Negr@ & Beautiful

Former intern Carmen Medina and her aunt Tamara. Photo taken by Carmen Medina.

Former intern Carmen Medina and her aunt Tamara. Photo taken by Carmen Medina.

Are you AfroLatin@ and beautiful? Snap a selfie or childhood photo and email us a 100 word caption about what makes you Negr@ & Beautiful. You can be a part of our AfroLatin@ Heritage celebration on the Progressive Pupil blog this September and October. Whether you’ve grown to love your hair, work hard as a teacher in an urban school or are involved in campaigns for immigrants’ rights and against mass incarceration, we want to see you and learn about you. If you are an artist, musician or filmmaker, be sure to include information about your latest project. Our former intern Carmen Medina wrote about her journey to self-love on our blog and was later featured on AfroLatinidad. You can learn more about AfroLatino community advocacy from the afrolatin@ forum.

The Whitewash of Black Surfing

A version of this post was originally published on March 23, 2012

In the last few years, there have been a few documentaries which have illuminated a growing community of black surfers and highlights their experiences.  In the documentary White Wash, which streams on Netflix, filmmaker Ted Woods refutes the assumption that surfing has always been a “white” sport. As one black surfer says,

People want to ride these things, they want to have fun. And no matter where they are, they want to catch a wave too. You know what I mean? And they’ll do whatever’s necessary within their means at that time to be able to ride a wave.

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The Story of a Morena Boriqueña

A version of this post was originally published on February 29, 2012

I remember going to church as a child and understanding that I was different.  My abuela and I used to go to a Pentecostal church that was mostly white Latinos, but I had darker skin.  I would see the Pastor’s wife and I yearned to look like her.  In my eyes, she had milky white skin and silky hair to her ankles.  Though she never knew this, I would go home, look in the mirror and wonder why my skin was darker and my hair was significantly shorter than hers.  I did not understand what it was to be Latina and black.

Puerto Ricans are descendants of Africans, Europeans and the indigenous Tainos, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Puerto Ricans come in many colors.

Me and my aunt Tamara. Photo taken by Carmen Medina.

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Five Fundamental Favorites for Your Rainy Day Blues

With April showers gracing our New York City streets, we’ve certainly needed an afternoon pick-me-up on most days. Here are five fun films that put a smile on our face no matter what horrendous weather is happening outside our window.

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Top Ten Reasons I Love My Natural Hair

Showing off my dreadlocks! Photo courtesy of Carmen Medina.

Good hair means curls and waves
Bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
Its time for us to redefine who we be
You can shave it off
Like a South African beauty
Or get in on lock
Like Bob Marley
You can rock it straight
Like Oprah Winfrey
If it’s not what’s on your head
Its what’s underneath

-India.Arie “I Am Not My Hair”

As a young woman of color, I have had a million different hairstyles: relaxed or permed, a Jheri curl, a short Afro and box braids.  Now I have dreadlocks and I love them. Having dreadlocks has given me a new sense of confidence and I feel very comfortable in my own skin. While some women chop off their relaxed hair, I decided to transition to natural.  The transition process was long because I let my natural hair grow out and slowly cut off the relaxed hair so I could maintain length. While making the decision to go natural is a big one, I am an advocate of natural hair.  These are the top ten reasons why I love being natural:

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The Whitewash of Black Surfing

In the last few years, there have been a few documentaries which have illuminated a growing community of black surfers and highlights their experiences.  In the documentary White Wash, which streams on Netflix, filmmaker Ted Woods refutes the assumption that surfing has always been a “white” sport. As one black surfer says,

People want to ride these things, they want to have fun. And no matter where they are, they want to catch a wave too. You know what I mean? And they’ll do whatever’s necessary within their means at that time to be able to ride a wave.

(more…)

The Black Power Mixtape

Black is beautiful, but black isn’t power. Knowledge is power.

-Lewis H. Michaux

As a young girl who grew up in the Bronx and attended public school, my US history courses touched on the subject of the Civil Rights Movement in the most basic ways: Martin Luther King, Jr. was good, Malcolm X was bad. As a pillar of our community, I aspired to be like Martin Luther King, changing the world through nonviolent action and community development. Of course, as a black Latina, I was also aware of the Young Lords Party, a Puerto Rican nationalist group with chapters in many US cities – most notably in New York and Chicago. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about the Black Panther Party because they weren’t brought up in school or in my family.

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The Story of a Morena Boriqueña

I remember going to church as a child and understanding that I was different.  My abuela and I used to go to a Pentecostal church that was mostly white Latinos, but I had darker skin.  I would see the Pastor’s wife and I yearned to look like her.  In my eyes, she had milky white skin and silky hair to her ankles.  Though she never knew this, I would go home, look in the mirror and wonder why my skin was darker and my hair was significantly shorter than hers.  I did not understand what it was to be Latina and black.

Puerto Ricans are descendants of Africans, Europeans and the indigenous Tainos, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Puerto Ricans come in many colors.

(more…)