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Jan 7, 2010
I grew up at a time in US history where race was very much in a Black/White binary in which I did not easily fit. Add to that my ethnic identity, class status, gender expression and I felt even more isolated. Rarely did I ever see an image or representation of LatiNegr@s*, like me, in the media, but today it is different. I want to share the LatiNegr@s that I am excited about this year and for you to keep an eye out for. Many of them you may have already known about or seen/heard, yet there may be a few you just need to be in the know about! I apologize in advance for not translating some of the video clips that are in Portuguese or Spanish or that do not have subtitles. Please know this is in no way an exhaustive list. I encourage and hope you share with me LatiNegr@s you would like to feature this year (and that we remember always). I’ll commit to including your additions in a future post!
Wanda De Jesus (Actor)
This is a LatiNegra who reminds me that we are beautiful in all our colors, shapes, accents, and identities. When I see that she is in a film I immediately want to see it because there is a connection that I, as a viewer, have with her as an artist and actor. Wanda De Jesus is someone who has been acting for decades and has an elegance about her that calms me in ways I’ve never experienced through watching a film. That may not make sense to some of you, but I really do see her as an amazing mentor, even if I think she’s one of my mentors in my mind.
Concha Buika (Singer)
I wish I had an amazing story to share about how I came to find Concha Buika, but honestly I just don’t. It’s as if she’s always been a part of my music collection and has very much influenced my LatiNegra identity. I do know that part of my love for her and her music is because she’s LatiNegra, Spanish (as in from Spain, not just that she speaks the language, and her family is from/immigrated Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa), but also openly bisexual. In an interview she was asked to identify herself and she said she was “bisexual, three-phase, and three dimensional.” Quotes like that make me swoon with delight.
Algenis Perez Soto (Actor)
When I saw the film Sugar (read my review of it here), I was mesmerized by newcomer Algenis Perez Soto’s representation of lead Sugar. His performance of a Dominican baseball player drafted/migrated to the US mid-west is phenomenal. I remember watching the film and the tears that came to my eyes when he was seated alone at the diner near his apartment and not knowing how to read the menu, which was written in English. I recall my frustration when I witnessed his character misinterpreted the social norms of young women in his new community and the reaction he and she both had. The racial profiling he experienced, the helpful community members, the new space he chose to occupy upon arriving to NYC. The poverty. It was honest, raw, and it is my story in many ways (replace the baseball for seeking a career in the sexual science field). I don’t know what else he has planned for his career, but my intuition tells me that he is going to be an amazing force.
As many of you know I live in NYC. Some of you may not know that I live in the Bronx, the west BX to be exact and it is very close to the Inwood/Washington Heights area. For those of you who don’t know the Inwood/Washington Heights area, which borders Harlem, is very much a Dominican neighborhood and I’m sure will remain such for several decades. As a result, I heard about Maluca in the fall of 2009 and have been patiently waiting for her next single, or full album. She represents LatiNegras with Dominican heritage and I love Love LOVE her performance of femininity and “around the way girlness” in her video “El Tigeraso” (see below). She was featured in a Latina Magazine issue and was described as a Latina M.I.A., yet I think this is more related to her connections with Diplo, a Philadelphia based DJ, who also has worked with M.I.A. Let’s have 2010 be the year that talented women of Color are not compared to one another but seen as individuals.
Yeah, if you don’t know about Zoë yet, I just don’t know what to tell you about yourself. Get on it.
Sofia Quintero (aka Black Artemis)
Sofia is one of my favorite people of all time. I started out as a stan for her Hip-Hop Fiction that centers female protagonists and has various elements of Hip-Hop culture centered in the stories (Explicit Content, Picture Me Rollin’ & Burn). When I started teaching at the University of Maryland a friend and ethnomusicologist reached out to her and she came to present to our classes that were reading her books and since then we’ve stayed friends and colleagues. She’s visited several of my classes, we’ve watched films together, and she taught me how to sharpen my Media Literacy skills. Sofia is one of the co-founders of Sister Outsider Entertainment, Chica Luna Productions, and her first young adult book, Efrain’s Secret, comes out this year and I can’t wait!
Adam Rodriguez (Actor)
You may know him from CSI: Miami, yet now that he has departed from being full-time on the show to expand his options, you can catch him on Ugly Betty. Although I have yet to see the film, he was also in the Tyler Perry film I Can Do Bad All By Myself. Watch him here discussing the film below.
Moyenei (Singer) Morenita Regresa
The African-Chilean poet, rapper, activist, and all around fierce woman Moyenei is what musica needs today! She’s more on the obscure side of this list, but her lyrics which center social justice (and not in a I’m the oppressed and you’re the oppressor, but in a ending oppression overall) are the types of songs I need daily in my life. I hope one day (maybe today if she’s reading) she will know how imperative her music, lyrics; existence is for me as a LatiNegra activist.
Judy Reyes (Actor) (Scrubs, Oz, King Of The Jungle)
You may recognize Judy Reyes from the television show I rarely watch, but know about, Scrubs. Before Scrubs, I remember her from her role in OZ and King Of The Jungle alongside John Leguizamo. Her dedication to her art and craft is apparent in her work in social and media justice as she is a co-founder of the LAByrinth Theatre Company http://www.labtheater.org/ which is a “multicultural collective that produces new plays reflecting the many voices in our New York City community” and founded in 1992. Her work, her legacy, is one that inspires me. It reminds me that I can still do the work that is needed from an intersectional space as a sexologist and still create change and mentor others. Check out her interview, where she speaks mostly about Scrubs:
Ignacio Rivera (Activist, Performer, Educator)
One of the highlights of being a sexologist of Color and living in NYC is that you have access to some amazing sex positive people. Ignacio Rivera is one of those people. Ignacio identifies as a “queer, Black Boricua, Trans Multi-gender queer, highly seasoned and experienced community organizer and consultant. He is also a poet /performance artist and self proclaimed sex educator.” Even though Ignacio is located in NYC doesn’t mean he’s not available to travel. If you are interested in having Ignacio come to your community, organization, or school I encourage you to contact him.
