Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In Memory of George Whitmore Jr.

Whitmore requested that he be cremated; his remains are in the urn on the table.
Today, George Whitmore was laid to rest. He was an important figure in the race history of New York City and the United States. And he was a good man.

I wrote about Whitmore's horrible ordeal at the hands of a racist criminal justice system, and the effect that had on his life, in an Op-ed article in the NY Times (link:

At a funeral parlor in Cape May Courthouse, NJ, I joined Whitmore's daughter, Regina, and his extended family of children and grandchildren. They asked me to speak, and I talked about how George's strength during his ordeal back in the 1960s and early 1970s helped shine a light on an UNJUST justice system. Whitmore paid a heavy price for what he was put through, but he died without bitterness or rancor.

If you don't know the story of George Whitmore, please read the NY Times article and also a recent obituary about Whitmore in the Times ( Please spread the word, teach your children, friends and loved ones about this important episode in our shared civil rights history.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

R.I.P. Teresa Stanley

I was saddened to hear of the death of TERESA STANLEY (71), long-time companion of James "Whitey" Bulger who passed away last August 16 of lung cancer.

I interviewed Teresa on two separate occasions late last year before she knew anything about the cancer. I found her to be haunted by the legacy of personal deception and violent crime left by her ex-common law husband, Whitey Bulger. Teresa was a 26-year old divorcee with four kids when she first met Bulger in 1966. He was not the legendary crime figure he would later become. By her own account, she became comfortable in her life with Bulger, who she knew was in "the illegal gambling business" and possibly a lonshark. She says she did not know of Bulger's many murders.

I first met and interviewed Teresa at Marisola's restaurant in South Boston, a neighborhood bistro well known to the locals. I was introduced to Teresa by Pat Nee, a friend and former criminal rival of Bulger's who, among other things, once did eight years in prison for smuggling guns to the Irish Republican Army back in the 1980s. Teresa used to chuckle whenever I mentioned Pat's name, because she knew Pat didn't care for Bulger, and, in fact, tried to kill him once or twice before they finally formed an uneasy partnership. Teresa later conceded that Nee was probably right in his negative assessment of Whitey.

The second time I interviewed Teresa was over breakfast at the Seaport Hotel on the harbor in Boston. Both interview sessions were lengthy -- two hours or more. And Teresa was very forthcoming and frank about her feelings and emotions. I liked her instantly. My feeling was that she was a good person, very sensitive and sweet, who had made a horrible choice in her life by settling down with a master deceiver like Bulger. She would later pay a heavy price for her associations with Bulger, as she became the subject of FBI and other investigations, was called to testify numerous times at hearings and trials, and was ultimately painted with a "scarlet letter" for having been Bulger's paramour for thirty years.

I spoke with Teresa one last time, earlier this year, when I called her on behalf of Newsweek magazine, who was looking to take her photo to accompany my article. Though she had told no one outside her closest family members of her cancer, she told me. I was shocked. Not only had she just learned of her condition, she was told that the cancer was far advanced. I told her I was sorry and that she deserved better; she was a good person.

There are those who vilify Teresa and hold her partly responsible for Bulger's crimes. I do not. She made a bad choice in love, was perhaps naive, maybe even chose to stick her head in the sand during Whitey's reign of power. When it came out that her lover was alleged to have killed so many people, including young women, she was stunned. When I met her, she still seemed to be partly in a state of shock about the whole thing.

Teresa has now arrived at her place of peace. Let the haters spew their venom. They never had to walk in her shoes.

To read the article that was based, in part, on my interviews with Teresa Stanley, go to following link:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: MULTIVERSE by The Bobby Sanabria Big Band

Bobby Sanabria is a New York City treasure. As a musician, bandleader and educator, his pedigree is impeccable. A master jazz drummer, he was weaned at the knee of Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, and other jazz legends. Through his own orchestra and smaller groups, and as a music teacher at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, he has nurtured, educated and inspired many of the city’s most promising young musicians, just as he was inspired by direct contact with his jazz elders.

On top of all that, Sanabria is from the South Bronx. Even before he became a professional musician, the rhythms and syncopation of the streets where Latin music first took root in NYC became embedded in his DNA. He is the product of an authentic cultural experience based on geography, ethnicity, and musical history. And as a drummer and bandleader, he is among the best in the country, if not the world.

If all that sounds like hyperbole, it’s not. Sanabria’s role in the universe of contemporary Latin jazz really is all that.

Case in point: Sanabria’s new CD entitled MULTIVERSE, which is perhaps the hottest and most ambitious Latin jazz big band record you will have heard in the last decade. I have been listening to Sanabria’s work for a long time, have heard all his CDs, but nothing prepared me for the scope and sheer force of MULTIVERSE. It is a powerful statement of everything this artist has learned up to this point in his career and will no doubt have you on board in anticipation of everything he does in the future.

The opening cut – the theme from the movie “The French Connection” – will cause you to drop whatever you are doing and listen with full attention. The arrangement is complex, with an incredible driving force that has the impact of a NYC traffic jam having been corralled and turned into music. It is a stunning opening salvo to a CD that ebbs and flows in terms of tempo and musical styles but never loses that same high level of integrity.

