Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you?
It is important because Black Latinos need a voice. We are always chalked over as other things and not as the Black Latinos that we are. We are looked over and ignored and looked in disbelief. I am more than just dark skin person. I am a dark person who speaks Spanish, comes from a different culture and that is important to me. That is one of the reasons to continue to remind people that we are here and we have made quiet an impact in the world and will not continue being dismissed.
What has been the impact, both positive and negative of people not seeing you as a Black Latino/Afro Latino?
Latinos not accepting me and dismissing me. I am using that word a lot but it’s the truth. You are checked off as something else and not who you are. Latinos don’t see you, white people don’t see you and African Americans don’t know how to take you. They don’t know. We are in a category all by itself. No matter how I feel, in this world I am still a black person subjected to everything that all black people in this world face. Being a Latino and Black on top of it you get pushed down in a hole. When people say I don’t look Hispanic I get really upset. The Latino look in the industry is light, long hair etc. We find many conforming to fit it. With my nappy hair and my ashy skin, my big lips and my long nose. I am Black Latino and Proud.
How do you Amplify/show up in a Latinx world that expects us all to look like J Lo and Marc Anthony?
I count on the fluidity of my language, embracing my culture to the best of my ability. Those that see me are open minded. When I enter Latino spaces I get looked at differently but I show up with my Cuban accent, my culture. I was here by myself and I held on to my Cubanism by myself. Being a Black Latino Cuban are important to me, it is my brand.
Message for BHM– Continue to study your history all year round, every day, every moment. Be inclusive of the Black Latino history in that study, in your awareness. Keep your voice alive!
BIO: Alexis Rene Garcia, professionally known as Naheem, has been an actor and theatre educator for more than twenty years. He grew up in Boston, arriving here from Cuba with his mother, grandmother and aunt in 1968. He is proudly bilingual (English and Spanish) and known for his deep, mellifluous voice.
Naheem has worked extensively in the Northeast, including with The Huntington Theatre Company, Boston Youth Theatre, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Company One, Kennedy Library (Moakley Public Speaking Program), and New African Theatre Company. He is an adjudicator for Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild, known as the GUILD. In recognition of his excellence as a theatre educator, he represented the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation for NeighborWorks American and Community Leadership Institute in 2017.
A member of AFTRA and SAG, Naheem has appeared in several prominent Hollywood-and independently-produced feature films.