“What’s an Afro-Latin@?”

I was at the security desk at the high school I work in ordering dominican food for our College Parent Night. One of the staff members heard me and asked what was I ordering. I instinctively said “the usual.” She laughed and said “Of course you’re ordering Spanish food the majority of our kids are spanish.” If you know anything about me you will be able to guess what my response was…
“We are not spanish, we speak spanish.” 
She said “ok, Hispanic.”
I countered, “That ain’t right either.”
The conversation unraveled, we went back and forth on races and ethnicities. After quick clapbacks on both ends, I stated “Being Dominican means you are also black.”
She chuckled, looked at me and said “you ain’t black.” 
I whipped out my history buff hat and proceeded to school her on the history of La Hispaniola. It is not a fact that I am proud of but my island was the first country in the new world to import the use of african slaves. The stepping stone of the New World colonization lies in the Dominican Republic.
This day set the tone for what I would learn at the event “What is a Afro-Latin@?”

MoCADA and Peralta Project facilitated an exploration into Afro-Latinidad and the nuances of the struggles Afro-Latinos face. The esteemed panel included the Founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, Afro-Latina Poet and Artist, Venessa Marco, Contemporary Artist and Owner of the Peralta Project, M. Tony Peralta. The panel was moderated by Senior Editor at Vibe Viva, Marjua Estevez.

It is because of these events and conversations that lead to change. All these “woke” people educating, facilitating and creating lead me to say that in the past month I have attend at least four public forums that address the topic of Afro Latinidad.
Marjua started off the conversation by speaking about her experience, being told that she too, is not black. to which she said that her experience is different. that we are not claiming to be african american we are claiming our afro-descendencia. african roots have an even bigger reach, that goes beyond saying that blackness is reserved for only the african american community. historically speaking, AA is a term exclusive to those living in the United States.
This prompted the first question of the night.
Q- What does it mean to identify as an Afro-Latin@
Venessa: I am a light skinned Afro-Latina…I choose to be in solidarity, I am not seeking validation from the African American community. “My Blackness is not their Blackness.”
Peralta: I just started embracing the term…Growing up…I never saw people that looked like me on TV. The media doesn’t represent every spectrum of who a Latino is. Being an artist I can express that I am Latino & Black. Within a Latino household it separates us. It’s a political statement.
Dr.Vega: We define ourselves by our colonizers tongue. We don’t have a language of liberation. African-American, Latino is a colonial term…The artist has the power to create language. A narrative that speaks to the limits of our education. How do you liberate yourself? ART! I identify as Afrodescendiente. 
Venessa said it so eloquently! My  blackness is different. My Afro-Latinidad comes from 75% of Dominicans being from a mixed race society, where La Hispaniola had African Slaves imported by our Colonizers, my blackness comes from what was left of my ancestry after Columbus and his gang raped and slaughtered the Tainos. Our mestizo blood is made up of African, Spanish, European genes. That embracing my African roots is a journey that I discovered myself, because what I was taught in school was very different. And like Peralta said, I too, just started embracing the term. It is a racially charged political war in my family that still has chest thumping Trujillista’s and dark skinned Dominicans that will curse you out if you call them black. Want an example? Check out this vid. Although, I have learned a lot, this journey teaches me I still have more to learn. But I continue to accept the opportunity to rediscover my blackness and learn more about mi Quisqueya.
THREE NUGGETS I walked away with?
1. We need to create our own content. -Peralta
2. You don’t want the conversation to be exclusionary. -Venessa
3. Buy land. Buy your piece of the Earth. Invest in institutions that reflect your thinking. You have the opportunity to frame a different model. -Dr. Vega

HERE to listen: 

“Don’t lean on the Art” 

“Afro-Latinidad is more than skin deep” 

“We don’t have a language of liberations” 

“How do you liberate yourself?” 

“Yo soy hija de Yemaya” 

“Buy land. Buy your piece of the Earth.” 

“Insecurities the American Dream teaches us…” 

“It is a consistent attempt to erase you, render yourself invisible.” 

“How do you house a community? Where does your tribe live?” 

“The empowerment of YOU.” 

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