In recent weeks, the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police officers reopened a wound that many of us have been hoping to heal. Police have killed at least 136 Black people in 2016, according to the Guardian, and, with technological advances, we’re exposed to the video footage during and long after these injustices take place. So, how do you begin to heal? We tapped our contributor Jelisa Robinson of Black Girl, Latin World to discuss healing through music.
Bahia has soul (and, yes, lots of it!). Located in the northeastern part of Brazil, it’s known as the birthplace of capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts, and samba, an Afro-Brazilian musical genre and dance, and has a very clear connection to Africa via religious practices like the Yoruba-derived Candomblé, music, dance and food, to name a few.
The Afro-Latina experience is one that is so specific, yet differs from country to country. One thing that remains the same is an Afro-Latina author’s ability to share her story and offer a sense of relatability for readers. The authors below have shared our stories in various ways; stories that continue to unite us, and let us know we are not alone in our struggles.
Domestic abuse can come in all forms, but many associate the act primarily with physical abuse. While you may not see scars or bruising, emotional and verbal abuse is just as harmful.
Using the #MaybeHeDoesn’tHitYou hashtag, hundreds of women tweeted their stories of abuse. The tag, created by Afro-Latina artist and writer Zahira Kelly, went viral as stories of continuous emotional control and criticism flooded timelines.
Mother’s Day is a special occasion. While many celebrate the beauty of motherhood year round and on the daily, the observance allows for us to acknowledge and celebrate not only the women who brought us into this world, but those who have served as mother figures throughout our lives. For the women who now have the coveted title of “mom,” or “mama,” it’s a day to celebrate you, too!
Black-Latino relations in the U.S. are complicated. While our communities, which often parallel one another in culture, have similarities, man-made barriers, competition for jobs and socio-economic concerns have caused tension between both groups. Despite the tension, beauty has been birthed from the relationship.
Inspired by Black and Latino relations, recent UT graduate and author of the blog Black Girl, Latin World Jelisa Jay Robinson created The Stories of Us. Described as a scrapbook of experiences, histories and feelings, “the play uses a variety of performance styles to explore the histories behind Afro-Latinidad while addressing how past interactions between the two separate cultures have impacted their current relationship as a community.” Presented by Teatro Vivo, the website reads:
“In an effort to unite both groups, The Stories of Us details experiences of discrimination that many still currently face and uses those observations to open a rich dialogue about the importance of acceptance, solidarity, and love.”
Robinson’s upbringing inspired The Stories of Us. Growing up Black and being involved in the Latinx community, she wanted to hear the stories of Afro-Latinx histories and African Americans who connected with the Latinx community. “I wanted a space where looking like me and speaking Spanish was represented,” says Robinson. “A space where our connections to each other were recognized dissected and discussed. That’s where The Stories of Us emerged. Out of necessity. Out of love.”
The Stories of Us is directed by Florinda Bryant, a proud Black Mexicana. The femcee, poet, singer, dancer, actress, director and mother calls the stage “home” and is known to create work that lives between genres. Bryant and Teatro Vivo co-founder Rupert Reyes were drawn to The Stories of Us and felt, politically and socially, the piece needed to come to life now.
“I hope people think enough to engage in conversation,” says Bryant on The Stories of Us. “I hope people have a moment to think about a new feeling, or an idea, when it comes to racism and internalized racism.”
“This is our first production that looks at Afro-Latinidad. We have presented other plays that spoke about racism within our own community. This play has much more depth and insight into the Afro-Latino experience,” said Reyes on the website. “The conversation that explores the similarities between Blacks and Latinos needs to begin or continue. I don’t know what the forces are at play that divides us. I do know that we can be one of the forces that unite us. We hope that all of our plays create a movement for more unity on the community level, the local level.”
Teatro Vivo is dedicated to producing quality bilingual theater accessible to all theater audiences and artists. Stories of Us is playing Thursdays – Sundays, through May 8, 2016 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River St, Austin, TX 78701). Click here to purchase your tickets ($12-$20)!