Within the realm of Afro Cuban, Puerto Rican and American jazz styles, Sanabria’s influences are vast – a multiverse, as folklorist Elena Martínez points out in the CD’s liner notes – and nearly all of those influences can be heard on this new CD. The song “Cachito” opens as an Afro Cuban rumba before transitioning into something more robust and muscular. “Over the Rainbow” is a Latin jazz tribute to the beautiful and familiar ballad, sung by Charaneé Wade, that segues into a melodic cha cha cha. “Wordsworth Ho!” an arrangement by band member Chris Washburn, is another barnburner, with the dissonance of Mingus, driven by Sanabria’s own drumming and a brass section that distinguishes this band as among the elite playing today.

There are ten cuts on MULTIVERSE, every one of them the kind of music you will find yourself absorbing with your heart, hips, feet, culo and intellect. My favorite is, and always will be, the “Afro Cuban Jazz Suite for Ellington,” which is the hottest and most exciting Latin jazz tribute to the Duke that you will ever hear. At fourteen minutes in length, ranging over a number of familiar Ellington compositions, you will wish it went on for at least another hour or two.

Another contribution on the CD worth noting is that of Caridad De la Luz, also known as “La Bruja,” who, like Sanabria, is from the South Bronx. La Bruja is a local legend in the spoken word scene in NYC, a sassy Nuyorican with prodigious poetic gifts and charisma to burn. She adds rap and background vocals to a number of cuts, most notably a swinging tribute to Mario Bauza, narrated in rhyme and verse by La Bruja in her inimitable street style.

As with most bands led by a drummer -- from Buddy Rich to Max Roach to Ray Barretto and beyond – Sanabria’s ensemble is hard-driving and percussive. There is physical power in this music, but also a harmonic precision that turns on a dime. A big band with anywhere between ten to twenty members on different cuts that plays with the dexterity of a small quintet is something that requires a high level of sweat and concentration. In this regard, the Bobby Sanabria Big Band sounds like the musical equivalent of a team of Olympic gold medal winners who have been in training for nearly a lifetime.

This is not pop music, with soothing, saccharine melodies to be played in the background while you are doing domestic chores. MULTIVERSE brings history, inventiveness and the highest levels of musicianship to bear on an essential musical tradition. Sanabria throws down the gauntlet by posing the question: do you have the chops to hear, feel and comprehend all that this music has to offer? If so, bend your ears, hold on to your hats and pay attention, because the Bobby Sanabria Big Band will dazzle your senses, and then some.

To learn more about MULTIVERSE, listen to selected arrangements and/or purchase the CD or download, go to the following link:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Americans love their guns. Whenever there's a mass slaughter, they run out and buy more guns. Guns make insecure people feel secure, powerful, in charge, and Americans, by this standard, are among the most insecure people on the planet. They love to go to movies where people get slaughtered with guns, preferably in slow motion, 10, 20, 30 people slaughtered. This is our gift to world culture. We have a collective orgasm when people get slaughtered with guns on screen...

So, a guy in Colorado goes into a movie theater, a fantasy movie, comic book movie, and attempts to slaughter everybody. One of the survivors said he couldn't tell if the sound of gunshots was coming from the movie or the killer's gun. Perfect. Our fantasy world and our reality world are now one. Is anyone surprised? Ho hum. It will happen again. Maybe next time at a theater near you, on some national holiday, when you and the kids are nestling in to enjoy the latest fantasy slaughter fest...
                                                                                   -- T.J. English

Monday, June 18, 2012

THE BULGER CHRONICLES #6: The Friends of Whitey Bulger

You often hear it said that James “Whitey” Bulger corrupted the criminal justice system in Boston.

I say that the criminal justice system in Boston was already corrupt. Bulger plugged into this corrupt system and played it for all it was worth.

Bulger’s career as a gangster was as violent and reprehensible as we are likely to ever see. But he didn’t do it alone. And I’m not referring only to his underworld associates. I’m referring to his enablers. And when I say enablers, I don’t just mean a few agents in the FBI’s Boston office.

There is much about the Whitey Bulger story that the U.S. Justice Dept. would rather you didn’t focus on and don’t know. I have tried to unearth some of it in the latest installment of THE BULGER CHRONICLES, a series of articles I am doing for Newsweek/Daily Beast. This latest article is about the world that created Bulger, those who sustained his career and gave him his power.

You may remember the great crime novel by George V. Higgins called The Friends of Eddie Coyle, also made into an excellent movie with Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle. The book and movie details a criminal underworld in which everyone is in on it, the criminals, the cops, the feds. In an effort to manipulate a particular criminal situation to their advantage, all of these players nearly take down each other – and inadvertently take themselves down.

This is not likely to happen with the Bulger fiasco. Oh yes, Bulger will be made to pay. No matter what happens at his trial (if there is a trial), he is likely to die in jail. But other than former FBI agent John Connolly (quoted exclusively in the Newsweek article), no one within the system has been held accountable.

Should you care?

Please click on the link below, read the article, and decide for yourself….
                                                                    -- T.J. English

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Praise of Pete Hamill

Recently, as president of Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc., a non-profit group, I was given the opportunity to say a few words about the great New York City journalist and author, Pete Hamill. I was also asked to read something from his work, anything I preferred. The occasion was a conference held by the Irish Echo newspaper to draw attention to connections between New York City and Belfast. Both of Hamill’s parents were born in Belfast and came to New York as immigrants.

It was a tremendous honor for me to be part of this tribute to Pete Hamill. Here is a transcript of the speech I gave that night:

Am I the only one who finds it strange that Pete Hamill is sitting right here in the room with us tonight and we’re having some other guy read his work?

