Spotlight of the Month: Black Women Latino Men on Instagram

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It wasn’t to long ago that I stumbled upon Black Women Latino Men Connection on Instagram.  I just knew I had to feature the page! Founded by Bianca, the space boasts over 13,000 followers and counting.  What I enjoy about BWLM is the beautiful couples featured on the blog.  Black Women-Latino Men couples are nothing new, but the representation via the media are few and far in between.  Seeing the many BWLM couples reminds me of the wonderful bonds between Black, Brown and Afrolatino communities that need to be shared.  Check out what Bianca has to say about why she started the page, the responses and challenges of intercultural dating. Continue reading

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Spotlight of the Month: Spanish-speaker Vernon Lewis

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Via Vernon Lewis

Every month Black Girl, Latin World brings you an inspiring person, project or piece of art that champions Afrolatinidad and the diaspora.  This month’s Spotlight is an awesome Spanish-speaker by the name of Vernon Lewis.  Check out his journey on learning Spanish, why it has opened doors for him and his advice for those who want to learn.

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Spotlight of the Month: Facebook Community Raising Afrolatino Kids

  

PHOTO CREDIT: Shannon Guzman

The Guzman Family: Shannon, Bernard, Matthew and Milagros

PHOTO CREDIT: Shannon Guzman
Every month, Black Girl, Latin World showcases awesome organizations that champion Afrolatinidad!   This month’s addition to the Spotlight of the Month is none other than the social media space Raising Afrolatino Kids. I came across this facebook group some months ago and I enjoy the discussions, resources and insight that the communidad shares on intercultural families and Afrolatino culture. No, I am not a parent but I do share many of the things that I learn with my own family when we discuss intercultural families/dating and the like.  Feel free to check out this interview where co-founder Shannon Guzman tells us why she is so passionate about Afro-Latino families, multicultural representation in the media and where she sees RALK going in the future. 

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Spotlight of the Month: Blaxicans of L.A.

PHOTO CREDIT: latimes.com/Blaxicans of L.A.

Every month, Black Girl, Latin World highlights projects and individuals who champion the diaspora through art.  This month brings us the dope project Blaxicans of L.A., an instagram dedicated to the expereinces of Blaxicans and Afrolatin@ identified bodies in Los Angeles, California. Continue reading

SPOTLIGHT Of the Month: Q &A with Artist/Photographer Hakeem Adewumi

Every month, Black Girl, Latin World likes to showcase beautiful Black artists that make us think and feel.   This month’s addition to the Spotlight of the Month is none other than Visual Artist/Photographer Hakeem Adewumi.  Check out this interview where Hakeem goes in on diaspora, art and why he pursues his passion!

PHOTO CREDIT: Hakeem Adewumi

PHOTO CREDIT: Hakeem Adewumi

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Spotlight of the Month: Musician X’ene Sky

PHOTO CREDIT: X'ene Sky

PHOTO CREDIT: X’ene Sky

Every month, Black Girl, Latin World likes to showcase beautiful Black artists that make us think and feel.   This month’s addition to the Spotlight of the Month is none other than the fabulous musician, writer and activist X’ene Sky.  Check out what she has to say about her musical journey, Afro-Mexican roots and why art is important.

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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.

SPOTLIGHT OF THE MONTH: Q&A with Black Chicana Writer Ishia Lynette

PHOTO CREDIT: Rebecca Avila

PHOTO CREDIT: Rebecca Avila

#spotlightofthemonth #escribelanegra

Every month, Black Girl, Latin World seeks to spotlight amazing Afrosendents and organizations that uplift the Black American, Latin@ and Afrolatin@ community.  For the month of March, we shine a light on the work of Afrolatina writer, Ishia Lynette aka Afromexico.  An El Paso native, Ishia’s artistry inspires, motivates and causes her audience to think.  I had the chance to see her in action on the stage at Negra! A Night of Afrolatina performance last year.  She also contributes to Real Brown Girls and hosts a blog space.  Check out what Afromexico has to say on her inspiration, background and her advice for women writers.

How has your background and identity influenced your work?

My background and identity has played a major part in my work. Growing up in El Paso, where the population is currently 92% “Hispanic”,  how could I not be influenced by the culture? Im half Mexican but I look fully “African American” or half Asian to most. As a child, I never understood why when I went to school, the Mexicans would refer to me as “Negra”.  As I got older, I began to shun away from my black side. It’s things like that that push me to speak about being proud of the connection between Latin and African people in general.

What advice would you give to women wanting to write?

