I’ve always heard Nuyorican Poets Cafe was the place to hear really dope spoken word artists, but never quite made it down to Alphabet City to the famous space. Well, who would’ve thought my first experience at the well-known NYC venue would be to take the stage?
On Tuesday evening, I joined 12 other storytellers, bloggers, comedians, podcasters and influencers to perform an original piece discussing diversity. Hosted by Madison’s Collective, formerly known as Madison’s Browne Fellowship, the organization is designed to empower professionals in the advertising, media and design industries. In its first-ever Culture Slam (#MCCultureSlam), storytellers from very diverse backgrounds shared their stories on the importance of redefining stories. The collective also debuted its first episode of #MCCultureCode (click here to view).
Here’s the Insta video snippet-> https://instagram.com/p/43B9tctvyc/
I shared a roughly three-minute account on instances where people have questioned my identity. You can read the full story, here:
When you have a last name like Martinez, people expect to see someone like Jennifer Lopez, Sofía Vergara, or possibly Shakira walk into the room. So, you can imagine the looks and follow-up questions I get when I—a 5’ 1-ish, pajón wearing, Black woman—walk into a room. Yes, it’s 2015! We have a Black president, we’ve seen a Latina become a Supreme Court Justice and even a woman with a pretty awesome weave, spray tan and cultural appropriation game like none other (ahem, Rachel Dolezal) bring the transracial term into our everyday lexicon. Despite all that, I still endure the uncomfortable once over and blank stares.
As a journalist, I often attend events. I remember one event. As I was approaching the check-in desk, I stated my name. The PR rep repeated my name in a questioning tone. “Janel Martinez?” Yeah! She repeated my name again. Although she finally handed over my credentials, I could tell she was confused. I didn’t feel like schooling her on the Transatlantic Slave Trade, so we left it there. But I’ve experience this “BIG Question” from both sides. At another event, I sparked a conversation with a fellow Latina. After sharing with her my family is from Honduras. She asked me a question I hear all too often: “Honduras? That’s it? “Yeah, 100%,” I responded.
I also get folks that try to debate me on my identity, or just straight rewrite my name. At a networking event, I met an African-American entrepreneur. While exchanging info., she asked me if I spelled my last name with an “s” instead of a “z.” Yes, it’s a minor mistake/alteration, but speaks volumes. You see, many (not all) Latino last names end in “z” or “ez”, so, of course, my last name coupled with my looks don’t add up to Martinez. While I politely corrected the young woman, I couldn’t help but think how these notion and beliefs unconsciously come to mind and seep into our everyday conversations.
It’s become quite normal for me. Just another day in the life of an Afro-Latina.
Do you have a story where you’ve had to Redefine Diversity? I’d love to hear it! Leave it in the comments section below.