Reclaiming Blackness: NPR’s ‘Latino USA’ Dives Into What It Means To Be Afro-Latino

Afro-Latinidad hasn’t always been the easiest term to classify or describe. But luckily the latest episode of NPR’s “Latino USA Roundtable” offered some insight on what it means to be both black and Latino/a.

On the show, host Maria Hinojosa, sat down with four media influencers, including VIBE’s own Senior Editor, Marjua Estevez; Amilcar Priestley, co-director of the Afro-Latino Festival and director of the Afro-Latino Project; M. Tony Peralta, contemporary artist and owner of the Peralta Project; and Jamila Brown, owner of HUE, to discuss their experiences identifying as Afro-Latino/a and to also get to the bottom of who gets to actually claim the label.

READ: Afro-Latino: 6 Women Open Up About Being Black And Latina

“For me, I spent the better part of my adolescent years in Florida, in the south. I was anything but Dominican over there. Everywhere I went I was a mixed person,” Marjua said of her first memory of realizing she was Afro-Latina. “They had a bunch nicknames for me except for what I was. And that was conflicting. I had huge identity issues coming up. But when I walked into the world, people perceived me in many different ways. And at 19 going on 20, was the first time there was a book available that I picked up and learned about my Dominican history. It’s a shame that it took me 20 years to have access to something like that.”

As the conversation progressed, the influencers began to peel back the layers of what qualifies someone as Afro-Latino. “To me when it’s visible because when it’s visible that’s when you’re discriminated against,” M. Tony Peralta said, to which many others agreed. “As Afro-Latinos we do have black experiences in our home country and we do face the same kind of barriers and discrimination. It’s really about that. It’s about culturally where do you come from? Who do you hold dear,” Jamila Brown added.

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“We have the frame work for an Afro-Latino movement in the United States,” Amilcar said as the conversation began to wrap up. “I don’t necessarily think there is one yet, but we have to get to that point. There needs to be somewhere down the line, a platform.” In their final discussion of Afro-Latinidad, Tony suggested that being Afro-Latina comes in many different shades. “People need to show the spectrum of Afro-Latinas… Show the beautiful rainbow of what it means to be Afro-Latino.

Listen to the full podcast episode below.