The Afro In My Afro-Latina
Humanity moment: I have a secret; I didn't always love the Afro in my Afro-Latina. As I type those words, I feel embarrassment, disappointment, and guilt, for ever allowing this thought to take up residency in my mental and emotional space. My blackness wasn't something I celebrated because I never understood it. Growing up in a single-parent Latin household, African American culture was narrowed down to lusting over and loving a black man, competing and fighting with a black woman, Hip Hop, Ebonics, and soul food. Not having awareness about the other half of my bloodline, was another way my biological father failed me. Being an absentee parent, you don't only miss out on seeing your daughter in the school talent show, on the field at her soccer game; you also miss out on doing your greatest job, which is creating and nurturing her emotional armor, for the life's daily battles, by putting gemstones in your daughters crown. Those diamonds, ruby's, sapphires, and pearls are self-esteem, self-worth, education, and understanding of her people, their struggles, triumphs, and contributions to the world.
Though I do believe that we ALL are of African decent, the Boricua, Morena divide this Bralem (Bronx + Harlem) girl witnessed every day, left no indication of that. So who's job was it to teach me about being a black, a black woman, and a black woman in America, if my black father and his black mother weren't around? I don't believe it was not my mother's job to teach me about a culture that wasn't necessarily hers, that she too, learned about from an unfair distance. Could she have tried? Sure! But being a negra (a term often used to describe Latin people with dark-colored skin) raising mixed girls, by herself, in a prominently black neighborhood in the Bronx, trying not to stand out like a sore thumb, seemed hard enough.
At the time, I learned about what it meant to be black women by the girls and women in my neighborhood, church, and through television. And thanks to Growing up in the era of Hip Hop, Rock and Roll, and the seeding of the Mega Church, the role for girl's and women, who looked like me, were limited to the God I served, and how I served him, the slant in my chinky eyes, the shape, and size of my breast, and what I was willing to do with my mouth and vagina to be seen. Enter Clair Huxtable, the incomparable Phylicia Rashad. Clair Olivia Huxtable, Esq. Taught me, in 30-minutes, every Thursday night that I wasn't a low self-esteemed, self-righteous, loud, angry, uneducated, damaged, unemployed, sexual object, addicted to a drug, or man, waiting for a handout, and just being satisfied being America's afterthought. I will forever be grateful to Madam Rashad, Mother Oprah, and all the black women who enlightened me on the history, resilience, contributions, and worth of the black woman.
"You ain't black, with your light skinned ass!" I'd hear followed by the unnecessary "What are you?" question I'd receive from the various melanin hued girls in my class, or while at Skate Key. That question always made me feel that anything other than black was the only thing that would make me valuable in the questioner's eyes. At the same time, I was scared to answer because I didn't want the girls, with darker shades to dislike me more than they appeared to already dislike my hot topic skin. "Fuentes? That's a Spanish last name. You don't have Spanish hair! Perra por favor ¡Eres negro!" Translation: Bitch, please! You're BLACK! Those statements from mis hermanas always made me feel like I wasn't enough, and had to prove myself in order to be close to their definition of Latin enoughness. I wasn't enough, or way too much for my black side, and almost never enough for my brown side. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and at the beginning stages of an identity crisis, and full blown anxiety disorder, at ten years old. Who Am I?
Today, I sit in confidence, loving the Afro in my Afro-Latina. Understanding, thanks to personal research, the beauty in my blood. Where and who we come from are important, necessary lessons that we must instill in our children, youth, and anyone who is unsure of their origins. We can not rely on imagery from the world wide web, and the limited prism, of our neighborhoods, oppressors, and culture appropriators, to tell the stories of our family trees. Partly, due To Beyonce and her getting me in Formation, I no longer wish I could afford a nose job, because she insisted that I start to love my negro nose, with Jackson 5 nostrils. I do! I don't have the need rock a natural hairstyle to prove to my fellow sisters that I'm 'woke' or one of them. My identity is no longer wrapped in wondering if I'm 'black enough.' I presently understand, respect, appreciate, adore, and celebrate my melanin majesticness. I now know who I am, because I decided who I am. And I am a QUEEN, who is Enough.
I Love My Blackness and Yours.
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