The most important mentors in my youth were African-American women. They took me under their wings and explained to me how this country does and does not work. They helped me give voice to my concerns, issues and experiences. They made me feel like I was family, an asset and a partner. Unlike many other folks they told me my voice was important and I was somebody. They looked beyond my name, my background and my youth and saw something in me. Something I did not see or appreciate in myself.
More importantly they made me confront my own racism, and acknowledge my own African roots. My family is from the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. Where we all are so mixed our biology teacher warned us that our own color did not predict that of our future children. In my grandmother’s town blond kinky haired brown babies are the norm.
We are at a crossroads as Latinos. We have a growing population, economic power and political influence. With few exceptions most of us have not been here for more than two generations. We as a community need to invest in creating personal and organizational connections with the African-American community. The African-American community in turn should learn Spanish and understand our culture. Realize that we are the bridge to the rest of Latin-America and that it has its’ advantages to be bilingual.
African-American in turn could help create movements in our home countries that acknowledge our Afro-Latino communities. That too often are marginalized, mistreated and disenfranchised. We don’t have a Malcolm X or a Dr. Martin Luther King in Latin-America. Neither black freedom ideologies have been sustained in any country to all of our detriments. As a result we come to this country with our own prejudices about others and ourselves.
Our two communities have a lot to learn and to offer each other. Let’s not let divisions get in the way of creating powerful alliances that will benefit all.