I want to introduce you all to a young woman I find so amazing. She is have a book release party this Friday at Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe. I told her that I am so sorry I cannot be there. Here is Carmen Mojica! I hope you find this latinegra as interesting as I do!
As I reflect on my life, just days before my book release party at the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe, all I can think about is my hair. And how something like cutting off my chemically treated hair was the catalyst for my metamorphosis. Anthony asked me to guest blog about where I am these days with my journey and it was a perfect time to ask, as I am in a very pensive mood about who I am and who I am becoming.
I can still remember that December night in 2004 when I finally had the guts to cut it all off and go natural. It was a freedom I didn’t know existed; it was also a reason to challenge the effects of racism and socially imposed standards of beauty on my self-esteem. Coming to terms with my African roots was hard. For most of my life, I wanted nothing to do with my African-ness, the very heritage that would stare back at me when I would look in the mirror. It took me almost 20 years to embrace it and, among other influences, writing about my experience was instrumental in unraveling the web of self-hatred.
My book, “Hija De Mi Madre” is the culmination of experiences and undergraduate research that describe and explain the effects of my identity as an African Latina on my life. It is a combination of memoirs, poems and research material that not only explain the effects of race on identity from an academic standpoint but also shares my own life as a living example. Self-hatred is a disease that runs rampant throughout much of the African Diaspora due to colonization and the dehumanization that occurred at that time. In the Latino culture, the African component of the Latino identity is often ignored, denied and is not usually a subject that is up for discussion. The original reason I wrote my book was because of one of my last classes while still at SUNY New Paltz.
I was in a class called, “Women in the Caribbean,” and one of the topics for discussion was the Afro Latina identity. At the time, as I was still exploring my racial identity, this topic took hold of my attention and I decided to do my final paper on the topic. It was hard to find writing by Afro Latinos as I did my research. After I finished the paper, I decided to add my voice to the research I had done.
These days, I am still ever learning about my racial identity. And ever since I made the choice to write and complete my book, more and more awareness is building around the subject of African ancestry in the Latino culture has cropped up in many places. Events, books, and even documentaries are telling our story in full. Tonight, I am in a reflective mood, as I think of who I was when I started my book and who I am now. My journey in understanding all I can about my roots is continious; my place in history as a woman of the African Diaspora is one of the lens I look at the world through. These days my attention has shifted to empowering women in my community to make the best choices for themselves at childbirth. As I pursue certification as a birth doula (to be done by the end of this year, god-willing), I recognize how much love heals not only my own emotional, psychological and mental scars but also how the love I have been cultivating for myself affects those around me.
As a writer, I have been aware for a long time that words are powerful; they can birth worlds. I find that I speak sometimes for those who can’t find the words to say what they are feeling; yet I also understand that everyone has a story. And as I tell my story, at presentations and even one-on-one, I realize that not only do we all have stories, but they too are ever changing. They are influenced by the stories that we become a part of; the ones we interact with, burn bridges with, start new chapters with. I suppose all this talk about stories is a roundabout way of expressing this point I’m at in my life. This new chapter of embarking on becoming a birth professional and bringing the love and lessons I’ve been learning about being an Afro-Latina woman into that new venture has showed me the importance of a few things. Relating to other through our stories, gaining strength to continue on our paths and moments of self-reflection are essential in the path to self-awareness.
And I hope that when I share my story with others, that they feel this. That they know their story is important too, and that I can’t wait to hear about it.
If you’re interested in checking out my work, here are links to my thoughts, words and my book:
My blogspot: http://www.reluctantbeauty.blogspot.com
My Tumblr: http://www.mujerinterrumpida.tumblr.com
My presentation at my alma mater on my book: http://www.veoh.com/browse/videos/category/activism_non_profit/watch/v19049189fKrhNBPa
Where you can get my book: http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/hija-de-mi-madre/7682210