Sunday, June 26, 2016

Puerto Rican Beauticians Make Hurftul Comments in Spanish About Black Client

“The assumption that being black and Latino is not possible isn’t only false — it can have harmful consequences on a person’s sense of identity, as revealed by one woman in a recent video that’s going viral.”

Link to original article and video:
Why You Should Never Assume That
A Black Person Can’t Be Latino


Not one Latino has ever been able to explain to me why they enjoy music like salsa, bachata, and reggaetón, which has major black Latino contributions, but is so quick to assume that a black person among them cannot be Latino.


I have known black Latinos who are a lot more outspoken than the one in this article and video who are quick to roll out their Spanish to set fellow Latinos straight, and almost give them a cardiac arrest from the shock they experience to see black faces speaking Spanish so fluently.


One black woman told me the reason she keeps her Latina heritage on the down low around a lot of non-black Spanish speakers is to see if they are going to talk “smack” about her in Spanish so she can put them in their place with embarrassment. 


There was an incident on a New York City Subway train where a black Latina was riding quietly with her two children. A group of unsupervised black American teens happened to pass through the subway car doing what teens normally do after school, and another Latina passenger went on a loud Spanish-speaking tirade to a friend about how wild and crazy black people are. The black Latina didn't respond to the passenger, but instructed her kids, in Spanish, to sit closer to her. 


The loud talking Latina passenger realized what she had done, and out of pure shame, apologized in Spanish to the black Latina after she had already expressed her true feelings about black people. Exactly what was the black woman supposed think or feel?


It's bad enough when black Americans, especially here in New York where there is a large Afro-Latino population, don't recognize that a black person can also be Latino and alienate them, but Latinos themselves should really, really know better. They really should!


Link to original article and video:
Why You Should Never Assume That
A Black Person Can’t Be Latino


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Black American in Black Perú

I'm standing in the back, second from the right in the home of Perú's famous Ballumbrosio family.

As I carried my drink from the bar to my table with a big smile in anticipation of seeing a popular black singer from Perú at a Latin American club in San Francisco, California, one of the owners passed me by giving me a frightened look apparently not used to seeing a black American at a Peruvian performance. Perhaps, he thought I may be casing the joint to plan a robbery; I don't know.

The seemingly suspicious individual knew nothing of my exposure to Black Latin America as I traveled to nine countries, mainly Perú, where I made repeat visits. He knew nothing of the Peruvian neighborhoods I visited, the families I stayed with, and not to mention my ability to speak Spanish as I earned my advanced Spanish certificate in Peru.

Singer Lucila Campos whom I heard on this CD, The Soul of Black Peru, inspired my first trip.

It was in El Carmen, Perú, dubbed as the hub of Afro-Peruvian culture, where I made my first family-like connections, not only in the home of the famous Amador Ballumbrosio, the godfather of Afro-Peruvian music where I stayed, but in the community where I also made lifetime friendships.  

Despite El Carmen's abject poverty, crime is next to zero. I could not help but notice how the community lives in harmony; no conflicts, no muggings, no stealing, and no fights. When they party, they party hearty without trouble makers spoiling the fun.  

Despite abject poverty, El Carmen is crime free.

I've exchanged many greetings with total strangers as we passed each other on the street. During my first visit, I was made to feel like a very special guests, consistently being invited to parties, out for drinks, and to other social events in the community. What I love about El Carmen is that it is off the beaten path—very few tourists with the exception of the months of February and March when they celebrate black heritage.

Photo of the late, great maestro, Amador Ballumbrosio, 
the godfather of Afro-Peruvian music and dance. 

People come from all over Perú, and different parts of the world to El Carmen, which is in the province of Chincha, to celebrate with the slogan, “Vamos Pa' Chincha, Familia, meaning Let's Go To Chincha, Brothas and Sistas. El Carmen is in the Peruvian province of Chincha. 

