In recent months, the Afro-Latina movement has taken off like a rocket launch – and I love it! Much like the natural hair movement has taken off, many were participating and living the Afro-Latina life before, but somehow, more people are now jumping in and accepting and embracing this movement.
My love for La Negra started when I was born. My mom was dark skinned and my dad fair skinned, both of them from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and everyone called her Negra. I also have two sisters; one is a bit darker than me, and one is my mom’s color… a beautiful honey brown. So here I am, “blanca nieve,” (snow white) as I have come to joke about my color in my family, seeing all these beautiful women of color – literally – making moves. My eldest sister is a lawyer, and my older sister is a Fashion Entrepreneur.
My whole life, I would anxiously wait for summer to come so that I could tan and look like I belonged. I wanted to be darker than my sister. I hoped to fit in. So now, during this movement, I have come to realize how much the Latin beauty has been brought to an awkward standard of beauty. From the ancient “levanta la raza” (lift up your race), when being spoken to about dating darker or out of your race, to “pelo malo” (bad hair), being mentioned, it destroyed the belleza that people like me love!
I say all of this because I went to an event marketed towards Latina’s. This event also happened last year, though my sister was the one who attended. After we got home this year, we regrouped and my sister mentioned that the panel was the same as last year’s event. This event had easily over 300 Latina’s in attendance, from TV anchors to magazine editors to bloggers and regulars. White, dark, and darker. Despite that, the panel was filled with all “typical” Latina looking women… they all had light skin, dark eyes, mostly thin. Although they were from diverse ethnic backgrounds, there was not one Negra on the panel! Not one bella I could look at and think, “Momma, we made it!” In the networking portion of the event, I saw maybe ten Negras, my sister being one of them. One was la bella Afro-Latina, Jamel Martinez of Aint I Latina, a popular blog on Afro-Latina’s and the stigmas they face in their quest to be accepted. But the rest were women I didn’t recognize or know personally, and I realized that they were getting the side-eye from the other women, or that they were moving through the event as if they did not want to be seen.
Reflecting on that the next day brought tears to my eyes. All these movements and this event to bring together Latina’s missed the opportunity to take part in the #1 Movement right now in the Latina Community – Negras and hair! When I looked up who put together this NYC event I found out it was a media company in Miami founded by Latinas… but you guessed it, not one Negra! So here are my suggestions to Brand companies that want the Latina following. Include us all, know your market, hire what you want to see! A good friend of mine Maria Flores, who happens to be Puerto Rican and Black, owns Event Ninjas an event company that does everything from weddings to concerts on Governor’s Island! Just a few woman that SHOULD have been on the panel. First and foremost my sister Sandra. She was the VP of Branding for Baby Phat and Phat Farm, a fashion buyer at the height of Delia*s popularity and currently owns her own business providing services including styling and branding. Author Sulma Arzu-Brown de Honduras who has written Pelo Malo No Existe. We have Dominicana, Miss Rizos in the Amo mi Pajon movement, who opened the first all-natural salon in the DR. She has been widely covered for living her life! From the NY Times to Junot Diaz, everyone is loving what she is doing. We have Negra celebrities like Lala Anthony, Christina Milian, and even Latino stylist to the first plus-sized model in Sports Illustrated, Oscar Montes de Ocas who was also in attendance at the event and could have been a great panel personality to discuss his entrepreneurship and style saavy!
We expect everyone to love us in all of our Negra-glory, yet we side eye each other. I hate to say it, but events like this add to the separation. I hope panels going forward include at least one Negra, one natural curly haired girl, and if providing freebies… some freebies from girls who rock their natural, curly hair!