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The Black experience is rich and complex. However, it is still hard for some people to understand the differences around race and ethnicity; more importantly, that one can Black and something else.
Few understand this multi-layered concept more than Bianca Kathryn, owner and founder of Yo Soy Afro Latina. The brand seeks to empower Black women within the Latin community.
For Black History Month, In The Know spoke to Bianca about being Afro-Latina, representation and the future of inclusion.
What does being Afro Latina mean to you?
Being Afro-Latina simply means I identify with being Black and Latina. I am at the intersection of two beautiful cultures. I recognize that, while I identify with both of these ethnicities, I understand that I am a Black woman first. My race walks into the room before I do. While that is a harsh reality of what it’s like to be Black in America, I choose to embrace that. Who said you couldn’t enjoy tamales and reruns of Moesha?
There is no one look to Afro-Latinx people, which is beautiful. What are your thoughts?
Afro-Latina in the ’90s looked completely different than it does now. I grew up idolizing the great Ciela Cruz because she was the only Black Latina I saw in mainstream media. However, to be Afro-Latina in 2020 looks like a lot of different women, both Black and brown, acknowledging and embracing their African ancestry.
You can be Morena with pink hair and identify as Afro-Latina. Or brown-skinned with faux locs and identify as Afro-Latina. You can look like whoever you want, and that’s the beautiful thing about educating ourselves on Afro-Latinidad. Through education and awareness, we’re able to break down those stereotypes of what a “Latina” should look like and move away from that narrative that Latinas can’t be Black.
How did you feel about being Afro-Latina growing up?
Growing up, I didn’t identify as Afro-Latina. I was aware that I came from two different cultures, as my mom educate[d] me on my Mexican roots. But I personally didn’t have the knowledge on Afro-Latinidad at that time. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit but spent the majority of my childhood on the west side of the city. I remember always feeling out of place as a child. A lot of people aren’t aware of Detroit’s racial history. The fact that the city itself is historically Black but, over time, has become home to many cultures, religions and ethnicities.
Although there’s a diversity of cultures that reside in the city, there was a lack of fusion amongst those cultures. That made it difficult for me to navigate and understand the intersectionality of my identity. While I knew that I was both Black and Mexican, the world didn’t see me like that; It took me a while to truly embrace my roots and educate myself on my history. It’s been quite the experience learning about myself as a Black, Latina woman living in the US. It’s been such an empowering and awakening journey.
How are you pushing the conversation forward?
When I created YSAL, my only hope for my brand at the time was to connect with other Afro-Latinas; I knew I couldn’t be the only girl out there who was at the intersection of two cultures. I didn’t aim to change the dialogue when launching YSAL. But, by walking in my truth, I’ve been able to educate people on my community while also being creative.
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