In Perú, blacks are often referred to as “familia (family).” One day, I went into a rough neighborhood in Lima, the nation's capital, and I was greeted with a loud, “qué pasó, familia,” which in essence means “what's up, bruh?”

Back in El Carmen, I had the pleasure of eating home cooked Afro-Peruvian meals as well as meals served at the famous black-owned Mamainé Restaurant. This “soul food” is prepared with recipes that black Peruvian women saved and passed down from slavery.

On the Pan-American Highway, which passes the entrance to the District of El Carmen, you will see this billboard advertising the restaurant where I get Peruvian soul food. 

According to unofficial estimates, 10-15% of Peruvians have African ancestry and face perceptual racism and discrimination. Monica Carrillo, head of a Peruvian civil rights organization known as LUNDÚ is pushing for Peru’s rich African heritage to be an equal part of Perú's national identity. 

Some of the well-known Blacks who contributed to Peruvian society include St. Martin de Porres and his tireless work on behalf of the poor; Nicomedes Santa Cruz, a writer, poet, and musician who helped raise public awareness of Afro-Peruvian culture.


I was treated to live Afro-Peruvian music and dance in the home of the Ballumbrosios where I stayed.

Then we have Teófilo Cubillas, Perú's greatest soccer player ever, and of course, the world renown singer Susana Baca, the former Peruvian Minister of Culture. In 1969, a man by the name of Ronaldo Campos de la Colina founded the world famous dance troupe, Perú Negro (Black Peru), which is billed as the Cultural Ambassadors of Black Perú.  

As El Carmen has become my home away from home, more and more people in the community are getting to know me, or at least, have become familiar with my presence. In fact, I'm even flattered that people who didn't have any communication with me on a prior trip remembered me vividly upon my return.

Ronaldo Illescas, one of the percussionists for the local Afro-Peruvian dance troupe

There is a drawback, I've found, to all of this familiarity; especially with my reputation as an American with a pocket full of money. Some are beginning to think that I'm a walking ATM. One woman showed me her gas and electric bill and asked for my help. A young man whom I tipped handsomely for showing me the ropes around town frequently e-mails me asking for more money. He is now in my spam folder.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Blacks in Bolivia Want You to Know: ¡Estamos Aquí (We're Here)!

The video below is produced by an Afro-Bolivian cultural organization known as MAUCHI where Afro Bolivans come together to support each others' Afrocentricity. 

They talk about how they overcame the inclination towards self hatred of their blackness in a racist society, and embrace and express pride in their black Afro-descendant pride. Like Afro descendants everywhere, Afro Bolivians love their music. As the old song by James Brown goes, "Say It Loud—I'm Black & I'm Proud," Afro Bolivians demonstrate their black pride in their music and dance known as Saya. 

One person's black awakening came when she started learning about Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King. Black Bolivians come in all colors from dark skinned to light and mixed, and believe there is strength in numbers as they come together to express their rights, and assert for thenselves like Muhammad Ali, “I'm Black and I'm Pretty!”

Friday, June 10, 2016

Historically Black Colleges and Universties (HBCUs) Attracting Young Latinos

Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas is one of the leading HBCUs attracting Latino students.

According to the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges, there are 106 such institutions in 20 states from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma, which produced the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King (Morehouse College), Toni Morrison (Howard University), and Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State University).

During my young years, African-American students made up 90% of enrollment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. T
he exceptions whom I personally knew were two Puerto Rican members of our black American swim team, the Milbank Barracudas in Harlem, NY, and members of a rival Puerto Rican team from Spanish Harlem, NY, (Jefferson Park), where both teams served as recruiting grounds for the powerful Morehouse College's Tigersharks swim team that received accolades in Jet, Ebony, and Sports illustrated magazines.

Then there was a popular Latin Music DJ, Pedro “Sababu” Romero, from Brooklyn, NY who attended Shaw University, an HBCU in Raleigh, NC who brought his Latino culture with him airing salsa and merengue music over the campus radio station for the many Latin music fans attending the university.

