Sunday, February 28, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: An Update



We started this project February 1, 2010 aka Black History Month (BHM) and many of the contributors have written about various topics about the African Diasporas and the intersections with the Caribe y Latin/Central America. There are over 90 submissions to the LatiNegr@s Tumblr page and you can always submit something.

I'd like for everyone to know this:

The LatiNegr@s Project is year round, 365 days 24/7.

We began on BHM but we will NOT end on BHM, as it should be for every community, identity, testimonio. The LatiNegr@s Tumblr page is still going to accept submissions. It will still be available for people to visit, learn from, and build curriculum or produce knowledge as each person's pace/need/ability. This is a project that centers affirmation, recognition, and love.

I know personally, I will continue to post on the project in various ways and will still use the "LatiNegr@s Project" tag so you can find additional posts throughout the year. With March being Women's Herstory Month, September-October Latino Heritage Month, y other featured times/places/events, I will continue to post something about the project and from my perspective. My hope is that each one of you will continue to do the same, find ways to share your testimonio with those in your life and help us continue to build upon the LatiNegr@s Project!

A multitude of thanks and gratitude I send to each of you who submitted to the project, who wrote and shared posts from your virtual homes with us, and who spread the word, even if in a simple "retweet" of a post, to sending your students to us, to agreeing to be interviewed, to shamelessly plugging the project! This was and is a success because of all of you.

There is still an enourmous space to grow this project beyond what it is at currently! Perhaps someone is interested in making a Facebook fan page, a Twitter page, or an event of some sort. I know there is an upcoming video that I will be posting about the project that was shot in a series for a larger TV episode on Afro-Latinos. Be on the look out for that!

A special thank you to my co-conspirators Anthony Otero from Inside My Head, Prof.Susurro from Like A Whisper, Hugo from Chronicles Of The American Pupusa, who each were extremely willing to become a part of this without hesitation and who were committed in ways that fill me with joy every time I think of the amazing work that has been produced.

I'll leave you with a video of one of my favorite Cuban Hip-Hop groups: Obsesion at the 2005 Hip-Hop Festival in Cuba.

Sunday Night Common Sense

Today I want to quote one of my favorite people in the entire world. My homegirl Barbara is a Black South African writer, mother, partner, scholar. We met in a PhD program in Women's Studies. I had asked her what her thoughts were regarding the film District 9 because all of the reviews were from a very US-centric space. She finally watched the film and agreed that I could share with you all her thoughts here:


I know I'm really late but finally saw District 9 after holding out on giving that fool my hard-earned money because I heard it was problematic.

It is an appalling piece of trash which appropriates South Africa's recent traumatic past and current social problems to serve up as entertainment. The forced removals, the discourse about the aliens not really understanding property ownership - all of these come from very recent white supremacist actions against and discourse about black south Africans. Word for word almost, these were the same things said about us. Even the armored vehicles used in the army invasion scenes were the very same vehicles used to terrorize us and shoot at us when I was growing up in a township in the 80s.

The camp in which the aliens live is a replica of similar camps which exist today, in which the SA government cordons off immigrants from elsewhere in Africa, supposedly for their own safety. Plus, millions of black South Africans live in conditioins just like those depicted in the alien settlement - I find it very disturbing that the film unproblematically displays these appaling housing conditions as part of a sci-fi dystopia, while millions of real people actually live like that. and of course, this is not to mention how cheap the sets must have been to create (just move a few black families out of their homes) in comparison to the profits this film has raked in.

The film trades in the worst stereotypes of African people (corrupt Nigerians; cannibalism, aliens stealing your shoes, setting alight cars and trains for entertainment - really? really?) - just another example of cultural violence inflicted upon African people. Within the first five minutes of starting to watch this, i could not believe that this film was allowed to be made or see the light of day! I can really not believe that someone would turn all these painful past events and steroetypes into fodder for white entertainment around the globe, and reinforce racist views of Africans as violent barbarians. I found it incredibly offensive.


Thanks Bianca for feeling my pain and helping me process it. Sure you can quote me on your blog. There's one thing I want to add, if you will allow me:

The title District 9 plays on the events of a settlement called District 6, which was a very vibrant part of urban Cape Town during the first part of the 20th century. It was racially mixed, cosmopolitan, and by most accounts a progressive, transgressive space. During the 60s-80s, the apartheid government systematically destroyed the community by forcibly removing the poeple who lived there and dumping them in ghettoes created on the outskirts of the city (my grandfather grew up there). They did this through extreme violence, by ripping people out of their homes, then buldozing the entire space, flattening it so that there were not even remnants of the people and place. They destroyed the community, and it is a really painful part of the indigenous people's history in Cape Town. The area is still a gaping hole and blight on the landscape where District 6 once stood - they never redeveloped it or did anything with it, just moved everyone out and destroyed the vibrancy of community.

So when i first heard the title of this movie, it was obvious that the filmmaker was referencing this space, and I assumed that he would be making some commentary on the injustice of its destruction, and the ongoing travesty of the urban space still standing empty whent there is a housing crisis in Cape Town that leaves many families homeless. At the very least, I expected that the memory of this place, which to me and many others borders on sacred, would be treated respectfully. But no, the memory was appropriated and exploited, embellished with these disgusting racist stereotypes of black people as violent savages, and served as entertainment.

OK, I think my rant is over - thanks again for listening! much love, B

DISCLAIMER: I only saw the first 1/2 hour

LatiNegr@s Project: Sylvia del Villard



Ten years ago today Sylvia del Villard, activist, dancer, choreographer, actor, and performer, died of lung cancer. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Sylvia atteneded and graduated from the University of Puerto Rico and traveled throughout the US performing. She, like many of her contemporaries, found herself in NYC. It was here that she founded the Afro-Boricua El Coqui Theater.

Her goals during her adult life was to incorporate elements of African identity, tradition, rituals, symbols, dance, and movement into her Puerto Rican training and performances. When she died, in her early 60s, she was said to be working on a piece entitled "Africa Puerto."

In NYC there is the Sylvia Del Villard Hall Program, a part of The Roberto Clemente Center, named after her that provides mental health services to people living in the Lower East Side. A film was created in 2003 calle Ocho Puertas that features her. However, in the trailer, I do not see her in the images nor have I seen the film.

LatiNegr@s Project: Virginia Brindis de Salas

Poet from Uruguay who died in 1958 at the age of 50 and is said to be the first Black Latin American woman to publish a book of poetry for wide/international distribution. Her work has been considered the most "militant" when it comes to Black-Uruguayan identity. She has written two books that have both been published (and are extremely difficult to find) which include:

Pregón de Marimorena (1946)
Cien Carceles de Amor (1949)

One of the few texts where you can read more about her is the book Daughters of the diaspora: Afra-Hispanic writers by Miriam DeCostas-Willis. Another text is Women in Africa and the African Diaspora: A Reader by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn and Andrea Benton Rushing.

