What a year for Black Girl, Latin World


Didn’t I tell you?

Didn’t I tell you that this was going to be THE year for Black Girl, Latin World?  Thank you for making it happen.

Here are some highlights! Continue reading


Diasporic Realness: Telling Our Stories- The First Ever Guest Writers Month


Diasporic Realness: Telling Our Stories is here! What is it you ask?  It is Black Girl, Latin World’s first ever guest writers month!  A whole month of new voices, fresh perspectives and a lot of Blackness.

Want to be apart of it? Hit up BGLW in the contact box below with a brief pitch on what you want to write.  In addition to articles, creative submissions like poetry, essays, video content, reflections and the like are great. Please make sure the content is your own.


Another Day, Another Opportunity


“Another day. Another opportunity” is a phrase often uttered by my best friend Ja’Michael. He is an artistic soul whose passion and warmth inspires everyone he comes in contact with.  Ja’Michael truly embodies this statement.

His words, I reflect on, every time I wake up in the morning.  What opportunities await me today? I am not just talking about big life changing ones, but the everyday things that make life worth living.

Continue reading

Afrolatinidad In Texas

PHOTO CREDIT: Rebecca Avila


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.

No, Empire’s Jussie Smollet is NOT Brazilian and other Musings from a “Regular Black” Girl

PHOTO CREDIT: Tvline.com

Like many Empire fans, I am in love with Jussie Smollet. But I have a bone to pick with him.

 Contary to popular belief, Empire‘s Jussie Smollet is not an Afro-Brazilian. I will admit it. I got excited when I saw “Born in Brazil” on his bio. Here is one of my favorite actors, from one of my favorite countries. While he can easily be Brazilian (because we know Black people are everywhere), Smollet was actually born in  California.
When the actor was asked about his background, he proudly proclaimed his origins but when talking about his falsified bio he tossed around the words “exotic” and “cultured”.
“My family is from Elmhurst, Queens, 54th Avenue, but I was born in Northern California. It’s really funny, you know, [my bio] says ‘Brazil’ making me feel really exotic and cultured, but actually, I was born in Santa Rosa, California. I’m from Sinoma County, and they’re saying ‘Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil,” says Jussie.
As much as I love Jussie, this interview made me think of the term “regular Black” and “just Black” to describe African Americans. Phrases like “You’re regular Black” or “You’re just Black” reinforce the stigma that Black people from other countries are some how better, more unique and cooler.
I have a problem with the term “regular Black”.  All the time, strangers assume that I am Afrolatina or Carribean and when they ask I proudly proclaim my Black American heritage. In high school, I used to tell people I was a “Black Puerto Rican” because I was trying to grasp some cultural knowing, even if it wasn’t my own. Now, I revel in the fact that I come from a lineage of leaders. People who strived, thrived and created. There is nothing “regular” about that.
Traveling to Brazil in 2012 opened my eyes to how valuable my identity is. My Afro-Brazilian friends were enchanted with the history of African Americans. While Native Amercan and European blood runs through my veins and I identify as Afro-Native as well, I proclaim my central identity as “Black American” because of what it stands for. Pride. Beauty. Strength. Talent. And there is nothing “regular” about that. Don’t get me wrong, Black Americans, like our Latin@ brothers and sisters, have a mixture of European, Indigenous and whatever else in our blood too. But my choice to proclaim Blackness is a choice rooted in A) I inhabit the earth as a fierce Negra and B) The history of prizing our “other” blood over Blackness.
Now. Now. Jussie, if you happen across my blog, know that I am your biggest fan.  “You’re So Beautiful” has helped me to appreciate who I am. Maybe we can talk more about this over a cup of coffee while I’m writing your scene or running lines with you on the set of Empire? One day, right? One day soon.

“Adios Felicia”: the Spanish Speaking “African American” Part 2


A few months ago, I walked into a local Mexican restaurant. The waitress, named Felicia, asked for my friends Jorge and Juan’s order in Spanish.  I was excited because when I go to Mexican restaurants, I usually get the opportunity to practice my second language.  When Felicia gets to me, she asks in English “What can I get you?”  I took no offense and gave her my order in Spanish.  Her next words continued to be English.

I could feel my face getting hot.  I was frustrated, embarrassed and if it weren’t for the fact that I didn’t drive there, I would have left then and there.   Maybe that is me being over dramatic, but that is the way I felt at the time.  What I wanted to say was “Adios Felicia”, but instead I ordered my torta.  I get it. If you see a person that looks like me: Brown skinned, curly locs, it’s obvious that they only speak one language. English. Right? Jorge and Juan’s olive skin and straight Black hair read Spanish-speaking.  This is Texas and the majority of folks who can rattle off at the mouth like Telenovela stars look nothing like me.