Ah well… if you check the listings of writers doing readings around town on a regular basis, appearing on panels and talk shows and whatnot, you know Pete is one of the hardest working men in show business. So, we’re giving you the night off, Pete.

I’m going to read a short passage from A Drinking Life, my favorite book of Pete’s, but first I want to say a few words about Pete’s significance, and reputation, with other writers in New York.

I wasn’t born here in the city. But, like anybody who’s lived in NY a long time – 32 years in my case -- I sometimes imagine and feel like I was born here. When people ask me where I was born and raised, I tell them, ‘The West Side.’ And when they ask where on the West Side, I say, ‘Tacoma, Washington’ … That’s a geography joke. You don’t hear many of those.

When coming to this city with a hungry desire to become a New Yorker, as I did, I’d say there are a number of requirements. One of them should be that you have to drive a taxi in New York for a few years, which I have done. Another is to struggle financially, have your rent jacked up illegally by a landlord, get robbed, or mugged on the street, which has happened to many of us who have been here since the 70s, or 80s or early 90s. This, by the way, is why longtime New Yorkers don’t really consider today’s younger New Yorkers to be New Yorkers at all. As a veteran cabbie once told me, as I was heading out on my first night on the job and I asked him, “Any advice?” He said, ‘Yeah. Remember this. In New York, nobody really loves you until you’ve been mugged.’

The third requirement for becoming a New Yorker is to familiarize yourself, as quickly as possible, with the writing, and persona, of Pete Hamill.

I know that for Brooklynites, especially anybody who grew up in Pete’s generation or the generations immediately following, Pete Hamill’s work holds a special significance. And that’s understandable. Of all Pete’s many subjects as a writer – and he is a beautifully diverse writer, with a healthy and magnanimous curiosity; he writes with grace and erudition about so many things – but of all his subjects, I think you’d have to say that Brooklyn, in many ways, is the central nugget of his identity as a person and a writer.

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a Brooklynite to appreciate that. Because when you read Pete’s work, you become a Brooklynite, you become a New Yorker. That is part of the generosity and expansive nature of his writing style, and that is one of the great pleasures of getting to know his work.

Over the years, I’ve probably had hundreds of conversations with other writers about Pete’s work. For anyone who is lucky enough to know Pete, the work is informed by your knowledge of him as a person – his basic humanism, the fact that he’s wonderfully learned and well read, a kind of working class bon vivant, a sentimentalist, at times, but one who is always tough minded. And fair. Always fair. Rigorously fair.

But you don’t have to know Pete personally to have been touched by or influenced by his work. It’s the openness and generosity of Pete’s writing style that has inspired so many of us. Pete showed that you could come from the working class, that you didn’t have to have graduated from some fancy journalism program, or be a product of wealth or a conventional education, to have a point-of-view that was valid and important. All that is required is that you apply to yourself the highest standards as a person and a writer, that you write beautifully, with great attention to craftsmanship, that you challenge yourself intellectually, that you go out into the world as an angel of mercy, that you judge no person harshly because he or she is a drunk, or poor, or an the wrong side of the law, or a Bishop. OK, maybe you can be hard on the bishops, but that’s because they represent power and authority and piety. And they should know better.

I never had the good fortune to work alongside Pete, or under him during his various short-lived stints as editor of the News, the Post, or that newspaper in Mexico City – I would have loved to work with Pete there. But I know I speak for a lot of New York writers when I say, I owe a great debt to Pete Hamill. And I feel lucky, and honored, to be the guy who gets to stand here right now and tell him how much his work has meant to me.

And so, with apologies to the Manhattanites, and people from the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Belfast, let’s gather together as Brooklynites and listen to a passage from Pete’s classic memoir, A Drinking Life
                                                                       -- T.J. English

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Bulger Chronicles: Whitey's Women

Whitey Bulger and Teresa Stanley, in better times.
Posted today on the Daily Beast website  is my fifth installment of The Bulger Chronicles, a series of articles I'm writing on the upcoming trial of Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger for Newsweek/Daily Beast. So far I've written articles about Bulger's apprehension from the point of view of former criminal associates and rivals ("Whitey's Payback"); a review of a book by the lone FBI agent who tried to shut Bulger down as a confidential informant for the Feds ("The Man Who Saw Through Whitey"); a report on Catherine Greig, Whitey's girlfriend and companion on the lam for 16 years, as she pleaded guilty in court; and now "Whitey's Women," the accounts of two women who were deeply involved in the lives of Bulger and his crime partner, Steve Flemmi, at the height of their years as gangster.

The article was based on extensive interviews with both women. Especially fascinating was the time I spent with TERESA STANLEY, who was Bulger's common-law wife for 30 years. It was Stanley who, in 1995, was originally going to go on the run with Whitey but decided she could not do it. Whitey exchanged Stanley for his other longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, and they disappeared together for the next 16 years, until they were captured in Santa Monica, CA in June 2011.

A recent photo of Teresa Stanley, who is now 70 years old.
I had two lengthy interviews with Teresa, one at Marisola's restaurant in Southie, and another at the Seaport Hotel at Boston harbor. I found her to be a sensitive and intelligent woman, still in a state of shock from all that has been revealed about the man she shared her life with for so many years. There are the murders (Bulger is charged with 19 counts of murder) and criminal pathology, but also Stanley is still shocked that "Jimmy," the man who served as a surrogate father to her four children, had, when they were together, an entirely separate and secret life with his "other woman."

