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    Singer-Songwriter Calma Carmona On Afro-Latinidad, Music Career & Love For La Lupe

    Late singer La Lupe was one of a kind. And while La Reina de la Canción Latina (The Queen of Latin Soul) is no longer physically with us, her soul most definitely lives on.

    That was made clear at City College Center for the Arts last Friday night when three Latina divas took the stage to honor the Afro-Cubana songstress. Those singers included famed Bronx-born poet, actress and vocalist La Bruja; New York’s own Nina Rodriguez and Calma Carmona, the singer-songwriter direct from Puerto Rico. The event was curated by the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, City College Center for the Arts and Pregones Theater.

    Ain’t I Latina? reporter Major Nesby caught up with Carmona at the concert.

    “It’s part of who I am,” shares Carmona about her Afro-Latina identity. “It’s part of my culture and I’m just so proud, so proud to be able to express it within my music.”

    Watch the entire interview, below:

    You can follow Carmona on Twitter and Instagram @CalmaCarmona .


    What Does It Mean To Be Garifuna? 6 Women Open Up About Their Identity

    Garifuna (singular). Garinagu (plural). Have you heard those terms before?

    Used to describe both a language and group of people that reside in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua, Garifuna people are the descendants of West Africa, Nigeria specifically, who were enroute to be enslaved but survived a shipwreck, landing on the shores of St. Vincent. We were never enslaved, intermixing and intermarrying, resulting in the creation of the Garinagu. Wars between the French and British resulted in the Garinagu having to leave St. Vincent, leading our people to their current locations. There are pockets of Garinagu across the U.S. in places like New York, New Orleans, Miami and Los Angeles, to name a few.

    Garifuna women hold a special place in the preservation of the culture. Here, on, 6 women discuss the moment they realized they were Garifuna and what this unique heritage means to them:

    Isha-Sumner-AintILatinaIsha Sumner, founder of Weiga/Let’s Eat, @weigaletseat

    On what it means to be Garifuna:

    Our history informs us of the hardships we suffered at the hands of the English in 1797 on the island of St. Vincent simply because they wanted ownership of our fertile lands for sugar. We were exiled, left to die, but by the grace of God we are here today, fighting the same battles against different people, for the same reasons: land. Based on these facts I will say that being Garifuna means to be an overcomer. It means to be a fighter for the cause of life. Being Garifuna means to be resilient, strong and resolved. In our DNA runs the blood of a free people, the only Blacks that were never enslaved.

    On her earliest memory of identifying as Garifuna:

    My earliest memory identifying as Garifuna was when [my] Mom moved back from the city of San Pedro to the village of San Juan, where I was born. Everyone around me spoke a language I wasn’t familiar with, I grew up speaking Spanish in the city. But now that I was in the village, I felt lost. That’s when my mom explained to me that I had to learn to speak Garifuna. That’s when I realized that the mean people in the city that called me Black rather than by my name, saw that I was different than them. I became Garifuna then.


    yenory-pouncil-aintilatinaYenory Pouncil, creator of iAmHealthyFit, @iamhealthyfit

    On what it means to be Garifuna:

    Being Garifuna means that I can dance punta, cook machuca and speak Garifuna, and still stand for the injustices that face my people. Both in the United States and in the countries where we reside.

    Being Garifuna means that you not only identify yourself with the customs and traditions, you also actively advocate and open doors for members of our communities. Garifuna people are in a constant state of persecution due to our lands. We cannot afford not to fight back in any way we can.

    On her earliest memory of identifying as Garifuna:

    I cannot remember a time when I did not identify myself as Garifuna. From a very young age, I think five years old, I have known I am Garifuna. My mother, who was a dancer for the Ballet Folklorico de Honduras, always spoke to my brother and me about who we are as a people and what makes us different.

    My family’s lineage goes back to the founding members of the community of Santa Rosa de Aguan, which has always been a source of pride and motivation for our family. While my mother traveled the world as a dancer, I lived with my aunts in Aguan, learning the language, the customs and traditions.

    As I reflect on her decision, it shaped the person I’ve become. Everything I found out in Aguan connected me to food. I started cooking at five, and learned all about food preparation, the healing properties of food, the growing of food, what food looks like in its raw state. These are all key pieces of my project iAmHealthyFit. Food is our medicine.

