IDENTITY ARCHITECTS: Part Dos
So one day, I’m perusing the dollar section by the checkout at Target. I find a bin of children’s socks and I start to pick out a pair of Disney Princess Tiana, and another of golden-haired Rapunzel. One for my white niece, one for my black niece just like back in the day when my mother bought me the black Cabbage Patch doll, and the white one for my blond half-sister. Right? Well, my half-sister meets me by the dollar bin and I ask her my niece’s shoe size. She looks disapprovingly at the rosy Rapunzel printed socks and says, “Oh, you have to get Princess Tiana them for both of the girls. My baby would be mad if you didn’t. She absolutely loves Princess Tiana.” If I didn’t hug my sister in real life, then I definitely did so in my head. My white niece preferred the black doll (well, socks)!!!!! Hearing her speak those words was like the ringing of racial democracy, a truly post-racial America, a color-full utopia!!!!! Now, if only there was a Latina Disney Princess, a dark one.
Am I overreacting? Nope. This is a rather small platform for which to convey the complexity of being a black Latina, or as I like to say Afro-Latina. Many people I speak to on the subject say it’s not a big deal. But for those of you who know what I look like, I want you to take a second and think about this—How many people on TV, film, music, in magazines or even literature look like me AND are not African American, but Latina. Zoe Saldaña, Celia Cruz and Rosy Perez? That’s it? Just to note, there are actually many more women in the media and entertainment that are Afro-Latinas, but you wouldn’t know it because they are frequently cast for African American roles. What happens then is that the Afro-Latina is negated, omitted from existence, purposely forgotten, hidden. And why? Is she too complex to approach? She speaks Spanish but she looks like Lauren Hill (when she was the bomb of course).
Here is where the ladies of Black Latina Movement come in. “My babysitter said my son has nigger naps,” “My uncle is ashamed of my mother’s blackness so he calls her Indian.” Real Talk 2012. Listen to the stories of Crystal Shaniece Roman, CEO, and Apryl G. Lopez, President of Black Latina Movement, and you will understand that these are just small moments in their lives that remind them to continuously move forward in their work to spread, not a separation of light and dark Latinos, but understanding between them and others who exist outside of the Latino cultural sphere.
What is the function of the Movement? Well let’s begin with its purpose. Two trained and educated actresses, and childhood friends, tried time and again to obtain roles as Latinas but were constantly cast as African Americans. What they found was a void in film and media, the deep black abyss of the Afro-Latina.
But instead of simply earning a paycheck to play the part they were hired for, Roman and Lopez decided to form their own production company, writing their own plays, their own TV series, their own movies, and hiring an all Afro-Latina cast!
One might say, wait, why focus exclusively on Afro-Latinas? Because the void is too great not to be addressed, that’s why. To focus on the Afro Latinas’ talents, validate their struggles, to share the depths of their complex experiences, to showcase the beauty in blackness—not to exclude but to include.
And in an effort to be more inclusive, the production company has future works in progress to share the spotlight with Afro-Latino males as well.
We here at Delen Arts applaud the success and encourage the continuity of Black Latina Movement and will continue to report on the company’s upcoming endeavors. We are incredibly gratified for its existence and committed to sharing the good word, black is beautiful.
Peace, Love and Hope for a Latina Disney Princess