For centuries Black womyn have been at the forefront of carrying, protecting, securing and fighting for the security, liberation and equality of our people. From the countless queens and village priestesses of the Continent to Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Sister Souljah and Bree Newsome, doing it all, doing it well and often doing it alone is nothing new to us. We naturally respond to the injustices that we ourselves and that other members of our respective communities face with fearless determination. We hold a legacy of undeniable greatness and perseverance. We are said to make it look so easy it seems like magic; Black Girl Magic. But few truly know what we must endure, how it affects our personal growth and despite that trauma, from where we must muster the courage and hope to not only survive but THRIVE.
This legacy exposes our natural instinct to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the greater mission, The revolution, The movement etc… But in today’s world of black genocide masked as “police brutality in a post-racial society” we have been given (or have demanded) a unique opportunity to examine how effective this sacrifice really is and at what cost. is it reciprocal? is it credited? is it in vain? is it worth it? what about us? what about our mental health? what about our LGBTQ community? and from these and many more questions birth the several movements of black womanhood identity that we see today, predominantly the “Black Women Matter” movement.
In attempts to respond to injustice and numerous other threats to our livelihoods we sometimes lose ourselves, lose our identities and even get stereotyped into archetypes that perpetuate the very oppression we are trying to combat. For example the Mammy, she is sexless, she is overweight and unhealthy, she neglects her own children to raise and praise the children of her enslaver. Recently I read an article about how today some social activist groups tend to make the black womyn in said movements “mammified.” Where we become the safe haven and support system for everyone else in the “struggle” but it is never reciprocal and we are often forced into constructs that deny us the ability to define an identity independent to said construct.
We can recognize these constructs and even recognize how detrimental they are but we never actually address nor examine how they affect us personally because we are not seen as individuals. We are not afforded the same freedom to have personal lives and identities as some of our non-black poc counterparts may be afforded. We are now in 2015 stepping into a new forum where we are creating our own safe spaces to explore these avenues of black womanhood and how we even define it.
The definition is imperative and in my opinion also relative and personal. I see black womanhood as multicultural, as I do blackness as a whole. I think of it as so paramount that it cannot be confined into one avenue or definition. We as Black Latinas have a unique position of being able to see and face systematic oppression from at least 3 different perspectives. From the Black perspective, the so called “Latino” perspective, the Womyn perspective and 4 if you include the LGBTQ perspective. This unique position gives us a power and opens spaces only one with our perspective can infiltrate. We can navigate in spaces that not many others can and that is powerful. With this and all power comes responsibility, however. Those responsibilities are what define the movements we choose or choose not to participate in.
I believe we should change the course of civil rights and to demand our justice and liberation as individual womyn away from respectability politics, slut shaming, classism, white feminism etc… We as Black Latinas must understand that the complexity of our identity is a tool, is a gift, is a weapon and that we are catalysts for world change, as all blackness is. I believe once we have internalized that understanding most of our shackles will naturally begin to unlock.
We must understand that our children both black, black latino, native indigenous etc… are ALL targets and are all CASUALTIES in this current phase of the African Holocaust. That we as Women Of Color are the most vulnerable to exploitation and the most sought after bait in the war against White Hetero-Male Patriarchal Supremacy. Often we find ourselves sacrificing our lives for people that rarely would sacrifice even one limb for us and when we do we are often overlooked, never given the credit where credit is so OVERdue.
We must understand the power of our self-determination, that the power in our ability to heal ourselves and decolonize ourselves is greater than us. We must understand our economic power; Black Womyn in the United states control over $40 Billion in buying power which is over 60% of the overall $649 Billion total Black buying power in the US. That our African presence is not limited to the United States. We have examples throughout the entire diaspora from Felipe Luciano, Zumbi, Cha Cha Jimenez, to every woman in the Young Lords, every Black-Latina Panther that ever lived and were never archived etc…
We must understand that affirming “Black Women Matter” in the Latino context means we are not allowing the oppressor to define us nor for his language(s) to divide us, that we are Black womyn of multiple cultures for every culture comes from us, we are the source, the beginning, the end and the middle, we are bigger than our bruises, than our trauma, than our shades, pains and sizes, bigger than your constructs, than our money, the capacity of our power is infinite and cannot be confined.
Affirming “Black Women Matter” in the Black Latina context means we will not allow our silencing to go on any further. That we matter to us FIRST, we LOVE ourselves and EACH OTHER. We will not allow ourselves to be silenced, we will speak for our sistren when they cannot speak for themselves and we will SAY HER NAME. We will work on ourselves, work on our people, work on our spirits. We will resist against the constraints of systematic oppression pulling from the power in our solidarity with All Black Women all over the world from Lagos to Loiza, Bahia to The Bronx, From Gaza to Bogota. We will carry each other so that none of us fall.
I understand that many writers and artist in general do not want to be defined by their background. They don’t want to be called a Black Writer, or Latino artist etc. And while I understand they do not want to be labeled or boxed into a certain category that they may be unable to move out from, I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing.
Here’s my thing.
As a Black and Latina Writer, actress, producer director, etc., I embrace the label for many reason. Let’s get one thing straight; no one can define you or box you in unless you let them. Also your experiences as a person does effect your style as an artist. That’s a given. Not that you can’t do things outside of your comfort zone but great work comes from life experiences as well. People relate to what they know to be true. And everything ain’t for everyone anyway. There is not just one writer that captures the hearts and minds of the masses. It’s just impossible. Hence the different genres of writing to begin with.
