Celebrating African Roots
by Yvette Lepolata Aduke Modestin
“I am a part of the fabric of this country, the betterment of this country, and people like me, don’t dismiss us. We do have something to offer.” –Clementina (Tina) Chéry
“There is nothing better than being able to trace who I am. I love my skin color. I love everything that makes me Dominican. I love my heritage, I love the food, and I love where it comes from and the connection to Africa. I just love it. I wouldn’t want to be anything else.” – Anne Hernandez
In this series you will hear from those who enter through their roots, those who claim it from pigmentation and those who do not see an option and stand firmly in that power.
We are living in times where we are being pushed to choose sides at the risk of denying our full selves. For Afro Latinos, that becomes a deep internal struggle. Our experiences are very race based yet our movement is cultural. We navigate both worlds on a daily basis. Some of us center our Blackness while still knowing that within that, our cultural norms are very much centered in the same place. The colorism within the community is heightened in these interviews. You will see that darker pigmentation at times determines the outcomes.
A few of the voices grew up rooted in their Black identity yet Boston put that in question. I went for the truth and got that from each person. Each one speaks to the different stages of grounding self in their identity and unmasking what many try to hide. Some of the interviews may seem long to you but it was difficult to interrupt the vibe. One of the voices spoke in Spanish which carries a different drum beat. You will also see why Encuentro Diaspora Afro includes Haiti in the Afro Latina dialogue. Due to the historical truth of the island that was once Hispaniola, Haiti becomes a part of the conversation on race in Santo Domingo. This proximity has shaped black identity on the island.
We all know the reason the term Afro-Latinx exist and why it needs to be used. I also know that the term has not made my journey easier. My full self is not seen in the term Afro-Latina because the term ‘Latina’ means white, light skin, in today’s society. Is it time to create a space for this critical conversation? Is it time to really name the elephant in the room? These interviews touch on all of it.
I ask the readers to sit with the discomfort. Celebrate the joy that shows up in their words. See yourself in their journey and walk away with something that will uplift yours. The blog is a re-introduction, a place to begin framing a new narrative, a place for liberation, change and healing. We are all still learning. Let us use this opportunity to do it together. Let us dismantle the tools that divides us.
In light and peace,
Yvette Lepolata Aduke Modestin
Black History Month Blog Guests
Clementina (Tina) Chéry Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and home country *That is a heavy question and is important to ask especially in this type of climate, I learned the importance of this after my son was killed. I came to this country when I was 10 years […]
Luz Villar Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and home country I think it’s important because of where I live and where I was born in the United States. Living here and growing up in this society, I understand that I am Dominican and Boricua and because I show […]
Omar Suazo Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and home country It is important for me especially because of the different cultures. Afro Latino is important because we get to identify ourselves in the United States through language and culture. In my country, we have differences between Afro-Latino and […]
Clara Angelina Diaz Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and home country I was born in the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic, I didn’t have questions about am I different or how am I different. I just didn’t have that awareness then. However, I did see that people […]
Thabiti Brown Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and home country I am always interested in thinking about identity and how it impacts what you do in the world and how the world sees you and what you do. For me, I think a lot about my own cultural […]
Paloma Valenzuela Why is important to identify as an Afro descendant? My father is Dominican and my mother is White Jewish-American. I identify as a biracial woman of color, Dominican-American, Jewish American, Latina and Afro descendant from my father’s side. I acknowledge and embrace my complex mixed background and acknowledge my light skinned privilege as […]
Beyazmin Jimenez Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and home country I identify as an Afro Latina as a way to affirm that history that I think is often forgotten for us. I think the fact that I came to the US at 4 years old, even though I […]
Nedelka Prescod Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and home country I know that I am Black but I also know that I am not African American and growing up in Brooklyn in a predominantly Black, predominantly Caribbean culture that wasn’t even a thought. I think coming up to Boston […]
Anne Hernandez Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and home country I have been reflecting on my experience in the DR. I was born and raised in the DR. I came to Boston when I was 12 years old. I have been looking back at being a Black Dominican […]
YVETTE LEPOLATA ADUKE MODESTIN
About the Author
Yvette Modestin, a writer, poet and activist was born and raised in Colon, Panama. Ms. Modestin was named one of “30 Afro Latinas you should know.” Ms. Modestin has been profiled by the Boston Globe as “The Uniter” for her work in bringing the Latin American and African American community together and for her activism in building a voice for the Afro Latino/Afro descendant Community of Latin America and the Caribbean. She is Founder/Executive Director of Encuentro Diaspora Afro in Boston, MA. Ms. Modestin is the Diaspora Coordinator of the Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocaribeñas y de la Diaspora an international network of Afro descendent women. Ms. Modestin writes a blog about the events and experiences in the community called ‘Reflections from the African Diaspora.’ Ms. Modestin was recently recognized by the Boston City Council Black History Month event celebrating ‘Black Immigrant Achievers in Boston. Ms. Modestin received the inaugural “Every Woman is an Activist” Award from March Forward Massachusetts. In September of 2018 she was named as one of the ’10 Central American Poets you should be reading. In March 2018 on International Women’s Day, she was named as one of the Latina Women Who Inspire. She was recently named as one of the Top 5 Latina Activist by Wear Your Voice Media. Ms. Modestin is the narrator of the film ‘Cimarronaje en Panama/Maroons in Panama’ a film by Toshi Sakai.
She is one of the editors and writers of the book, “Women Warriors of the Afro Latina Diaspora”. Ms. Modestin is a contributor to the books, The Afro-Latino Reader; History and Culture in the US, Afro- Latinos in Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism, The Trayvon Martin in US: An American Tragedy, The Psychological Health of Woman of Color. She is one of the featured poets in the book,” Rapsodia Antillana.” She is featured poet in, “Antologia de Poesia Colonense,” which is an Anthology of poets from her hometown of Colon from 1900-2012 and the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro Latin American Biography. She is a proud member of the Finishers Fit Club. As an artist, a mental health clinician, wellness facilitator, community organizer, educator and Ifa practitioner, Ms. Modestin speaks to the resistance and resiliency of people of African descent. Her purpose is to move with the intent of lifting the voices of the ancestors.