Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and in your 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 were treated differently. La gente con la piel blanca, pelo straight, la gente bonita but that’s as far as it went. Then I came to the United States and my mentality here was to work real hard, twice as hard and that’s what you do to make it. And then recently, I kid you not, just a few years ago, I started to learn about this whole, this body of study about white supremacy culture, racism, oppression and systematic oppression. I mean, my mind was blown.
So to me, coming from where I come from and now having quote, unquote, education on how the differences and how we are seen because of our skin color and who we are. It is embedded in how society is set up for us people of color. It just brings me to wow, my roots. That is where I find solace. I ask, where does my drive come from? From the spirit of my ancestors who had to fight for their survival, like I get it. It’s not just about me wanting more for myself.
What has been the impact both positive and negative of people not seeing you as a Black Latino/Afro Latino?
The impetus to do more comes with history it lives in my body. So, for me identifying as an Afro Latina came from my being ‘naïve’ to then feeling a sense of enragement when I realized like wow, I was so blind. I have a different understanding of where I fit in the puzzle because I understand my heritage, my lineage and where it all fits in society. Honestly, I was very naïve to the way that I was perceived in the workplace, first of all. Yo siempre era la primera, the youngest, la unica de color in the room. I started working at 18 at Bank of America. So for me, those early experiences, I didn’t see that being different was a problem. I saw it as they nurtured me. Now in my role as a coach, I feel like I have a bigger responsibility to speak on what I represent and how embracing who I am as an Afro Latina can help people. However, looking back I wonder if things didn’t work out for me because ‘soy una mujer de color.’
The internalized oppression that is expressed is deep. The issue of our hair is an area that is in need of a deeper conversation.
How do you Amplify in a Latinx world that expects us to all look like J Lo and Marc Anthony?
Numero uno, when I think of amplify, I think of me just standing in my utmost truest self. Saying to myself, I am worthy, I am worthy of this life. Therefore, I am going to wake up in joy and no one is going to take that from me. For me, the decision to not process my hair anymore was big because people in my family would say, ‘pero te vez tan linda con tu cabello straight.’ Really showing up as myself. Going to work and wearing colors that’s who I am, that’s how I feel good. Those little decisions become life changing. The other thing is the kind of people I chose to work with, the contribution I chose to make, really owning that. My mindset has shifted from, who is going to give me an opportunity to work to, I have something valuable to contribute and where do I want to pour that light. By finding the freedom to move in that way, sharing that example, gives other people, other women an opportunity to say, well, I don’t have to do what society expects but I can wake up to my own contribution.
What is your message for Black History Month?
First of all, as Latinos we need to understand our history. A lot of Latinos do not see themselves as Afro Latinos. We need to educate ourselves that Africa was the beginning. It is where everything stems from so don’t sit comfortable in your ignorance. Get uncomfortable and really learn from where you truly come from and the richness of that. The contribution that this race has on the world. Number two, get comfortable understating what racism really is and how it lives today, how it lives in your consciousness, in yourself, in your family. We cannot deny the fact that many Latinos are so blind. We want to pretend that we are not perpetuating racism. Really educating ourselves because if we want to change the world, if we want to create an equal world, we need to get uncomfortable and admitting that my understanding of something was limited but it doesn’t have to be that way. The more that we can get comfortable with this mutual understanding the more we can live out our light in the world. You also uplift the collective when we do this. Education is key!
Clara Angelina Diaz is a native of The Dominican Republic. She is a certified master coach, speaker, facilitator and author. She coaches emerging and established entrepreneurs on developing their leadership skills. As a result, her clients increase their emotional intelligence, spiritual awareness, strategic thinking, interpersonal skills, confidence and sense of calm. Clara is booked regularly to speak and deliver workshops on her book “Create Your Best Year, One Day at a Time.”
In her private practice, ClaraFying, LLC she specializes in working with leaders across various industries with a special focus on attorneys, entrepreneurs, and women of color around the world. She offers private coaching, coaching certification training, business mentoring, workshops, and transformational retreats. Clara is also a business mentor with Pepperlane and Entrepreneurship for All, two national efforts to provide access to entrepreneurship to mothers and emerging communities.