Afrolatin@ Theatre Series: Interview with Playwright and Actress Krysta Gonzales

Addressing the call to action in the article “Why We Need Afrolatin@ Theatre,” this series highlights many outstanding Afrolatin@ theatre artists around the United States who diligently offer the world their art. This second installment profiles playwright and actress Krysta Gonzales.

Krysta Gonzales in El Nogalar by Tanya Saracho at Teatro Vivo. Photo by Errich Petersen.


I was captivated by the incredible Krysta Gonzales some time ago when I began following her on Twitter a few months ago. In the age of social media, it is easy to connect with artists who are creating thought-provoking theatre. Gonzales is a bubbly, motivated, and determined “Blaxican” whose work I first caught wind of when my friend mentioned her piece on police brutality called Robin Hood: An Elegy. She has performed in several shows, including Tanya Saracho’s El Nogalar with Teatro Vivo. Krysta has recently starred in Pulitzer Prize- nominee Tanya Barfield’s Bright Half Lifewith Theatre en Bloc in the Pony Shed at the Vortex. Bright Half Life is a moving piece about love, marriage, and taking on the trials of life with the one you love. Now, the star is working on several projects including my own play The Stories of Us. In between her rehearsals, she talked with me about her experiences creating new work, and her passion for Afrolatin@ stories, and which Prince Royce song makes her start dancing!  Check out the article here! Continue reading


The Afrolatin@ Theatre Series:Actress, Writer, and Theatre Mogul Florinda Bryant

Addressing the call to action in the article “Why We Need Afrolatin@ Theatre,” this series highlights many outstanding Afrolatin@ theatre artists around the United States who diligently offer the world their art. This first installment profiles actress, writer, and Salvage Vanguard Theater’s Managing Director Florinda Bryant.

  Florinda Bryant. Photo courtesy of Florinda Bryant.

I met the vibrant Florinda Bryant in May of 2015 when she was performing in a staged reading of my play The Stories of Us. I knew that I wanted to continue working with her the moment she took a line that I had no intention of being humorous and made the audience laugh. There is something about certain people who have a spark and Bryant has it. After the performance, I got the chance to speak with her and was deeply inspired by her passion for theatre and telling Black and Brown stories. Continue reading

Meeting Afrolatina Writer Icess Fernandez Rojas


Photo Credit: Icess Fernandez Rojas

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to sit down with one of my favorite writers and pick her brain.  I’ve been following Icess Fernandez Rojas for a few years via her blog, retweeting her twitter jewels for quite someone time. Icess is a fierce Afrolatina whose journalistic work has been featured in the Guardian and The Huffington Post Latino Voices and All  Digitocracy. When I found that she was in my city, I had to set up a meeting.  To my surprise, she agreed to spend a portion of her Saturday with me chatting about her career. Continue reading

My play The Stories of Us at the Austin Latino New Play Festival



A few months ago, I got the news of my life.  The Austin Latino New Play Festival called and they wanted to do a staged reading of my play The Stories of Us .  This piece has come a long way since a small workshop in 2013.  But more on the process later.  If you are in the Austin-area, check out the festival.  My play is May 16th at 8pm.

The Stories of Us is a collection of stories that dig deep into the intercultural conflict between African Americans and Latinos, African diaspora identity, and Afrolatinidad. This scrapbook of experiences, histories, and feelings takes its audience through African roots in Mexico, the time you told your brother you were dating a “black girl,” and that moment you were proud of your heritage, combining to reveal people of color trying to navigate each other’s worlds and build one together.

May 14-16 3 nights, 3 great new Latino plays Austin Latino New Play Festival with ScriptWorks at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center Get your tixs on line –


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 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 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


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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