The Time to Be Political: What it Means to be AfroLatinx in the U.S.

Last week on August 8th, I hosted a Twitter chat for AfroLatinxs called The Time to be Political: What it Means to be AfroLatinx in the U.S.

Why I Created this Chat

After feeling that there was a lot of dialogue, both good and bad, surrounding the topic of AfroLatinidad that wasn’t centralized, I wanted to give AfroLatinxs a space to discuss their feelings and thoughts with other AfroLatinxs who they may not usually engage with. From there, the Twitter chat was born.

For this first chat, I wanted us, as AfroLatinxs, to think about our political position as AfroLatinxs in the United States. After having attended the AfroLatino Festival in July, I felt that the AfroLatinx movement in the United States was nothing more than base-level identity politics and granting Black cards to people. I wanted this chat to force us to think beyond that.

The Questions & Highlights

The panelists were Ayanna Legros, Janel Martinez, & Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca who through their different experiences helped guide the conversation. Ayanna Legros is a PhD Student in History at Duke University. Her research looks at hemispheric understandings of Haiti during the 20th century.  You may know her from her piece As A Haitian-American Woman, I Know I’m Afro-Latina But It’s Time For You To Acknowledge It, Too published in Mitu. Janel Martinez is a journalist and founder of Ain’t I Latina?, an award-winning blog for AfroLatinas. In addition to that, she has been a featured guest on outlets such as Buzzfeed, ESSENCE, and more. Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca is an activist and creator of The Gran Varones, a digital storytelling project promoting the stories of Latinx & AfroLatinx LGBTQ+ men. He is currently the Director of LGBT Health & Rights at Advocates for Youth and has worked with other grassroots queer-led organizations.

In total, 6 questions were asked, including introductions. The questions were:

  1. Introduce Yourselves
  2. What does being AfroLatinx mean to you personally? What does it mean for you politically?
  3. As the term “AfroLatinx” has entered the mainstream, do you feel like some narratives of AfroLatinidad are lost? If so, which ones? Do you think the term “AfroLatinx” is failing the community in some ways?
  4. Do you think that we have created a cohesive AfroLatinx community outside of our national borders or families? Why or why not?
  5. Do you think that we have created a political movement for AfroLatinxs? Why or why not? If we haven’t, do you think we need to?
  6. Reflections: Let me know how this chat made you feel. what are you taking away from this chat? What about being AfroLatinx makes you happy?

Overall, the chat was very successful, and I really appreciated everyone who participated. Here are some particularly insightful tweets from the chat:

For more responses, feel free to check out #CafeSinLeche or the original thread of questions for more highlights from the chat.

My Thoughts

One of the hardest things about hosting your own Twitter Chat is restraining yourself from responding to questions. Realistically, you’re too busy retweeting and liking other tweets while making sure to keep the questions coming that there’s not much time to insert your own commentary. However, I wanted to provide a general overview of my thoughts from this chat.

My Blackness has always been an active part of my life whether I liked it or not. Being able to declare myself as AfroLatinx allows me to reclaim an identity that others try to erase, but also to serve as living proof of the very existence of AfroLatinxs and AfroLatinidad. Politically, it reminds me that I have to continue the work of AfroLatinxs like Arturo Schomburg, Marta Moreno Vega, and more. AfroLatinx is a transnational affirmation of my identity as a Black person.

As the term “AfroLatinx” has entered the mainstream, it has been both a blessing and a curse. We need to be very intentional about how we use this term and ensure that the people it was written for are not erased. There is a large erasure of non-Spanish speaking AfroLatinxs, darker skinned AfroLatinxs, and non-Caribbean AfroLatinxs. We need to prioritize the people who are constantly erased from this narrativeBe aware of whose platforms are being promoted and whose are not. Who isn’t receiving a seat at the table?

At the AfroLatino Festival, Janvieve Williams made a great point that as AfroLatinxs our identity and culture transcends our national borders. We are bonded together because of this identity whether we or our family is from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, or Ecuador. In order to combat anti-blackness, we cannot be insular and think only about our national origins. Anti-blackness is a global phenomenon therefore, it requires a global ideology and movement to eradicate it. We have to move beyond just wanting to know the culture and history of our country or region but also the cultures and histories of other AfroLatinxs and other Black people globally.

We need to move past base-level identity politics where we are so focused on deciding who is or who isn’t black or ancestry tests that we forget what’s at stake here. I am no longer interested in screaming “I am Black and Latina” from the rooftops. I am here for investing in action and dialogue beyond that. If by now you don’t realize that Black Latinxs exist, that is simply your problem. The work and activism I want to do are more than just reassuring myself and easing any identity crises. In the US, we have to move past this and continue the work that the many AfroLatinxs before us have done and are doing now.

Overall, this chat was very productive and insightful. I am delighted to see AfroLatinxs of different backgrounds come together to discuss. Again, thank you so so much to everyone who participated whether you simply retweeted/liked tweets or responded to questions!

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