I flock to spaces focused on empowerment and women, specifically Black women. On a daily basis I consume –whether I flick on my TV, open up my laptop screen and scroll through my Twitter timeline – media that’s anti-women, anti-Black and anti-empowerment. I do everything in my power not to, but it happens.
So, I was excited to break from a typical hectic day to step into a welcoming space designed by leading organic hair products company CURLS. More than 150 women and girls of color connected at Mist-Harlem to enter into new mentorship relationships at the CURLS Girls Rule the World: Empowering Entrepreneurs Luncheon on April 1.
Over 100 girls were paired with celebrity expert mentors by industry and interests who shared life and careers lessons with them over a delicious lunch. Celebrity expert mentors include award-winning novelist Zane; Jasmine Sanders, co-host of The DL Hughley Show; Tyrha M. Lindsey-Warren, Managing Director of L.A.I. Communications; and CURLS founder and CEO Mahisha Dellinger, among others.
“My goal of giving young women access to resources and connections were truly realized. Having our girls meet face-to-face with women who have and are still succeeding will empower them to live the lives they have always desired,” said Dellinger. “This is only the beginning.”
The goal of the empowerment luncheon was to expose CURLS Girls to accomplished mentors in various industries so they could begin to learn how they, too, can make their dreams come true. Over the summer and fall of 2016, the celebrity expert mentors will also host seminars and workshops for the girls on various topics, from business writing to event production.
I had the opportunity to speak with actress Nicole Ari Parker; Brandi Harvey, executive director of the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, and listen to women from numerous industries. Here’s my list of the top empowering lessons shared at the first-ever CURLS Girls Rule The World luncheon:
1. The power of exposure.
The luncheon provided the next generation of leaders with a major KEY: exposure. The opportunity to connect in-person with leading women in media, business, non-profit, government and technology.
“What they see on TV is just entertainment,” said Parker. “You can watch your favorite TV show, but why don’t you meet the woman who produces that show? Why don’t you meet the woman that runs that network, or casts that show, or writes that show? The access that the girls have here today is eye-opening.”
2. You can be great.
Harvey reflected on the many women who poured into her. “Even though I didn’t see myself, or someone who looked like me on television all the time, or in every magazine that I turned the pages on, that I could be great.”
3. Use your voice.
“Encourage the young women in your life to speak up,” shared Parker.
4. Be your authentic self, always.
What every woman who has been very successful has told me was to be myself. Be my authentic self. Unapologetic about who I was and who I am, and who I’m going to be,” said Harvey.
5. Always get up after you fall.
CURLS chief exec led us in an empowering chant, “…I’ll always get up after I fall.” In life, the falls are inevitable, but what you do after that is what’s most important. Dellinger reminded attendees to rise and dust yourself off, always.
I look forward to the next CURLS Girls Rule The World luncheon!
Have some advice to share? Share your most valuable advice in the comments section below.
When Ain’t I Latina? EIC Janel asked me to cover Jovanka Ciares’ Wellness Smackdown event, I jumped at the chance. As a certified Holistic Health Coach, I love checking out the wellness scene. I’m used to witnessing these events as a spectator, as opposed to participant. But this time was different — I woke up that morning with a pretty wicked hangover. The last thing I wanted to do was leave my bed and a Law and Order SVU marathon for a 10am event in the city. As it turns out, it was exactly what I needed.
Jovanka’s wellness soiree was the exact spiritual, mental, emotional and physical checkup I needed to get back on the healthy track. To be honest, I had ventured pretty far off thanks to a heavy bout of seasonal depression.
Along with physical discomfort, a hangover can also bring a lot of guilt. So the morning meditation was helpful in eliminating the mental abuse I kept giving myself for having one glass of wine too many. I needed to clear my head, which helped open me up to receive the messages that I needed to hear.
Afterwards, a diverse panel of women dropped girl power gems that left me feeling empowered and ready to let go of self-deprecating thoughts and practices. Although they all represented various sectors of the wellness world, they all urged us to take care of our emotional selves and tap into our feminine energy. Thought leader and Transformational Catalyst Lainie Love Dalby encouraged us to “love and treat our bodies as sacred vessels.” This quote is a sobering yet powerful reminder that we are earthy representatives of the Higher Power, who wants us to look and feel our best in order to fulfill our soul’s mission.
