Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bound By Colonization: The AfrxBoricua Kinship & Courtship Practices

I was a respondent at the John's Hopkins University's History and Africana Studies Department Bound/Unbound: Contemporary Black Marriage in Research, Policy, and Practice two-day Symposium. I spoke about AfrxBoricuas: Black Puerto Ricans. Here's what I shared, my references, and my suggested citation for attributing this work. View my presentation and the keynote and first panel below. My presentation begins at 2 hour mark / where -44.32.

Laureano, Bianca. (2018, March 8). Bound By Colonization: The AfrxBoricua Kinship and Courtship Practices. [Blog Post] Retrieved from:

Tera W. Hunter shares the various ways that intimate relationships were seen on a continuum. The various ways that enslaved Black loves built kinship, family, and marriage included terms such as:
  •  “sweethearting,” a romantic relationship w some of the benefits of marriage and being single combined
  • “Taking up,” a longer term relationship where the partners lived together and were monogamous
  • “Cohabitation” couples shared financial resources and responsibilities, surnames, and were monogamous
  • “Acting married” a term used by whites to target Black people and identify their relationships as a sign of disrespect, incapacity, failure to assimilate
Many of these forms of loverships remain today. They also were present in colonies where other empires who engaged in exploration and conquest; brought enslaved Africans for their labor and bodies to exploit. One of these colonies has remained Puerto Rico: a colony of Spain and now the United States. Puerto Rico is an archipelago. Similar forms of kinship were explored and remain for the Puerto Rican today. Now that Hurricanes Irma and Maria have hit, what are we prepared to do to support and honor the displaced Puerto Rican families, kinship, and lovers? What are the ways we can build and preserve new archives that are waterproof? What rituals of partnership do AfrxBoricuas still practice and why are their testimonios important for inclusion today? These questions I would like us to ask each other and ourselves.
How many of these forms of family, lovership, and flexible ideas of marriage, which are practiced by the Boricua, become forms of resistance today? What is the AfraBoricua / Puerto Rican resisting today? I believe that Puerto Ricans are resisting the continued exploitation, colonization, forced migration, forced displacement, assimilation, white supremacy, catholicism, and sterilization they have been birthed into. Hunter shares that generational differences led to a shift with younger ex-slaves moving toward legal marriage whereas elders supported more loose forms of coupling. That same elder and ancestor wisdom is what remains practiced in Puerto Rico.
Classic assimilation patterns are rooted in being absorbed into the dominant culture. It has been an area of research interest and focus for scholars in all fields of study. When looking at the marriage and courtship practices of ex-slaves, immigrants in the US, and colonial subjects, there is a pattern of resistance that the Puerto Rican consistently maintains. Cohabitation in research literature in the US has noted that cohabitating couples are unstable, harm children’s overall educational outcomes, and are not ideal in the US. Puerto Rican children living in a family structure that is different from the married heterosexual biological-parent family structure do not necessarily fare worse according to the Youth Boricua Study, a project of Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry that examines the experiences of Puerto Rican youth in the US and in the mainland of Puerto Rico.
Examining the psychiatric disorders among Puerto Rican children, researchers Olga Santesteban-Echarri,, examined responses from the Boricua Youth Study and published findings in 2016 that demonstrated Puerto Rican children in cohabiting families have access to community and resources; two things that are believed to not be stable for cohabiting families. Because Puerto Ricans embrace and practice cohabitation differently than other Latinx immigrants who value marriage, there is no finding that shifting from a cohabiting family to a marriage or a step-family / blended family situation results in negative psychological experiences for Puerto Rican children. Community as resource is what Puerto Rican’s still value.
The pathway to citizenship also differs in comparison to other Latinx, Caribbean, or Black immigrants. Puerto Ricans were forced citizenship in 1917 so the pathway to citizenship via marriage is not important for the Puerto Rican. As Hunter writes “the ultimate test of how individuals define their relationship may have been how they acted within a community of friends, neighbors, and kin.”  Puerto Ricans on the isla, which to us is the mainland, still practice and embrace these communal and collective forms of coupling and family formation.
Yet citizenship for the queer AfraBoricua is not what it seems. Between 2008-2014 Gilbert Gonzales examined the health insurance coverage of Puerto Ricans in same gender coupling and found that they are not able to access full forms of employee benefits such as health insurance as cohabiting or common law couples because of homophobia and discrimination. Puerto Rican Maternal and Infant Health Study of 2001 demonstrated that cohabiting Puerto Rican couples who pool financial resources have been found to be just as equitable in nature as formal marriages.
My mother Ivette Laureano Nieves De Jesus, who died in Puerto Rico March 1, 2016, it’s been 105 motherless weeks, shared with my sister and I often that we “did not ever have to get married” and that we should “first live with someone to get to know them.” She and my Papi would share the same testimony and remind us that they left Puerto Rico together to dream bigger, explore more, and find new paths. They seperated when I was 16 years old and divorced when I was 33 because my mother had health insurance and wanted my father to not be uninsured. They remained family even as they shifted our family structure. When my father remarried his agreement with his current wife Linda, a Puerto Rican-German woman, was that my mother is his family and anything Ivette needs he will help her get it, even if it means moving her into their home as her Alzheimer's progresses. Linda agreed to have my father’s first wife, my mother, move into her home with my father if my mother needed care. She agreed for her husbands ex-wife to be cared for in her home. Let that sink in. That's my machismo That’s what community restitution is for the Puerto Rican.
As the bodies and bones and remains of our dead Puerto Rican ancestors emerge from their graves with the water and are unearth and resisting their erasure, what are the ways we today can create new paths for Puerto Rican family formation to be honored and nurtured? Hunter offers a variety of ways to preserve and reimagine codes of courtship, love, citizenship, home, and place all within a framework that begins and ends within the African diaspora.
How are we preparing to preserve a waterproof archive that humanizes the agency within constraints, as Iris Lopez writes, of the AfraBoricua body in ecstasy, survival, here. I’m no longer dreaming in Puerto Rican, I’ve been displaced from Puerto Rico for 24 years. It’s a constant nightmare where there is no decolonization - giving the land back to the people. I need to dream through the rest of you because my family is actively becoming extinct as we speak. I ask each of you today: What are your dreams for Puerto Rico and for the preservation of family formation that our enslaved elders cherished?