    Garifuna is who I am, I’ve never been anything else. While I might use the term Afro-Latina to identify myself, I still check the other box and write Garifuna in. It is my way of saying, I am here, we are here, and we are not going anywhere.

    Continue reading…


    REVIEW: Belize In You Marine & Body Care Seaweed Soap

    A few years ago I had a conversation that shifted the way I thought about the products I was using. My friend, who is really conscious about the foods and products she buys, began discussing just how many chemicals go into our lotions, perfumes, soaps and overall skincare items.

    I didn’t give it much thought until that conversation.

    That coupled with a cancer diagnosis (not me, but a close family member) led me to research the hell out of what I was putting on my skin. The same can be said about what I eat, however, that’s an ongoing process.

    Over the last two years, I’ve tried different all-natural brands. Some have smelled amazing and resulted in breakouts (not fun!), while others left my skin feeling extremely dry or chalky. However, I’ve found a few keepers in this trial process.

    Founded by Raquel Battle, Belize In You is a new favorite of mine. I used Belize In You’s Seaweed Soap ‘til the very end. My skin was left feeling clean, moisturized and refreshed after each use thanks to its nourishing ingredients, which include shea butter, seaweed, anatto seeds; coconut and castor oils, as well as a proprietary blend of essential oils. Yes, all the good stuff! I love the ocean, so the seaweed soap bar brought a bit of la mar back into my life during the winter months. Belize In You specializes in producing, high-quality seaweed soaps made from Gracilaria seaweed, as noted on their website.

    Continue reading…


    Growing Up Garifuna

    I didn’t have the words to describe our heritage, but I always knew it was — we were — different. Thinking back to the first time I recognized the difference, or uniqueness rather, it had to be when I entered elementary school.

    It hit me: No one speaks Garifuna.


    Ida biña? (How are you?)

    Webuga! (Let’s go!)

    Belú. (Come in.)

    Buiti Binafi. (Good Morning.)

    Numada. (My friend.)

    Words and phrases I heard my parents speak were unheard of among my friends, classmates and teachers. It didn’t help that they couldn’t understand my identity fully. Black girl, “Spanish” last name, brown skin and kinky hair. Oh, Garifuna? Easy for me and my family to comprehend, but others just couldn’t wrap their heads around it. My identity, an anomaly I suppose.

    At home, family traditions — Garifuna traditions — were a large part of our lives. Every Saturday, hudutu (machuca), a coconut-milk-based soup with fish and mashed platanos, was on the menu. Sometimes we opted for chicken soup, or included various types of seafood. Between boiling the platanos, preparing la sopa, allowing the platanos to cool and mashing them, it was an all morning endeavor. But, to this day, I have fond memories of preparing it and, most importantly, enjoying hudutu.

    It wasn’t uncommon at regular gatherings to dance and blast punta. Used as a way to communicate our people’s struggles, punta embodies call and response throughout. A clear connection to our African roots.

    In Honduras, after my abuela passed, our family traveled from all over to gather to acknowledge her life in a celebration called a beluria. We celebrated day and night through food, punta and drumming, among other things. Her passing and the celebration of her life marked the beginning of my journey to not just fully accepting my Garifuna roots, but wanting to learn more about our history.

    Continue reading…


    Latina Icons Tribute Series Celebrates 7 Afro-Latinas for Black History Month


    Desi Sanchez as Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. (Image: Latina Icons)

    Afro-Latina sheroes like La Lupe, Celia Cruz and Amara La Negra have gotten me through days when I needed a musical ode to my beauty, intersectional identity, and pride in my Blackness. I’ve found comfort in La Lupe’s “I do what I want — try me” attitude, the message in Celia Cruz’s “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” and Amara La Negra’s unapologetic stance on who she is.

    When I found out several of my sheroes would be recognized in a photo tribute, I was excited to see!

    Linda Nieves-Powell, well-known New York playwright, filmmaker, and photographer, is honoring Afro-Latina musicians this Black History Month. Nieves-Powell launched Latina Icons last year, bringing back the popular photo series to highlight 7 Afro-Latina trailblazers during the annual celebration of Black identity and culture. The photo re-creations honor Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Irene Cara, Esperanza Spalding, Amara La Negra, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and La India.