After fueling up on green juices, nutrition bars and the energy of fellow wellness junkies, Jovanka took the stage and challenged us to be a “CEO of your destiny”. The connection was made between the body and success when she hammered home the notion that “health is your biggest form of wealth” and, without it, you cannot “make an impact [in the world] and enjoy your life.” She then presented a check list and asked us to get clear on what we want for ourselves and more importantly what we are saying yes to.
Jovanka’s bubbly yet tough love and encouragement created an energetic atmosphere that was healing and inspiring. When she exclaimed, “sitting on the couch is a luxury; working out is a necessity” I knew that I was meant to be here and not home watching 24 episodes of detectives Benson and Stabler.
As a health coach, I was familiar with the subject matter. However, the event reinforced why I feel this is a calling and a refresher, as we all can fall off the healthy living wagon every now and again. I left feeling energized and ready to move forward in helping to spread the health and, in the words of panelist Lanie, entitled to “sparkle shamelessly.”
This week, we’re featuring Erika Hernandez as our Everyday Chica. After realizing it was time to make a change in her life, the Cuban-American entrepreneur made a career shift, deciding to inspire and empower women who were also in a transitional period in life. Her journey in giving back was born. She spoke with Ain’t I Latina? about finding her purpose, starting a business and how she’s come to understand her identity.
Ain’t I Latina? : You created EH Social Events at a transitional point in your life. What was that moment when you knew you wanted to step out on faith and launch this new venture?
Hernandez: It was the moment I had enough of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Besides being a mother to my then 3-year-old son, I was unhappy with everything that my life was: marriage, home, job, appearance…everything. I started self-evaluating and I was determined to make changes in order to be the best me. I knew being happy in my career was only going to motivate me to continue making changes in other areas, which eventually would lead me to a joyous life.
What advice would you give to someone looking for clarity during a time when they’re searching for their next move/career?
Before making any career change, one must first get real with themselves. I’ve seen it time and time again where people change careers or start a new business solely because of the potential of making money, or because it seems fun at first, but then months later they decide it wasn’t for them. Why is this? Because in order for someone to be successful at something, one must love what he or she do and the only way to figure that out is by keeping it real with yourself. If you aren’t jumping out of bed in the morning with excitement to go to work, don’t even waste your time. I’ve been there; I know.
What inspired you to create Handbags of Hope?
After going through a funk in 2015, I was inspired to turn my life around and do more. Where I was just months ago and where I am today was a story I needed to share in hopes of helping other women who might be going through something similar. Handbags of Hope was an idea that was brought to me in October and it was originally supposed to be a handbag collection drive at a local coffee shop. But a collection drive was just not enough for me. It kept replaying in my mind and I kept thinking to myself that I needed to do more not only for the women these handbags were going to but all women, or at least as many as possible.
I knew I wanted to empower women and raise funds for Harvest of Hope Ministries, which is my mother’s non-profit organization. My mother has been my number one supporter through all [of] my adventures. In her late 50s, she finally found something she is passionate about and I just want to be the same support she’s been for me.
How do you hope this year’s event will help benefit and support women in need?
Set during March, Women in Business Month, Handbags of Hope supports women in need as they face the emotional and financial challenges of getting a second chance to rebuild a life filled with hope. A hundred percent of the event’s proceeds will be donated to Harvest of Hope Ministries, so they can continue their mission in restoring hope to women and children in need through their in-kind donations and outreach programs. As women, we run a small world in our purses; it’s one of our most personal possessions.
So I have asked every single attendee to bring a slightly used handbag filled with snacks and toiletries for a woman who is currently rebuilding her life with the help of Dress for Success Hudson County. We want attendees to walk away not only feeling fulfilled, but connected to a network of women who are making a difference in business but in their personal lives to make this world a better place for our daughters, sisters, mothers and girlfriends.
If only 1 out 100 expected women attending Handbags of Hope leaves feeling inspired to live her best life, then my job is done.