They Said I Had Bad Hair


By: Suyent Rodriguez 

Me dijeron que tenia pelo bueno

Because it flowed in the wind

…when it was relaxed

“You can brush her hair all you want

but it will curl up eventually”

Mami’s coworkers said

When I was a baby she loved my hair because it was straight and soft

Little did she know,

It would in fact curl up

When I was old enough to hold my arm up

my dad’s hair was the first thing I reached for.

And his curls I would twirl on my fingers

All day long

But I never played with my mom’s hair

Little did we know,

I internalized the message

of a beauty standard that isn’t our own

Our Afrikan ancestors passed our melanin on to us,

Along with a hair that is so so good

So I let it grow,

And now your crown doesn’t fit

And your beauty standards…

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United Nations of Melanin

By Yokary Cruz-Garcia — Growing up in the Dominican Republic, people told me how lucky I was that my light-skinned father is a fourth generation Spaniard. I was the “piel morena ” with good hair, blessed because I didn’t need a “desrizado ” to straighten my hair. People made comments about my dark-skinned mother’s good fortune to “refinar la raza.” She made our family “proud” by giving birth to two children with Spaniard features.

Hearing people use terms like “advancing the race” upset me so much . Why is being black so bad? Dominicans have a hard time accepting their origins. They don’t want to admit their closeness to Haitians or accept that most of us have more African blood than Taino blood . Why is my mother’s black skin not beautiful? I had so many questions, and not many answers.

yokaryMy family has a mix of color from white to…

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Beyond the aesthetic question, kinky/curly hair is a symbol of resistance against racism: after straightening for years, woman feels empowered with natural hair

Black Brazil Today


Note from BW of Brazil: The discovery of the beauty in kinky/curly hair is a process that tens of thousands of Afro-Brazilian women are experiencing these days (see here and here). Obviously more than simply an issue of beauty aesthetics, it is a symbol of the struggle against the racist concepts of the beautiful and the ugly that permeate Brazilian society. The fact that the story below is so common among black women reveals how people of visible African ancestry struggle with self-acceptance when everyone is taught to believe that certain features, such as straight hair, are better than others. Below is yet another example of the natural hair revolution that is has slowly taken place in Brazil over the past few decades. 

Raísa Azeredo

Beyond the aesthetic question, kinky/curly hair is a symbol of resistance against racism

Stories such as that of the publicist Raísa Azeredo, who started straightening…

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Argentina Rediscovers Its African Roots


The chapel in the small lakeside resort community of Chascomús is at best underwhelming. Its whitewashed brick exterior is partly obstructed by a tangle of vines and bushes, and its dim, one-room interior is no more majestic than its facade. Wooden pews and an uneven dirt floor are scarcely illuminated by sunlight from a single window. The gray, cracked, dusty walls are adorned with crosses, photos, icons — things people leave to mark their pilgrimage. A low front altar is layered with thick candle wax, flowers and a pantheon of black saints, Madonnas and African deities like the sea goddess Yemanja of the Yoruba religion.

Despite its unkempt state, this chapel, the Capilla de los Negros, attracts a little over 11,000 tourists each year who come to see a church named for the freed slaves who built it in 1861.

The chapel is “where we can locate ourselves and point out the truth that we are here,” said Soledad Luis, an Afro-Argentine from the tourism office who led me through the space. She knows it well. It sits on a plot her great-grandfather helped secure, and her family still gathers there weekly for a meal.

Capilla de los Negros feels off the beaten path, but it is part of a list of slave sites in Argentina created in 2009 by Unesco. Its inclusion signals the growing consciousness of African heritage in Argentina, seemingly the most Europeanized country in South America.

Argentina at one time had a robust African presence because of the slaves who were brought there, but its black population was decimated by myriad factors including heavy casualties on the front lines in the War of the Triple Alliance against Paraguay in the 1860s; a yellow fever epidemic that rich, white Argentines largely escaped; and interracial offspring who, after successive generations, shed their African culture along with their features. And European immigration swelled the white population — 2.27 million Italians came between 1861 and 1914.