Here is an excerpt from a one location that has translated her writing:

Madrigal:

You look at my brown skin
With eyes that are two burning coals
I whttp://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=6234991968291886960&postID=2285643106759482816ant to be a fountain
Where you can quench the thirst of your desires
I want the blood in
My veins to turn into
The tropics of your frenzy

Saturday, February 27, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Prof. Susurro

For the last week of Black History Month and for the LatiNegr@s Project, I've decided to send out some questions to LatiNegr@s in my life who I've learned from, been mentored by, and have built community with and share them with you all. I thank each of them for agreeing to share their lives with us and to share them publicly. Today's interviewee is someone I'm very proud to have entered my life via social media as a source of affirmation, support, and mentorship: Prof. Susurro

Q. How do you want to be identified?
A. [Prof] Susurro. Like a Whisper Blog. decolonized anti-racist feminist blogger & queer pop culture critic


Q. What identities do you embrace/have/claim?
A. radical woc activist - the rest you can glean in context


Q. Do you have a preference regarding the terms LatiNegr@, Afr@-Latin@, etc? If so, which one and why?
A. I prefer Afra-Latina because "negra", though descriptive in nature has often been used to differentiate between "good" and "bad" qualities and/or people or to mark difference, & tho we pretend it has no real racial meanings those meanings are always there and more acutely so to transmigrants who travel between racial systems and thus are often exposed to their hegemonic practices in ways that ppl born here or there are not.


Q. What images/texts/narratives were available to you growing up about Afra-Latina?
A. I think this question is complicated. There are tons of Afr@-Latin@ images, both positive and negative available in most countries with high percentages of Afr@-Latin@s outisde of the U.S. but positive images, with the exception of Celia Cruz, were not always marked as Afr@-Latin@. So for instance, you don't call previous presidents or revolutionaries who ousted colonial rule Afr@-Latin@ presidents or leaders, but if someone is running for president who is Afr@ Latin@ and the establishment doesn't like them you call them "black" and wonder about their real origins . . . So I would say that I could think of positive examples/images of Afr@-Latin@s in music, sport, medicine, education, the government, literature, etc. but that they were not associated with "blackness" nor was the term Afr@-Latin@ ever applied to them with few exceptions.


Q. Is there a specific or pivotal time in your life that stands out as being imperative to your consciousness as a Afra-Latina?
A. No. I am biracial (or multiracial if you prefer) so blackness has always been a conscious identity in my family; my family is pretty political about all of our ethno-religious and racial identities come to think of it. There was never a time we weren't taught to be proud of all of the mezclado and since my parents and grandparents are all pretty political folks, there was always discussion about cultural struggle, history, and intersectionality going on at our house. It was nice.


Q. What are your thoughts about the lived experiences of Afra-Latin@s all over the world having similar experiences with those living in the US (i.e. HIV rates).
A. diasporas are like trees, the limbs may be distinct but the roots are one. In that way we are all connected and our positive experiences and cultural expressions come from that connection. Unfortunately, colonialism is also like that in the sense that any given place has a specific colonial history through which racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. get enacted but ultimately marginalization of certain identities are born from the root of that poison tree, & this is why we also share things like poor health, higher death rates from curable diseases, larger unemployment, etc.


Q. What symbols/rituals/etc. are important to you for maintaining community (locally, internationally, virtually) with other Afra-Latin@s?
A. This seems cheesy but certain favorite foods of mine, and the way they are eaten, are often key to feeling connected or creating connection after long absence as is old school music. I can't tell you how many times students have drifted into my office b/c they hear a particular song playing on my computer that reminds them of "home".


Q. Were there any lessons/ideologies/norms that you had to “unlearn” as you evolved into your identities? If so, will you share some with us?
A. Nope, see question 5. I feel very lucky about this b/c I spend a lot of time with people in my personal life, social service work, and academic life who have so much to unlearn or who don't know it is ok to believe black is beautiful and love themselves.


Q. Is there a book/image/quote/artifact/etc. that is important to you to symbolize your identity? If so, will you share one with us?
A. There are far too many to list and the funny thing is they represent a wide range of identities, places, and world views; I think people would be surprised @ what they'd find on my list.


Q. What else would you like to share with readers?
A. Cheesy as this is: know your history/ies, trust that you are beautiful, strong, and intelligent, and spend your energy on building community, justice, and your own self-esteem rather than raining down the hateration or reacting to others who do and you will be surprised at what you will learn about your culture/s, communities, and self.


Q. Is there a way readers can reach you through social media?
A. I blog @ Like A Whisper & have twitter & occasionally I answer formspring but mostly not.



Many thanks to Prof.Susurro for sharing! Please go find her on the web and visit her virtual homes. Don't forget to visit the LatiNegr@s Tumblr Page and consider submitting something. The page will be available year-round as people are welcome to submit as often as they like.

Friday, February 26, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Sofia Quintero



For the last week of Black History Month and for the LatiNegr@s Project, I've decided to send out some questions to LatiNegr@s in my life who I've learned from, been mentored by, and have built community with and share them with you all. I thank each of them for agreeing to share their lives with us and to share them publicly. Today's interviewee is someone who I was a huge stan of and now I'm so honored and it gives me great pride to call her my homegirl: Sofia.

Q. How do you want to be identified?
A. Sofia Quintero aka Black Artemis
Co-Founder of Chica Luna Productions and President of Sister Outsider Entertainment


Q. What identities do you embrace/have/claim?
A. Among countless other things, I am: Afro-Latina, Puerto Rican and Dominican, a Black woman, an Ivy League homegirl, CISgender female, straight ally for LGBTQ liberation, daughter of working-class immigrant and migrant parents, hija de la Pura y el Negro, a feminist, a radical, a cultural activist, a Bronxite, a hip-hop head, a social entrepreneur.


Q. Do you have a preference regarding the terms LatiNegr@, Afr@-Latin@, etc? If so, which one and why?

A. I tend to use Afro-Latina, but I like Latinegr@, too. I also have no problem just being called Black since my Latinadad is a given. To be Latin@ yet claim one’s Blackness in a world that is constantly devaluing “negritude” is, I believe, an act of healing and resistance.


Q. What images/texts/narratives were available to you growing up about LatiNegr@s?
A. Those images, text or narratives most likely existed but were not identified specifically or explicitly to me as Afro-Latin@. My father is Puerto Rican and Black, and his nickname is Negro. So this has been a part of my life since the day I was born. I lived Pedro Pietri’s notion that to be called negrito means to be called love. It was something I lived but did not study. As a child was I ever taught that this text or that image is by or about a Latino who is also Black? No, I cannot say that. In school I was taught about slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. I learned about Aztecs, Incas and Mayans. I learned nothing about Puerto Rico except that it was a commonwealth – that term meant nothing to me then and it feels like a lie to me now – and the Dominican Republic was never even mentioned. One was either African American – and that included Afro-Caribbean folks – or Latin@. In retrospect, this feels quite odd to me because in New York City the relationship between the African American and Afro-Caribbean community and Latin@s (who were overwhelmingly caribeño in the 70s and 80s) is very intimate. New York City is such a blessed anomaly. Maybe that’s why I never experienced it as something overt. Until I became politicized, it never had a name. It just was.


Q. Is there a specific or pivotal time in your life that stands out as being imperative to your consciousness as a LatiNegr@?

A. Yes, it was in college, but it was a process and not a moment. This sense of myself was always there, and one tends to take for granted what is always there, especially if it is accompanied by vulnerability. Still I remember at times begin a child and referring to myself as Spanish knowing all the while that this was false. So false that I did not even want it to be true even as I claimed it. That resistance was always in me I guess. Then in college I was in a leadership program for Latino students at Hunter College during the tuition strikes of the late 80s – mind you, I was attending Columbia where most of the Nuyorican students went through A Better Chance or Prep for Prep – and I recovered an identity that felt authentic. I embraced it. It wasn’t so much a matter of discovering who I am as much as remembering who I always was.


Q. What are your thoughts about the lived experiences of LatiNegr@s all over the world having similar experiences with those living in the US (i.e. HIV rates)?

