Photo by Denise Silva
Twenty-six years ago on this day, Black women from 32 different Latin American and Caribbean countries met together in the Dominican Republic to discuss how to fight against the racism and sexism they face. The day became known a La Día Internacional de la Mujer Afrodescendiente or the International Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women Day to be celebrated every 25th of July. All around Latin American and the Caribbean women come together to celebrate this historic day.
In the article “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” written only five years before La Día Internacional de la Mujer Afrodescendiente, Hortense Spillers writes “Let’s face it. I am a marked woman, but not everybody knows my name” and goes on to state the many names Black women are given from “Peaches” to “Granny” to “Miss Ebony First”. I think about all the ways in which I have been marked but also unmarked. Black. Slut. Nigger. Crazy. Chocolate.
As I am marked and unmarked, I am removed of parts of my identity. I become clay for someone to mold and decide how they want to categorize me. From as early as I can remember, I’ve been marked as Black while simultaneously unmarked as Latina. As I struggled to assert my identity as Black and Latina, I felt so lost, misunderstood, and erased.
When others see me, they see a Black woman and suddenly the many ideas of what they think a Black woman should be materialize. A Black woman is hypersexual while simultaneously undesirable. A Black woman is loud when she should be quiet. A Black woman is unworthy of love, respect, or admiration.
Today and every day, I refuse to let the marks others give me define me. I will mark myself. I mark myself as a Black Latina, unapologetic, a loyal friend, a fighter and so much more. This day reminds me to reclaim and reassert my identity as a Black Latina. It reminds me that I am more than my oppression. It reminds me of the community of amazing Black women, especially Black Latinas, that I have in my life. It reminds me of how beautiful it is to be a Black Latina.
Standing in the beautiful but at times difficult intersection of being Black, Latina, and woman, I must reconcile the various aspects of my identity and find beauty in them. Twenty-six years ago Black women from all over the Caribbean and Latin America met together to assert our worth, demand respect, and most importantly create a space of love. For that, I am forever grateful.