Brown, Susan L., Van Hook, Jennifer, Glick, Jennifer E. (2008). Generational Differences in Cohabitation and Marriage in the US. Popul Res Policy Rev. Oct; 27(5): 531–550.

Hunter, Tera W. (2017). Bound In Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage In the Nineteenth Century. Belknap Press.

Gonzales, Gilbert. (2017). Health Insurance Coverage among Puerto Rican Adults in Same-Sex Relationships. J of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved. 28(3).  pp. 915-930.

Santesteban-Echarri, O., Eisenberg, E. Ruth, Bird, Hector R., Canino, Glorisa J.. Duarte, Cristiane S. (2016). Family Structure, Transitions and Psychiatric Disorders Among Puerto Rican Children. J Child Fam Stud. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 November 1.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Quick Fun Gift & Rememory

A while back during one of my numerous experiences of unemployment, I signed up for various opportunities to review items. I'm still on lots of those lists and many of you have benefited from my numerous reviews of books, sex toys, random accessories, and food!

Well, I received my Influenster Vox Box this month and it was from Godiva chocolate. Now, almost everything I've received in food form to review has been delicious and at a price point I can't always afford or with so much sugar it's not the best food decision or meal replacement. However, Godiva sent their Masterpieces, a new collection of their decadent chocolates in an accessible price point ($4) and at stores such as Target and Walmart.

I know a lot about this "two-tier" marketing approach, where a brand has high point and luxury products and then has another brand that is more affordable. Think of how Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic all the same organization/brand but with different price points to reach different customers. It's the same thing happening here and I don't mind it! I know there are going to be folks who have more status and wealth and social capital who will think making brands and luxurious things accessible to others means it's no longer special.

I was once those desegregators. I still am in many places. I am often one of the first people like me: fat LatiNegra queer disabled etc. etc. etc. I know what those looks and sneak peaks of me feel like. I know what mystery the luxury options present and value the gentle way staff provide support without isolation. Now I'm a pro!

When I opened the box I found a paper bag and inside 18-20 individually wrapped chocolates. A dark chocolate, hazelnut chocolate, and caramel chocolate. They were all delicious. I remember growing up with my mom loving the sweetness and luxury of the gold Godiva box that had two tiers of chocolates, a legend with descriptions, and the fun of finding which chocolate matched the image and description to try. My mom would savor these chocolates on special occasions like holidays or her birthday. These are easy to carry, easy to share, and give the perfect taste of deliciousness that will soothe a craving. I'm definitely buying more in the future and you need to pick one up as well!

Monday, December 18, 2017

WOCSHN Inaugural Curriculum: Communications Mixtape: Speak On It! Vol 1

When I think about what kind of archive I want to leave for others to find out about my work, what I value, and what I was able to do while on this planet, curricula and lesson plans and trainings and workshops are what come to mind. As someone who has been writing lesson plans for decades but never being supported, mentored, or given the opportunity to be published; I know firsthand how opportunity and access changes some people's lives.

I know what publishing a curriculum can do for communities. When I published my first curriculum What's the REAL DEAL about Love and Solidarity? with Scenarios USA, it was a curriculum I always wanted for younger Bi, for educator Bi, for mentor Bi. And it was something I have done for years, yet folks in my field didn't notice me until that curriculum was published.