A. This is evidence of a shameful legacy that endures. Some knuckleheads like to believe that slavery and colonialism are things of the past. Sadly, some of said knuckleheads are our own people. Internalized oppression is a bitch. Divide and conquer remains in full effect. But on a positive note, there are many Afro-Latinos and allies across the globe working diligently to build and advance a worldwide movement that transcends borders. I am excited and hopeful about that.


Q. What symbols/rituals/etc. are important to you for maintaining community (locally, internationally, virtually) with other LatiNegr@s?

A. It’s the little things really. Saying, “Aché” instead of “Amen.” Starting a meeting by calling in the ancestors. Just this past weekend, Casa Atabex Aché partnered with Dwa Fanm and the Third Root Community Health Center to do healing work in Flatbush in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. As a Dominican woman knowledgeable of the legacy of oppression in Ayiti, I felt compelled to participate in that. To do my part –however small it might be – to make amends and heal that history. Hell, even being an Afro-Latina claiming space in hip-hop where so many of the artistic practices have their roots in the African diaspora is part of this. This is why in all my hip-hop novels you will see friendship and romance among Latinos, African Americans and Afro-Caribbean characters. In my first Black Artemis novel EXPLICIT CONTENT, the protagonist and a narrator is both African American and Trinidadian and her best friend is Puerto Rican. In BURN, the key characters are Puerto Rican, Haitian and Dominican and even combinations of all those nationalities. Even in my “chica lit” novel DIVAS DON’T YIELD, the lead among equals in an ensemble of four characters is an Afro-Latina hip hop feminist named Jackie Alvarado who leads with her Blackness. I was always a voracious reader but as a child I never saw self—identified Afro-Latin@s in anything I read so as a novelist I write my community into visibility. Writing is my primary ritual. [Also written by Black Artemis: PICTURE ME ROLLIN']


Q. Where there any lessons/ideologies/norms that you had to “unlearn” as you evolved into your identities? If so, will you share some with us?

A. Wow, I had to unlearn a lot, and the unlearning never ends. I had to unlearn that names can never hurt me. Bullshit. Language is powerful. Language matters. Names can manifest things into being. Words can give birth to nations and movements, and they can genocide an entire people. I had to unlearn that it’s never just a movie, a video, a song. Just like language matters, images matter. Culture matters. Entertainment matters. I had to unlearn the idea that because I am Black or a woman that I never have power or privilege, and that means submitting myself to constant gut-checks around heterosexism, ageism, elitism, etc. These are just a few I can share in this limited space and time, and like I said, the unlearning never ends. Well, one last thing I’ll share. One way to remain committed to the unlearning is to teach what you have unlearned. Bring your lessons to your various tribes in the ways that come natural to you. Everyone is a teacher in some fashion, and you teach what you genuinely believe – not what you want to believe or think you should believe but what you actually do believe. And you do this not through what you say but through what you do or don't do, how you behave. Stay conscious of that. We are all on a journey. The question is are you awake on yours?


Q. Is there a book/image/quote/artifact/etc. that is important to you to symbolize your identity? If so, will you share one with us?
A. It's no surprise that we named our company after a collection of essays by Audre Lorde. One quote of hers that I would like to share at this time: “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” I think these words are particularly relevant for this project. :-)


Q. What else would you like to share with readers?
A. I have tons to share so I hope folks will keep up with me in cyberspace. For now specifically I’ll just ask folks to check out my first young adult novel EFRAIN’S SECRET which hits bookstores this April. You can read an excerpt here. Oh, and look out for Homegirl.TV this March.


Q. Is there a way readers can reach you through social media?
A. I prefer folks follow me and/or Sister Outsider on Twitter. You can also become a fan of Sister Outsider on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter at our website. I blog occasionally at www.blackartemis.com, but I tend to fall off when I’m working on a novel or film because those things have to be my priority. But, the good thing about that is that you can subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss anything yet rest assured that I won’t be bombing your inbox, lol!


Many thanks to Sofia for sharing! Please go find her on the web and visit her virtual homes. Don't forget to visit the LatiNegr@s Tumblr Page and consider submitting something. The page will be available year-round as people are welcome to submit as often as they like.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project:Rev. Xiomara



For the last week of Black History Month and for the LatiNegr@s Project, I've decided to send out some questions to LatiNegr@s in my life who I've learned from, been mentored by, and have built community with and share them with you all. I thank each of them for agreeing to share their lives with us and to share them publicly. Today's interviewee is my homegirl: Jen.

Q. How do you want to be identified?
A. La Mariposa Roja, Indigrrl55, and Rev. Xiomara.


Q. What identities do you embrace/have/claim?
A. I identify as a Woman, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Partner, Boriqua, Taina, Kanaka Maoli, India, LatiNegra, Triguenita, Mulatta, A Brooklynite, a Native NYer, Americana, My primary language is English although it is not my first language. My sexual orientation is fluid, omnisexual, pansexual, and/or queer.

Q. Do you have a preference regarding the terms LatiNegr@, Afr@-Latin@, etc? If so, which one and why?
A. I don’t really. I think that both terms accurately describe my heritage; however I find that I have met African Americans that negate my African heritage because they feel I am not entitled to use that. I have been told that I am “too lite-bright” – that my hair is “too fine” and that I “don’t look black.” All of which never cease to amaze me!


Q. What images/texts/narratives were available to you growing up about LatiNegr@s?

A. I am fortunate to have grown up in a household where there was a lot of Afro-Cuban, Brazillian and salsa music. La Lupe, Celia Cruz, Tito Rodrigues, Compay Segundo, Omara Portoundo, Sergio Mendes, Mongo Santamaria, ect. So I was exposed to many images of beautiful, strong Afro-Latino’s. During visits to Puerto Rico we would visit family in Loiza and near my Tio’s house there was a shanty where they played Bomba y Plena. It was so beautiful and primal and I could not help but want to move my body. It was a really moving experience. Unfortunately that was the only place in the media where I had that experience.



Q. Is there a specific or pivotal time in your life that stands out as being imperative to your consciousness as a LatiNegr@?


A. When I was younger we live in Brooklyn and I guess we were surrounded by many other families that were Caribbean, West Indian and many other Puerto Ricans that were LatiNegro so we didn’t really stick out, we felt it was very normal. However when I was 10 we moved to Brentwood on Long Island and we were the only Puerto Rican family in my neighborhood. When we started school a lot of the Puerto Ricans we went to school with identified as white so it was the first time I was questioned about my Latina heritage. People felt that my hair was too curly and I was too brown to be Puerto Rican. It was then that I first had to really think about my ancestry and what it was that made me LatiNegra. It was the reflection that gave me a connection to my “otherness” and an appreciation for who and what I was.

Q. What are your thoughts about the lived experiences of LatiNegr@s all over the world having similar experiences with those living in the US (i.e. HIV rates).
A. I think that in the US many LatiNegros are blended in to African American culture and their experiences, history, cultural needs are negated. I don’t know enough about what happens in other countries to make an accurate comparison.


Q. What symbols/rituals/etc. are important to you for maintaining community (locally, internationally, virtually) with other LatiNegr@s?
A. Unfortunately I am no longer active in a Santeria house, which is where I felt I was able to reconnect and embrace my Latinegra community connection. It was the only place where everyone was open to accepting the African part of their culture, the music, dancing, ritual and foods of those events made me feel connected, not only to the people in the room, but to People who danced to that music before me and would dance to the same songs after me. It was an electric feeling.


