Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you
*It’s important to me because it is who I am. As a child raised in Boston predominantly with my mother, who was from the South, I struggled with the fact that I have family members that I didn’t understand. I would ask, why is it that they talk differently? Why are they speaking Spanish? Why do they speak with an accent? Where is it that they came from? No one on my father’s side spoke to me specifically about Honduras and Garifuna culture. It wasn’t till I got older that I went on a search. Went to Honduras where my father was born. Met my uncle who looked just like my father. Learning more about the Garifuna culture and although I am unclear about all of what it is, I am learning more about who I am and what I come from.
What has been the impact, both positive and negative of people not seeing you as a Black Latino/Afro Latino?
*Positive of me being a Black Latina, is that I feel like a bridge between black and brown people. Right now where I live, the family downs stairs are Puerto Rican and Dominican. Because they know I am a Black Latina they embrace me as family. It also enables me to have a broader perspective between racial identity and Latino culture because often times living in the United States when you hear the term African American it is a bit exclusionary. It doesn’t factor in all the people of African descent who live in the US but were born around the world. The connectivity between Latinos, particularly those of African descent is missed. Negative – I think in corporate America employers are looking to advance Latinos who reflect the images they are used to seeing in the media. Latinx is a broad spectrum of racial and ethnic diversity of many sizes, shapes and hues. My other negative is the discrimination, I experienced from Afro-Latino when I was in Cuba visiting family, I needed a ride to change money. I explained the situation in my limited Spanish to my Afro-Latino cab driver and asked him to take me to the hotel and wait a few minutes until I could get money to pay him. He looked at me with distrust and reluctantly drove me there. His reaction gave me pause to reflect on the divide between this Afro-Cuban and his Latina sister who happened to be born and raised in the US. We all have bias and these biases can be both positive and negative. One of the biases is that, Latinx people have the same look and monolithic experience. These blind spots will lead to missed opportunities.
How do you Amplify/show up in a Latinx world that expects us all to look like J.Lo and Marc Anthony?
Amplify – I show up every time I have to deliver to a room and talk about diversity, dimensions of diversity, intersectionality, and inclusion from different dimension. I talk about how I show up: Black, Woman and Latina is important to me and the value that I bring to the world.
Message for BHM– Two things: Don’t limit yourself. Be extremely proud of every facet you bring to the table – the different cultural nuances, nations, and journeys show the richness we all bring to our collective history. Second – be willing as a people to continue to tell your story especially to folks that have not been exposed to our experience. That is the only way we will be able to build bridges of understanding.
BIO: Gwendolyn stands in the forefront of entrepreneurship and diversity and inclusion. She is an HR professional and diversity and inclusion practitioner with expertise in compliance, strategy, program and event design/management, training and development, and branding and communications. She currently consults with individuals, small businesses, and local and international firms.
She is a Senior Consultant with [email protected], a consultancy focused on learning solutions, strategy and process redesign to improve talent acquisition, retention, and engagement. She is also the Founder and Principal of MS Creative Group. Services include floral and event design, small business development and artist management. Her floral business was featured in the United States Postal Service ad campaign Small Business Solutions.
Gwendolyn holds an MBA from Bentley with concentrations in marketing and entrepreneurship. She has been designated as a Certified Diversity and Inclusion practitioner through the Nation Diversity Council and is a graduate of the Fellows Program of The Partnership Inc.