Also interviewed for the article is MARILYN DI SILVA, a woman who in the late 70s was the girlfriend of Steve Flemmi.

I hope to write a few more articles on the Bulger saga leading up to his trial, which is currently scheduled for Nov. 5, 2012.

The article "Whitey's Women" can be accessed at

                                                                          -- T.J. English

Friday, May 18, 2012

RADIO LA CHUSMA: Musical Medicine from the Borderland

In the Southwest border region of the U.S., miraculous things happen with hardly a notice. Border regions, in general, move to the beat of their own rhythm, removed from the rest of the country. In the city of El Paso, way off in the western corner of Texas – as much southern New Mexico as it is Longhorn State – the local culture comes with a decidedly Mexican flavor.

El Paso butts up against Ciudad Juárez, best known today for its spiraling narco violence. But throughout its history, Juárez has been a vibrant musical crossroads. All manner of musical rhythms coming up from South America and the Caribbean pass through the once-thriving clubs and bars of Juárez, hop the Rio Grande, and cross into the U.S. via El Paso. There, musical styles further mix, cross-pollinate, and create some unique sounds that will inevitably be borrowed, approximated and ripped off by mainstream American music-makers.
One of the most eclectic contemporary examples of this unique and infectious borderland melting pot is Radio La Chusma.

The band was formed in 2002 by Ernesto Tinajero, born and raised in El Paso. Ernesto is a proud Chicano, but his musical interests bypass most of the more common borderland styles such as tejano or norteño or mariachi.

Radio La Chusma is, first and foremost, a reggae band, but the band also incorporates cumbia, Afro Cuban music, and world beat rhythms that are a combination of all of the above. In fact, the band is a veritable word beat encyclopedia of sounds.  A shining representation of the borderland not because it adheres to any one localized style, Radio La Chusma inhabits many. It is a band at the crossroads, with a style and sound that crosses borders and cultures with ease.

RASTA MEXICA, the band’s latest CD, is a stellar example of where the band stands philosophically and musically. On the inside of the CD case, the band states its creed: “Thank you Creator for all your blessings. For the Sun, the Moon, our Earth, the air we breath and your life giving waters. Thank you for all our fellow creatures, and thank you for this BEAUTIFUL AMAZING LIFE!”

Radio La Chusma performing at The Irish Mexican Alliance event in El Paso.
The band’s reggae roots are most evident in the CDs first song, “Rasta Mexica,” which is basically a musical statement-of-principles. With the hard-driving reggae guitar rhythms and lead vocals by Ernesto, with Selina Nevarez singing backup, the song is both a musical and lyrical explication of “rasta mestizo,” a style that Radio La Chusma has virtually invented, a combination of reggae and various indigenous musical styles.

The band signals its musical diversity with “Mis Padres,” the very next cut on the CD, which is a cumbia with a Manu Chau-style vocal delivery by Ernesto and a potent brass section of trumpet (Matt Nava), trombone (Marco Guerrero) and alto sax (Maribel Bueno).

Of all the tunes on the CD, my personal favorite is “Oya,” which is not reggae or cumbia. It starts as a Native American chant, and then, led by Ricardo Amaya on djimbe drum, it transitions into a beautiful Afro Cuban grita to the orishas, with lyrical solos by Leo Martinez on jarana and Randy Sanchez on tres. Lose yourself in the exultant melody of this song and you may just have an out-of-body experience.

Radio La Chusma is a party band, a celebration of the human spirit designed to move feet, booties and souls. Every song on RASTA MEXICA is uptempo. The band is attempting to fuse physical liberation (i.e. dancing) with an enlightened political and spiritual consciousness. There are songs about personal liberation (“Rise Up”), economic exploitation (“Night Shift”), and political repression (“Cruzando Fronteras”), but mostly the band is dedicated to good times -- personal liberation not through preachy lyrics but through the release of the physical self through movement, or, as Ernesto sings in “One and Only One”: “When I wake up in the morning, I wanna feel the sun/ When I wake up in the morning, I wanna have a little fun.”

In many ways, Radio La Chusma represents the future of the U.S. encapsulated in one band. They sing in English, Spanish and Spanglish. Their sound is an infectious mix of Caribbean and South American sounds aimed at a mainstream American audience.

At a recent event in El Paso called The Irish Mexican Alliance, which I co-produced and hosted, Radio La Chusma best represented the spirit of the occasion, which was an attempt to bring people together across cultures, continents and borders and call attention to an important issue: the devastation of the U.S.-Mexico narco war in Mexico and the borderland region. Radio La Chusma made it happen; they brought a sense of celebration and fun to what was a serious occasion, a harnessing of mind, body and spirit into a musical sound that is a force to be reckoned with.

The more this band is heard, the more they will be loved. If you have not yet experienced the music of Radio La Chusma, get your hands on a copy of RASTA MEXICA, and you will soon be swaying and booty shaking with the best of them.

Check out one of the band's many videos on YouTube, or listen to sample songs, purchase the CD and learn more about Radio La Chusma at the following link:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why We Honor the San Patricios

In 1845, the Unites States government, under the leadership of President James Polk, fully embraced the concept of Manifest Destiny. The belief that the Anglo-Saxon race was destined to rule the continent led to a prevailing attitude of expansionism by force, if necessary. Thus, according to those who adhered to this philosophy, the time had come to spread the U.S. Empire all the way to the Pacific Coast.