The advice I’d give anyone who wants to write is…WRITE. Don’t be afraid of what people are going to say, and don’t be afraid that people aren’t going to like what you have to say. Everyone will not understand you, your story, or your words but it may not be for them. We as women have a connection to the world much different than men, and we are often left feeling as if being “in our feelings” or letting our guards down for the world is being too soft. But to me that’s the beauty in it.

What has been the most challenging thing about writing and performing?

Performing. Im still working on that one. Im very soft spoken, especially around those I dont know. So performing isn’t easy for me. Im very shy, and facing an audience is one of my biggest fears. It isn’t the people that scare me, its myself. Which leads to me to writing. Sometimes I dont feel like writing.  Sometimes I dont want to share what I have written, and sometimes I have so much to say that I cant find the words. When I write something it usually comes from a place of vulnerability.  Whether its about Love, my hair, or the diaspora of my people. By allowing strangers in, they get to know a piece of who I am or was.

Is there an Afrolatin@ community in Austin/El Paso?

No. In both places most see little to no connection between themselves or their fellow brother/sister along side them.

 What events, people and things inspire you? Why?

Everything is an inspiration to me. The way the sky looks.  The way the road catches the rain.  The trees that sway while others stand still, or even the old lady you see walking down the street. Theres beauty to be found in everything around us, its the finding it that’s up to you.The past and current struggle of my people is an inspiration to me. We have always lived under white supremacy.  If I go to the store and all I see is white supermodels on the ads, what does that do to my self-esteem or what does that say about my people? I can’t promise that I can change the world we live in but I can wake others up to the truth.

Where can we see more of your work?

At the moment, my blog site is down for some upgrading but it will be up and running again in about a week. It is afromexico.wordpress.com and you can find some of my short quotes or poems on my instagram page which is Afro_Mexico. I am also a featured writer for realbrowngirls.com where you can find my work and other great women writers.

 What is the message behind your work?

I believe the underlying message in most my work is that there is hope to be found no matter how tough the situation may be. As long as a person continues to grow and learn, there is always hope.

Thank you, Ishia for sharing your truth and inspiration with us!  Keep spreading your truth. We look forward to seeing more of your work soon!

Would you or your org like to be featured as a Spotlight of the Month?  Send BGLW a message in the contact me form.

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SPOTLIGHT OF THE MONTH: Q & A with Afro-Latina Poet Jasminne Mendez

PHOTO COURTESY OF JASMINNE MENDEZ

It is Black History Month, a time to commerate outstanding individuals of the African Diaspora!  Black Girl, Latin World will be posting content weekly that celebrates Our History.

Our first interview is with the fantastic poet, actress, teacher and published writer Jasminne Mendez. Mendez has performed in venues all around Houston, including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Rice University and the Alley Theatre. She has graced the stage with amazing writers like Sandra Cisneros and Taylor Mali. Mendez’s memoir Island of Dreams was published and released in November of 2013.   Check out our interview with this fantastic Afrolatina artist from Houston, Texas!


PHOTO COURTESY OF: Jasminne Mendez

PHOTO COURTESY OF: JASMINNE MENDEZ

What events, people and things inspire you? Why?

I always find this to be such a difficult question. I am inspired by everything really. There is so much beauty in this world, and any of it can be inspiration for writing or for living. But, I’m probably most inspired by children, their innocence and unbiased creativity is a beautiful thing. I am also inspired by strong women who follow their dreams and work to build up other women- (Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Oprah, Esmeralda Santiago). And, not to sound shallow, but I’m inspired by my own life. I have lived through a lot in these short 30 years, and knowing that I have quite literally survived near death experiences, helps keep me going. I am inspired by being an inspiration to others, if that makes sense. I know people are moved by my work and my life story and that keeps me motivated and excited to keep doing it.

How has your Afrolatina background influenced your work?

A lot of my earlier writing- both memoir and poetry- focused on my identity as an AfroLatina in society. What it meant. How I fit in. I used writing to come to terms with my Dominicanness and my Americanness. In my first memoir Island of Dreams, I explore with poetry and short stories what it means to be an Afrolatina living in America, how I want to honor my parent’s culture and heritage while still being able to fit in and feel at home in the U.S. I was also blessed to learn Spanish as a child, so you will often see Spanish words in my poetry and stories, I don’t think I could write and be true to myself without it.

 

Jasminne Mendez performing poetry. PHOTO COURTESY OF: Jasminne Mendez

Jasminne Mendez performing poetry.
PHOTO COURTESY OF: JASMINNE MENDEZ

You are also a teacher, how does that play into your work?