Q. Is there a book/image/quote/artifact/etc. that is important to you to symbolize your identity? If so, will you share one with us?
A. I have two favorite paintings by Luis Germàn Cajiga, I feel like they are symbols my my identity, heritage and diversity. Jibarita, which is just a beautiful brown girl walking in what appears to be the countryside. To me it just embraces the simple beauty of the women from Puerto Rico.

The other is BaileBomba, which reminds me of going to Puerto Rico as a young girl during the Patronales and watching the people dance in Vejigante mask, the sounds of the drums and the feeling that something deep inside of me needed to move.



Q. What else would you like to share with readers?
A. Those of us who identify as LatiNegra/o should make it a priority to embrace all aspects of our heritage, and retain the foods and cultural customs because for many of us it it’s the only inheritance that we have.


Q. Is there a way readers can reach you through social media?
A. I am on Twitter, my blog, and my flickr.


Many thanks to Jen for sharing! Please go find her on the web and visit her virtual homes. Don't forget to visit the LatiNegr@s Tumblr Page and consider submitting something. The page will be available year-round as people are welcome to submit as often as they like.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Kismet


For the last week of Black History Month and for the LatiNegr@s Project, I've decided to send out some questions to LatiNegr@s in my life who I've learned from, been mentored by, and have built community with and share them with you all. I thank each of them for agreeing to share their lives with us and to share them publicly. Today's interviewee is my homegirl from grad school: Kismet.

Q. How do you want to be identified?
A. Great day and morning, sisters and brothers! They call me Kismet (sometimes Kismet 4). I am the co-author of the now retired Radical Woman of Color blog Waiting 2 Speak. I slowed down on blogging to pursue and peruse the Superwoman lifestyle (i.e. higher education, doctoral degree, teaching and research) but still trim and weed my little corners of the web when I can: The WOC Survival Kit, I Wanna Live Productions, and Nunez Daughter. I plan to spend some more time in each of these places so look out!


Q. What identities do you embrace/have/claim?
A. Yo soy latinegra, afroboricua, borinquena, y negra. I am Black and Puerto Rican. I claim both not to exclude blackness from boriquenidad--cause it can't be!--but to acknowledge that part of my ancestry is a distinctively African-American, Slave South narrative. To look at mi familia, there's a heavy dose of Utuado Taino, so there's probably some of that kill-a-Spaniard maroonage running in me also. Would explain a lot. But you know what they say: "Blood of a slave, Heart of a Queen." I am blessed with two rich histories of resistance, dissent and matriarchy--two generations and more of woman warriors on both sides. Y tu abuela....????

I was born in the states, in the great city of Chi, and I am relentlessly urban and northern and Midwestern. Great thing about folks de color in the Midwest--we end up being a great big confluence of many different things. A little bit of South, a little bit of country, a little bit of racist, a little bit of bracero; a twist of gang behavior and a dose of Irish drunk. A lot of hope and love and passion. And pizza. And barbecue. Holla!

I began working-poor and now claim middle-class privilege with all of the negatives and positives associated with that. Class is situational--if I had a daughter or other dependent of my own, it would be a different story. I'm cis, English speaking, college-educated and able-bodied. I'm a devastating diva of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. In other words, I've got a lot of privilege--which means I've got a lot of work to do and I strive for ally status every day.

I'm a fangirl. Octavia Butler is my hero--is, I say! She's kickin it where Elvis, Tupac and Michael Jackson are. Legends live forever but heroes never die. Long live my Kindred.


Q. Do you have a preference regarding the terms LatiNegr@, Afr@-Latin@, etc? If so, which one and why?

A. No preference.


Q. What images/texts/narratives were available to you growing up about LatiNegr@s?

A. My family provided the foundation narrative. My mother and grandmother, both very Taina in appearance--brown/red skin, thick and straight black hair, black eyes. But mi tia--black. Black like me, café colored, nappy hair (I suspect she relaxes it). Both of my grandfathers--black. Like me. Like Denzel.

And even STILL I would only find out later that there is familia even darker, really African looking in facial features, in skin tone, in body shape.

My grandma was very into Celia Cruz when we were young. I loved her too but my first real encounter with Puerto Rican-ness outside of my family and community was Rita Moreno in the film West Side Story. Could she ever dance!!! And to see a woman of color, so obviously brown (not painted Natalie Wood) and so obviously sexy, sensual, and unapologetically Latina blew my mind. And important enough to be in a movie besides (give me a break; I was in grammar school and for me, if someone was in a movie then they must have been important). Besides which, her purple dress in the rooftop scene was bangin--I wanted it then and I want it now.

But neither Celia Cruz nor Rita Moreno were negra in the way that I came to learn Afro-Latinos really are. That Moreno appeared so dark to me gave me a wonderful reference point and someone to identify with--but it didn't give me a full sense of the historical reality. The five hundred years of African slavery to the Caribbean and Latin America, the more recent racial intermingling of African-American and Latina/o and Latin-American immigrants in the United States--I didn't understand until college that I was a product of both. But when I did finally get it, the conocimiento sent me deep into research mode...and then into teaching mode...and I've been there ever since.


Q. Is there a specific or pivotal time in your life that stands out as being imperative to your consciousness as a LatiNegr@?

A. Imperative? Eh, maybe not. But two that stand out:

Being in NYC for the Puerto Rican Day festivities in 2005 and not getting looked at twice as legit PR. Game changer. From that point on, when around Puerto Ricans who seem confused by my dark brown-ness and hair texture (I went natural in 2006) I just act as though they are the ones with a problem instead of making it a "teaching moment." Guess they should have lived in New York.

Being in Carolina/San Juan and seeing advertisements for Dark & Lovely relaxers on the doors of salons in the heart of the projects. Being (with the exception of my mother and great-aunt) one of the lightest people in the mall. Being at the resort near Luquillo and seeing all the white executives, brown managers and black maids and janitors. Game changer. Don't tell me there's not f%*king racism in Puerto Rico, that we're all Rainbow Coalition in the PR diaspora, that we're just one big happy friggin mixture!


Q. What are your thoughts about the lived experiences of LatiNegr@s all over the world having similar experiences with those living in the US (i.e. HIV rates).

A. we are still the poorest
we are still the least educated (formal)
we are still the least enfranchised and empowered
we still pretend too often that this world is a world for us, this modernity is a modernity for us--it isn't.
we (woc) still get beat for speaking too loud, for imagined slights against Latino-manhood
we still uncritically tout foolish ideas of mezclá and race-mixture (morena vs. negra, Spanish and Taino over African) and forget that mixture is built off the rape of women, our lack of power, our disempowerment is something to be celebrated. or we forget that we are black at all (Mexico, Argentina, Chile)
we are still colonized within colonies.

we have so much work to do, but we are also still rebellious, still creative and innovative, and we continue to organize on behalf of ourselves. this keeps me hopeful.



Q. What symbols/rituals/etc. are important to you for maintaining community (locally, internationally, virtually) with other LatiNegr@s?

A. arroz con gandules. temblequé. food in general; bacalau (I don't even know if I spelled that right because I only know it the way mi abuela says it), always heading home for a recharge and a reminder of why I do what I do conversations and interviews like this one where B let's me speak my mind :)


Q. Where there any lessons/ideologies/norms that you had to “unlearn” as you evolved into your identities? If so, will you share some with us?