And then things changed. It's like then folks realized I have something of quality and value to share. I always knew I did, yet those people who "discovered" my work were very much not trying to pass along job opportunities or say my name for employment. What ended up happening often was people saying WOCSHN to mean me or another member. However, WOCSHN is an organization I co-founded, not who I am. It's what I've built.

Then I started to think bigger: what do we really need? How can we create opportunities that will get us paid and help us build our own archive of brilliance? I decided to create a Curriculum Lab, something I've wanted to do for years! I tried to do it at my last full-time job but the non-educators couldn't see the value and it didn't happen. Today, I crafted and built a workshop that trains individuals in writing measurable learning outcomes and objectives, that discusses copyright laws, build creativity, and peer support. One part of this that I learned at the original Lab was we need more than 3 hours to write together. We also need some time to discuss unlearning the white supremacist ways we have been trained to educate our communities. We must focus on our intuition and what we know to be true and just for our communities and ourselves.

This curriculum offers that and more! We pushed each other to use gender neutral language, resist ways that ableism shows up in our work through language and expectations for body movement, learning, and pleasure. We wrote and centered bodies of color and communities of color first and foremost. We are unapologetic about this focus. We reimagined and recreated definitions for terminology that has targeted us yet not been relevant to us. We do not assume participants are HIV negative or heterosexual and encourage facilitators to do the same. There are no images because black and white copies of people of color are usually horrible.

As the editor of this curriculum I am wide open to learning how we can make this more accessible in
the future. I'm so proud of what we have created. Below is a line up of what lesson plans are featured. Here we are closing 2017 with a publication that has Black and Latinx writers. 

Exploring Sources of Sexuality Messaging by Rev. Lacette Cross
Examining faith and spiritual belief systems messaging

All the Feels! by Elicia Gonzales, MSW
How all bodies may experience pleasure?

Love Haiku: Write One For You by Mariotta Gary-Smith, MPH, CSE
Exploring Japanese poetry genre Haiku and creating one about love of self

Types of Propaganda by Bianca Laureano, MA, CSE
Understanding the different types of propaganda and how they target us

Bodies Impossible: How We See Black Bodies In the Media by Ashleigh Shackelford
Examining media messages and representations of Black bodies

Bodies & Pleasure: Beyond One Size Fits All by Sara C. Flowers, DrPH & Bianca Laureano, MA, CSE
More bodies and more ways to experience pleasure and understand the range of pleasure

What's Self-Care? by Bianca Laureano, MA, CSE
Exploring the reality and actions of self-care strategies

Asking For Help Is A Gift by Bianca Laureano, MA, CSE & Abeni Jones
Understanding resistance to and strategies to asking for help

How To Take Care of Each Other by Abeni Jones
Examining the ways we can support each other and community members

Read our press release here.

Head on over to my website to purchase the curriculum directly. Be sure to include an email address for me to send the PDF of curriculum! If you have questions send me an email!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

re: the nicki minaj paper cover & foto shoot

all fotos: Ellen Von Unwerth for Paper Magazine

Tardy to the party with writing about this Paper Magazine cover. What I am more interested in is how the conversations are evolving (and not being facilitated) and what others have to say about what another Black woman does with her body. The judgment, the shaming, the name-calling, the ways that we continue to police body autonomy. The same folks would argue that they are on the side of reproductive justice, however they have a very under-developed understanding of body autonomy.

In short, I really love this cover image. Not because it's a Black performer doing Black performer things. I love it not because it's a Black woman controlling the "gaze" and deciding how she wants to be viewed and consumed in a particular way because that's power. I love it not because it demonstrates a power that we all know exists for femmes, for femininity, and wish to erase or ignore or blame for things. I love it not because it demonstrates how Dancehall Queen aesthetics are alive and well among Caribbean rappers living in the US (Caribbean influence on hip hop in the US is so strong and very well archived and documented go read up on that legacy).

I love it because I too have a fetish for myself. I too fantasize about how dope it must be for others to see me loving myself, pleasing myself, feeling myself, and noticing them seeing me and being able to consume their desire for wanting more of me while I'm taking all of me for myself! Choosing yourself is never the wrong decision! Ever in this life on this planet.

Body autonomy is about every person having the human right to make decisions about their body. Their decisions may not be for you, and that doesn't mean you have to be sharing your opinion about someone else's decision-especially to that person, especially unsolicited. You definitely don't need to talk about how you wouldn't do the same thing especially if nobody cares and didn't ask you. Yes, have your opinion, know when it's time to share and when it's time to keep it moving.

