Entertainment

A Latina High School Student Just Won A Massive Scholarship After Writing An Essay That Praised Celia Cruz For Being ‘Unapologetically Black’

Cuban singer and world-renowned Queen of Salsa Celia Cruz (RIP) has long been an inspiration to millions of men and women around the globe. Throughout her career and after her death, Celia’s fans have hailed her as a musical icon and a Cuban force of resistance. All of these years later, and Cruz who passed away in 2003, is still inspiring the generations that came decades after her.  In fact, in a bid to stake her claim in a college scholarship program, high school student  Genesis Diaz recently applied for and won a lucrative prize from Altice USA (the provider of Optimum and Suddenlink) all thanks to an essay she wrote about the late singer.

In her inspirational essay about the  Cuban singer, Diaz wrote about admiring Celia Cruz for being “unapologetically black.”

According to BKLYNER, Altice USA holds an essay contest in the fall to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (which runs from September 15 through October 15th). The prompt, which is given to middle and high school students, is to “name a Latino, past or present, with whom you would choose to spend a day and explain why.” The grand prize this year is a whopping $1,500 check which, if you remember college costs, can really help out any student eyeing higher education.

Diaz, a senior in James Madison High School in Brooklyn, New York, won this year’s contest. Her essay was selected out of over 700 submissions from across the country, according to Jen Rivera from Altice USA, who spoke with BKLYNER.

In her powerful essay, Diaz wrote that she would want to spend the day with Celia Cruz because she exclusively surrounds herself with people who “radiate positive energy.”

“And who’s more positive than Celia Cruz?”, Diaz wrote.

But what she really captured in her essay on Cruz isn’t just her positive energy but rather the way that she was unapologetic about being Black and Cubana and how she used her African roots in her music. While writing about the artist’s accomplishments as well as her being Hispanic and Black, Diaz emphasized the effect that Cruz has had on the Latinx community throughout her life and beyond.

“Black has always been seen as a color of inferiority, which is why Celia Cruz’s early critics claimed that she did not have the right look,” she said in her essay. “She wasn’t an ideal artist simply because of her African descent.”

Diaz went onto say that Cruz “carried her African roots in her heart and through her lyrics… Celia told everyone, including me, how phenomenal and majestic it is to be unapologetically black.”

Diaz, who hopes to attend New York University and is anxiously awaiting her acceptance from the prestigious school, was celebrated last week by school officials, classmates, members of Altice USA and Council Member Chaim Deutsch

“I couldn’t believe I actually won!” Diaz said in her view.. “I was very proud and very emotional. I feel like people take entertainment figures for granted. What people don’t realize that these figures are activists also.”

Diaz’s description of Cruz as an activist and powerhouse, couldn’t be more accurate.  The Afro-Cubana proved herself to be an icon and hero in her time, when she rose to face as a salsa vocalist and eventually became the symbol and spirit of the Cuban expatriate community.

Celia Cruz has inspired countless amounts of people, including people like Amara La Negra.

“Growing up, I never saw anyone who looked like me besides Celia Cruz. She was such a strong, powerful woman. She was a very inspirational person,” Amara La Negra told Latino USA about the late singer who considered her Blackness with a sense of pride that eventually turned songs like “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” into huge hits. “When Celia Cruz passed away, there was no one else to really look up to as an Afro-Latino or Afro-Latina on TV. So, I went and became a fan of Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Donna Summers, who are truly talented women and I truly admire them. But, as far as the Latin community, we really didn’t have anyone to look up to.”

For her part, Diaz, who her principal calls a “remarkable young woman,” has become her own source of inspiration. Not only did the award-winning student win the grand prize for her Celia Cruz essay but she has also started her own club “about Hispanic, Black and Carribean cultures,” according to BKLYNER. There, students can gather once a week to “discuss issues facing the school and the community as a whole.”

It’s extremely encouraging to see the younger generation fall in love (and be inspired by) Celia Cruz just as much as the rest of us were. Here’s hoping that Diaz, with her award-winning essay, continues to draw inspiration from the Cubana and that she herself embodies being “unapologetically black.”


Read: Meet Mona Marie, The Caribeña Helping Women Find Their Strength And Freedom Through Pole Dancing

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10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself

Entertainment

10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself

It’s Black History Month, a time to uplift and celebrate the historic events and people of African descent who have contributed to culture, achieved excellence and sparked social and political change. But it’s also a moment for reflection, of honestly evaluating how much — and how little — has changed for the African diaspora throughout the US, Latin America and beyond.

