Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a lot more time than usual to think and rant away. One of the conversations that I keep having with my closest friends, many of whom happen to Afro-Latinx, goes something like this: Me: You ready?! Friends: We ready!! Me: For black liberation, land ownership, collective farming and divestment from the system??!! Friends: YES!!! Burn it all down sis!!! Fuck it up!!! I’ve confirmed with my friend and yes, this does sound exactly like us. One of the roadblocks that we keep finding in this path is that across many of our social media platforms, the conversation about Afro-Latinidad seems to be hyper-focused on questions of representation (see me as black!) and validation (why don’t you see me as black enough!? I’m reclaiming my identity). More recently Afro-Latinx people have more vocally expressed that they have had enough of the line of questioning “How can you be both black and Latinx?” Some Afro-Latinx, myself included, are simply burnt out. This is not to say that these conversations are not important or that I am happy that they are becoming more mainstream. However, Afro-Latinx people, many of whom are privileged enough to claim this identity proudly AND are also lighter skinned, will not stop inhabiting bodies that have privilege in the fucked up system in which we exist. I and others cannot crawl out of our skin. Until that system has been dismantled, the color hierarchies that grant some of us privilege in certain contexts and give us anxiety in others will continue to do so. This very same system is the one that dictates that the lives of many of our darker skinned brothers and sisters will continue to be shortened or ended unfairly. One of my favorite Dominican sayings is: “Tu te ta ajogando en un vaso de agua.” You are drowning in a glass of water. I love this saying and I am invoking it not minimizing the importance of the work of identity and the anxieties that it provokes. Rather, I invoke it for us to consider the big picture of racial justice and racial equity. Conversations about representation are simply one slice of the jar. What we must get very good at as an Afro-Latinx community in order to move a movement of global blackness forward is to have a continued conversation about racial identity, colorism and privilege that is centered on the individual, while Simultaneously furthering the collective work of black liberation by any means necessary. My crew of mostly Afro-Latinx, African American and Afro-Indigenous peers are doing the work of collectively supporting global, transnational Black liberation and now more than ever we need more active allies in this work. In the process of activating ourselves, we might get called out by peers in the U.S. and in our countries of origin who have been doing the work of fighting police brutality, mass incarceration, disproportionate violence against black women and girls, gentrification and land-displacement etc. before a conversation on Afro-latinidad exploded on social media But the kind of solidarity that’s on the other side of mutual understanding is just too vital and important to not put ourselves out there by listening attentively, sharing honestly and doing the work. You might have a lot of questions right now and that’s okay. Because we’re always best served by multiple perspectives, here are some of the thoughts of people that I respect immensely on the issue of where an Afro-Latinx Movement could be headed. I am sharing screen caps of their brilliant commentary for more people to see: I identify as Afro-Latinx and have been learning a lot about music, foods, traditional healing practices and history. What’s next in terms of connecting to movements, like Black Lives Matter? Exciting you should ask! Though immensely important, identifying as Afro-Latinx is more than identifying with the folkloric aspects of afro-descendant culture (music, food and traditions) as they are packaged and commercialized. It is also identifying with the pain of 500 years of enslavement, economic inequality, harassment, imprisonment, forced migration and much more and then working in community to create changes. We are grounded in cultural awareness and deep history so that we can do this work in sensitive, creative, engaged and thoughtful ways.
Thanks to @ysanetbatista for having some real talk with me today to face the harsh reality that the Afro-Latinx movement, in the way that we both have experienced it, is not yet fully aligned with the global movement for black lives and its agenda of fighting state sanctioned violence. Celebrating identity, writing think pieces about “finding our blackness” ™️ must must must be followed with action and support to organizations both in the US and Latin America that defend black life. There are so many causes to pick up, so many places where our passports, English skills and our dollars could be put to good use in the service of collective liberation. Police brutality. Land Rights and gentrification. Sexual health for Black women and girls. Prison industrial complex. Black immigrant rights. You name it, black people whose black consciousness predates this Afro-Latinx movement been working on it. I’m not in the business of usually telling people what they should do. However in 2018 the urgency of the fights that Afro-descendants face all over the world is too strong to be comfortably focused only on the self. Reflection without action becomes self-centered. So I’m asking, what orgs for black life are my Afro-Latinx peeps supporting in 2018? If none, go back to the drawing table, without a savior complex, and offer your skills
, time and money in the service of collective liberation. @afrolatinofestivalnyc @afrolatinas_ @afrolatino.education @afropunk @theafrolatindiaspora @afrotainoprod @afrolatinxofnyc @theblackjoyproject
I created the purple box with a question that was not hypothetical. I am actually interested in knowing which black liberation organizations Afro-Latinx are supporting at this very moment. I was actually disappointed to see the lack of comments by Afro-Latinx peers pointing out which organizations they support and work for. I and others are not asking hypothetical questions. For the sake of accountability, here are mine: Reconoci.do (in the D.R.) The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (fundraised for them summer 2017) We Are All Dominican (activist with this organization) La Sala (a Collective of Afro-Dominican peers practicing educational, healing and land-based forms of liberation) Black Lives Matter Global Network (~$10 monthly donation) Black Alliance for Just Immigration (~$20 monthly donation) I do not list these as a way to “show off.” And I understand the privilege in being able to make a monthly donation to any institution. I list them as an entry point into asking, with our limited amounts of time and money, what could we be doing? An important next question for all of us Afro-Latinx people is to think about our skill-set, the things we know how to do. What is your location? Your level of economic access and privilege? What is your availability in terms of time? Organizations all over the Americas need YOUR help to move their missions of black survival and freedom forward. I am excited to do this work! Yes! I feel a sense of mission and connection. I am proudly black, but I notice that, in social media spaces, people are making fun of Afro-Latinx for ~just now~ “realizing they are black.” I am embarrassed and I feel under attack, though I understand why these memes exist. Help! What should I do! Please refer to the post below:
Friends have been sharing this meme upset because we, my friends and I, have been clear of our history and that we are also Black. However, yes many of our people are now coming into their identity because let’s keep it real, in the D.R. and here too, being black is met with violence and disapproval.
