Puerto Ricans strive to be colorblind, but history and poverty is not.
by Dorothy Bell Ferrer •
by Dorothy Bell Ferrer •
Spring for many means healing, growth and new beginnings. February closes chapters, the snow melts in the north. March opens new ones. The beauty of these past two months is that they celebrate Black history and la belleza de la mujer. Throughout these two months I have had ample contact with producer and actress Magdalena Albizu who self identifies as Afrolatina and has been working for the past several years on a project called “Negrita”. “Negrita: Racially Black and Ethnically Latina” is a documentary about Afrolatina identity and experience in the United States which is increasingly an important conversation. As stated on Negrita’s Vimeo website, “Negrita, highlights individual unique Afro-Latina experiences within a broad skin color and ethnic range, while revealing psychological and social factors that add to the confusion, uncertainty, shame and affirmation about one’s self-image of being both “Black” and “Latina”.”
Both Ms. Magdalena and I recognize the privilege we have as Afrolatina storytellers living in the United States but in a conversation she reminded me why telling our stories always matters to the progression of people of color as a whole…
DBF: There are several documentaries and video projects that people, such as you all are putting so much time and effort to get AfroLatino voices heard. What makes your project unique for our community?
MA: NEGRITA focuses solely on the Afro-Latina experience and identity in the United States unlike other projects which focus on the Afrolatino perspective in Latin America. Our documentary explores the multilayered identity of being a US Latina of African descent. In order to capture a well-rounded perspective, NEGRITA will cover Afro-Latinas in multiple cities across the USA, such as New York, Chicago, Miami, and LA.
DBF: It is my understanding that the Negrita Documentary is being (appropriately) completed by women. What challenges (if there are any) do you all face as Afrolatinas making a movie about Afrolatinidad?
MA: Our main challenge has been raising money to cover production expenses. Although we have raised some money through our Indiegogo campaign, as an independently financed project, we still need to raise more money in order to continue shooting.
Most people have been open to us and receptive of us telling our story. What has been an obstacle is the mindset that there is a difference between being Latina and Black. Many Latinos see being black as a different category.
DBF: Besides creating this wonderful documentary what other goals do you have to fulfill your desire for black consciousness throughout the diaspora?
MA: For everyone to know that Black is beautiful, smart and loving. For people to know the history of Black people. I hope for the documentary to inspire other Afrolatinos to use their own art (paintings, poetry, music, movies, sculptures) to express what it means to be Afrolatina and a part of the African diaspora. We aspire to have a student curriculum for grade school so they can learn early the history of being Afrolatina in the United States and what that means. We want more Afrolatino voting and becoming politicians in government offices.
DBF: Speaking of the diaspora as a whole, I started a page/blog about a year and a half ago on Facebook called Afrolatinos: Celebrating Our Skin and Our Kin to spread information about what’s happening throughout the diaspora, primarily the Afrolatino diaspora. Many of the followers on that page are non-latino blacks seeking to learn more about the African diaspora through an Afrolatino lens. How do we ensure more unity between black people regardless of if they identify as Latino or not?
MA: More conversations need to happen on what it means to be Black in this world. We respect each other’s journey to achieving Black Consciousness and we all should support and participate in Black History Month.
DBF: Many people, use personal blogs, Facebook accounts, and twitter accounts to give information about the Afrolatino experience. After the documentary is viewed and gains the appropriate awards that I believe it has the potential to receive, and the popularity that it will probably gain, what do we do to continue these conversations and advocate for the inclusion of Afrolatinos in the United States and/or perspective country?
MA: Make sure AfroLatina voices are being heard and respected. We need All AfroLatinos to share their voices and concerns. Donate to organizations that are doing the work. Attend the AfroLatin@ Forum Conference or start your own. Support films like Negrita that have challenges to produce their films. Tweet, Instagram, Facebook have discussions and support other projects and people through social media. We have to get involved with politics so our voices are heard in government. Vote. Be a voice.
Being Afrolatino in the United States is one experience, perhaps very different from living in perspective country in Latin America or the Caribbean. Our stories matter because our lives matter but so do the stories of our black families living in bohios in Colombia or el caserio in Puerto Rico. Talking about our experiences is the foundation of progress. To continue building progress we must close the gaps that exist throughout the diaspora, through conversation, support, and celebration of one another.
To donate and find out more information about the documentary, Negrita, click here.