Why is identifying as a Black Latino/Afro Latino important to you? Here and in your 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 is the first time I had to think, oh, I’m Black. Now I am looking at myself. You know what it is, when I came up here, I started to look at myself and say, I hope you are not thinking I am a ‘Nigger’, is what it became. So, I always knew I was Black. Plus, our people, Panama, Colon, is Black leadership so we are not unfamiliar in knowing and seeing Black people in Power. I think when it got interesting in terms of the Afro Latina part, I didn’t have the name for it until I came to Boston. I guess I arrived here in the time of identifying one self. I always felt like something was different. I was being treated differently by American females. I knew that I was not American but I did not know that there was something about the way we carry ourselves. I am not saying one is better than the other but we, those of us from the Caribbean, those of us who have that Black Spanish background, it is a different vibe from those who have the African American pathway. So, I found that it was necessary for me to identify as such for me to feel beautiful because I was made to feel less than. Especially because after a certain point, it came out of having to affirm myself after feeling a little beat up. I am not trying to blame anyone but my experience is my experience.
What has been the impact both positive and negative of people not seeing you as a Black Latino/Afro Latina?
The people who probably don’t see me as an Afro Latina are the people who have a hard time seeing the Latina on me because I don’t speak Spanish. Other people know I am Black Latina but in the community you are not legitimate if you don’t speak the language even though everything else about me and my village is first of all just Panama, all that it is. My parents came here in the sixties. I am not sure they had Black Spanish speaking experiences. I think when they came here they lived and had more of an African American experience. When it doesn’t work for me, and this is something I want to work on is usually through language. On the other hand of that, white folk, would make the assumption that I was born here and when they realized that I wasn’t they would say, ‘I thought you were Black.’
I think there is something in the way we carry ourselves, something in the culture and in the pride of it. We blow people’s mind when people would say slick stuff and we respond. I may not speak fluently but I sure know how to respond. I love that! It is the assumption that we don’t come in myriad beautiful expressions. I love how black and Spanish expresses. I like that I connect with a 12’8. I know that my rhythm in a 12’8. When I finally realized that, I would be like, that’s why I sing like that. I love how that culture influences, it’s another perspective. I bring this other expression to the table. I think it annoys people some time. I love that there is a whole tribe before me and after me that are coming that we have, that someone has no understanding about and it’s this rich beautiful culture that I am excited to be a part of.
How do you Amplify in a Latinx world that expects us to all look like J Lo and Marc Anthony?
I demand my space. I don’t need to be your complexion. I don’t need to completely know every word in Spanish but you cannot take away from me what I know and how I was raised by this. I know how to cook rice and peas. I stand in that. It is nothing that I need to express to anyone and so when I stand in my space, I marvel at ignorance. I am not at that point anymore that I need to prove anything. I look forward to focusing on building my access of speaking the language but other than that, I just stand.
I am huge on Know Thyself. Take a moment. I have to have this conversation with my son because the way black people are pictured, school system makes it seem like it is easier to be white. We are taught that our story starts from slavery. We can’t even imagine that we were walking in royalty. Take a minute to do the research. The low self-esteem that we have about our Blackness would be eradicated if we understood what we created, we are a generous people. We are very forgiving. My hope would be that, if you have never done it before, just take a moment and take some time to do some thorough searching into your trail back.
Nedelka F. Prescod is a vocalist, arranger, songwriter, teacher, and a mother. Nedelka has performed or shared the stage with such living legends as Kenny Garrett, Danilo Perez, Fred Hersch, Jason Moran, Jowee Omicil, and with the Omar Thomas Large Ensemble. Nedelka can be found on the recording projects of, and has recorded with, Kenny Garrett, Danilo Perez, Marcello Pellitteri, Jowee Omicil, up and coming hip hop artist, Radamiz, as well as her independently released solo recording project, Manifest (2008) and her recently released single, “The Light”, available on Bandcamp. Nedelka has performed backing vocals for Alicia Keys, Jonathan Nelson, Jason Nelson and Dorothy Norwood. She is also a former longtime member and mezzo soprano/contralto soloist of the recently dissolved, Roy A. Prescod Chorale, a community ensemble committed to presenting lesser known oratorios to the local community and throughout the Caribbean and Central America.
As an independent solo artist, Nedelka has performed domestically and internationally in various genres. Her preference is the art of beautifully singing any song. The mother of an awesome son and the daughter of proud Panamanians, Nedelka is a perpetual student pursuing independent studies in the sacred music, dance, culture and spirituality of African Diasporic cultures, as well as Women’s Studies. Nedelka is a self-taught artisan of beaded and natural materials jewelry and is a bibliophile.