While I am not Afro-Latin@, I am aware that my experience with Felicia is very similar to many of my friends who identify as Latinegr@. The color of their skin and African features causes both non-Black Latin@s and African Americans to question their Latinidad.   They are frequently responded to in English and asked “Why do you speak Spanish so well?”   Many want to scream to the roof tops that they are Black and Latin@; both at once.  Many people don’t know that Blackness, Latinidad and Africanness are important parts of Latin@ history, culture and experiences.

In the African American community, speaking Spanish results in questions that deal with essentializing Blackness. When I was working on a political campaign, there was another African American Spanish speaker and I overheard an African American colleague ask if he was a “real” Black person because he spoke Spanish so well. Since when does speaking Spanish make you less Black?

Let’s be honest, in Texas the amount of exposure to Afro-Latin@ history is low but steadily growing. Institutions like the University of Texas at Austin have been exploring Latinegr@ experiences through research, seminars and other forms of community engagement.  Public figures like Houston Fox 26’s anchorman Jose Grinan and Houston-based poet Jasminne Mendez serve as great examples of people disrupting the narrative that Black always equals African American. There are also teachers like my colleague Olivia who taught a segment on Afro-Mexican history and my colleague Jorge, who informed his class about Celia Cruz.  These experiences are needed in both our Black and Latin@ community based organizations, arts establishments and schools around Texas.

I am here for African Americans recognizing that this whole finding connections with diaspora, African American Spanish speaker thing is nothing new. African Americans have been using Spanish to connect, travel and survive since the 1900’s.   Langston Hughes traveled to Cuba and Mexico and connected with Nicolás Guillén .   Phylicia Rashad used her bilingual ability in her Cosby show audition.  The man who inspired me to learn Spanish, my Dad, is an African American. It’s nothing new.  It’s just not talked about.

As I write this piece with Tego Calderon playing in the background, I reflect on the conversations I have had with my Latinegr@ friends and recognize that ignorance of Afro-latinidad is rooted in the erasure of Afro-latinidad in our history books and imperial Blackness where the African American English speaking experience is held as the definition of Blackness. That’s why I love The Latinegr@s Project, Ain’t I Latina, Boriqua Chicks, African American Latino World and other spaces like these so much.   They open our mind and allow us to see the stories of Blackness and Latinidad that we hardly see in the mainstream media.

We are a part of the diaspora. I hope we can continue to have more discussions on how Afro-American and Latinegr@ history is intertwined. I hope to see more Latinegr@s rising up and pushing for representation.  More Afrodiaspora allies.  More progress and roads to self-love.  Let Spanish, Portuguese, English, Haitian Creole or any other language you speak roll off our tongue. Let our Blackness be what unites us.

The Spanish Speaking “African American” Part I

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This piece is also published on the LatiNegr@s Project Website that I write for.

How to Get Away With Murder’s LatiNegro Hottie

In honor of Black History Month, I give you Alfred Enoch, also known as “Wes” from How to get away with Murder. You may remember him from the Harry Potter series where he played Dean Thomas.  I am loca about this show.  The weekly drama gives me a fix of law, love and a fierce leading Black woman.  Not to mention it brings my family and I together for some good ole quality time

You may not have known that Alfred Enoch is Afro-Brazilian and English and he has voiced his opinions on Afrolatin@ identity.  Check out the interview where he speaks in Portuguese on his work and Afrolatin@ issues. You can watch it here.

Don’t forget to enjoy these photos of this incredible (and incredibly good-looking) rising star.  It’s Valentine’s Day season after all.


As Dean Thomas
PHOTO CREDIT: cdn.cnwimg.com

PHOTO CREDIT: bostonherald.com



Who are your favorite Latinegr@ actors/actresses on television?  

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


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.

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.

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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Black Girl, Latin World in 2015, let’s go!


When Black Girl, Latin World took flight in 2011, it was purely a hobby.  I was inspired by African American, Latino World, the LatiNegr@s Project and many other bloggers and Afrolatino advocates to share my stories dealing with the subject.  Since 2013, this blog has been connecting me with beautiful readers who keep me inspired as I write about my experiences as an African American engaging in diaspora.  Every email I get from a person who wants to know about Afrolatino theatre work or comment about your experiences keeps me writing.

I’ve taken a bit of the break from this blog because I needed to graduate.  I did it! I’m now a University of Texas at Austin graduate!  Now, as I seek employment, I plan to focus on my passions…writing and Afrolatinidad.

Black Girl, Latin World will be adding some new and awesome projects that I hope you all will love.