A. Good lord, woman. All of them. Hair, thighs, butt, skin color, my own potential. Talk about being devalued in the world--and if you are latinegra, you are devalued twice, thrice over. For not being a man, white, for not being Anglo, for not being English speaking or a citizen. You are ugly--and you're slutty, which is ironic if you think about it--and you are a man-hating bitch. And you don't exist. It is hard work doing all of that at the same time!!!

But I'll just name the most important and hopefully no one else has beaten me to it--
Unlearn the idea that Lincoln freed the slaves and that only one march to Washington ended slavery and segregation. It is a lie. Freedom was never given to anyone. Freedom was taken. And it was taken by people on the ground--grassroots--and many if not most of them were women and youth and children. Read Jo Ann Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Women Who Started It (1987)
Then go on and unlearn U.S. hegemony, relearn slavery and the slave trade, and realize that there's a whole world of people of Afro-Latin descent to get lost in.
And don't ever believe what your teachers ever tell you. Look it up yourself.


Q. Is there a book/image/quote/artifact/etc. that is important to you to symbolize your identity? If so, will you share one with us?
A. "Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely..." ~Lorraine Hansberry


Q. What else would you like to share with readers?
A. I'll say what I told Littlest Sis when she went off to college--don't ever let anyone tell you what you are. You be what you are. Let them figure out the rest.


Q. Is there a way readers can reach you through social media?
A. On Twitter


Many thanks to Kismet for sharing! Please go find her on the web and visit her virtual homes. Don't forget to visit the LatiNegr@s Tumblr Page and consider submitting something. The page will be available year-round as people are welcome to submit as often as they like.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Chela



For the last week of Black History Month and for the LatiNegr@s Project, I've decided to send out some questions to LatiNegr@s in my life who I've learned from, been mentored by, and have built community with and share them with you all. I thank each of them for agreeing to share their lives with us and to share them publicly. Today's interviewee is my homegirl Chela.

Q. How do you want to be identified?
A. I’m a lawyer and I also work on social justice issues. I recently finished up a masters degree in development economics, with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.


Q. What identities do you embrace/have/claim?
A. My background is primarily Panamanian, Cuban, and Barbadian but I was born in the U.S. I never really thought about my identity as an American until I was almost an adult because everyone I knew was either an immigrant or the child of one. My primary language is actually English, although I do know Spanish.


Q. Do you have a preference regarding the terms LatiNegr@, Afr@-Latin@, etc? If so, which one and why?
A. I tend to use the term Blatina to refer to myself. But I also like LatiNegr@. The only one I’ve never really liked is Afro-Latino and I think it’s because it seems to me to be an “othering” of us, as though just using “Latino” inherently means everyone but us.



Q. What images/texts/narratives were available to you growing up about Blatin@s/LatiNegr@s?

A. Of course I was used to seeing my friends and family who were LatiNegr@s, but we didn’t really discuss race at home. And at school, those of us who were LatiNegr@s didn’t really discuss ethnicity. So it was almost like two separate lives, although I don’t think I ever thought about it that way. Almost all of my friends were immigrants so everyone had things going on at home that were different than the mainstream, no matter where we our families originated.

In terms of the images beyond my family, the media was pretty much devoid of Latinos of color – not that much has changed. The only time I really saw LatiNegr@s was watching baseball (which could explain where my love of the game began). As I got older and really realized how invisible we were, I started seeking out anything I could find that reaffirmed the presence of LatiNegr@s, voraciously reading up on the history of various Latin American countries, looking for “us”.



Q. Is there a specific or pivotal time in your life that stands out as being imperative to your consciousness as a Blatin@s/LatiNegr@?

A. Leaving for college was a defining moment in my life in terms of my identity. I was born and raised in New York City, so the idea that someone could be black AND Latino was more or less accepted (although I was always called “Puerto Rican” by non-Latinos). But going first to Virginia and then to Maryland, no one seemed to understand that I could be Latina; not even other Latinos, the majority of whom were from El Salvador at the time. Since it was my first time out of the NYC area (I’d been all over the globe, but not the country), it was a major culture shock. I’d always assumed the rest of the U.S. was like NYC. So that’s when my Blatina identity really took root. Prior to that time, it wasn’t something I’d ever had to think about; it just was.


Q. What are your thoughts about the lived experiences of Blatin@s/LatiNegr@s all over the world having similar experiences with those living in the US (i.e. HIV rates).
A. I do travel substantially and it’s amazing to me how similar the experiences are for LatiNegr@s, regardless of where we are in the diaspora. We have so much in common and we don’t even realize it. In some countries we’re just as invisible as we are here. Or we face issues of racism, lack of a political voice, economic subjugation, limited health information/access to health care. The problem is that I don’t think we really have that connection across borders that would allow us to better share information and experiences with each other.


Q. What symbols/rituals/etc. are important to you for maintaining community (locally, internationally, virtually) with other Blatin@s/LatiNegr@s?
A. Travel is important to me; immersing myself in environments where being a Blatina is normal, something taken for granted. I also feel it’s important to support the work of other LatiNegr@s and help put them on the map of mainstream society. I especially love promoting LatiNegr@ authors, like Nelly Rosario and Veronica Chambers, because they definitely don’t get the same type of exposure as, for example, an actor would. And I think it’s important to realize our talent in all areas.


Q. Is there a book/image/quote/artifact/etc. that is important to you to symbolize your identity? If so, will you share one with us?
A. Actually “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” by Celia Cruz has been one of my anthems for awhile now! I try to live my life with that kind of spirit, de fuerza y sabor. And from the many times I’ve seen Celia in concert, I think she knew exactly what she was talking about.



Q. What else would you like to share with readers?
A. We LatiNegr@s are still a relatively unknown entity in the U.S. and it’s time that we raised awareness of who we are. Latino and Black are not mutually exclusive and we do not have to choose, no matter what society thinks.

Many thanks to la Bianca, LatiNegro, and Prof. Susurro for starting the LatiNegr@ project!


Q. Is there a way readers can reach you through social media?
A. I can be found on Twitter.


Many thanks to Chela for sharing! Please go find her on the web and visit her. Don't forget to visit the LatiNegr@s Tumblr Page and consider submitting something. The page will be available year-round as people are welcome to submit as often as they like.

Monday, February 22, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Anthony Otero aka latinego


For the last week of Black History Month and for the LatiNegr@s Project, I've decided to send out some questions to LatiNegr@s in my life who I've learned from, been mentored by, and have built community with and share them with you all. I thank each of them for agreeing to share their lives with us and to share them publicly. The first interviewee is: Anthony Otero aka latinegro.



Q. What identities do you embrace/have/claim? (race, class, ethnicity, ability, national origin, documentation status, primary language, sexual orientation, gender, etc.)

A.
I consider myself Latino. I am second generation with my grand parents coming from Puerto Rico and Ecuador. Since I am black as well I will often say I am Afro-Latino as well. To me it is implied but i emphasize it for those who do not know any better. I speak mostly English. I understand Spanish better than I speak it. I often joke that I know survival Spanish. I can find food, a place to stay and a hospital..



Q. Do you have a preference regarding the terms LatiNegr@, Afr@-Latin@, etc? If so, which one and why?
A. I can switch either name considering that my screen name is Latinegro.



Q. What images/texts/narratives were available to you growing up about LatiNegr@s?
A. No images I can remember. I was often confused about my identity because I never saw people like me on TV. I mean there were baseball players but at the time Latino were not as big in the 80's as they are now. The only person I knew to be dark and Latino was Celia Cruz. My parents had all her albums.



