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Tamika Burgess, Writer Shares Afro-Latina Experience Through Her Work


(Image: Tamika Burgess)

If left up to the small or large screen, your favorite glossy or newspaper, or even big budget advertising campaigns, you wouldn’t know an Afro-Latina if she tapped you on the shoulder. But we are out there, and we’re letting our voice be heard. Ain’t I Latina?’s Everyday Chica series highlights millennial Latinas that are blazing a trail in their respective industries, leading by example for future generations of Latinas. This week, we’re featuring a NYC-based writer who’s using her pen to share the Afro-Latina experience with the masses.

After a mini hiatus, I’m proud to bring back our “Everyday Chica” series. There’s no better way to re-introduce it than with a profile on fellow writer, Tamika Burgess.

I first came across la panameña’s candid personal essays after researching current coverage of the Afro-Latina experience, particularly resonating with her piece, “How I Learned to Stop Pretending I Was Someone I’m Not.” In today’s Everyday Chica feature, Tamika delves into her upbringing, why she identifies as Afro-Latina and the impact her parents have made on the life of the California native:

Tell me about yourself: Where are you from? Talk about your upbringing — how did it help you craft your identity?

I am from California, born and raised. My parents were born and raised in Panamá. My family has West Indian roots from Jamaica and Barbados.

I grew up in a small, mostly white community. There were hardly any black people, let alone any Afro-Latinos. But that never fazed me, as my parents did a good job of teaching my brother and me about our Panamanian culture. They also made sure we learned our black history, too. With this type of education taking place during my formative years, it helped me as an adult to understand the difference between my race and ethnicity. And helped me to understand that I was not one or the other and did not have to choose between being black or Panamanian.

I admire your work and appreciate you writing candidly about race and ethnicity (especially for pubs that might otherwise not call attention to the Afro-Latino identity). What inspired you to become a writer?

I don’t think I was ever inspired by anything to be a writer. It was always something that was in me. As a child I would always write essays and win school contests, and was always a part of the Young Writer’s Conference and would win several awards. In college I had several people tell me I was a great writer and even had professors encouraging me to write for the campus paper. But I never did, I never paid attention to my gift. Looking back, I think I missed the fact that writing was my passion because I didn’t know making a living as a writer was possible. Meaning, no one around me was doing it, so it never crossed my mind.

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