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The Black experience is rich and complex. However, there are still many challenges that exist when we discuss “race” vs. “ethnicity” in the Black experience. More specifically, that a person can be Black and also something else.
It’s easy to conceptualize a Black American or a Black Brit, but when terms like “Afro Latinx” explain someone of the African Diaspora also having familial origins in a country of Latinx heritage? Well, that’s when confusion sets in for some.
Few understand this multi-layered concept more than Bianca Kathryn, owner and founder of Yo Soy Afro Latina. The brand empowers Black women within the Latinx community with cultural information and merchandise.
In The Know’s Jamé Jackson (also of Afro Latinx descent) spoke to Bianca about being Afro Latina, representation and the future of inclusion.
What does being Afro Latina mean to you?
Being Afro Latina simply means I identify with being Black and Latina. I am at the intersection of two beautiful cultures. I recognize that while I identify with both of these ethnicities, I understand that I am a Black woman first. My race walks into the room before I do. While that is a harsh reality of what it’s like to be Black in America, I choose to embrace that. Who said you couldn’t enjoy tamales and reruns of Moesha?
As we both know, there is no one “look” to Afro Latinx people. What are your thoughts?
Afro Latina in the ’90s looked completely different than it does now. I grew up idolizing the great Ciela Cruz because she was the only Black Latina I saw in mainstream media. However, to be Afro Latina in 2021 looks like a lot of different women, both Black and brown, acknowledging and embracing their African ancestry.
You can be Morena with pink hair and identify as Afro Latina. Or brown-skinned with faux locs and identify as Afro Latina. You can look like whoever you want, and that’s the beautiful thing about educating ourselves on Afro Latinidad. Through education and awareness, we’re able to break down those stereotypes of what a “Latina” should look like and move away from that narrative that Latinas can’t be Black.
How did you feel about being Afro Latina growing up?
Growing up, I didn’t identify as Afro Latina. I was aware that I came from two different cultures, as my mom educate[d] me on my Mexican roots. But I personally didn’t have the knowledge on Afro Latinidad at that time. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit but spent the majority of my childhood on the west side of the city. I remember always feeling out of place as a child. A lot of people aren’t aware of Detroit’s racial history. The fact that the city itself is historically Black but, over time, has become home to many cultures, religions and ethnicities.
Although there’s a diversity of cultures that reside in the city, there was a lack of fusion amongst those cultures. That made it difficult for me to navigate and understand the intersectionality of my identity. While I knew that I was both Black and Mexican, the world didn’t see me like that; It took me a while to truly embrace my roots and educate myself on my history. It’s been quite the experience learning about myself as a Black, Latina woman living in the U.S. It’s been such an empowering and awakening journey.
How are you pushing the conversation forward?
When I created YSAL, my only hope for my brand at the time was to connect with other Afro Latinas; I knew I couldn’t be the only girl out there who was at the intersection of two cultures. I didn’t aim to change the dialogue when launching YSAL. But, by walking in my truth, I’ve been able to educate people on my community while also being creative.
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