Another Morehouse man, and filmmaker from Spanish Harlem, Bobby Garcia, who approached fellow
Morehouse alumnus Spike Lee about making a movie about the legendary
Tigersharks swim team, stated how Morehouse College really changed him.

Bobby was skeptical when he first arrived not knowing it was a predominately black school when offered a swimming scholarship, but was quickly embraced by his classmates. As a Latino who always preferred Latino girls, he ended up being engaged to an African-American.  

Record-breaking All-American swimmer Juan Lieba of Morehouse College 
was recruited from my home team, the Milbank Barracudas in Harlem, NY

Fast forward to today with black American enrollment at most Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as low as 70%, and Lincoln University in Missouri, founded by black veterans of the Civil War, having a black student enrollment of 35 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, more HBCUs are reaching out to Latinos for recruitment. 

In a recent article, it was reported that HBCUs in Texas, such as Texas Southern University (TSU) and Prarie View A&M, are taking the lead in such efforts. TSU even markets itself on Spanish-language radio and other Latino media.

Angélica Erazo, from Houston, Texas who came to the U.S. as a child with her family out of Honduras, Central America sought out a small college where she could major in political science and play soccer wound up obtaining a scholarship at Huston-Tillotson, an HBCU in Austin, TX where Latinos make up 19% of the student population. She, along with many other Latinos, felt very much included among the African-American
student population who were excited to see more cultural diversity on campus.  

These Latinos are learning what many black American students knew all along about HBCUs; the faculty takes personal interests and pride in the progress and advancement of their students, and are trained to give that special help to make sure graduation takes place. 

HBCUs tackle problems with unequal government funding and declining enrollment due to larger schools that once discriminated against blacks having opened their doors. This forced some schools to close. Such a trend reaffirms the HBCU mission to educate people often oppressed in society.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mexican Music - African Roots

Graciana Silva, better known as La Negra Graciana because of her African heritage, is a son-jarocho harpist and vocalist.

The Spanish word “son” means folk music,  and “jarocho” is the traditional style of music originating in the Eastern region of Mexico, primarily the Mexican state of Veracruz. Jarocho is a colloquial term for people or things. The music is a fusion of indigenous, Spanish, and West African musical elements, which evolved from Spanish colonial times. It's a vibrant, highly repetitive musical structure with bright melodies, improvisational, and witty lyrics and vigorous heel dancing dating as far back as the 1600s. 

Son jarocho songs feature the call-and-response vocals demonstrating the West African influences due to the Port of Veracruz being the entry point of slaves into Mexico. Many of the jarocho musicians today are Afro-Mexicans. The lyrics involve humorous themes addressing love, nature, sailors, and cattle breeding during Mexico's colonial period.

The instruments generally used in Son Jarocho are small guitar-like instruments called jarana jarocha

The instruments generally used in Son Jarocho are small guitar-like instruments called jarana jarocha, and another small one called the requinto jarocho plucked with a long pick traditionally made from cow-horn, and the harp, known as the arpa jarocha, and sometimes percussion instruments such as a wooden boxed called the cajón and a jawbone of a donkey, called a quijada (pronounced Key-hah-dah).  

The most widely known son jarocho song  is "La Bamba," which became a big hit in the 195os sung by Richie Valens and again in the 1980s by the group Los Lobos.
During the late Colonial period, the Catholic Church, as in other African inspired genres of music, unsuccessfully tried to suppress the son jarocho because of what was perceived as dirty, low class, and ungodly. Catholic bishops were turned off with the music's sexual connotations as it made fun of religion, death, and Catholocism. 

One of the living legends of Son Jarocho is Graciana Silva,  from Veracruz who continues to perform and record this traditional form today. Graciana Silva, better known as La Negra Graciana because of her Africsn heritage, sings and plays the harp.