NEW YORK — It’s been a long and interesting road for Modesto “Flako” Jimenez.
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Brooklyn by his grandmother, like many he has seen his adopted neighborhood of Bushwick rapidly vanish, being replaced with a pricey landscape compliments of gentrification.
“How do we bring clarity to this – like let’s not get the coffee shop first,” Jimenez explained. “Let’s think about that other thing that can bring community together in the same space.”
Addressing the current state of affairs in his beloved borough is just one part of Jimenez’s one-man show ¡Oye! For My Dear Brooklyn playing at the Abrons Arts Center.
The former Latin King delves deep into the many layers of his story, where he left gang life, went to college and then pursued the stage.
He also gets candid about being a Afro-Latino artist trying to stay afloat.
“It was the moment of like ‘hey look we do all of these other things,’ also we can drive the cab but we can also make poems in that cab with that cab customer,” Jimenez said.
The bilingual show which takes place on a stage that replicates the square footage of his family’s home in the Dominican Republic, is resonating with outsiders.
“I’m having moments with college kids who are crying and that’s is blowing my mind,” he said. “Realizing, looking at some [of these] kids that don’t know this is happening – it’s a moment of mind awaking to me too.”
At one point in the show, Jimenez introduces the audience to his mother via FaceTime in a live video chat.
“She gave me to my grandmother and said go, be in a better place,” he said, explaining why he decided to incorporate her in his one-man show. “So of course I’m gonna include her in the show, of course I’m gonna let her talk to America.”
The show is more of an experience which mashes up work from other local artists, even before you enter the theater.
It all aims to put a spotlight on the various contributions from artists like Flako who challenge societal labels, revealing several layers to their lives.
“Being uncomfortable and being at that edge is what makes us better humans,” Jimenez said.
¡Oye! For My Dear Brooklyn plays through March 31 at the Abrons Arts Center on Grand Street.
For ticket info, visit the AAC website: http://www.abronsartscenter.org/on-stage/shows/modesto-flako-jimenez-oye-group-oye-dear-brooklyn-world-premiere/