Lauren Velez (Actor)
If you caught me at the AFY Urban Retreat, then you already know how seeing Lauren Velez in the film I Like It Like That changed my life. Seriously. It changed. My. Life. I’ve followed her work ever since, from New York Undercover, to Oz to where she is now Dexter playing a lead role of a powerful woman. She also portrayed La Lupe in a one-woman theater production. Listen to her eloquently discuss her character on Dexter, Lieutenant Maria La Guerta, here.
Victor Rasuk (Actor)
I remember the day I went to see Raising Victor Vargas in theaters years ago. I was torn with the film opening up with in-your-face fatphobia and the treatment of “fat Donna.” Yet, as I watched the film, I saw sparks of amazing growth by the characters, how socialization is promoted by family members in specific ways especially with ideas of masculinity for poor men of Color, and how courtship practices are very much tied into that socialization. Since then I’ve been happy to see him in Stop-Loss, the MTV film about young Iraq War veterans. Here’s an interview with him discussing the film Stop-Loss.
Rick Gonzalez (Actor)
All right, I admit that I didn’t pay much attention to Rick Gonzalez. There’s no good reason why, but I admit that he was not someone that struck me until I saw him in the film Illegal Tender. Had it not been for me seeing this film in theaters, that I was able to recognize him in the film In The Valley of Elah, and then when I re-watched the film Roll Bounce (yeah I watched that film, what?) I knew about Victor Rasuk before Rick Gonzalez, but I think they are amazing actors. Below is an interview with Gonzalez and some language after the 3-minute mark is NSFW.
Franc Reyes (Director, Screenwriter)
One of the many reasons I came to know of Rick Gonzalez and rediscover my love for Wanda De Jesus is because of the films of Franc Reyes. Although I’m not 100% in love with all of his films, they do fill a very particular void in my viewing of particular media. His films (The Ministers, Illegal Tender, Empire) and choice in casting actors comes from the same space as I write this article: not seeing ourselves represented in the media. Read my last review of his latest film The Ministers as well as his commentary regarding the lack of marketing for the film here.
Laz Alonso (Actor)
I’ve got a post brewing in my mind simply because of this man. You see he was in Spike Lee’s Miracle at Saint Anna as the lead protagonists. In the film this Cuban-American actor portrays a Black Puerto Rican soldier. The marketing for this film was specifically dedicated to the Black identities of the characters and their work as (Buffalo) soldiers during WWII. What I find striking (and telling of the racism within our communities) is that there was limited to no Latino coverage of this film and he is the led character. For this reason alone we must recognize and support the LatiNegr@s in various media positions because even within our own community we are ignored and overlooked. You can find more about Laz Alonso here or check out some of the other films he’s been in such as Jarhead and Stomp The Yard. Here’s an interview with several of the cast members about the film Miracle At Saint Anna:
LatiNegr@s To Remember
I grew up in a home where my Papi had three heroes: John Lennon, Muhammad Ali, and Roberto Clemente. Not only was Clemente a fierce baseball player, but he was an activist and died because he committed his life to social justice. I got my Papi a Clemente Pirates t-shirt as a gift at the end of last year and he wore it like it was his job. To see men and women of all ages, races, class status, abilities, ethnicities and national origins salute Clemente and pay tribute to him speaks to the legacy he has left behind. The legacy he has left us. There is talk that Carmelo Anthony is planning to create a film about the life of Clemente.
She is simply a LatiNegra that I love and adore. I wrote a longer post about her on my blog Latino Sexuality, which you can read and see clips of her here.
Before Lil Kim started to wear blue wigs (or a 1 piece) or Lady Gaga wore theatrical performance gear, there was Celia Cruz. One of my earliest childhood memories is of my parents taking us into Washington, DC to attend free concerts she was a part of for the growing Latino community there in the 70s and 80s. To this day I can see her spinning in a white ruffled floor length gown as she sang. Find out more about Celia.
Pedro Albizu Campos
At a time when many Latino families were happily displaying images of Che Guevara, my parents exposed me to the activism and work of Pedro Albizu Campos. A far left radical who spoke out against the colonization of Puerto Rico by the US, Campos remains a national hero in my community and home. As one of my homegirls, Liza, pointed out, one of the reasons Che was/is so promoted, supported, seen is because of his Whiteness as a radical Latino/Latinamericanist. Not that I think Campos’ image needs to be on ever mug, t-shirt, and baseball cap; but there are more people who fought, who fight, for ending oppressions and colonization in the Caribbean and Africa. (Sidebar: That’s another thing that is rarely shared about Che, his work in Africa. I was far too disappointed his time in the Congo and Angola was not discussed in the 2 part film about his life based on his writings). Check out this trailer of the upcoming film about Pedro Albizu Campos:
*The term LatiNegr@s (LatiNegro/a) refers to people who may racially identify within a US racial category (construct) as “Black” and have cultural and ethnic ties to some country or space that shares a history of exploration and conquest by Spanish and Portuguese empire. Not everyone on this list may claim this label as I do, some people may prefer terms such as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, or Latino without claiming the influence of the African Diasporas. This is important to note because the way the US has constructed racial classifications may not (and is not) the same outside the US border (yes this includes Mexico, ya’ll know huge parts of the US were Mexico right? And US “territories” (I prefer the term colonies) such as Puerto Rico).