Q. Is there a specific or pivotal time in your life that stands out as being imperative to your consciousness as a LatiNegr@?
A. Definitely my college years. I was too dark to hang out with other Latinos and too Latino to really hang out with black students. I made it work of course. At that time I had more in common with African Americans but as I grew older I began to miss the culture that my my family instilled in me. I always had a longing to know more about people like me. Years past after I graduated from Syracuse University when I was asked to come back and work in Student Affairs. It was when I started working with students and taking classes again that i embraced the Latinego name and persona.



Q. What are your thoughts about the lived experiences of LatiNegr@s all over the world having similar experiences with those living in the US (i.e. HIV rates).
A. Let me preface what I am about to say by stating that I am still learning about the plight of the Afro-Latino. I think that conditions across Latin America are very bad for our people. Discrimination is all over the place and it is perpetuated by those lighter skinned Latinos that refuse to realize the African influence in out collective culture. We are invisible people.



Q. What symbols/rituals/etc. are important to you for maintaining community (locally, internationally, virtually) with other LatiNegr@s?
A. The most important thing to me is recognition. I think we need to recognize we are indeed in the same boat just based on history.



Q. Is there a book/image/quote/artifact/etc. that is important to you to symbolize your identity? If so, will you share one with us?
A. I will tell you about where I got "latinegro" from. A few years ago I wrote a research paper called "The Fluid Identity of the Latino Negro". In the process of writing this I had to find articles about the Latino culture as it relates to cultural racism. I found this article by Marta I. Cruz-Janzen called "¿Y Tu Abuela A'onde Está? She went so deep into the cultural racism of Latinos and this is where I first saw the term "Latinegro". I fell in love with the name and took it as my own mantle. I emailed her awhile back and she helped me with my research. From her research there is a book that I have been dying to get, but just have not been able to get my hands on called: "No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today". It came out in 1995.


Q. What else would you like to share with readers?
A. I want to say that this project is something that I take huge pride in. I think that together. Bianca, the Professor, and I, are a great tandem. We are only at the tip of the ice berg with our blogs and I would like to think this is only the beginning of numerous collaborations. This is a volunteer effort. What we do is not for money or for fame. We asked many people to join us in our efforts and many have declined. I think that is indicative of the Afro-Latino struggle.


Q. Is there a way readers can reach you through social media?
A. I am on twitter as latinegro. I also have a fan page on Facebook as well. Of course, you can find me under my real name. I am a very humble person. I am very grateful for everyone's efforts and time to come out and read my blog: Inside My Head. I have recently created a tumbler page for just poetry. I welcome all comments. Let me also thank Bianca for highlighting me...she is awesome!


Many thanks to Anthony for sharing! Please go find him on the web and visit his virtual homes. Don't forget to visit the LatiNegr@s Tumblr Page and consider submitting something. The page will be available year-round as people are welcome to submit as often as they like.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Night Common Sense

I love this quote about Bajan students and language in the classroom:

...in order for students to feel comfortable and assert themselves within their learning environment, a classroom culture that represents their society should be evoked.
Dr. Richard Allsopp


Read the full story here.

LatiNegr@s Project: Benedita da Silva


Benedita da Silva is the first Afro-Brazilian Senator of the country in 1987. She has identified herself as "three times a minority" because she is Black, a woman, and poor. She sees the intersections of her identity and how her perspective and experiences can change social issues and thus her work in politics.

Da Silva was also influenced by her family's slave heritage. Her grandmother, Maria Rosa, was a former slave in Brazil's mining and farming state of Minas Gerais. Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese, who sent slaves there from Africa during the 16th and 17th centuries. The country gained independence in 1822 but didn't abolish slavery until 1888, becoming the last country in the Americas to do so. On Brazilian Abolition Day, celebrated every May 13, da Silva's whole family would gather and "speak of the importance of our being Black, of the need to go forward and never to be turned around," she recounted in Essence magazine.


There is a documentary of her life called I Was Born A Black Woman which was the 2000 Best Documentary Latino Film Festival in San Francisco.

Here's a video from one of several vlogs that have been uploaded from her Blog (it is in Portuguese)


And an interview by another Afro-Brazilian


Here is an interview with her regarding the election of President Obama and how this may influence politics outside the US with Black people (there is English translation)


foto credit: responsibilidadesocial.com

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sex Toy Giveaway!

As many of you know I'm a LatiNegra Sexologist. I also write and review a lot of things going on in the sexual science field from books, to popular culture, to yes sex toys! I have a ton of them in my home that are brand new and need new homes!

I'm doing the First Sex Toy Giveaway of 2010! Here's the rule:

I have 4 toys to giveaway so that means up to 4 winners! Here's what you got to do:

1. Post a comment that does the following:
A. Identify a LatiNegr@ that has NOT been featured yet for the LatiNegr@s Project on this site or any others (i.e. Like A Whisper y Inside My Head y Chronicles Of The American Pupusa).

B. Share some information about the LatiNegr@ you have selected (if available websites, videos, fotos, etc.)

C. Submit by February 28, 2010 at MIDNIGHT to be eligible!

D. Make sure there is some way for me to contact you (i.e. link to your virtual home, leaving your email etc.)

E. Agree to have your contribution posted on the LatiNegr@s Tumblr Page (either by myself or you).

LatiNegr@s Project: Irene Cara




Yes I went there because some of ya'll need to be schooled! Irene Cara, the Academy Award Winning song writer of the infamous song "What A Feelin'" from the film Flashdance which she helped co-write. She's of Puerto Rican and Cuban decent and is also a singer, actor, and producer.

Some of you may know of her from Fame where she was Coco Hernandez.



Here she is performing the theme song for Fame


She's a part of a band called Hot Caramel today and hard core fans have been updating her Wikipedia page with all of her history that you can read about.

You can also follow her on Twitter!


foto credit: cmt.com

Friday, February 19, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Daiane dos Santos



Daiane dos Santos is a gymnast from Brasil. She is one of the country's most famous gymnast and is also an educator teaching physical education at a University in Brasil. She has created two tumbles/flips/floor exercises named after her that she performs. Because your girl does not know too much about the Olympics and how things work (or don't) and how other such competitions emerge, I can't break down her accomplishments any other way than to give you this link here.

Check her out at the World Cup Final where she incorporates samba moves into her tumbling. Please also notice the height she can take her body too.



Here she is in the 2008 World Cup Tianjin Finals:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Latino Sexuality Links To Check Out

I've been doing a lot, i mean A LOT of writing these past several weeks. What can I say, I've taken Anzaldua's advice and "put my shit on paper." Here's where you can find many of my musings:

Preparing For "The Talk" With Your Child Part I
This article focuses on what I've learned and what I would have done differently with my mentee of 17 years, Candy.

Preparing For "The Talk" With Your Child Part II

This article focuses on several issues not touched upon in part one such as when is the right time to talk to your child about sex, how to prepare, resources and books with a focus on children of Color, as well as suggestions from specific needs parents identify.

It's OK To Call Us Black
This article is a discussion about the intersections of Blackness with Latinidad using the film Miracle At St. Anna by Spike Lee as a popular culture reference and example of how people don't identify LatiNegros.

How Do You Discuss The Multiple Layers Of Love?
My contribution to a larger section on writings dedicated to Love.

A Misuse Of The Bodies Of Women Of Color
This article is in the spirit of Audre Lorde's "Open Letter To Mary Daly" where I take a well-known Sex Therapist to task for his use of Janet Jackson's body to address an ad about abortion that was aired for the 2010 Super Bowl.

