Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you?
I think for me in particular because I grew up in both places it was because of my family. The value and the significance was at the forefront for me. I only had black dolls growing up as a kid. In that time, I don’t know how my mother did it but she did. She raised me to see myself in a good light. I figured this out now what she was doing. She wanted me to be proud of who I am. My mother always had an Afro. Watching her go there, into community spaces, she was a release nurse, climbing mountains and doing things for people. That advocacy from that point was always there. She was thinking outside the box, that is why her daughter thinks outside the box. ☺ I happen to be lucky that my mother although she didn’t have it, she passed it down to me. What do I see, principio por principio es importante? Saber tu valor, saber quien eres es importante. Values are important. Es muy interesante en general mis primos no tienen las misma ideas. It is really my mother who instilled that in me. When I teach kids, I bring that perspective in the teaching. They get a global perspective. That drives my work and purpose.
What has been the impact, both positive and negative of people not seeing you as a Black Latino/Afro Latino?
*Para mi eso ha sido lo mas difícil aquí. For me here. I had this classmate for years and ran into her as an adult and found out she was from Honduras. Things like that, assumptions especially in the US is hard. One of the things I say to people when you are here in the US you spend time trying to figure out which group you associate yourself with and in Latin America you are just Black. The last few years I had to deal with the racism that I found more overt both here and Honduras. People ignored me through my husband’s case. We are struggling in both places. In Honduras, Afro Hondurans are more educated per capita.
The other thing is when you are here we get bunched in but when we walk in the spaces we are not seen even if we have the most education and experience. I ask, which is more accepting the African American experience or the African Diaspora experience? We need to look at the critical race theory. Dealing with all those barriers that are still there. Until we find a collective way to deal with it we are going to be stuck. When we get positions you get stuck politically. We want position versus how do we mobilize. That characteristic is still lacking. How do we mobilize to affect change? We are carrying a heavy load walking up these stairs. Somos pocas. We have so many people in our community who are afraid to speak. It is so little of us, although we are a big group we are small in movement. The Latino community needs to deal with a critical race theory. Until we deal with that, we will keep thinking, we are a homogeneous community. No we are not! Until we deal with that, we will continue fighting against each other. I’m proud of who I am, all the work and the history that I come with.
How do you Amplify/show up in a Latinx world that expects us all to look like J.Lo and Marc Anthony?
For me, believe it or not, I already knew what I wanted to do as a kid. I stood on a rock and told my father I was going to change my situation. I looked at my dad and said, I was going to change that. I knew already that I was going to do something for our voices to be heard. I want people to see us more. I knew I wanted to make a change. For me in particular, I went to college to have the information to match what I know I was going to do, what I do now today. The kids that come to see me, I want them to know that they are just as special they are just as popular. Carrying the message of how important I am is how I amplify. We have been taught not to see our own beauty we have been taught that beauty is J Lo and Marc Anthony. Wearing my hair natural was instilled in me. Nothing against those who don’t but it was never my thing.
Message for BHM- One of the things I would say, we are inclusive of this community not exclusive. There is value of what we bring, our perspective. We have racism within our community and we need to figure out a way to have these conversations. We celebrate our family all the time. We live in history of who we are as a people. They label us for doing our ancestral work but we do that as a community, collectively because we know that makes a difference. I am breathing and living my history 365 days. That candle, that water, yo estoy reconociendo la gente alante de mi. That is what we bring, those indigenous practices. I remember those people I don’t know them but I saw their pictures, the candle. That is our narrative the scholarly word that we already knew, from the inside out.
BIO: Sendy Vaughn Suazo is a first-generation immigrant to the United States of America. At an early age, she realized that there was an inequality of opportunities for children in families like hers and dedicated her life to finding more resources for her community through community organizing, policy development, politics, and education. Sendy has worked in different mediums with Afro-descendant organizations in Honduras to support them. She created their SWOT analysis profile for international and local support. She has researched the Educational Impact of Transnationalism among Garinagu (Garifunas) and Afro descendants of Central America. She is currently working on a national census of the Garinagu and Afro descendants of Latin America and the Caribbean living in the United States. Her focus is base on community-based research investigates how transnationalism impacts outcomes in the Garifuna and Afro-descendant communities of Central America and the Caribbean. Through community forums, her community-based study aims for the community members to gain a better understanding of a variety of questions they want to answer through grassroots efforts.