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.
Then 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.