In Defense Of Pornography
My Op-Ed in El diario/La Prensa and my pro-sex perspective on pornography with a highlight to Vanessa del Rio. The article is originally in Spanish but here is the link to an English translation if you scroll down.


A Call To Action For Black History Month

As the title says: a call to action.

The Hyde Amendment Killed Rosie Jimenez...Because of Roe & Rosie I Exist
My contribution to a series of writing regarding the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

La Femme Fetal
My article on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and highlighting the one song about abortion that comes from a pro-choice space.

American Idol & Representations of Working-Class Whiteness
How are racially White people represented on American Idol? Is there a difference when they are poor White women? Poor White men? If so what is the difference? Is there White privilege they can claim?

Why I'm An AdiPoser
Reasons why I took my clothes off for the Adipositivity Project.

LatiNegr@s Project: Epsy Campbell Barr




A LatiNegra from Costa Rica whose grandparents are Jamaican, Epsy Campbell Barr is a politician and has worked with the Human Rights of Women and People of African Descent. She has announced her intention to run for President of Costa Rica under the Partido Acción Ciudadana/Citizen Action Party. We will discover what the Costa Rican people decide in late May 2010 (YES, less than 3 months!). Here is a video of her announcing her candidacy:



She's said at UNICEF Consultative Group of Afro-descendant Leaders meetings:

The biggest problem facing Afro-descendent children is exclusion. We can see exclusion in the face of health, education and social justice. We have the highest HIV infection rates, the highest infant mortality rates, and many of our children run into trouble with the law.


She could be speaking of the US, no? Interesting how the social construction of race and how we are classified is very similar in some contexts. Here she speaks about how women can be included in politics in Central and Latin America



You may also follow her on twitter!



foto credit: aldia.cr

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Nancy Morejón

Cuban poet and author, Nancy Morejón, who has used her craft to present issues of race in Cuba, Blackness and its connection to women, feminisms in Cuba, and the relationship between Cuba and the US. She's been the president of the Cuban Writers and Artist Union and is an advisor to the famous Casa America in Cuba.

Read more about her in English y en espanol here.

Below is a video of her presenting at the First International Festival of Poetry of Resistance in Toronto from April 24 to 30, 2009



Botella Al Mar


foto credit: radiobaruga.cu

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Rafael Cordero Molina


Rafael Cordero Molina (1790–1868) is often described as The Father of Public Education in the island of Puerto Rico. He's said to have offered children on the island education for free regardless of their class status or race. He established his home as a classroom to teach youth and today his home is historically preserved in Puerto Rico (unfortunately the Afro-Taino museum was not). He died before having to bear witness to a new form of colonization by the US in 1898.

His work has influenced several educators. One such educator is Arturo Alfonso Schomburg as it has been written:

Schomburg was also inspired by educators. His favorite figure in the field was Rafael Cordero Molina. It was Schomburg's admiration for this Black Puerto Rican educator and his extraordinary contributions, which helped to shape his own educational philosophy. Rafael Cordero Molina founded the first school for Blacks, mulattos, and the poor in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1810. Cordero's school was said to have been one of the best schools in Puerto Rico. The students at the school achieved high levels of literacy and academic achievement after short periods of enrollment.

Rafael Cordero Molina believed that the first duty of a nation was to educate its people. He felt that education should be available to all members of a nation and that no one should be left behind, regardless of class, race or gender. The goal of education was to cultivate and empower the individual so that he could improve his life and position in society, and ultimately free himself and others from repressive situations. For this reason, Cordero believed that education was of primary importance to minorities, the poor and the disadvantaged. It became apparent that Cordero's educational approach enlightened his young learners. They became increasingly concerned about their rights and their role in society. Cordero's school produced several renowned figures in Puerto Rico's political and literary history, such as José Julián Acosta, the famous abolitionist, Román Baldorioty, political reformist, and Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, "the Patriarch of Puerto Rican Literature."

Nearly all of San Juan, Puerto Rico's schools at that time charged tuition. Cordero Molina's school, however, offered education at no cost to poor children of any race. The school gained so much respect that even San Juan's upper class began to enroll their children. Schomburg's strong identification with Rafael Cordero Molina may have accounted for his strong beliefs in equal‑opportunity community education.


Read more about him in Espanol aqui.

foto credit: artistasdepuertorico.ning.com

Monday, February 15, 2010

LatiNegr@s Project: Toña la Negra

Yo soy mulata y orgullo tengo tener la sangre de negro en mis venas.


A singer from Veracruz, Mexico, Toña la Negra changed how we listen. Punto. how we LISTEN. She began singing in the 1930s and continued for decades. She was part of the "Golden Age Of Cinema" in Mexico, and one of the few darker skinned woman. Her existence at such a time in the world, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean influenced several LatiNegr@ entertainers. Her discography is not only extensive, it's stunning.

Check out a few of her songs below.
Yo soy mulata y no me importa que me critican si yo tengo bemba.

Yo soy mulata y orgullo tengo te tener piel tostada...

Y no me importa si tengo nada yo soy mulata de verdad...

"Yo Soy Mulata" Toña la Negra












foto credit: weblo.com

Sunday, February 14, 2010

National Condom Awareness Day

My homeboy Brian posted this earlier this week and thought it fun to share with you all. Click on the image to see it larger. Since it is National Condom Day, check out those last two stats/facts!

Sunday Night Common Sense

Today I am going to pull a quote that I shared from the amazing scholar, writer, activist and LatiNegra: Mayra Santos-Febres who I featured earlier this month. From her erotic story "Faith In Disguise" which was featured in the anthology Juicy Mangos:

"...I was ashamed that I couldn't hold it; that I came so easily without even having penetrated her once. I was the penetrated, the one who came first." p. 66


So many layers and challenges of the rigid gendered performances when it comes to what we find erotic, sensual, passionate.

LatiNegr@s Project: My Testimonio



I did not always identify as a LatiNegra. As many of my long-time readers know, my parents who are Puerto Rican immigrants, racially identify as White while they ethnically identify as Puerto Rican. I’ve always literally and figuratively been the Black sheep of my family. I’ve written about what that means to me in various capacities before. Today I want to share how I came to evolve into my LatiNegra identity.

Picture it: Beltsville, MD 2003. I’d just left my first ever full-time job with benefits when George Bush the second was re-elected President of the US. I realized that there would be no pay increase for me at my job where I provided training and did research on sexual health among adolescents and teen parents. What better way to stick out the next 4 years than in a PhD program in Women’s Studies? (I know there are many other ways, stay with me here).

I had earned a 2 year fellowship to study and part of the research I was doing with faculty of Color was creating an Intersectional Research Database (which was also used to help publish a book). As part of that research I came across an article by Dr. Lillian Comas-Díaz called "Mental Health Issues of African Latinas" which she wrote in the early 1990s. You can read my short Annotation in the Intersectional Research Database here. That was followed by an article by Marta I. Cruz-Janzen called Latinegras: Desired Women-Undesirable Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, and Wives where she writes:

Latinegras are Latinas of obvious black ancestry and undeniable ties to Africa, women whose ancestral mothers were abducted from the rich lands that cradled them to become and bear slaves, endure the lust of their masters, and nurture other women's children. They are the mothers of generations stripped of their identity and rich heritage that should have been their legacy. Latinegras are women who cannot escape the many layers of racism, sexism, and inhumanity that have marked their existence. Painters, poets, singers, and writers have exalted their beauty, loyalty, and strength, but centuries of open assaults and rapes have also turned them into concubines, prostitutes, and undesirable mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives.

