SPOTLIGHT OF THE MONTH: Author Tony Polanco

Every month Black Girl, Latin World spotlights organizations, artists and other individuals whose work champions Afrolatinidad. April’s spotlight is Verses From the Diaspora author Tony Polanco, an artist I met while visiting New York City in 2014.  He fills us in on his writing, passion for Blackness and why he believes ambition and dreams are so important for our Black youth.

PHOTO CREDIT: K Qamar Cruz

PHOTO CREDIT: K Qamar Cruz

What motivated you to create art that is centered around the diaspora?

When my father was deported in 2002, I realized that my family roots were essential to my identity as the son of a Afro Latino.  I carry my family history and culture through my very existence

Why is it important for Afrolatinos and African Americans to dialogue?

It is important because both Afro Latinos and African Americans  face discrimination. I’m involved in community organizing in Crown heights (little Panamá), Bk with an organization called “Black Alliance for Just Immigration” where we share our cultural differences as a way to learn from each and build solidarity.  It is very important for us to learn of each other because we have shared experiences. Although there are cultural differences, we still share cultural similarities. Our Music, arts and culture are ways we all express ourselves. One example, hip hop, can be found in all parts of the Diaspora. Did you know the current capital of underground hip hop is in South America?

What inspires your writing?

My real life experiences. Traveling, dealing with issues of identity and just being affected by displacement.

What advice do you have for young writers?

My advice is to always remain true to yourself as a writer and to remember that the power of documenting is an important job.

What is your philosophy?

My philosophy is to document history that has been hidden or eliminated. Everything I do is for the African Diaspora. Throughout life, I have witnessed the pain of our people when they feel associated with blackness and African culture. I feel like it’s my responsibility to show the pride in our Africaness.

Everything I do is for the African Diaspora.

Why is following your dreams important to you?

Following your dreams is important because we all have a calling.  I feel compelled whenever I feel determined and ambitious. Denying that is a betrayal to yourself. When writing my book, there were so many hurdles and challenges. However, the determination to publish kept me focused.

How can readers get a hold of your work?

Right now, the book is available through request online through facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a mini web series entitled “Stanzas” about the highs and lows of poets in NYC.

Thank you Tony for sharing a piece of your creative story with us.  We wish you the best of blessings in your projects and life.  Keep up the great work.

If you or anyone you know would like to be featured in our monthly spotlight, email BGLW at blackgirllatinworld@gmail.com.

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Afrolatinidad In Texas

PHOTO CREDIT: Rebecca Avila

#Escribelanegra

A while ago, on the Afrolatinos facebook page, a member posted about her experience as an Afrolatina in the South. She pointed out that many people she comes in contact with don’t understand the concept of being both Black and Latina.

The conversation thread exploded. For two days, people commented with experiences, opinions and advice. Even I chimed in as an Afro-American Spanish speaking body in Texas. People are shocked when they find that I know Spanish. Where I am from a Black person speaking anything other than English is looked at as strange or interesting.

The main takeaways/experiences mentioned on the thread were:
—Frustrations around people not believing that they were Latin@
—People speak badly in Spanish about Black people around them not expecting them to understand
—Lack of Media attention for Afrolatin@ issues/figures

When someone doesn’t understand your identity, it can be easy to get upset. But I like to look at everything as a teaching moment. Telling them about your experience and identity might just be the seed that can help them grow into an ally.

Here is a list of fine folk whose work champions Afrolatinidad. And get this…they are all based (Although they are not all from) in the Lone Star State. You can share these with your students, teachers and families.

Toi Scott-Artist, Writer and Activist, More info about Toi’s work on: http://www.afrogenderqueer.com

Dr. Frank Guridy, Professor at University of Texas at Austin, Author of Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow

Ishia Lynette AKA Afromexico, Writer for Real Brown Girls.

Dr. Juilet Hooker, Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Faculty-Lead of Bluefields, Nicaragua Study Abroad Program.

Dr. Jossianna Arroyo-Martinez, Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Teaches Afrolatino Culture and Afro-Carribean Diaspora courses.

Let’s add to the list of resources

Part of me believes that these experinces noted in the Afrolatinos facebook page post happen due to lack of education and media representation. Yes, even in Texas there are Latinegr@ spaces. It may not be as prevalant as New York City or Miami but these spaces exist. And it’s up to us to have more discussions on this topic in our southern arts orgs, elementary schools and culture centers.

I invite you to add to the list of Texas-based Latinegr@s scholars, artists, allies, resources etc. Share these with your family. Educate ourselves and our community. Knowledge is Power.

This was originally published on The Latinegr@s Project website.