My Black Is Beautiful: Sharing My Definition of Black AND Latina

My Black is Beautiful: Defining My Definition of Black

I am a proud Black woman and Latina. Call me an Afro-Latina or Black Latina. Maybe even mixed with black. Either way you slice it, I’m black.

Growing up I was told you could not be both. “No such thing as a Black Mexican,” I was told. For years I believed it. I thought I had to make a choice between one or the other. Black OR Latina. That’s it.

But then I looked at my dad and his side of the family; my aunts, cousins, my grandmother. And I learned about the rich history of Haitians. In the late 1700s, the French brought West-African slaves to the island of Haiti, then known as Hispaniola. In 1804, 500,000 slaves revolted and claimed their independence becoming the first black republic. How could I not be a part of that? Or Black?

My parents always taught me that I was both. I learned to cook Mexican and Haitian food. We celebrated traditions and holidays from both cultures. I grew up spending summers with my Haitian cousins and visiting with my paternal grandparents. My grandmother with her brown skin was the definition of beautiful to me.

My Definition of BlackThen of course, there’s the fact that I was raised in the United States where I learned about the Civil Rights movement, Jim Crow Laws, segregation. I personally experienced being called the “N” word, heard my father, a doctor, share stories about patients refusing treatment because they had a black doctor.

In high school I remember asking my school to include a Black History Month exhibit in the library. I was told no. The librarian explained if we honored Black History Month we’d have to honor all cultures and it wouldn’t be fair. This was 1991 in suburb of Cleveland where my handful of  friends and I made up the diversity numbers at the school.

As I got older and started college at University of Florida in 1995, I joined the Black Student Union, Club Creole (for Haitian students), Mexican-American Student Association (who weren’t at all inviting when I joined), and Caribbean Students Association. At each meeting I showed and acted like I belonged even if I got some confusing looks.

After  freshman year, I remember chatting with some friends about going to this new event called the Essence Festival. It was in New Orleans, not too far from school.  Everyone was going and we wanted to go too.  At that time, Essence Festival was just 1 years old.

I didn’t go that year or in following years. I went to law school, got married, had a baby, started working, more babies. Life.

But here I am today and guess where I’m heading? To Essence Festival for the 20th Anniversary with none other than My Black is Beautiful. This partnership couldn’t be more fitting. MBIB celebrates the diverse collective beauty of African-American women and encourages black women to define and promote our own beauty standard.

At Essence, MBIB will be celebrating the Road to Essence “Beauty in Action” challenge held in partnership with transformational expert, Lisa Nichols. MBIB and Lisa Nichols encourage women to show their “beauty in action” by sharing what encourages them to believe that beauty is more than skin deep and to define their our own beauty standard.

The standard of beauty to me is defining my own blackness. I am a proud black and Latina women. I wave multiple flags, wear my hair curly or straight, shake my hips to hip-hop or Salsa. That’s me, and I love it.

Learn more about My Black is Beatiful, visit the MBIB website and join the community on





  1. 1


    As a New Yorker, I grew up with friends who are Black, Latino, Jamaican, Haitian, Barbadian and a mix of all of the above. Sad to hear your student groups were not as open minded.
    Enjoy Essence (I’ve never been) and thank you for representing sistas of all hues and backgrounds.

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    bohemianbabushka says

    You have every right to think your mom was beautiful, porque era BELLA!!!

    I remember growing up I could only pick one “peoples” to belong to- hispana, cuban, chinese could never be put together back then. Glad “multicultural” is starting to show up as an option and happy that my grandchildren know all the ones they should pick.

    Have a great time at the conference and know we’re proud of every aspect of our JJ.


  3. 3


    Your grandparents are a gorgeous couple. And I wish more people took the time to learn about other cultures, they’d be surprised that their are actually many Black Mexicans who are originally from Mexico and identify as being both black and Mexican.

  4. 4


    This is a great reflection. I will never forget the “black pen top” comment and our discussions with one of our professors on the meaning of diversity. As one who loves to learn about people and cultures I love diversity and can appreciate you sharing your story. Have a blast at Essence!

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    ascendingbutterfly says

    Take me with you I have always wanted to go to Essence Fest, and I need no excuse to go back to NOLA I just plain love it there! Can I stow away in your suitcase? :-)

    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

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