Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Proud to be AfroLatino? Say it with your chest.

alex + dash.
My good friend Dash Harris, creator of NEGRO: A Docuseries about Latino Identity just launched two new AfroLatino pride t-shirt campaigns because Black is beautiful, and so are you I suppose you're aight, too. Dash works to educate the masses of the richness and splendor of AfroLatino heritage. As two Black Panamanians who live and work in Panama, we see the unfortunate results of a lack of pride in one's African roots, especially considering that so many have a Black abuela tucked away in a photo album. I have written previously about my experiences with race here in Panama.

As many Panamanians (and Black and brown people everywhere else) would sell that Black abuela to wake up with some nice long pretty blond hair, images of Jubilant Whiteness are projected on billboards on televisions. All of my friends here have encountered Black and brown people with bell pepper noses and curls flat-ironed into submission who call themselves White with a straight face. We see this daily. Whiteness is aspirational here, a friend explained. It's disheartening. And disgusting.

Aside from not being able to hide the obvious, I am quite proud to be the grandson of a Black ass woman from Bocas del Toro, Panama, who is the daughter of two Jamaicans.

I am proud—though occasionally annoyed—when people here approach me, professing their love and implied potential fetishizing of my locs (¡Me encantan tus Bob Marleys!), telling me how they have always wanted to rock some locs but they don't know if their job/parents/grandmother would allow it. I am also proud when I deny request to touch my hair.

I am proud when my Negro Delegation walks into a party and people just know it's about to go down. To have a bunch of awkward two-steppers form a circle and watch you and your homies Black it the fuck up as they beseech Jesucristo for a windfall of rhythm and nerve?

Bintu and Alex take a break from Blackiando to snap a pic for their fans.
THAT shit feels amazing. In that joint just sweating out Black pride and awesomeness. Bonus level Blackness moment.

I have learned not to wince when I hear my skinfolk down hear call themselves café, canela (cinnamon), and khaki to avoid calling themselves Black. A student once corrected my beloved Bintu (pictured with me, above), telling her, "No, teacher. Tú no eres NEGRA. Eres MORENA," when she referred to herself as a Black woman. Gotta love how we're taught to soften our Blackness with cutesie pet names. Some of the issue stems from a lack of visibility of positive Black images here and everywhere. Then, you must consider colonialism, racism, disparities among resources, and the fact that Black history is not taught in schools here. We're all fucked. So, placing the blame squarely on my skinfolk helps nothing.

There is much to unpack. That is why the work Dash does is so important. Peep her site for documentary screening and contact info, aquí.

I say all of that to say: Let your soul glow. Just let it shine through. And by soul, I mean AfroLatino Pride. Obviously.

These t-shirt campaigns end soon, and there are men's and women's sizes available. I will take the White joint, please and thank you.


 Campaign ends August 12. Click AQUÍ.

Campaign ends August 19. Click AQUÍ.

Oh. I was interviewed for her Negro: Finding Identity series. Booyow.



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