The problem was that there was disputed land in the American west and in northern Mexico. This did not matter to the U.S. government. They were determined to take this land, by hook or by crook. The Mexican government disputed and then resisted this flagrant act of aggression. The U.S. cavalry was positioned in the disputed territory, now known as the Texas border region. In 1846, the U.S. government officially declared war against Mexico, and for three years the U.S.-Mexico war destroyed families and claimed nearly 30,000 lives in Mexico and the U.S.

At the time, the rank-and-file of the U.S. cavalry was comprised mostly of immigrants, some Germans and Poles, but mostly Irish Catholics. The Irish immigrants, in particular, had come to the U.S. under the most dire of circumstances. The Great Potato Famine was in the process of devastating Irish society and creating a wave of destitute refuges into the U.S. Many of these refuges were prime fodder for the U.S. military, which offered a job, of sorts, and a swift path to U.S. citizenship.

Many Irish were conscripted, their willingness to join motivated in part by the fact that the U.S. military was then battling British forces in Canada. For many an Irishman, the opportunity to do battle with their colonial oppressor, the United Kingdom, within the context of a well-armed and well-equipped U.S. army, was an appealing concept. With great relish, they headed off to fight the Brits in the north, only to find themselves suddenly transferred to the sweltering, desert-like terrain of Southern Texas, which, to the Irish, must have seemed like the surface of another planet.

The officer corps of the U.S. military was almost entirely WASP (white Anglo-Saxon protestant). Generally, they viewed the soldier class, with their immigrant ways and foreign religion, as a lower species of human being. The military was run not unlike a plantation: discipline was harsh. Soldiers who strayed from camp, got drunk, or disobeyed orders were whipped, held in the stockade, or sometimes tied to a stake and left to fry in the sun. Another common form of punishment was to be held upside down and have water poured down your nose and throat, a technique that in a later century would come to be known as “water boarding” and defined as torture.

These inhumane disciplinary techniques, combined with the fact that the army banned any practice of the Catholic religion, created an undercurrent of resentment within the ranks. Faced with the possibility of an insurrection, the military hierarchy passed an order allowing there to be a mass on Sundays. This mass was held at a local church, presided over by a Mexican-born priest. Unbeknownst to the officers, this ceremony would become a place of inter-cultural exchange, based around the concept of a shared faith, which sowed the seeds of the San Patricio Battalion.

Along with issues of cruel treatment and religious bigotry, the Irish American soldiers had another problem. Many of them had a hard time justifying the motives for this war of which they were now reluctant participants. As they came to know the Mexican people who lived in the region, they identified more with them than they did with the WASP overseers of the U.S. military. The Mexicans were peasant people, living off the land, who had not initiated conflict with anyone. It reminded the Irish of their own situation back in Ireland, only now they found themselves on the side of the imperialist and the oppressor.

The immigrant soldiers met secretly amongst themselves and discussed the situation. Eventually, led by an Irishman named John Riley, they decided to do the unthinkable. Over the course of three days, nearly 200 soldiers threw themselves into the Rio Grande and swam across to the other side. They deserted the U.S. Army. In Mexican territory, they re-gathered and formed a brigade, declaring that they would now fight against the U.S. military on behalf of the Mexican people.

The San Patricio Battalion was comprised mostly of Irish immigrants and Irish Americans, but also Germans, Poles, Italians, and some escaped American slaves. They were the outcasts of the American system, men and women who had lived on the dark side of oppression and were now ready to stake their liberty and lives in support of the right to self-determination. Outfitted and armed by the Mexican military, they rode under their own banner, a brilliant green flag with a harp, the Mexican coat of Arms, and the slogan ‘Erin go Bragh’ (Ireland Forever).

With nothing to lose (except their lives), the San Patricios fought valiantly in a number of key battles. At the Battle of Monterrey, they repelled two separate attacks on the city. Led by John Riley, they distinguished themselves as an artillery unit at the Battle of Buena Vista. They inflicted many casualties but also suffered major losses. By August of 1847, reduced in number, they were overwhelmed in a savage, hand-to-hand battle at Churubusco. Nearly a quarter of the battalion was killed, the remainder captured by U.S. forces.

The surviving San Patricios were charged with desertion and found guilty in a series of court martial tribunals. Many were sentenced to death, either by firing squad or, more commonly, public hanging in the town square. Those who were not executed were branded with a hot iron with the letter ‘D’ for deserter on their cheek. John Riley, leader of the San Patricios, was spared the death penalty because he had deserted before war was officially declared. He was sentenced to 50 lashes on his bare back and branded with the letter ‘D’ on each cheek.

For those who know this history, the legacy of the San Patricios is profound. To give your life in a matter of conscience, to do what you believe is just even though you know it could cost you your liberty and life, is one of the greatest sacrifices a human being can make. We honor the example of the San Patricios not as a call to arms, or as a call to battle, but as a call to do what is right.

Today, in the year 2012, we believe the spirit of the San Patricios is alive and well. It is a spirit of multi-cultural solidarity, cross-cultural solidarity, that we celebrate with music, dance and poetic invention. By honoring this history and making it present in our lives today, we hope to harness the spirit of the San Patricios, and use it to bring attention to instances of injustice and human suffering that exists here today in the U.S.-Mexico borderland.