    Jenny Saldaña as La Lupe (Image: Latina Icons)

    Nieves-Powell recalls vividly moments in her childhood where she was picked on and bullied for her Latina identity. She admits it took its toll, however, she’s not only healed but used the arts to incite pride and affirm the beauty of all Latinas.

    “My hope for the site, and for the initiative, is that general audiences learn about these wonderful trailblazing Latinas, as well as recognize the diverse beauty of our community,” says Nieves-Powell to  “But most importantly, for me, this is about identity and how I can help those in my community, who do not feel they meet the standard of beauty in this country, to create their own identity and standard of beauty.”

    When you enter the Latina Icons site, you’re welcomed by a powerful message written by Afro-Latina activist, writer and speaker Sofia Quintero.

    “…Linda’s Afro-Latina Icons is more than just a reflection or affirmation,” Quintero writes. “It takes a stance that because of enduring anti-Blackness, anti-Latino racism and misogyny, especially on social media, has become more important than ever to take. Her stance is this: these Afro-Latinas are icons to everyone. Music is the universal language, and so by choosing to recreate these gorgeous artists as they appear on their album covers, Linda reminds us that they are beacons to everyone across race, ethnicity and gender. And to select women across decade and genre – from La Lupe to Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes to Amara La Negra, she asserts that Afro-Latina genius is not rare.”

    The Afro-Latina icons are cast by seven models, including transgender model, Marisol Leyva, sister of Selenis Levya of Orange Is The New Black.

    Who’s your favorite Afro-Latina icon? Let us know in the comments section.


    [Click here to see all of the iconic portraits.] 



    Morocco: 6 Things You’ll Love About This African Country

    Morocco was never on my “places to visit” list. Not because it isn’t a beautiful country, which I saw firsthand, but because I envisioned my first trip to the motherland would be to South Africa, Nigeria or Ghana. However, a friend of mine told me she was thinking of going in December and wanted to know if I was interested.

    After some thought, I agreed.

    December kicks off my personal new year, so I was excited to explore a new country as I ushered in my birthday. When I arrived, I quickly realized why Morocco is known as a “gem of North Africa.”

    Here are 6 reasons you’ll love Morocco:

    1. Culture

    Travel affords us the opportunity to experience another culture, and I greatly appreciate the beauty and richness of the Moroccan culture. From the languages spoken, which include Berber and Arabic primarily, as well as Spanish, French and English, to the mosques, which serve as a safe space for religious practice, my goal was to take it all in. After visiting the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in 2015, I was eager to get to Grande Mosquée Hassan II in Casablanca; however, it slipped my mind that I would need to have my legs covered. I wore a dress the day we went to Casablanca, so I wasn’t allowed in. While I was disappointed, I have the utmost respect for the culture and plan to visit again the next time I’m in Morocco.

    The souk — a busy marketplace filled with items for sale — embodies the Moroccan spirit and culture. I spent the day exploring one in Marrakesh and bought argan oil and lots of tea. Carpets, which are handmade in excellence there, are for sale. You can get so many quintessential Moroccan goods: pashminas/scarves, lanterns, djellabas (traditional garb) and tea pots, to name a few.


    (Image: Janel Martinez)

    Tip: Use your bargaining skills. Also, it get’s very crowded, the streets are narrow and motos are everywhere, stay alert.

    2. Food

    This part of the journey concerned me bit. I’m a picky eater and never had Moroccan food before I boarded the plane. It all worked out, though, because the food was delicious. The vegetables and fruits were extremely fresh and the same can be said about the meat and amazing bread. Most days were spent eating kabobs and tagine. But I couldn’t resist American-franchise food, which I never eat at home. Let’s just say McDonald’s and KFC saw me from time to time.

    I love tea, so I was in heaven. I found myself drinking tea at least four times a day.



    (Image: Janel Martinez, Ain’t I Latina?)

    3. Essaouira

    Marrakesh is a major city with a lot going on. Rooftop restaurants, art galleries, busy streets and a fun club scene. Hence, Essaouira is a nice escape from that. Like other Moroccan cities, this port city has a lot of history that can be found in its architecture, including the city walls, harbour and cannons. During the 60s, Essaouira was considered a hippie haven with Jimi Hendrix penning “Castles Made of Sand.”