And for the (white) feminists (because the white is always silent with ya'll) who want to argue objectification, exotification, etc. Recognize she is in control of the gaze. She is in control of her image. She is in a powerful position where she is in service to herself, honoring herself, topping herself, caring and tending to herself. That's got nothing to do about you unless it's a reminder you not doing a good job doing either of those things for yourself. We live in a capitalist society where Black women's labor, even as performers and entertainers, is not well paid. Are you mad that Nicki is getting paid or are you mad that she's figured out a way to get paid and care for herself and show her power at the same time and you haven't yet? Join the club! You not the only one, you also don't have to be so salty about it all the time, that's a choice. Ya'll for choice right?

Oh but I get it, ya'll are mad because you got to now talk to youth and children and girls about bodies, objectification, power, and you don't feel prepared. Again, you are not alone and there are plenty of Black women who can help you, who are trained and have dedicated their career to such forms of education and support. You're reading the work of one of them right now! So, if you are anxious about that and not able to be ready to talk to the young women in your life, and the young men you are excluding, well, maybe you got to realize they will def not come to talk to you if you cant talk to them. Reciprocity impacts youth too. So does body autonomy. Youth have body autonomy as well. I know some of ya'll may not enjoy hearing that because you have latched onto an idea of power and control over the bodies of brown and Black girls. You're wrong. How about refocusing that power onto what you are doing with your body. How does it feel when you try to control another young woman's body? How does your body feel? Is it tense? Is it rigid? Is it wide open? Check in with yourself because we all got to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

Don't you too want to know what you may look like at some of your most powerful moments? That's what orgasm may be for many of us: our most powerful selves. So join that tired legacy of policing Black women's bodies, choices, lives, movement. You're in company with white supremacy, misogynists, abusers, rapists. Unlearn those lies you tell yourself really quickly. Because there's a whole archive of slave narratives and of sexual assaults, and testimonios that remind us everyday what happens when we go down the route of blaming, erasing, destroying, judging, Black women and what they do with their bodies. Which side of justice and liberation are you going to be on?

Friday, November 24, 2017

Coco the film

no punctuation or editing, just a riff of ideas bc i should document whats going on in a way that leaves an archive even wider. lots of folks dont want to talk about death or dying with me. or with anyone, let alone themselves.

these are just some thoughts on the film coco. more later as i think more on the film.

i saw coco the film the other day w a homegirl. we are both part of the tribe of motherless fly fat queer broads. we walked to the theater on a cold night in new orleans. both of us not up for too much action during the day and had stayed home among close friends. both of us had the holiday feelings coming up about our mommas.

now, i had seen a trailer a while ago and just remember it has a mexicanx child smiling. a month later when someone mentions the film to me i remember only this brown child, that it's a mexicanx film, the name coco i think is it the childs name or is it about food is it like the animated child version of magical realism a la like water for chocolate? i say yes lets go see the film!

i was so wrong. as they make you sit through a too long mini film about belle and her sister and cultural appropriate during the holidays and how the ancestors will burn that shit if you go knocking on doors asking folks their traditions then taking whatever you want for your own house so find your own traditions white people, they exist go dig them out of that box...

the film begins and its really beautiful. and its about dia de los muertos, death, dying, and homage.

it fucked us up!

i wasnt ready and it wasnt what i expected or thought and yo it was dos mucho. there is a theme of suicide as a possible understood outcome and that was a lot. yet how can you tell the collective story of a community and its belief and connects to death and the dead without including a representation of suicide? i dont think you can. also, you cant tell that story without including the children and babies that are dead too? they did! there was at least one child with a woman in the film who was dead.

i can see how those early anthropology writings of the 1970s that focused on the 'cultural values' of Latinx people (but really they were only talking about 'Mexicans' and not yet those living in what had become the US. That literature came later in other fields that flooded the 80s. Anyways, fatalism was def present. of course so was familialism.

rememory as toni morrison talks about it in beloved was also def present. i will have more to say on this.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Curriculum Lab in Chicago with ABSC

The Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) has partnered with the Association of Black Sexologists & Clinicians (ABSC) for their 2018 annual conference in Chicago, IL January 31 - February 2, 2018 to offer our Curriculum Lab for educators and facilitators. Join us as we build lesson plans and a collaboration curriculum!

Register here.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Latinx Heritage Month: #FemmeInMourning 30

I've written so much about the process of losing myself in the shapeshifting grief, the experiences, the coping, the loss of so much. This post is a reminder that when you come back to yourself you are not like you were before this all happened.

I've lost more of myself and have been shook in a way I didn't expect. I've been so confused and having limited clarity and wild experiences and long times in the bed just thinking about death, dying, cannibalism, fear, mourning, survival.

I came back to yourself eventually. I may not be the same,  I may not know who I was and need to ask myself "who do I want to be today?," something I wish more of ya'll would ask yourselves, it really gives you a period of time to just take a breath.

I came back and I'm not the same, and I'm still here.

I'm still here.

I'm still here. Today. I'm still here. For now. I'm still here.

Read post 29 here.