The Irish Mexican Alliance was inaugurated in October 2010 in New York City by a group of Irish American and Latino artists and activists. The genesis for the initiative came from T.J. English, an award-winning author and journalist who had just returned from reporting on the devastation of the U.S.-Mexico narco war in Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere in Mexico. English, also the co-founder of non-profit corporation known as Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc. (IAW&A), wanted to create an event that would call attention to the situation with the narco war, particularly as it relates to the issue of journalists in Mexico being murdered for doing their job covering the story.

The NYC benefit concert was a big success, with Chicano and Irish poets, Celtic and Mexican music, special guest speakers, etc. Proceeds from the evening were donated to the Committee to
Protect Journalists, which has established a legal fund to assist journalists from Mexico who have been forced to flee and are now seeking asylum in the U.S.

The Irish Mexican Alliance was founded on the concept that there is a special connection between Irish and Mexican people, and that this connection can be used as a positive force for social change. The Alliance is rooted in history, specifically the history of the San Patricio Battalion, a group of mostly Irish American soldiers who, during the U.S. Mexico War of 1845-47, deserted the U.S. Army to fight on behalf of the Mexican people. The San Patricios were
captured, and many were found guilty of treason at U.S. military tribunals and executed by hanging.

We honor the sacrifice of the San Patricios. Documents from the era show that the choice to leave the U.S. army and fight on behalf of Mexico was based on principle. The mostly immigrant San Patricios came to believe that the war was wrong, that the U.S. government was engaged in an act of imperialist aggression. The San Patricios came to identify more strongly with the cause of the Mexican people, and they made a sacrifice that would cause most of them to lose their liberty and their lives.

The Irish Mexican Alliance recognizes this history as a heroic example of people standing up to the philosophy of Manifest Destiny. By choosing to identify with the cause of the Mexican people, the San Patricios were saying there is a calling higher than national identity, or nationalism. And that calling is the cause of human dignity and the right of people to self-determination.

The Irish Mexican Alliance hopes to harness the legacy of the San Patricios and apply it to issues of social justice. We hope to do this by staging benefit concerts and other events that celebrate and intermingle Irish, Irish American, Chicano, and Mexican cultural traditions.

NOTE: You do not need to be Irish or Mexican to be a part of the Irish Mexican Alliance. The Alliance is a SYMBOL of multicultural solidarity, cross-cultural solidarity, an example of people coming together across cultures and across continents to support each other on issues of social justice. If you are down with that, you are down with the Irish Mexican Alliance, and we hope to see you at one of our events.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Irish Mexican Alliance rides again


On April 28, 2012 in El Paso, Texas, The Irish Mexican Alliance rides again with a raucous night of entertainment and cross cultural solidarity, all to bring awareness to and raise money for organizations dealing with the trauma of the U.S.-Mexico narco war.

Some of the most popular bands in the Borderland, along with an impressive collection of poets and other artists, are coming together under that banner of THE IRISH MEXICAN ALLIANCE to stage a major fundraising event in downtown El Paso, TX on Sat., April 28. The event will raise money for the El Paso-based charity, Amor por Juárez, an organization that helps fund non-governmental organizations dealing with the trauma caused by the narco war in the U.S.-Mexico borderland.

Along with its serious intent, THE IRISH MEXICAN ALLIANCE event promises to be a raucous night of entertainment, as well as a formidable display of cross-cultural solidarity. There will be Celtic and Mexican music, Chicano and Irish poets, Mexican and Irish beer. Books, CDs, posters, and t-shirts created especially for the event will be raffled off for charity. The event will be held at the historic San Carlos Building at 501 Texas Avenue, in downtown El Paso, from 6-12 pm. The suggested donation for the event is $12.

“There is nothing quite like The Irish Mexican Alliance,” said best-selling author T.J. English, who founded the initiative and will be hosting the event. “We believe there is a spiritual connection between Mexican and Irish people that can be harnessed as a powerful force. In this case, along with staging one of the best concert events to hit El Paso in some time, we will raise money for organizations dealing with the ongoing emotional and human carnage of the narco war.”

Among the entertainers performing at the event are Frontera Bugalú and Radio La Chusma, two of the most popular bands in El Paso; singer Velia Christina, a rising star who will perform songs from her upcoming debut CD; the San Patricios, an El Paso based traditional Irish music group; and Ashley Davis, a Celtic singer who is being flown in from New York City. On the literary side, renowned Chicano poet and author Jimmy Santiago Baca will read, along with local poets Valentin Sandoval and Terrence Welsh, and Myrlin Hepworth, a dynamic young Chicano poet based in Phoenix.

THE IRISH MEXICAN ALLIANCE began in 2010 in NYC with the staging of a similar event in Manhattan. At that event, money was raised for the Committee to Protect Journalists, who established a fund to provide legal assistant to journalists forced to flee Mexico and seek asylum in the U.S. due to threats and the murder of fellow journalists in Mexico.

“Anything that brings attention to what is happening across the border in Juárez is important,” says Valentin Sandoval, a local poet, filmmaker and activist who is a coproducer of the event. “There is a danger people will get tired of hearing about what’s happening there, or simply forget. We want to help make sure that doesn’t happen, and also, at the same, create a special night showcasing some of the most talented artists in El Paso.”

