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Here’s How A Hair Tour Turned Emotional As Afro-Latinas Discussed Their Blackness

Ada Rojas and Rocío Mora are beauty bloggers with tens of thousands of followers on their YouTube channels dedicated to discussing natural hair care. But just a few years ago, the two Afro-Latinas were in a similar place as their fans: deeply anxious about their coils, which they sometimes considered aesthetically inferior to unbending tresses, and unsure how to manage them.

Hoping to help their subscribers through their own natural hair love journeys, Rojas and Mora launched Rizos on the Road, a six-city tour that educates and empowers curly-haired Latinas on how to care for their ringlets.

“It was a celebration of curls,” Mora, the Mexican-hondureña behind RisasRizos, told mitú of each three-hour tour stop. “There are natural hair communities all the time, but for Latinas, it’s very rare. So this was special.”

Starting in April, Rojas and Mora drove vehicles provided by Kia, the tour’s titled sponsor, through the streets of Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, bringing their hair gospel to more than 770 people across the nation.

At each event, the tour’s resident hairstylist, Ona Diaz-Santin, performed a live haircut demonstration to educate women with curly hair about different styles for their texture.

“A lot of the girls don’t know what to ask for when they get to a salon, so we wanted to show them some of the best styles for them,” the New Orleans-based Mora said. The women also held contests for free haircuts and recommended hairdressers to attendees in each city.

This part of the affair was particularly important to Rojas.

Growing up in a single-parent household of six children in New York, the dominicana Rojas remembers her mother couldn’t afford to take her to the beauty salon each week, so she had to work with pharmacy products – which some of us know don’t really cut it.

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They didn’t suffice. The gels hardened her hair and the greases left it oily. “It was a pain to deal with. I never understood why I had to do extra stuff to make it look decent when others could wake up and be fine,” Rojas, 27, said. It wasn’t until she was clicking through YouTube’s natural hair videos while in college that she started to learn of the myriad products on the market that could keep her curls healthy and beautiful — some of this merchandise was given to attendees in gift bags.

“I finally learned how to take care of my hair, and it was life-changing,” Rojas, who went on to start her own blog/vlog All Things Ada in 2009, said.

Thanks for all the love on my 2am IG stories ❤️✨ Been feeling the weight of everything on my plate lately and was super unmotivated to do anything even though these are the blessings I've been praying for. Saw the dopest video of @johnhenrystyle come up story and listened to my fav Kanye track (Last Call – my go to when I feel like shit) and was instantly reminded that I can't slow down now. There's no time to be tired, there's no time to complain, there is no time to be ungrateful. The dream is free but the hustle is sold separately and you better be ready and come correct or don't come at all. Next time someone asks me how I'm doing I promise my answer won't be "tired". If you're reading this KEEP GRINDING. . "I ain't play the hand I was dealt, I changed my cards I prayed to the skies and I changed my stars…" . ?PC: @thugnanny_ Have you read her latest blog post btw? ? . #allthingsada #entrepreneur

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Following the live haircut demonstrations, curl guidance and beauty tips, Rojas and Mora held panel discussions on what it means to be Afro-Latina in the natural hair movement.

During these conversations, the pair talked about how their families’ ideas of “pelo malo” and “pelo bueno” taught them to view their coils as a burden, an unsightly part of themselves that needed to be fixed if they were going to be considered beautiful or respectable, and how the online natural hair movement helped shift the way they thought about their hair and, in turn, themselves.

“I learned about the history and roots of the African diaspora, and how our hair is a direct lineage to our ancestors,” Rojas said.

For Mora, 29, this was without-a-doubt the most emotional part of the event.

Rizos = Curls. Amor = Love.

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Growing up mixed-race and multicultural, she sometimes felt like parts of her identity weren’t welcomed on either of her Mexican or Honduran sides, particularly her blackness. Despite her darker hue and afro-textured hair, she, like her family, never identified as black or Afro-Latina, but that began to change when she started her natural hair journey.

“It was more than hair. It was learning about my roots and my story. It was rediscovering my identity,” Mora said.

Her greatest hope for the tour is that it becomes a catalyst for attendees’ own pro-black, self-love awakening, one that also sparks dialogue about afro-latinidad among their families.

While the tour’s last stop was in August, the duo would like to bring back Rizos on the Road next year.

They hope that with more Latina-centered natural hair events, ideas of “pelo malo” and “pelo bueno” in Latino homes can fade away into history, and more girls can grow up being encouraged to celebrate their coils rather than loathe them.

“To see a new wave of women embracing curly hair, and have them be Latina and proud of their afro roots, is beautiful. To be a part of that with Rizos on the Road, being able to create that environment, is so overwhelming, amazing and inspiring,” Rojas said.

Read: Meet The Salvadoreña Filling New York Streets With Love Letters To Latinas

Let us know about your own natural hair journey in the comments.

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The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education Fired An Educator For Speaking Positively About Black Hair


The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education Fired An Educator For Speaking Positively About Black Hair

On Tuesday, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education released a campaign video directed at youth that shattered harmful attitudes surrounding “pelo bueno, pelo malo” — the idea that thin, straight hair is beautiful and afro-textured coils aren’t.

“In the Ministry of Education, no little girl, little boy or grown adult should be discriminated because of their physical appearance. We are committed to guaranteeing the equality in identity,” Marianela Pinales, then director of Gender Equality and Development at the Ministry of Education on the island, said in the video, as young Black and brown boys and girls send similar messages about loving their hair as it is.

The 52-second PSA is long-overdue in the Dominican Republic, one of many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that has held tightly to the white supremacist belief that skin and hair texture that aligns closer to European standards of beauty are both more attractive and deserving of better treatment than those with hues and locks that are darker and thicker.

For that, many on the island and diaspora celebrated the video, including Edith Febles, a respected journalist and natural hair advocate, who aired it on her show, La cosa como es. However, just after the video debut, Febles said Pinales was discharged.

While the Ministry of Education said that Pinales was fired because she missed several recent events — a claim the educator denies — and not because of the video, which some have considered controversial, many find the timing around her termination questionable.

“The timing is very *very* suspicious to say the least,” Amanda Alcántara, the digital media editor at Futuro Media Group, wrote in an article for Latino Rebels.  “Much like the roots of anti-blackness in the country itself, the people in power seem to stop at no cost to maintain white supremacy. This confirms that even as consciousness grows, the problem is systemic.”

On social media, many others have shared similar sentiments.

The campaign, however, is reaching audiences in and outside of the Dominican Republic, where it has the power to challenge beauty ideals and young people’s relationships with their hair.

Read: 6 Afro-Latinas Open Up About What Headwraps Mean To Them

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10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself


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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