    I had the freshest seafood by the beach in Essaouira and spent time at the beach enjoying the clear skies and beautiful water. There’s a relaxed ambiance and calmness about the city.

    Continue reading…


    20 Amazing Afro-Latina Moments in 2016

    Afro-Latinas made headlines in 2016. While Afro-Latinas, or Black Latinas, have been changing the game through activism, art, business and entertainment, among other spheres, for decades, 2016 furthered the visibility and awareness for our community globally. Between the inclusion of Afro-Latina superheroines in comics to historic moments like Rafaela Silva winning Brazil’s first Olympic gold medal this year, our narratives are reaching new heights.

    With the year nearly over, it’s only right we celebrate how Afro-Latinas changed the narrative, created a space for greater visibility and did so unapologetically in ’16:

    1.  Celia Cruz honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Queen of Salsa, who died in 2003, won three Grammy Awards and four Latin Grammy Awards during her impactful career.


    (Image: Stanford Hispanic Broadcasting)

    2. Juliana Pache creates #BlackLatinxHistory. After scrolling her Twitter timeline and not seeing Afro-Latinx inclusion, even by Latinx-focused outlets, Pache took things into her own hands. The Afro-Cuban/Dominican singer, writer and marketer created the hashtag to  share the accomplishments of Black Latinx leaders, athletes, activists and creators, among others.


    Juliana Pache. Founder of #BlackLatinxHistory. (Image: Source)

    3. Gymnast Sophina DeJesus became a viral sensation with her amazing floor routine. The half Puerto Rican, half black senior at UCLA senior hit her whip, nae nae and handspring with ease. Her big moment came after overcoming a fractured back, a broken finger, intense pressure and deferred Olympic dreams.

    4. Artist and activist Zahira Kelly creates #MaybeHeDoesn’tHitYou to show domestic abuse is more than physical.  Using the hashtag, hundreds of women tweeted their stories of abuse. “The initial tweets were about me and people close to me,” Kelly told The Huffington Post. “Abuse culture is something most women experience, and at higher rates for women of color like me. But we get very little support for it and are rarely equipped to suss it out.”


    (Image: Zahira-Kelly)

    5. Actress Dascha Polanco schools Charlemagne of The Breakfast Club on the existence of Afro-Latinas.

    6. Dr. Marta Moreno Vega is the inspiration behind the Marvel Comics issue featuring Puerto Rico’s Taíno Culture. The founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) is the inspiration behind Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s most important character, Abuela Estela.


    (Image: Marvel Comics)

    7. Puerto Rican superheroine La Borinqueña made her debut at the 59th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. The New York-born Afro-Boricua is a total badass!


    (Image: Latino USA)

    8. Image activist Miss Rizos stands up for teen shamed by Catholic school for wearing natural hair. Carolina Contreras, who opened up the first natural hair salon in the Dominican Republic, came to a teenage girl’s assistance, supporting her after the school refused to admit the young woman if she didn’t straighten her hair.



    9. Afro-Cuban songstress Daymé Arocena releases One Takes EP. Her voice is everything!

    10. Nitty Scott MC gifted us with “Negrita” in ‘15. This year she’s still creating even more magic and working with fellow Latino rappers Bodega Bamz and Joell Ortiz in a group, No Panty.

    Continue reading…


    How Blogging Helped Me Settle On My Identity


    (Image: WOCinTech CHat)

    December is a special month for me. My personal new year begins on the 10th, and the 4th is equally as important: It’s the day Ain’t I Latina? came to life.

    I can remember that day in 2013 vividly. Outside of ensuring that the articles were showing correctly and our social media channels were sharing the newly-published content, I was in constant contact with my best friend and Ain’t I Latina?’s own, Francis, making sure things were straight for the site’s official launch party that evening. There was so much love in that room with my friends, family, colleagues and tribe present.

    As I celebrate Ain’t I Latina? turning three, I’m also celebrating the way in which this digital space has helped me discover and grow in my Afro-Latinx identity. That growth includes change, too.