In addition to calling attention to the devastating consequences of the narco war, THE IRISH MEXICAN ALLIANCE draws its impetus from the historical spirit of the San Patricio Battalion, a group of mostly Irish American soldiers who, during the U.S.-Mexico War of 1845-48, deserted the U.S. army to fight on behalf of the Mexican people. Although the San Patricios are thought of as traitors by some (many were executed as traitors by the U.S. military), THE IRISH MEXICAN ALLIANCE celebrates the sacrifice of the San Patricios as an example of men and women following their conscience and standing up to what they saw as injustice and imperialist aggression.

For more information about THE IRISH MEXICAN ALLIANCE and the upcoming event in El Paso, visit the Facebook page and/or website at

Media contact: Valentin Sandoval at or call at 915-694-8863.

Friday, February 24, 2012

THE SAVAGE CITY in paperback

THE SAVAGE CITY, the scalding New York Times best-seller by T.J. English, is due out in paperback on March 20, 2012. The book chronicles a particularly violent ten-year period (1963-1973) in the recent history of New York City, with the racial tensions between the black liberation movement and the NYPD as the central fault line. The book has been praised by the New York Times, Mother Jones, The Village Voice, and other publications.

The paperback edition of THE SAVAGE CITY contains a new Afterword by the author that focuses on and updates the story of BILL PHILLIPS, a notoriously corrupt police officer who eventually got caught and testified in front of the Knapp Commission Hearings in 1971. Phillips was later convicted of the double murder of a pimp and a prostitute and sentenced to life in prison. After serving 33 years, Phillips was released. In the new Afterword to THE SAVAGE CITY, English interviews Phillips, gets his response to his portayal in the book and also solicits some starting revelations about what it was like being a former police officer in prison for more than three decades.

In addition to Phillips, THE SAVAGE CITY tells the story of GEORGE WHITMORE, a young black male who is coerced into signing a confession to a horrific double murder he did not commit, and DHORUBA BIN WAHAD, one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party in NYC. These three characters form a narrative thread in the book that reflects on different aspects of race and criminal justice in America during an especially tumultuous time.

So place your orders now for this new and updated version of the latest non-fiction masterpiece by T.J. ENGLISH, author of HAVANA NOCTURNE, THE WESTIES, and other national best sellers, an author who historian and writer Luc Sante has called "one of the great reporters of our time."

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Man Who Saw Through Whitey

(The following book review by T.J. English appeared on
The Daily Beast on Jan. 27, 2012.)

In the two decades that James “Whitey” Bulger served as a secret FBI informant while extorting citizens, peddling cocaine and killing people to protect his Boston-based criminal empire, there is only one federal agent who tried seriously to shut him down: Robert Fitzpatrick.

For his efforts, Fitzpatrick was frustrated at every turn, not by Bulger and his fellow gangsters, but by his own FBI.

After being introduced to Bulger in 1981, Fitzpatrick warned his regional supervisor that Whitey was “sociopathic… untrustworthy… likely to commit violence” and suggested that he be “closed” as an informant. Not only were his memos and recommendations ignored, some in the FBI sought to discredit Fitzpatrick and destroy his reputation.

The aggrieved former G-man finally has the opportunity to tell his side of the story in Betrayal, an explosive memoir of his years as Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston office. The book has the feel of an ongoing therapy session, as Fitzpatrick seeks to make sense of a sprawling conspiracy of agents, cops, judges, criminals, and politicians who for decades enabled Bulger and made it possible for his campaign of corruption and terror to infect an entire city. Currently, Bulger awaits trial on nineteen counts of murder, after having been on the lam for sixteen years.

It is a sickening story, one that Fitzpatrick and his co-author Jon Land allow to unfold slowly, like a toxic oil spill that envelopes and destroys the surrounding ecosystem – in this case, the entire criminal justice system of the state of Massachusetts.

It is now common knowledge that Special Agent John Connolly, Bulger’s primary handler in the Bureau who is presently in prison on murder charges, and former state senator William “Billy” Bulger, Whitey’s powerful politician brother, formed a support system that made it possible for the Bulger era to sustain itself. But in Betrayal, Fitzpatrick broadens the conspiracy, detailing the culpability of a vast matrix of enablers, including, most notably, the late-Jeremiah T. O’Sullivan, who, as lead prosecutor for the state’s Organized Crime Strike Force, undermined potential prosecutions of both Whitey and Billy Bulger, and Lawrence Sarhatt and James Greenleaf, successive special agents in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, who buried reports, including Fitzpatrick’s recommendation that Bulger be “closed” as an informant.

Fitzpatrick does not attempt to portray himself as a hero; the dominant tone of the book is one of frustration and astonishment as the author, who was sent to Boston by FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. with the expressed task of evaluating Bulger’s “suitability” as a top-echelon informant, encounters malfeasance and corruption at every level.

Early in the book, he describes being a young boy at the infamous Mount Loretto orphanage in Staten Island, NY, where he encountered bullies and institutional abuse. Late at night, he sought solace by laying in the dark and listening to the popular radio program This Is Your FBI. Fitzpatrick’s belief in the FBI as both an avenue of personal salvation and an institutional force for justice haunts the book, as the reality of corruption and careerism crushes his idealism much the same way Bulger strangled, shot and mutilated his murder victims.

Fitzpatrick came to Boston well suited to deal with subterfuge and corruption. He had gone undercover in the Deep South in the mid-Sixties in an attempt to penetrate and bring down white supremacist organizations. In the 1970s he’d been one of the lead agent on the ABSCAM investigation, a sting operation involving corrupt public officials that led to numerous high-profile arrests, including the indictment of a sitting U.S. senator.

