identities

Afro-Latinas On Social Media Are Here To Remind You ’Afro’ Means Black

It was a typical evening on Twitter, and just as I was preparing to head to bed, I glanced at my timeline for the last time that night, or so I thought.

A popular Afro-Latina-run account shared a recent mitú article, “The Natural Hair Movement Is For Black And Afro-Latina Women Only. Here’s Why,” and several self-identified Afro-Latinas were re-tweeting and discussing the problematic headline.

“Not again,” I thought. Naturally, I went in on Twitter.

Inspired by a HipLatina piece, the author explores the politics of black hair, its significance to black girl and womanhood and why it’s not a space for white women (Here for it!). However the headline, which has since been edited, and the article made a major offense separating black and Afro-Latina.

I’m not here to police anyone’s identity as many Afro-Latinas understand what that feels like and it’s not something I’ll ever do to others. But I, like many other women I follow on Twitter, found the distinction insulting and an intentional erasing of blackness from Afro-Latinidad. That wasn’t the intent as mentioned in the editor’s note (added at the bottom), however, Latinx media is known to portray Latinidad in a singular lens.

Because of this, some aren’t surprised that the headline was run by this outlet, but what’s even less shocking is the slow erasure of blackness from identity labels like Afro-Latino/a/x.

When I first started documenting my journey as an Afro-Latina, a term I’m using far less, through my website Ain’t I Latina? in 2013, it wasn’t dique trendy to do so.

What led me to document the Afro-Latina experience was my passion for storytelling and not seeing my narrative or that of other Afro-Latinas in media.

I was that kid glued to the TV watching ’90s sitcoms like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Living Single,” “The Parent ‘Hood” and “Sister, Sister,” to name a few, and flipping through Jet, EBONY, Essence and later Latina in search of my entire identity.

I couldn’t find that. And after graduating with a journalism degree and working in the industry for a few years, I still didn’t see our stories being reported, shows with an Afro-Latinx lead character or our faces on the cover of magazines. (Jeimy Osorio, who played young Celia Cruz in the telenovela “Celia,” became the first Afro-Latina cover girl for popular Spanish-language women’s magazine Vanidades in 2015. That’s 80-plus years after its founding).

We still have a long way to go, but there’s been an uptick in visibility of Afro-Latinxs within Spanish and English-language media, which is directly connected to the Afro-Latinxs who’ve carved out spaces on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as their respective blogs and websites.

Platforms like Es Mi Cultura, Boriqua Chicks, #IAMENOUGH, Proyecto AfroLatin@ and @TheAfroLatinDiaspora, and change agents like artist and activist Zahira Kellyentertainer Amara La Negra, Dash Harris of Afro-Latino Travel and Carmen Mojica, author of Hija De Mi Madre, have all showcased and embraced black identity within Latin America. The common thread: centering black identity within Latinidad.

The term Afro-Latinx (using the “x” because it’s gender neutral and inclusive) refers to a person of African descent in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, as well as those of African descent in the U.S. whose origins are in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that Latino/a/x is not a race, but an ethnicity, which means Latinxs can be white, black, Asian or indigenous.

Ethnicity and race are often used interchangeably, creating some confusion. But if you identify as Afro-anything you are saying you’re black. It’s not separate from you, not a term used for African Americans only; no, you’re embracing black identity.

There have been countless conversations on Twitter alone in which Afro-Latinxs have had to address anti-blackness from those within our community. 

Yes, identity is complex and we’re not monolithic. However, the experience is key to one’s identity.

Why would Afro-Latinxs get upset over a headline? Well, it’s more than the headline. Many of us have had to battle family members, our community, white supremacy and Euro-centric beauty standards simply to embrace our entire selves.


Editor’s Note: The original headline of the story separated black and Afro-Latina, creating the perception that they are two separate people. The intention was to honor what the author wrote, make clear an understanding of the different experiences of black women in American and Latin America, and to be inclusive of different terms black Latinx women use to self-identify. However, it’s come to our attention that the headline implied a stripping of blackness from Afro-Latina identity. That’s something we would never want to do, and we see the problematic nature of it. We deeply apologize for that. The distinction still appears in some parts of the original piece to honor the author’s words. 


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

What are your thoughts on the matter? Share in the comments below!

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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.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

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

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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