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 the CEO of Cheeky Chick Concepts, LLC and Executive Director of its subsidiary, bluGarden Events, Karina Garden Jimenez. La dominicana shares her career insights and path to embracing her Afro-Latino identity.
Martinez: You’ve found your passion in entrepreneurship, persuing your own ventures. Talk to us about your business.
Jimenez: It’s all about Cheeky Chick Concepts – a multi-platform company I created to pursue my multiple business interests within the wedding and special events industry. Under the Cheeky Chick Concepts umbrella I created bluGarden Events, a full service event production company, which will debut the New York Bridal and Quince Expo or, as we like to refer to it, the NY BQE, in March 2015
You mentioned in a recent interview with Be Moxie the power of having an ‘I can do this’ attitude. Where did that confidence come from?
I’m fortunate in that much of it comes naturally. I’ve always believed in myself, and my abilities. I also follow my heart and have learned to trust my instincts.
When it comes to identity? How do you identity? Do you consider yourself Afro-Latina, or use another term to describe your race and/or ethnicity?
I am proud to say that I consider myself an Afro-Latina and that through my never-ending (and sometimes painful) process of self-awareness, celebrate that identity more and more with each passing day.
What is your earliest memory of identifying as Afro-Latina? How did you come to identify as such?
I can remember the earliest memory of identifying as an Afro-Latina quite vividly. It was the first week of 2nd grade in the elementary school I attended in Long Island, NY. Having just arrived in this country a few weeks before, I didn’t speak English and was put in ESL classes with the rest of the non-English speaking children in my grade. Gym classes were one of the only times that both groups of children were mixed together and during one of these classes, a little girl kept speaking to me in English, although she, and the other kids were told that I didn’t understand the language. They didn’t believe that I was Latina because I was caramel skinned and had kinky-curly hair and assumed that I was Black and therefore was “faking” not knowing what they were saying. At the time I felt attacked and was distraught because the handful of kids that had joined in were all talking at the same time and clearly picking on me – I didn’t need to know English to sense that. At the end of the school day I left miserable and angry and resentful.
When I got home I told my mom what had happened and she tried to explain to me that there were all types of Latinos – white, Black and then the ones whose skin was somewhere in the middle like myself. She went on to tell me that the texture of my hair wasn’t helping the situation. Although it didn’t make sense to me for a long time, as I grew older I came to understand that those children were unable to see the difference between an Afro-Latina and a Black girl because they had yet to be exposed to a larger sampling of Latinos and were only use to seeing the few fairer-skinned, straight haired South Americans that lived in the eastern portion of Long Island in the late 70s, early 80s.
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