Pero because I was born and live in the U.S. I am going to add a little nuance to this conversation. I wonder if the people creating these memes have an understanding of global Blackness — maybe they do, maybe they don’t but I do know people who don’t know about Black history outside of the U.S. and wonder why in the world we (Afro-Latinos) want to claim Blackness when it comes with so much pain, genocide, and it is still happening today. What I am observing in the movement for claiming Blackness in Afro-Latinidad (in the U.S.) is celebration (videos, festivals) and lots of conversation of “I am black, too” while Black-Americans focus is trying not to get killed, imprisoned, or targeted by the state. My convo’s with Black-American men is them giving prefreterial treatment to women like me who are Afro-Latina but not darker-skin, while in the same breath saying they don’t date Black women (we really know what they mean by that). There are many layers to why Black-Americans don’t comprehend Afro-Latinidad and I also see many Afro-Latinos claiming the culture of Blackness and not enough joining Black-Americans as they fight & resist state-sanctioned violence (which many Black Dominican men also face in terms of prison sentencing, like my father). This conversation is layered with a lot of pain, misunderstanding, and I am looking forward to the conversation series my roommate Saudii Garcia will be organizing and I hope we, Black Dominicans, can also engage in transformational justice conversations with Black Americans. Ysanet: “I also see many Afro-Latinos claiming their culture of Blackness and not enough joining black Americans as they fight to resist state-sanctioned violence ( which many Black Dominican men are also facing in terms of prison sentencing, like my father).” What Ysanet does so well in her response is that she acknowledges her privileges as a lighter skinned Afro-Latinx woman. Knowing her she probably be checking ALL the African American men who attempt to give her preferential treatment, while also holding in relationship her African American sisters who are doing the hard work of uplifting those being targeted by the state. She keeps it moving. At the core of this piece is a sense that Afro-Latinx excitement around Blackness is largely disconnected from the struggles against state-sanctioned violence. The feelings th at come up when we are called out in various ways are important, but they cloud us from being laser focused on the work that our movements need us to do: building authentic, powerful connections across the diaspora that are rooted in doing the work of abolishing prisons, participating in civil disobedience, starting land collectives and cooperative businesses and doing healing work in community (and so much more), not just as an Afro-Latinx community, but with our African American, Black Caribbean and African peers. So to go back to how I opened this piece: Me: You ready?! Friends: We ready!! Me: For black liberation, land ownership, collective farming and divestment from the system??!! Friends: YES!!! Burn it all down sis!!! Fuck it up!!! Me: have you done your homework on the ways in which your privilege may be used to manifest what’s needed without sounding condescending and exemplifying a white savior complex? Friends: YES, WE DID!!!!* Me: Have you created relationships of accountability and mutual trust with the African American women in your life whom you listen to and whose leadership you respect? Friends: YES, WE DID!!!!* Me: Have you built transnational networks #AquiyAlla, between the U.S. and Latin America so that your black activism can connect continents and cross borders in the service of those who need you?? Is your black activism accessible in the language of the people of the African diaspora in Latin America? Friends: YES, WE DID!!!!* *YES! WE WILL!!! Even if you have not yet, you are well on your way. We have a moral duty to each other, our freedoms are tied together and they have always been. The work that I am pointing us to is not all that there is to do, yet it is work that can take years to accomplish, offline, close-up, in person, in messy exchanges that are rooted in the tenets of transformative justice. We are too precious to throw each other away without regard or consideration. I crafted this piece in response to the frustrations of a conversation that feels stagnant. Ready for action ignited by reflection, I wake up each morning thinking of the work ahead. I and my people will meet you somewhere on the road. This piece was co-thought in conversation with Ysanet Batista and written and edited by Saudi Garcia. ____________________ Saudi Garcia is a graduate student in Cultural Anthropology and documentary film living in New York City. Originally from the Dominican Republic, she is an organizer with We Are All Dominican, a collective supporting the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent in the D.R. and the La Sala Collective, a group of Dominicans addressing anti-blackness in the Spanish Caribbean community of New York City. Saudi enjoys cooking, yoga and spending time outdoors