    When I started Ain’t I Latina?, I mainly referred to myself as Afro-Latina, a term I’d started using in college. [Note: I also refer to myself as Honduran-American, Garifuna or Black — it depends on the context of the conversation.] I settled on that term after taking an African-American studies program, Paris Noire, in Paris, France. After spending six weeks learning about intersectionality and the lives of Black expats like Josephine Baker, James Baldwin and Richard Wright, to name a few, I had an “aha moment” that led me to acknowledge and take pride in my African/Black roots. While I ate foods, danced to music and celebrated Honduran, really Garifuna, customs that are undoubtedly African, I didn’t fully make the connection or embrace that reality.

    Who would’ve thought that awakening would happen in a European country? But it was a defining time.

    As a journalist, my passion for covering Black and Latinx communities, namely women, was important to me. Not seeing features on Afro-Latinas in business, entertainment, fashion and tech, among other areas, on TV or in my fave magazines bothered me. I grew tired of waiting and worked to build a space I wanted and knew so many other millennial Afro-Latinas could resonate with as well. I had no idea that this would be the beginning of a life-changing journey.

    I thought I had an intense pride in Afro-Latinidad then, but it’s enriched each day with every interview and encounter I have with our community. Learning from unapologetic, trailblazing women like Dr. Marta Moreno Vega to fellow blogueras, readers and activists have helped shape me. When I see videos of girls and young women in Latin America proudly declaring their pride in being Black or those from the states who email me about their Afro-Latina journey, it invigorates me and reminds me why I started this site.

    During an interview I conducted with Dr. Marta, she said, “There’s no pill that makes you an Afro-Latina instantly…it’s a matter of consciousness. It’s a matter of understanding your history. Understanding the experience of your parents, and looking in the mirror.” Those words hit home for me, as does the entire conversation, because it’s very much a journey. It’s far from instant and continues to evolve.

    I’ve delved even deeper into my roots and Afro-Latinx history since starting this site, and have come to include new terms in the way I identify. Many of the terms we use today were created (or influenced) by our colonizers (yes, African American, Latino/a/x included). However, the term Afrodescendant — people of African descent —  was recognized by community leaders, social activists and scholars in 2001 at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. It was also referenced months prior during the Latin American Regional Conference Against Racism in Santiago, Chile.  Knowing that this is a term created and coined by us, I’ve begun to use that more often. While Afro-Latina is still and will likely always be a term I use, Afrodescendente/Afrodescendant just feels right. Just as Negra (Black) does, too.

    Identity is multidimensional, multilayered and complex. Candid conversation on and offline have served as a reminder that no matter which term I use, my pride in my African roots will forever be a constant. And I have you, an Ain’t I Latina?, reader to thank for helping me settle into this.

    How do you identify? Share your story with me in the comments section.

    Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute Opens Doors At New Harlem Home

    The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) can now call East Harlem home. The not for profit cultural organization, which celebrates cultures of people of African Descent through events and programming rooted in advocacy, art and social justice, has become one of the only organizations of color in New York City to own a Landmark city space.

    CCCADI kicked off its weekend-long Grand Opening Celebration with a VIP ribbon cutting where guests got a first look at a three-part art exhibition entitled HOME, MEMORY and FUTURE, which explores the concept of home in the age of gentrification and displacement, curated by Lowery Stokes Sims, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, Yasmin Ramirez and Regina Bultrón Bengoa.

    The festivities included participation in the iconic Open House New York, talks about the influence of Afro-descendants in the neighborhood (and the nation) and a block party with a children’s village, among other activities.

    Moreno Vega, the CCCADI’s founder and president, believes the opening will only amplify the voices within the local community and larger Afro-descendant familia.

    “With this new building comes an even bigger mandate to assure that our presence, stories, and growth inspire the next generation of activists and culture bearers in our communities; to ensure that our voices, as the numerical majority, across the nation, are heard louder and stronger than ever,” she said.

    Take a look at images from the CCCADI’s opening weekend, above. Photos by Mario Carrion. 


    Here’s How to Kick Start Your Financial Wellness Journey

    via GIPHY


    For some it can be the cause of great joy and, for others, the root of immense stress. Our relationship with money can seem so complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. As I get older, I’ve realized I need to improve the way I view my finances and my relationship with mi dinero. The C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) mentality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. However, who doesn’t want to get more dollar dollar bills, [right] y’all? And keep them through healthy financial practices.

    Continue reading…