I do get the other side of the coin as well.
When you get a certain label it will categorize you and at times that is hard to break out of later. But I welcome the challenge. It’s our jobs as writers to define the parameters of our talents. So even if they were to put me in a box I naturally would outgrow it anyway once they get a feel for my catalog of work.
I’m Just Saying….
So recently on tour we had an amazing sister share her views on light skin vs dark skin, aka the colorism bs that plagues our community. She boldly admitted that as a dark skinned woman she never thought “mixed” people, especially those of fair complexion, had any problems similar to the ones she faced.
She now realized that the struggles faced by her lighter sisters can also be devastating, especially if neither side of their racial/ethnic heritage accepts them.
I was overjoyed that she understood our common struggle and that a light was shed on a false idea. The struggle may look or feel different but the roots are the same. While some may believe having lighter skin could have certain advantages (if that’s what you want to call it) there is still the age old struggle that has plagued those of biracial backgrounds since the plantation days – being too dark for your white siblings/family members and too light for your darker family members. The struggle is overwhelming.
While it may be a different one then being watched at a pricy boutique, the hurt and scars of colorism are still very much present and painful. So why make it harder on each other by deepening the gaps we didn’t put there in the first place?
No one has it worse or better; racism and prejudice is what it is. The sooner we realize that and unify as one big voice, the better our chances are at defeating bigotry.
We’ve all read stories and hair-tales of women who decided to grow their hair natural (meaning no chemical relaxers). I am one of them. And currently going strong, two years in my natural-ness to be exact.
Though I have to admit, my initial reason to embark in this “journey” wasn’t entirely for deep and profound self-enlightenment. Yes, I wanted to embrace my natural beauty and appreciate the attributes I was born with. But in essence my main reasons for going natural were cost and the Afro-Centric social awareness which was happening around 2009; awareness such as, Chris Rock’s movie “Good Hair”.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a genuine desire to express myself as GOD has created me. But to “keep it real”, without the economical incentive, I may have never gotten over the hump from a thought to actually doing.
Nevertheless, regardless of how I got here the fact is that I am here. And I couldn’t be prouder for making the decision. The experience has been surprisingly empowering. My smile is a little bigger and my head is raised a bit higher. And yes, I know it’s not my natural hair giving me special powers. Lol can you imagine (Natural Woman!!). I think it’s simply being able to step out of my comfort zone that gave me the ability to say “hey I accept myself as I am” and THAT had a reflective effect on my self-image.
But I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if I didn’t share how loving my kinkiness has come with its own set of challenges along the way. What challenges you ask, well…
–Like many young girls of color, my mother started straightening my hair when I was young. The idea of caring for my natural hair was foreign to me and I had to get reacquainted with my hair texture
–Although, natural hair care is suppose to be more cost effective, when you’re not knowledgeable of taking care of your hair you still end up spending money on services and products. And depending on where you go, natural hair services can cost more than regular services.
–Textured hair comes in many different curl patterns, I learned the hard way. Oh yea, I’m a mix of 4B and 4C texture
–Contrary to popular belief, kinkier hair is more prone to tangling and breakage. Making it more sensitive than any other hair texture
–Last but not least, HAIR SHRINKAGE!!!! (this is when moisture comes into contact and hair retracts from its elongated state to a tighter curl pattern.)
All in all, it took some trial and error. But ultimately after lots of patience I learned to care and LOVE my hair. I adore my curl pattern, my thickness and the styling versatility.
This is a decision I’m glad I made. One thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that everyone has an opinion about hair. Whether natural, chemically treated, weaved-up or whatever — do what makes YOU happy.
I’m proud to be an Afro-Latina. This is who I am – every kinky, thick, curly part of me.
So I had a get together in my house with a few family members and one of my team members from the Movement. I am not sure how it came about and what sparked the convo but a family member of mine goes “Oh Crystal is not Black”. So the member of the movement looked mortified.
With a company that pushes to end the repression of women of color in the media I know she was shocked that I still have people in my life that weren’t over the colorisms in which I fight so hard to amend in media. I chuckled because this has be an ongoing battle with this family member in particular and I love him to pieces. I watch as she attempted to begin the conversation confronting the issue. She looks for me in the room and I look at the both of them and smile. She goes do you know that so-and-so refuses to acknowledge you are Black. I smile and say “Yes I know and yes I am”. I look at him and say “I love
I have come to the point to learn when to pick and chose my battles….taking Malcolm’s aggressive approach at times and at others taking after Martin by getting my point across in a passive but intellectual way.
Ignorance and self hatred will always be around us; it is how we chose to deal with it that counts and matters the most. We also need to be a people of pro-activity and not of one of
So I don’t get this whole idea of women being put into categories based off of race/ethnicity.
This false notion that all Spanish women are submissive and docile creatures, who cook and clean to please their men, and have the newspaper waiting at the dinner table and ESPN on the TV. While on the other hand you have Black women who are these teeth sucking, neck rolling, “we don’t play that” women who will cut a man for speaking out of character at any given moment. While for some Spanish and Black women this may be true, it is unfair to have such a blanket statement made about an entire group.
It’s very bias for women of the groups but also for those outside of the groups, like as if to say that White women can’t be hardcore and live by a no nonsense approach or that Asian women aren’t appeasing to men. It is so wrong to have these generalized ideas and that so many people believe them.
But I guess just as ideas concerning race/ethnicity can be boxed in and labeled, so can idea about gender.