In Boston, Fitzpatrick spent nearly a decade trying to unravel what he calls “the Bulger arrangement.” As a veteran G-man who had trained budding agents on the proper cultivation of criminal informants at the FBI academy in Quantico, VA, he recognized all the telltale signs of a disaster in the making. He saw that Connolly and his supervisor, John Morris, were too close to Bulger. Also, as Fitzpatrick noted to anyone who would listen, the Bulger situation violated one of the most basic tenets of informant cultivation; the proper strategy with informants is to get someone mid-level who can help take down the boss and therefore an entire organization. You cannot have an organized crime kingpin as an informant, because it is inevitable that person will choose to manipulate the information they reveal to their handlers as a way of staying in power.

When it became apparent to Fitzpatrick that his warnings about the Bulger relationship were being ignored, he sought to build his own cases against the mob boss. He developed informants like Brian Halloran, a sad-sack career thug who worked for Bulger, and John McIntyre, a naïve Irish Republican Army (IRA) sympathizer who partnered with Bulger on a scheme to send guns to Northern Ireland in exchange for shipments of marijuana and cocaine. Agents in Fitzpatrick’s own office leaked information to Bulger about the informants; Halloran and McIntyre were both brutally murdered by Bulger, as were other informants whose identities were compromised and revealed to local gangsters by Connolly and Morris.

In the end, Fitzpatrick’s reputation within the Bureau as a potential whistleblower and general “pain in the ass” began to wear him down. It took a personal toll on him and his wife. Fitzpatrick began to get the sense that Bulger and his gangster partner Steve Flemmi, who was also a longtime FBI informant, were more important to the local office than he was. “Apparently Bulger and Flemmi were the FBI’s ‘guys’ while I, somehow, wasn’t,” writes Fitzpatrick. “While busting [the Mafia] remained every bit a top priority in Washington, my efforts and accomplishments were being demeaned by a groupthink mentality that led to a scenario of ‘us versus them,’ with me inexplicably linked with ‘them.’”

When Fitzpatrick, frustrated and disillusioned, resigned from the Bureau in 1987, the full dimensions of Bulger’s partnership with the FBI was not yet known, even to the agent. It wasn’t until the late-1990s, when Bulger went on the lam after being tipped off by his FBI contacts that he was about to be arrested, that the truth started to come out. In a series of hearings and depositions, the Bulger cohorts who were left behind turned “rat” and testified in court. In a groundbreaking hearing presided over by Federal Judge Mark Wolf, Fitzpatrick testified, and for the first time the story of his efforts to rectify the Bureau’s sinister alliance with Bulger began to take shape.

In January 2000, after Whitey’s right hand man provided details on a series of murders, including where the bodies were buried, Fitzpatrick stood in the rain alongside Dorchester gulley as the remains of John McIntyre, his one-time informant, were dug up. “As I stood on that embankment,” writes Fitzpatrick, “steaming over confirmation of what I’d suspected ever since John McIntyre had disappeared in 1984, I never imagined I was looking at the means to achieve my long sought vindication.”

Fitzpatrick’s vindication would come in court, where he testified as part of a civil lawsuit brought by the McIntyre family – and other families of Bulger’s victims – against the FBI and the U.S. government for having underwritten Bulger’s murderous criminal career. In 2006, the McIntyre family was awarded $3.1 million in damages. All told, litigation from cases related to the Bulger debacle would result in damages over $20 million.

provides the most complete overview to date of the culture of corruption that made Bulger possible. Fitzpatrick names names and offers an appendix filled with FBI memos, letters and excerpts from depositions and court proceedings. The cumulative effect is a devastating reaffirmation of the findings of a U.S. congressional committee that declared the Bulger-FBI relationship to represent “one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement.”

The final chapter on Bulger has not yet been written. Whitey is scheduled to stand trial sometime in 2012, and Fitzpatrick will likely be called to testify.

In this sordid saga of homicidal gangsters and dirty federal agents, Fitzpatrick’s perspective – and his book – offers a rare beacon of light.

-- T.J. English

Sunday, January 22, 2012

THE SAVAGE CITY Nominated for Edgar Award

The Mystery Writers of America (MWA) have announced their 2012 nominations for the prestigious Edgar Award, and among the nominees is THE SAVAGE CITY, the NY Times best-seller by T.J. English. The book is nominated in the category of Best Fact Crime.

The venerable MWA annually gives out awards for mystery and crime fiction, as well non-fiction and screenwriting for television and movies. The Edgar Awards, named after legendary writer Edgar Allan Poe, will be given out at the organization's annual awards banquet April 26, 2012 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC.

This is the third time T.J. English has been nominated in this category. His first nomination was for for BORN TO KILL (1995), the true story of a Vietnamese gang based in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood in the early 1990s. English was nominated again in 2009 for HAVANA NOCTURNE, an account of the Mob's infiltration of Havana, Cuba in the 1950s in the years before the Cuban revolution.

THE SAVAGE CITY is an epic account of a ten-year period in NYC history, from 1963 to 1973, when racial tension between the NYPD and the Black liberation movement brought the city to a boiling point. The book was a NY Times best-seller, and English was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote the book.

For a complete list of this year's nominees for the Edgar Award, click the following link: