AfroPeruvian Youth Find Their Power

While Brazil was the largest recipient of slaves during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, African slaves were sent all over Latin America. In Peru, people of African descent currently account for roughly 10% of the population and face a number of economic, health and education issues that continue to keep them on the margins of Peruvian society.

slave trade

The transatlantic slave trade brought Africans to North and South America.

Founded in 2001, Centro de Estudios y Promocion Afro-Peruano (Center for the Study and Promotion of AfroPeruvians), also known as LUNDÚ, promotes and develops grassroots organizing among AfroPeruvian communities through artistic and cultural projects to create change. Leading these efforts is Monica Carrillo, a poet, activist and organizer who saw the need to undo racism, beginning with youth. LUNDÚ is the only feminist, youth founded and led organization in Peru, addressing issues ranging from sexual and reproductive health to education through the mediums of publications, documentary films and grassroots organizing.

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Transitioning Our Mindset

Released in 2009, Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair explores the politics and money behind the Black hair care industry.

This past summer the New York Times featured an op-doc by Zina Saro-Wiwa entitled “Transition.” Her six-minute documentary highlights her personal transition from braids to natural over the course of a seven-month period. Showcasing a movement among Black women who embrace their natural hair instead of using chemical straighteners, she discusses the politics of hair and gender. While watching this documentary, I identified with every minute of her experience. I have had natural hair for the past two years but Saro-Wiwa’s piece caused me to think about hair as an expression mental health among Black women.

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Irony of the Negro Policeman

Happy birthday Jean-Michel Basquiat, December 22, 1960

Building Venezuela’s Future

Construyendo Futuros

For the past six years in Venezuela, the non-profit organization Construyendo Futuros – or Building Futures – has been positively changing the country one school, family and person at a time.

With a team of young college students, Construyendo Futuros plans, builds, equips and opens public schools. I helped found the organization when a group of my peers realized that public schools in our country were in unacceptable conditions. Similar to lower-income communities in the United States, Venezuela’s public education infrastructure is highly under developed. Most school buildings are totally damaged, some lacking roofs which leads to flooding when it rains, or having tin roofs that create unbearable heat. Other common issues are sewage spills, water shortages and lack of adequate space to teach in. In addition, teachers are poorly paid and classes are held irregularly.

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Abundant Funding, Abundant Futures

Public School Infographic

I am the product of a public school education. My earliest, most formative years were spent in the public school system, paid for by local taxpayers. At my school I learned about leadership as co-founder of an all-girls floor hockey team, a safety patrol officer and after-school, as a girl scout. We learned about Earth Day, Greek mythology, and Anansi the Spider. We learned how to make origami and visited the Liberty Science Center.

It was also in public school that I struggled to learn to read. My learning difficulties were observed and I was sorted into the multisensory learning classroom, where we participated, visualized, and listened to the material being taught. We lived it. In that supportive environment, I learned to read. Still, in middle school, I was given an extra study hall to be able to process and complete my assignments on time. By High School, I was an honors student. The system did right by me – I am a public school success story.

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Caribbean Crossroads

caribbean crossroadsLatino and Caribbean art is largely ignored in most mainstream museums. El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem was founded in order to provide a venue that highlights these under-represented art forms. The curators of El Museo work to “collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the art and artifacts of Caribbean and Latin American cultures for posterity.” They also provide educational opportunities for the community, expand knowledge of Latino and Caribbean art forms, and foster interest and passion in young community members.

El Museo del Barrio, along with Queens Museum of Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem, is featuring an exhibit entitled Caribbean: Crossroads of the World.  Displaying 500 pieces of art from over 400 years, the exhibit takes the viewer on a three-museum exploration of “…the diverse and impactful cultural history of the Caribbean basin and its diaspora.” The exhibit touches on topics ranging from cultural hybridity to politics to pop culture. It is broken up into five sections based on theme, such as Shades of History – which discusses the history of race in the Caribbean – or Patriot Acts – which discusses creole culture and identity.

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The Racial State of Puerto Rico

Demonstrating for statehood, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Demonstrating for statehood, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

With the structure of race, ethnicity, and culture in the United States, Afro Latinos often have a difficult time maintaining and celebrating both sides of their racial identity. From assumptions based on skin color to strict categorization in surveys and standardized testing, those of mixed heritages are often told that they need to pick a side. A study by the State University of New York at Albany found that “Hispanics who define themselves as ‘black’ have lower incomes and are more likely to reside in segregated neighborhoods than those who identify themselves as ‘white’ or ‘other.’” Even in multi-ethnic states, such as California, Afro Latinos feel pressure to choose sides or find themselves lumped into one category or another instead of being accepted as both Black and Latino.

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The Cultural Embargo

cuban hip hop

Originating in the poverty-stricken black and Latino population of the Bronx, NY in the 1970s, American hip-hop set the groundwork for the formation of Cuban hip-hop.  AfroCuban hip-hop groups, such as Anonimo Consejo, RCA, and Obsesión are based in a mainly Black, urban movement of the 1980s. These groups are similar in terms of style and content to early American political hip-hop, including Public Enemy and NWA. AfroCuban hip-hop is culturally critical and socially conscious, focusing on police harassment, racial profiling, and prostitution.

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