Surprisingly, I have never written any poems about teaching. I have written only one short story memoir piece and that was published in the book Littlest Blessings by Whispering Angel Books. Although I don’t write about it, I definitely always write with my students in mind. I write for them, because growing up I never saw “myself” in books or in the authors I read and to me that is a disservice we are doing to our youth. We need more writers of color in our schools, in the curriculum. We need picture books that depict minorities as strong, fun and real people. I write so that hopefully my books can end up in the classroom and students won’t feel so alone.

What advice would you give to women wanting to write?

Write. Just write. Even when you don’t want to. Even when it’s hard. Even when everyone around you asks you why. Write. You don’t just become a writer over night, it takes practice, patience and perseverance. You will write things that are good. You will write things that are never meant to be read by anyone else. Doesn’t matter, just keep writing. And, find your voice and your audience. If you want to write just for yourself, that’s fine, but don’t expect to sell any books that way. Publishing and writing is a business like any other. You and your work is the product and you have to have someone to sell it to. If you have a strong voice and a strong purpose then it will lead you to the right audience.

Jasminne Mendez performing poetry. PHOTO COURTESY OF: JASMINNE MENDEZ PHOTO COURTESY OF: Jasminne Mendez

Jasminne Mendez performing poetry.
PHOTO COURTESY OF: JASMINNE MENDEZ

What has been the most challenging thing about writing and performing?

The most challenging thing about writing for me has always been the revision and editing process. I hate rereading my work because I always feel so self-conscious about it and I always second guess and doubt its worth. I wonder “who will want to read this?” I am constantly having to give myself pep talks to stay motivated and keep writing. With regards to performing, well to be honest that’s the easy part for me. I’ve been on stage since the age of 11, although I do get occasional stage fright, it passes quickly once I say the first few lines of a poem. My poetry and my words come alive on the stage, I feed off the audience’s energy and that fuels and excites me. But, if I had to choose ONE thing that’s hard about it….it’s demanding to get paid what I’m worth. And by demanding I don’t mean being rude about it, I just mean being sure that I get compensated for my time and talent. A lot of people don’t seem to understand that I deserve that, this is not just a hobby, this is work, it takes time not just talent. And, time is money.

Is there an Afrolatin@ community in Houston like New York and Miami?

Yes, there is an Afrolatino community here, but it’s not as prevalent. We don’t really like have “afrolatino” meetings or hangouts or anything. Most Latinos in Houston group themselves by country of origin, Afrolatino Hondurans hangout with other Hondurans regardless of skin color, same goes with Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cubans. Sure, we’ll see each other at salsa clubs or the hair salon, but it’s not like in Miami where you get off the plane and all these “black” people are speaking Spanish at you. And because Houston is so big and so spread out, we don’t come together often and there are pockets of Afrolatinos across the city. Houston is just diverse overall that you can never really tell what ethnicity someone is just by looking at them.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

I think my biggest challenge has been my health. I live with several auto-immune diseases that often leave me debilitated for months at a time. I suffer from chronic fatigue and pain and spent over a year without the full use of my right hand (my writing hand), not being able to feed, clothe, and dress myself was hard…trying to write became near impossible without a lot of work and effort that was just draining. I also got really ill when my book Island of Dreams first came out and so that halted a lot of the publicity, readings and events that I had planned to do in order to promote the book. I feel really behind as a writer in my career because my health problems have forced me to slow down, but I’ve learned to just take it one day and one page at a time.

What has been the most rewarding part of your writing and poetry career?

The MOST rewarding part of my writing career can be summed up by one experience that I had over 8 years ago at a poetry reading. I was asked along with 29 other poets to perform a poem at the Holocaust Museum of Houston. The event was held in attempt to bring the Latino, African American and Jewish community together. To show the city just how much in common we all had. It was a wonderful and awe inspiring event, the thought that poetry, our words could unite us was powerful. Then, at the end of the night, a young girl who couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15 years old came up to me. She seemed very shy, but her teacher and her friends encouraged her. She smiled at me, shook my hand and said very quietly “Wow, what you did up there, wow, that was awesome. When I grow up, I want to do that. When I grow up, I want to be like you, I want to do with my words what you did.” I hugged her and have never forgotten that moment. It’s the reason I do what I do, so more young black and Latina females can be inspired. I am a role model for young girls and I take that responsibility very seriously, and it’s also the most rewarding part of what I do.

Thank you Jasminne for your beautiful words of inspiration! We look forward to your success on all of your future projects.

More more information on the amazing poet Jasminne Mendez and her work check out her website.


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