  • Spotlight of the Month-Monthly highlights, guest posts and interviews with organizations, artists, writers and everyday people passionate about Afrolatinidad and the diaspora.
  • #MultilingualBlackPeople – A movement, discussion  and empowerment space for multilinguals in the Black Diaspora!  Monthly posts on language learning, Spanish phrases and my own Portuguese learning journey.
  • Connections Across Diasporas: African Americans and Afrolatinos-More posts on the connections between Afrolatinos and African Americans in history, music and the arts.
  • Escribela Negra– A collection of blog posts focused on empowerment through writing for the African American and Afrolatina woman!  Chock full of notes, advice and stories from and about writers of color.

I’m also working on a play centered around Afrolatinidad and I look forward to sharing that progress with you.  And you can follow my work as a Her Campus writer too.

I am stoked about this new year and looking forward to connecting with you all.

Of course, if there is anything you would like to see featured on BGLW or if you’d like to be featured yourself drop me a line at at blackgirllatinworld@gmail.com.

Okay, you’ve heard my plans for this new year.  What are your goals? Do you want to start a blog?  A movement? Learn a new language?  Gain a better spiritual relationship?  Gain a healthy lifestyle?  Share it below or tweet me with the hashtag #BLGWGoals.


Diaspora Dialogues: We Are Familia

Last month, I had the chance to connect with writer/creator James Jones about his amazing project “We Are Familia”.   As a writer myself, I was really excited to connect with the creator of the show and get his insight, inspiration and story.


In the style of A Different World and East Los High, “We are Familia” details the untold story of Latino students at historically Black colleges.  One of the few television shows featuring the stories of Black Latino characters, “We are Familia” is set to expand our thoughts on race, ethnicity and culture.

The cast of hit 90s show: A Different World PHOTO: http://www.boldaslove.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/A-Different-World-tv-02.jpg
The cast of hit 90s show: A Different World
PHOTO: http://www.boldaslove.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/A-Different-World-tv-02.jpg

Besides Romeo from The Steve Harvey Show, I don’t remember seeing many Afro-Latino characters on my television screen growing up.

Yes!  Excitement feels my heart.  Finally.


“When a Historically Black College gives scholarships to twenty incoming Latino freshmen, the campus falls into a cultural uproar, as the African American and Latino students struggle to coexist. The campus is further disrupted when a Latino student of Afro descent is awarded a scholarship, which in turn challenges everyone’s thoughts on race, ethnicity, and culture. In the end, the students learn that what unites them is stronger than what separates them and that “family” extends past all color lines and language barriers.”  (Synopsis from the blackbalancemedia.com website)
Check out the video of a Latino student at an HBCU sharing his story.

The Inspiration

Talking with Writer James Jones, I was curious about his inspiration for the show.  He wanted to explore the side of HBCUs that had not been touched on media.  Jones brought out the example of A Different World and how there were characters of Latino descent.  That got him thinking: What about the stories of Latino characters in this space? It’s an important question as we explore the relations between Latino/Black/Afro-Latino communities.

James Jones’s learned about the diaspora by chance in his ROTC group in grade school.  He noticed certain students were being promoted to superior cadet and which according to Jones “largely had to do with them being bilingual”.  One student who received the scholarship  that Jones had known for many years was a Black young woman with the last name “McDonald”.  Jones was surprised to learn that she was Panamanian and there was a community of students who identified as both Black and Latino in his school.

Why now?

It’s obvious why a television show like this is needed.  Jones noted that images of Latinidad on television very seldom include Black people.  I agree and by supporting this show we can place more of the stories that matter on screen.  Let’s be real.  The images that we see on screen provide knowledge about the world and projects like this reflect diverse experiences.  I am stoked to see this take fold!

The Advice

Jones gave some great advice about writing for film and getting your work out there!

1. Get internships in the industry.  If you want to work in the industry, get a job in the industry.

2. Keep a blog because you never know who is looking at you.

3. Submit to agents! Name Recognition is your friend. The more they see your name, the more likely they are to look at your work.

4. Take a writing class!  You don’t need to get a degree in Film but you do need to hone your craft.

5. Become a script reader.

6. Work on multiple projects.  If you submit something have another project that you are working on!

Check out this Social Media Skit by the We Are Familia Supporters!

This hilarious skit was created by supporters of the show for the social media fundraising campaign.  Although it is not a preview for the show, it diffidently gets me pumped for “We are Familia”.

This skit reminded me of my experience growing up in Houston, Texas.  In a few minutes, they touch on key issues between Black and Brown communities like who owns certain hairstyles, intercultural dating and diversity within communities.  I liked the line “I’m China Latina” because not many people know about Latino communities of Asian descent. It’s awesome how a cute, funny and short skit can share a story in a creative way!


Check out the gofundme page and contribute to the making this show happen!  More info on: http://www.gofundme.com/wearefamilia

I would like to thank James Jones for talking with Black Girl, Latin World and offering advice on the film industry.  I know we will see this project on screen soon!