The story behind Latinegras is somewhat serendipitous. I have been in television, dance and music for most of my life. These talents accompanied me around the world and helped me to keep my sanity while in school at Cornell University.
Traveling is great because it exposes you to many cultures, but can also prompt you to raise questions about your own identity.
For a while, I was in denial about my identity, trying to blend in wherever I was, or based on how society tells me to identify. However, a person outside of their skin can never find peace.
My first job after graduation was as a French Teacher. My students frequently questioned me about my identity - I'd just laugh and say, "I'm Black" then smile, but they always probed for more; A deeper explaination. They understood that Black is a universal yet generic descriptor. Perhaps that is why I felt the term best suited me because it would not require me to give any further details.
One day after class, a student was looking at my multi-racial family and joked with me that her parents told her not to bring home any dark-skinned guys. I realized at that moment that my intentional ambiguity was a disservice to my community. That night I wrote a song, "Latinegra".
Sweet Honey Sun-Kissed
Brown girl with the curls
Not the typical Latina
Nieta de Africa,
Mi negra es bella
I learned to love me
Cause I can't change it
Stepping out with dignity
The way God made me...
The second verse begins with the line "Love the Skin that You're In". I recognized that I should no longer live for approval, I had to love my own skin in my own terms and be happy the way I was made.
When I shared the song with the student she listened to it over and over in the headphones with her head down on my desk.
Although LATINEGRAS is about my personal identity, as I shared the song and the story about why I made the music, I watched how it transformed, not just Latinegras like me, but it also inspired people who encountered any challenges to Love the Skin they are In.
Today, Latinegras - the organization, works to uplift ALL peope who are silenced, villified, marginalized, ridiculed, bullied, mis-represented, underrepresented, exoticized, and abused. Through service projects, videos, music, social media, educational and artistic endeavors we strive to promote activities that lead those who are afflicted , to love themselves better.