

[The YV Review]

Raw strength, sheer vulnerability, witty charisma, thug stance passion, rose-petal fragility, good-girl-gone-bad, or bad-girl-trying-to-stay-good, Vanessa Hidary aka “The Hebrew Mamita,” embodied it all and then some during her knockout performance, on May 25th in New York City, promoting the launch of her new book: The Last Kaiser Roll In The Bodega.”

The event, sponsored in part by the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, was a wonderful mezcla of spoken word, melodious magic, turn-table beats, throwback dance moves and new school rhymes. The audience was treated to a history lesson of sorts, a cultural excursion filled with comedy, drama, heartbreak and redemption. The teacher: Doña Hidary. Pencils sharpened. Notebooks opened. Class was in session.

The vibe at the spacious, yet appropriately intimate, 92Y Tribeca theatre was like a gathering of family, friends and neighbors lounging on a stoop uptown, en el barrio, on a hot summer day with fire hydrants flowing and grills ablaze, while the grown-ups played dominoes and told stories about the days of old and the young bloods blasted hip hop from car stereos with doors open and windows down.

It was that down-to-earth, that familiar, and that inviting. It felt like home.

The dynamic DJ Drez kicked the party off right, ushering guests in with a soulful playlist ranging from Eric B and Rakim to Michael Jackson. Soon the air filled with the earthy, jazzy sounds of Maya Azucena, whose voice was as thirst quenching as a tall, iced glass of freshly-squeezed lemonade on a perfect spring day. Her first selection, “Free,” penetrated so far to the core that one felt a keen understanding of just why exactly the caged bird sings. Her second number, “When We Gon’ Get It Together,” performed upon special request by Vanessa herself, seemed quite fitting, considering the tale of two worlds colliding that Ms. Hidary has built her lyrical empire upon.

When the “Highlight of the Night,” as described by Mahogany L. Browne, a Nuyorican Poets Café Veteran and founder of Penmanship Books, who published “Kaiser Roll,” emerged to take center stage, the New York native looked as beautiful as a sun goddess walking on water with long curly tresses, flawless make-up, a flowing black, low bustline, spandex dress and gladiator sandals. However, for as beautiful as the “Juicy-thighed” --to borrow her own words-- Vanessa looked, once she unleashed her barrage of loquaciously poignant daggers, you knew NOT to get it twisted and let the cute outfit fool you. This hot tamale’s rhymes were as kosher as ether, and as MC Lyte so eloquently put it, as light as a rock.

If one never saw the numerous YouTube clips, the Def Poetry Jam appearances or never experienced “Culture Bandit,” upon witnessing Ms. Hidary’s clever paella of songs intertwined with poems, the rich, delicate merging of heritage and culture, both inherent and acquired and upon hearing these words: “I eat it all because I am culturally greedy…Thrown out of Hebrew school because I spent Rosh Hashanah at the Puerto Rican Day Parade…” it is immediately evident that this is not, I repeat NOT, business as usual. Not predictable passages of prose. Not politically correct prudent lines aimed to please, but a reckless cannonball of emotions; a gutsy truth serum infused with grit, wit, fear and despair, laid naked on the altar of judge me not and cast the first stone.

The Night was filled with many endearing moments, as is to be expected when the artist’s own mother sits supportively in the audience. However, one specifically touching display of “each one reach one,” came when Vanessa passed the mic to a young up and coming, fire-cracking slam poet named Kamone Felix, whose own Black/Jewish upbringing offered inspiration for a powerful piece depicting how the blending of the two worlds is not as big an anomaly as one might imagine.

In a world filled with songs that pay homage to the resilience of women everywhere, including Alicia Keys,’ ‘Superwoman,’ and Beyonce’s, ‘Run The World,’  Vanessa Hidary’s “The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega,” is a similar ode to women who struggle to find their voice and place amidst culture, tradition and life in general.

It is a battle cry for the fed-up girlfriend bent on reclaiming what’s left of her dignity and pride, determined to move on with head held high. It is a reminder to the little girl inside of the pact made to fulfill big dreams and live with high hopes. It is a love story about friendships that know no boundaries, barriers, divisions or color lines. It speaks to the innocence and simplicity of children and the reality and complexities created by adults.

It is Lauren Hill’s Ex-factor infused with Malcom X’s militance, Bridget Jones’ insecurities with India Aire’s self love, and Anjelah Johnson’s clever humor.

Simply put, it is a must read.


"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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