Confronting the everyday violence, discrimination, disadvantages and inequality Black individuals have and continue to endure, while necessary, could be enraging and upsetting, and makes self-care practices all the more necessary.

This year, whether you’re celebrating the beauty, resilience and magia of blackness with a Black History Month party or well-deserved care day, music can always add to the occasion. Here, a mix of Spanish and English songs by Afro-Latinas and for Black women that unapologetically declare self-love and engage in self-worship to add to any Black joy playlist for the month of February and all the days that follow it.

1. Celebrate being a daughter of “La Diaspora” with Nitty Scott.

When the Afro-Boricua rapper dropped Creature in 2017, she gifted Black women, particularly Black Latinx femmes, with a full project that saw, understood and exalted their existence. None of the bangers on the LP did this as intentionally as the song and short film “La Diaspora.”

2. Make your voice and joy heard with Christina Milian’s “Say I”

When the cubana teamed with Young Jeezy to drop this 2009 bop, she encouraged women to “do what you want to do. Don’t let nobody tell you what you’re supposed to do.” And that’s some pretty liberating ishh.

3. Some might call you “CRZY,” but Kehlani wants you to embrace the term.

Confidently dancing to the beat of your own drum, especially as a woman of color, is neither expected nor welcomed, largely because it makes it more difficult for white supremacy to thrive. With “CRZY,” the part-Mexican R&B songstress encourages femmes to embrace and reclaim the slights people throw at you for being a radiant, go-getting mami.

4. And Calma Carmona’s “I Got Life” shows that there is so much to be joyous about.

In her Spanglish rendition of Nina Simone’s “I Ain’t Got No … I Got Life,” the Puerto Rican soul singer declares all the beauty she has, from her voice, to her hair, to her smile to her life, in a world that told her she has nothing.

5. Something else you have: “Tumbao.”

In la reina de salsa’s multi-generational hit “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” the late cubana Celia Cruz reminds Black women of that unfading, indescribable, swing and swag that Black women carry with them in every space they occupy.

6. Prefer an English joint? Cardi B will also remind you how “Bad” you are.

With “She Bad,” featuring YG, the Dominican-Trinidadian rapper engages in self-worship and encourages other Black women to feel themselves and own their sexuality without apprehension or apologies.

7. ‘Cause Like Maluca told you, you’re “la mami del block.”

In the Dominican singer-rapper’s mega bop “El Tigeraso,” Maluca makes the indisputable claim that Afro-Latinas have it all: “tengo fly, tengo party, tengo una sabrosura.”

8. And like Farina says, not everyone is deserving of your greatness.

In “la nena fina’s” urbano-pop jam “Mucho Pa’ Ti,” the colombiana raps what everyone knows: She, and you, are too much — too poppin’, too powerful, too radiant — for the unworthy.

9. Now that you’re reminded of who you are, enter every space like Melii walked into the club in her music video for “Icey.”

With sparkly, high-heeled white boots, a laced v-neck bodysuit, some tiny red shades and confidence that entraps you, dominicana-cubana Melii knows her value — as a woman and an artist — and watching or listening to how self-assured she is will undoubtedly rub off on you.

10. ‘Cause at the end of the day, you’re a “Million Dollar Girl” like Trina.

Like the Dominican-Bahamian rapper, alongside Keri Hilson and Diddy, told you in 2010: “Baby if I want it, I got it / ‘Cause I’ll be gettin’ some more / ‘Cause I’m a million dollar girl, for sure.”

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9 Ways To Winter-Proof Your Curly Hair And Make Sure It Retains Moisture

The Beatdown

9 Ways To Winter-Proof Your Curly Hair And Make Sure It Retains Moisture

Winter, with its windchill and dry air, can be a particularly brutal time on sensitive strands–especially for Afro-Latinas. Hair with a curlier pattern is more prone to breakage, as it is more difficult for the natural lubrication of the scalp to travel down the hair shaft and moisturize hair ends.

So although we love the winter months for all the festivities and the rare time we get to spend with our families, a part of us also dreads it. Or more accurately, our hair dreads it. With our (often) ethnically mixed heritage, our hair patterns can run the gamut–from poker-straight to kinky-coily. And because of this, we have to pay special attention to the way our hair reacts to the winter elements. Because what works for our primas doesn’t necessarily work for us. In light of this, we’ve compiled a list of ways to winter-proof our hair this season. Check it out below!