The demographic shift has been sharp. In 1800, on the eve of revolution with Spain, blacks made up more than a third of the country, 69,000 of a total population of 187,000, according to George Reid Andrews’s 2004 book “Afro-Latin America.” In 2010, 150,000 identified themselves as Afro-Argentine, or a mere 0.365 percent of a population of 41 million people, according to the census, the first in the country’s history that counted race.

But the culture the slaves brought with them remained. And in recent years, Argentina has gone from underselling its African roots to rediscovering them, as academics, archaeologists, immigrants and a nascent civil rights movement have challenged the idea that African and Argentine are mutually exclusive terms.

Some see creating tourist trails, with plaques and brochures, as a way to educate locals and tourists alike about this long-suppressed history. In my several visits the last few years and during my time living in the country, the trail led me to the other Argentina, one that is just starting to be woven into the country’s narrative about itself.

MY FIRST STOP required some dancing shoes. I dropped in on a tango lesson at the Movimiento Afrocultural on Buenos Aires’s Calle Defensa in San Telmo. The cultural institution was started in 2009 to promote African and African-Argentine heritage. As I scanned its events calendar, there were many activities that had an obvious African bent, but tango?

“There are no doubts that tango has an African origin,” the teacher, Veronica Rueco, told me. Together, we watched locals and tourists practice their dance moves in the center, a converted warehouse whose walls were lined with candombe drums carved with images of slave ship hulls filled with chained human cargo. “The only doubt is the exact story of how it came about.”

The dance form, she went on to note, was created in the late 1800s, the result of a fusion of African and European immigrant culture. (The term tango is thought to originate from a Niger-Congo term that survived the trans-Atlantic passage along with the slaves, according to Dr. Erika Edwards of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.)

The center’s director, an Afro-Uruguayan named Diego Bonga, leads a drum circle that draws a diverse crowd. The night I attended there were Porteños (from Buenos Aires), Chileans, Uruguayans and even a woman from Iran. The curious peered through the gates at us. Those onlookers are part of the party on Sundays, the neighborhood’s busiest day, when antiques vendors line Defensa, and Plaza Dorrego becomes an open-air milonga, or tango salon, with performers, locals and tourists dancing past midnight. That day, Movimiento Afrocultural holds a candombe parade. Spectators become participants, dancing on the cobblestones in the jittery shake of a murga comparsa, an Argentine dance popular during Carnival season, also rooted in African culture.

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Jesús Colón -Little things are big

This a short story by a writer called Jesús Colón (1901–1974) An Afro-puertorican writer known as the father of Nuyorican Movement.

I’ve been thinking; you know, sometimes one thing happens to change your life, how you look at things, how you look at yourself. I remember one particular event. It was when? 1955 or ’56…a long time ago. Anyway, I had been working at night. I wrote for the newspaper and, you know, we had deadlines. It was late after midnight on the night before Memorial Day. I had to catch the train back to Brooklyn; the West side IRT. This lady got on to the subway at 34th and Penn Station, a nice looking white lady in her early twenties. Somehow she managed to push herself in with a baby on her right arm and a big suitcase in her left hand. Two children, a boy and a girl about three and five years old trailed after her.

Anyway, at Nevins Street I saw her preparing to get off at the next station, Atlantic Avenue. That’s where I was getting off too. It was going to be a problem for her to get off; two small children, a baby in her arm, and a suitcase in her hand. And there I was also preparing to get off at Atlantic Avenue. I couldn’t help but imagine the steep, long concrete stairs going down to the Long Island Railroad and up to the street. Should I offer my help? Should I take care of the girl and the boy, take them by their hands until they reach the end of that steep long concrete stairs?

Courtesy is important to us Puerto Ricans. And here I was, hours past midnight, and the white lady with the baby in her arm, a suitcase and two white children badly needing someone to help her. 

