Shane Romero grew up on Bedford and Dekalb avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant, long before the arrival of the high-rise luxury tower around the corner and years before the opening of the organic food market across the street.
Romero grew up at a time when the saccharine sounds of ice cream trucks traded off with the cacophony of gunshots and– just like mischief and the cops—he sought out and dodged both in equal measure.
But that was then, and this is now. Things eventually began to change for Romero, and it had nothing to do with his neighborhood or gentrification. When Romero was 8 years old, his mother took him to a lyricist show that would slowly begin to shift the direction of his life.
“I grew up in hip hop. I was a hip hop kid, but for some reason, I never really wanted to be a rapper,” said Romero. “My mom took me to a poetry slam when I was young and that sparked my interest in poetry and I’ve never stopped writing since then.”
Romero began writing poetry and writing often, about his experience, growing up Latino in the gritty streets of Bed-Stuy. In fact, his mother still has the first poem he ever wrote, which she carries around in her purse to this day.
By age 16, Romero was performing at poetry slam venues all across New York City, where he was winning show after show, and by his twenties, he moved to Los Angeles, Ca., performing at poetry slams and on college campuses throughout the West Coast.
Romero said he was now on a mission to “speak for the unspoken.”
Romero went on to become a member of three national poetry slam teams, participating in multiple nationwide tours, as well as the international Just Weight Tour.
In 2008, Romero was the coach for the Inland Empire BNV youth slam team that was held in Washington, DC, and featured on HBO. Shane also now regularly returns back to the same public school system in which he was raised, encouraging them and coaching them on how to break through seemingly intractable cycles of poverty and violence to attain their desired level of success.
“The current generation is really big on social media and reality TV,” said Romero. “I think the media does such a good job in brainwashing them into thinking that they need these things, so reality isn’t fully seen for them.
“I find that the kids today feel like there’s nothing for them in the world at all. Hip Hop is bringing down the community, especially for people of color. It’s now a battle between being popular and having the latest things, but its running the community.”
Romero believes that there’s not enough balance in the positive message and images that young people receive today. So, most recently, 28-year-old Shane decided to write and star in his own video, entitled, “The Gentlemen’s Movement”
Produced by Russell Simmons for his clothing line Argyleculture, the video tells the story of “the urban graduate,” someone who has gone from the gritty streets of Brooklyn to becoming an entrepreneur.
“My message is you can be of your environment, but you don’t have to be your environment,” said Romero. “It’s showing, ‘Yeah we did the streets, we’ve worn these clothes, but it’s time to clean ourselves up.
“You can be from Marcy projects, but when it’s time to do business, put on a bow tie and button up and go. In the Harlem Renaissance era we were so fly. So it’s not like this isn’t something our community has never done before. So let’s bring it back.”
To book Shane Romero for a show or speaking appearance, go here.