1. Trim Your Ends

Instagram @curlelia


At some point, as grown women, we have to come to terms with the fact that we need to trim our hair every 6-8 weeks. It may be hard to part with the puny amount of growth we seem to accumulate over the previous months, but it’s also universally acknowledged at this point, that trimming your hair is one of the best ways to keep your hair healthier and achieve more progress in your length journey. So, go make that appointment with your stylist ASAP!

2. Cover Your Head

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To prevent your hair from receiving the full brunt of the winter elements during the colder months, try physically covering it. Scarves and hats physically shield your hair from wind, dryness, and precipitation–elements that are known to damage sensitive hair. However, it’s important to pay attention to the fabric you use, as some of the coziest fabrics out there have a rough reputation. By that, we mean that warm fabrics such as wool an cotton cause the highest amounts of friction against hair strands, making it break easier. If you truly want to baby your strands, buy a silk scarf or a silk-lined hat. You won’t regret it.

3. Don’t Leave the House With Wet Hair

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This piece of advice may seem like an old wives’ tale that your madre has repeated one hundred times. But in this case, it’s true! Leaving the house with wet hair isn’t just damaging to your health, it’s damaging to your hair. We all know that our hair takes longer to dry in the cold weather, but we sometimes conveniently ignore the fact that our hair also freezes when it’s wet. And when you have frozen hair, you risk breakage. So, plan your schedule accordingly and make sure your hair is 100% dry when you leave the house (preferably air-dried).

4. Stick to Rinsing in Cool or Warm Water

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We have to admit that there’s almost nothing as satisfying as stepping into a hot bath or a hot shower after freezing our butts off in the winter cold. Unfortunately, this practice can be damaging to delicate strands. When you wash your hair in hot water, the water opens “elevates” the cuticle of the hair making it porous. Porous hair is more vulnerable to the elements and more prone to breakage. If you must take a hot shower, make sure you tie up your hair or cover it in a shower cap.

5. Use an Oil-Based Moisturizer

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The best route to the healthiest, happiest hair? Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Hydrated hair is hair that is stronger and less prone to splitting and fraying. And because oil doesn’t evaporate as quickly as water-based moisturizers, oil-based moisturizers are the perfect tool to lock-in hydration this winter. Look into argan oil, jojoba oil, and avocado oil for maximum moisturization and protection.

6. Deep Condition

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There isn’t a time of the year when your hair needs moisture more than it does in the winter. Because of the winter months’ reputation from dryness and wind chill, your hair is more likely than ever to become a frizzy, brittle mess. Deep conditioners help to penetrate the hair shaft and nourish it with fatty acids, proteins, and nutrients that strengthen and protect that strand from the inside out. To get more mileage from your deep-conditioner, pop under a hair dryer for a few minutes to enable maximum penetration.

7. Cut Back on Heat Styling

Instagram @afrolatinas_

The winter months are usually chock-full of opportunities to become extra-dependent on your trusty blow dryer and curling iron. After all, everyone wants to look their best during gatherings where there are sure to be tons of photo ops. But curling irons and straighteners weaken our strands by damaging the cuticle. Additionally, blow-drying our hair creates a “flash drying” effect that robs the hair of its moisture and natural oils. Although it’s okay to use heat once in a while, work on limiting your dependency–especially during the winter months,

8. Buy a Humidifier

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You can slather on as many oils and moisturizers as you can get your hands on, but if you live in a dry-air climate, you’re fighting a losing battle. That is unless you buy a humidifier. Humidifiers are a great way to add moisture to your strands in dry climates where moisture is hard to come by. This one almost seems obvious upon further reflection, but it’s something that doesn’t even cross people’s minds. The equation is simple: a humidifier = moisturized hair. Moisturized hair = healthy hair. Case closed!

9. Utilize Protective Styling

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If all of the options above still fall short of preventing breakage and dryness in your hair, opt for protective styles. Twists, braids, and weaves protect your hair from rough elements and the day-to-day unnecessary friction.’ It’s no wonder that some women report incredible length gains after protective styling for a few months. So if you’re tired of using hats, humidifiers, and deep conditioners take a break from the hair-mania and put your hair away for a while.

Read: You Can Help Give the Children in Immigration Detention Centers a Gift This Holiday Season

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