I remember thinking; I’m a *Negro and a Puerto Rican. Suppose I approach this white lady in this deserted subway station late at night? What would she say? What would be the first reaction of this white American woman? Would she say: ‘Yes, of course you may help me,’ or would she think I was trying to get too familiar or would she think worse? What do I do if she screamed when I went to offer my help? I hesitated. And then I pushed by her like I saw nothing as if I were insensitive to her needs. I was like a rude animal walking on two legs just moving on, half running along the long the subway platform, leaving the children and the suitcase and the woman with the baby in her arms. I ran up the steps of that long concrete stairs in twos and when I reached the street, the cold air slapped my warm face.

Perhaps the lady was not prejudiced after all. If you were not that prejudiced, I failed you, dear lady. If you were not that prejudiced I failed you; I failed you too, children. I failed myself. I buried my courtesy early on Memorial Day morning. 

So, here is the promise I made to myself back then: if I am ever faced with an occasion like that again, I am going to offer my help regardless of how the offer is going to be received. Then I will have my courtesy with me again.”


Alonso de Illescas


In 1997, the National Congress of Ecuador declared October 2, the national day of Black Ecuadorians giving formal recognition to Alonso de Illescas (pronounced O-lone-zo Day EE-yes-cahs) a native of Senegal, West Africa.

At the age of about 10 years, he was captured by slave traders and taken as a slave to Spain. He was baptized and confirmed in Seville with the name of Enrique. He later took the name of his master, the merchant Alonso de Illescas.

He lived in Seville for seventeen years before he was sent to the Caribbean to assist his owners. He first spent time on the island of Santo Domingo where his owners established a merchant enterprise which included clothing, cured meats, swords, horses, olive oil, wine, and the selling of Africans

In contrast to the lives of other Africans who were brought to the Americas as slaves, Illescas more than likely never worked on a sugar plantation or in a rice field. Instead, he was a trusted personal servant expected to perform many duties for his owners and probably served as elder Illescas’ personal servant during his youth in Seville. From the Indies he traveled to Panama and then to Peru, the silver-producing capital of the early Spanish Empire. Records indicate that he and Alvaro, one of his owners, were active in Peru by 1551.[5] In 1553, he along with twenty-three “Guinea slaves” departed the port of Panama on the southbound journey to Lima, Peru. The journey proved to be typical in that the ship’s pilot had to contend with north and westerly Pacific Ocean currents and therefore decided to seek harbor in San Mateo Bay on the Esmeraldas coast. In spite of this, the ship ran aground inside the bay and stranded the crew, passengers, and slaves onshore. They were forced to travel along ragged shorelines to reach the nearest settlement, Puerto Viejo. In the course of the journey, Illescas and the other slaves decided to seize the moment to head into dense forest and claim their freedom.

Illescas, along with his fellow escapees, struggled to survive at first, making alliances with and attacks against native communities. The first leader of the group was an African named Antón.

Anton later died and Illescas eventually rose to a position of leadership by way of alliances that he struck with the local Nigua indigenous communities. He officially became the leader of his Maroon community in the late 1560s. Throughout the rest of the sixteenth century under his leadership, the community came to include Amerindians and even a few Europeans.

Allonso was a skilled negotiator and knew how to win the friendship of the Indians, making appropriate partnerships, particularly with the tribe of the chiggers. An account by Miguel Cabello de Balboa has it that Alonso was once invited to a great feast with the powerful Indian chief Chilianduli and his people in the village of Dobe, surprisingly at the end of the party Alonso and the marrons killed 500 Indians, and Alonso de Illescas therefore became the new lord of the people.

For the Indians there was no choice but to agree and accept the newcomers.They therefore supported Alonso and his free blacks in the fight against enemy tribes, especially the dreaded Campaces. As a sign of alliance the Indians awarded their women as a trophy to the black warriors of Allonso to marry, many formed polygamous partnerships, and their offspring at first were referred to as mulattoes by the Spanish and by the 1590s as zambos, giving rise to a new breed of people in South America “the zambo of Esmeraldas.”

