A Bushwick Native Talks about ‘Colliding Worlds’

Modesto "Flako" Jimenez (Photo by Katarina Hybenova via Bushwick Daily)

Modesto “Flako” Jimenez (Photo by Katarina Hybenova via Bushwick Daily)

Dominican-born Modesto “Flako” Jimenez, who grew up on the streets of Bushwick, attended Bennington College on a full scholarship, and now is an actor, producer and poet, spoke with Katarina Hybenova of Bushwick Daily recently about the “colliding worlds” that marked both his coming of age in Brooklyn and, in different ways, his life in the gentrifying neighborhood he still calls home. His translation of “Furry!/La Furia!” by William Burke, which also stars Jimenez, is running at the Bushwick Starr through Nov. 26. The play, says Bushwick Daily, “tells the story of a street Elmo who rises to power by taking over the 42nd to 46th streets by using ‘The Art of War.'”

Jimenez relates the story of his early years in Brooklyn:

I came from Dominican Republic when I was nine. My grandmother came in the ’80s with her man who didn’t want her to work, so she was like: ‘Bye.’ My grandma was a gangster; she didn’t want to be a housewife. One uncle was like, ‘This shit is not for me,’ and went back, my father did the whole drug thing and that just threw his life off, but then I learned from it. So it was all these beautiful battles of immigrants in America.

He read books like “Curious George” and started to get interested in theater, and starting adapting Shakespeare by the age of 15. In his senior year in high school, Jimenez says, “I went inside of the Bushwick high school building only for rehearsals.” It was his artistic bent, and the fact that he appeared vulnerable, that drove Jimenez to join and eventually lead a neighborhood gang.

I knew that gang was my way to surviving in the neighborhood, especially if I was going to do Shakespeare, ’cause if not I was going to get picked on. I had braces, glasses, and was walking around with Shakespeare books, so I ended up running the neighborhood gang….So it was fun running the gang, because that paid for most of my college—for my mini fridge, for my books. It wasn’t all bad, we were sending people in jail food for example. Of course, it’s all destructive in the end, because you either end up in jail, or dead.

Eventually, Jimenez extricated himself from that world – but remained in rapidly gentrifying Bushwick, toggling between the world he grew up in as a child and the place where hip young artists settled. Find out how he negotiates these worlds, tries to get them to talk to each other, and how he explores communication in his own art, in Bushwick Daily.

One Comment

  1. this man should go back to his homeland and fight against the persecution of haitian immigrants there, perhaps.

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