Latinegras are marked by a cruel, racialized history because of the shades of their skin, the colors and shapes of their eyes, and the textures and hues of their hair. They are the darkest negras, morenas, and prietas, the brown and golden cholas and mulatas, and the wheat-colored triguenas. They are the light-skinned jabas with black features and the grifas with white looks but whose hair defiantly announces their ancestry. They are the Spanish-looking criollas, and the pardas and zambas who carry indigenous blood.

Latinegras represent the mirrors that most Latinos would like to shatter because they reflect the blackness Latinos don't want to see in themselves. (1) I am a Latinegra, born to a world that denies my humanity as a black person, a woman, and a Latina; born to a world where other Latinos reject me and deny my existence even though I share their heritage. As Lillian Comas-Diaz writes, the combination of race, ethnicity, and gender makes Latinegras a "minority within a minority." (2) Racism and sexism have been with me all my life. I was raised in Puerto Rico during the 19505 and 1960s, and lived on and off in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s. Today, I still live in both worlds, and most of the gender and race themes I grew up with remain. This essay is my personal and historical narrative of the intersection of racism and sexism that has defined my life and that of other Latinegras.


It was like I had found home.

Prior to finding that article I had chosen to make a political statement and racially identify as either Other or Black. I was identifying as Black more so than Other. I had made this decision the last time I filled out the US Census on my own and chose Other and wrote “African, Taino, Spanish/European colonizer.” I thought I was a rebel. I still think I am.

There were several similarities I experienced with Black women that I did not with other Latinas and then there were other similarities I shared exclusively with Latinas and not with Black women. There was always that “in between space.” That “hyphen.” But what happens to that space between the hyphen. Look at it this way:

Afro-Latino or Afro-Caribbean.

Last year when I was reading the last book by Elizabeth Nunez called Anna In Between, she asked that question as she joined our book club reading: what about the space between the hyphens? That hyphen doesn’t connect the words because there are spaces between the words and the hyphen. They do not every join. It is a bridge. A connector. It is not an explanation.

I started to joke with one of my homegirls, a Black woman living in the US, Keeley, that we would be the LatiNegras of the crew (capitalizing the L and the N to see them BOTH as proper nouns). Since then it has stuck. It is who I am. There is no hyphen to join two different identities, it is one identity all the time. It is me. I celebrate it. Will you join in the celebration?

Visit the LatiNegr@s Project Tumblr page and consider submitting something!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Latinas & Porn


Here's my Op-Ed in Fridays El Diario/La Prensa just in time for Valentine's Day!

the translations are crackin me up! (English is below)

En defensa de la pornografía

* Bianca Laureano / sexóloga, educadora y activista que tiene el sitio LatinoSexuality.com. |
* 2010-02-12
* | El Diario NY

Me encanta la pornografía. Algunas de mis amigas feministas lo cuestionan porque piensan que la pornografía trata a las mujeres como objetos. Entiendo sus dudas. Sin embargo, género, expresión sexual, imágenes son temas complicados y la pornografía que no se puede definir solo negativamente.

Supe de la pornografía de una manera particular. Soy hija de padres hipis que emigraron a EE.UU. en la década de los 70 y nuestra casa estaba lleno de arte, libros y música. Por los libros en mi casa, desde pequeña vi imágenes eróticas. Las bailes que veía imitaban algunos actos sexuales, o al menos eran expresiones eróticas de deseo y pasión. Mi mamá tenia copias de libros como Our Bodies, Ourselves y The Joy of Sex. Recuerdo haberlos leído y pensar que las personas que aparecían eran como mis padres. Estos libros y el hecho que haberlos podido leer en mi casa muestra la accesibilidad y normalización del sexo al presentarlo como algo normal.

Algunos pueden decir que leer libros como The Joy of Sex era pornografía. Pero la primera vez que vi pornografía fue viendo en acción a Vanessa del Río. La primera latina que vi en pornografía, con un cabello abundante y piel acaramelada. Cuando me enteré que era puertorriqueña como yo, sentí una conexión instante con ella.

Recuerdo que cuando veía las películas de Del Río, pensaba: “Yo quiero entrar a un cuarto como ella y ser tan poderosa como ella, sabiendo que puedo devorar a cualquiera”. Su presencia era tan sustanciosa y atractiva. Nunca había visto a una mujer entrar un lugar y tener tanto poder, solamente con su presencia. Hasta hoy, después que ha publicado su libro 50 Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior, todavía es poderosa. Del Río está en control de cómo presenta su cuerpo, poder, imagen y sexualidad. ¿Cuantas de nosotras podemos decir lo mismo sobre nuestras imagen y sexualidad?

Muchas veces, las personas desarrollan sus impresiones de la pornografía por la manera en que fueron expuestas a ella. Muchas de mis amigas me preguntan si hay posibilidad de tener pornografía feminista. Para mí, esto vas más allá de determinar si se puede aplicar una etiqueta feminista a la pornografía. Cómo disfruta del sexo alguien, es algo personal. Y cuando dos adultos se dan y reciben placer con permiso, ¿quienes somos para juzgarlos? En lugar de eso, invito a todos a examinar qué les da placer e identificar por qué.

La manera en que conocí la sexualidad y la pornografía fue de una forma saludable y eso lo sigo cultivando. He tenido la oportunidad de descubrir qué tipo de pornografía me gusta y cual no. Eso es un regalo que me doy a mi misma.

¿Qué te vas a regalar? ¿Te darás permiso para explorar tu cuerpo, deseos y reconocer el poder que tienes?

______________________________
ENGLISH

I enjoy pornography. Many of my “feminist” friends question this because they think pornography objectifies women. I can understand where they are coming from. But gender, sexual expression, imagery, and pornography are complex, and more than negative objectification. I was introduced to pornography in a very different way.

As the child of [im]migrant “hippie” parents who arrived in the continental United States in the ’70s, my parents surrounded me with art, books, and music. Through the texts in our home, I was exposed to erotic images. The dances I saw reenacted some sexual activities, at the very least an erotic expression of desire and passion. My mother had copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves and The Joy of Sex. I remember reading them and thinking the people looked like my parents. These books speak to accessibility and normalization about sex my parents offered.

Some may argue that reading books, as The Joy Of Sex is pornography. But my first exposure to pornography was when I saw Vanessa del Rio in action! She was the first Latina I ever saw in pornography with big hair, brown skin, and when I discovered she was Puerto Rican like me, I instantly connected to her.

I remember watching Vanessa del Rio in films and thinking “I want to be able to walk in a room and be just as powerful and know I can devour anyone there.” There was something substantial and compelling about her presence. I’d never seen a woman enter a room and have power in just existing. Even today, after she’s published her book 50 Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior, she remains powerful. She’s in control of how she represents herself, her body, power, image, and sexuality. How many of us can say that about our image and sexuality?

Depending on how someone was exposed to pornography may influence her impressions. Many friends ask if there can be “feminist pornography.” For me, this issue goes beyond whether a feminist banner can be applied. Pleasure is subjective. And when consent is given and received between adults, who are we to say it’s wrong? Instead, I encourage people to examine what gives them pleasure and identify why that is.

My exposure to sexuality and pornography was healthy, and I have nurtured that. I’ve had the opportunity to discover what pornography I do and don’t enjoy. This opportunity is a gift I give myself.

What will you give to yourself today? Will you grant yourself permission to explore your body, pleasure and recognize the power you have?

foto credit: shibuya86