Alonso was cunning, brave in war, with his quite literary abilities in Spanish language also quickly learned the local languages. With the Spanish colonizers he maintained a relationship that could define as “hate and love,” in order to preserve their autonomy while leveraging their friendship.

He established his people in the headwaters of Atacames, called San Martin de la Campaces, the place of which was the historic meeting with the priest Miguel Cabello de Balboa, in the month of September 1577.

In the 1570s Illescas’ Maroon community also began trading with Spanish ships that periodically stopped on the Esmeraldas coast.

The region’s remote geography with dense forests and mangroves and the indigenous inhabitants’ (Campazes who lived south of the Bay of San Mateo)[8] prolonged resistance to Spanish rule helped to enable the Maroon community to survive for generations.

Illescas never took bribes, and even rejected the title of governor when many politicians gave up their properties to take on the title of governor of Esmeraldas. Alonso IIlescas trained new leaders starting with his son Alonso Sebastian de Illescas and his grandson Jerónimo (Geronimo) so that they be loving of justice and liberty and keep their territory free of Spanish rule. Although, Esmeraldas was the first province invaded by the Spanish, it was the alliance between Blacks and Indigenous people that kept the Spanish from taking full control.

Near the end of Illescas’ life, he ruled his community with the help of two sons, Sebastián and Antonio There is no historical record of Alonso de Illescas after the 1590s. Therefore, he must have died in the Esmeraldas region at some point between 1587 and 1596. While Illescas did not live long enough to witness a peace agreement with the Real Audiencia of Quito, it was achieved. His son Sebastián obtained the title of Don and was recognized as leader over the Illescas Maroons by 1600. In addition, Sebastián received the sacrament of confirmation by Quito’s bishop in 1600 and he took Alonso as his confirmation name. Illescas’ family ruled Esmeraldas for at least two more generations.

Miguel Cabello de Balboa a Spanish priest openly acknowledged in his letters to the King of Spain that Alonso de Illescas was a man of superior qualities. He wrote to King telling him that it was not so easy to subdue a man who was so well prepared and knew how to defend in all fields.

Toyin Ashiru

La Bomba



Bomba is an Afro-Puerto Rican folkloric music style developed throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries by west African slaves brought to the island by the Spanish. It is a communal activity that still thrives in its traditional centers of Loíza, Santurce, Mayagüez, Ponce, and New York City. The traditional musical style has been diffused throughout the United States following the Puerto Rican Diaspora, especially in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, California, and Florida. It also became increasingly popular in Peru, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, and has largely influenced Afro-Latino music styles within these countries.

More than just a genre of music, it’s most defining characteristic is the encounter and creative relationship between dancers, percussionists, and singers. Dance is an integral part of the music. It is popularly described as a challenge/connection, or an art of “call and answer,” in which two or more drums follow the rhythms and moves of the dancers. The challenge requires great physical shape and usually continues until either the drummer or the dancer discontinues.

There are several styles of bomba, and the popularity of these styles varies by region. There are three basic rhythms, as well as many others that are mainly variations of these: Yubá, Sicá and Holandés. Other styles include Cuembé, Bámbula, Cocobalé, and Hoyomula.


We are Afro-Mexican|”I am Blaxican”

Life as Karen

This week I decided to interview my dad; my inspiration for this project. The interview was conducted in Spanish, the English version is translated!

Esta semana decidi entrevistar a mi papa; la inspiracion para este proyecto.


K:¿De donde eres?Where are you from?

M:Soy de Santo Domingo Armenta Oaxaca, pero me fui a Acapulco, Guerrero a la edad de 4 años

I am from Santo Domingo Armenta Oaxaca, but I moved to Acapulco,Guerrero when I was 4 years old.

K:¿En que año te venistes a E.U? Y por que?What year did you migrate to the U.S, and why?

M:Vine a Estados Unidos en 1999, a lo que todos venimos, buscando una vida mejor para nuestras familias

I came to the U.S in the year 1999, for the same reason that we all come here for; a better way of life for our families.

K: ¿

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