We are alive in a very powerful moment in history, it is likely that most of us in communities of color do not recognize the validity of that statement as currently we grieve too many losses. As I scroll through my social media timelines and insert my own voice in the conversation among my “friends,” I realize that I am one of few Latinos who identify with the values of #BlackLivesMatter or openly speaks in recognition of the need for #BlackLivesMatter. I am quick to think it is disheartening my community does not care enough, I am understanding that some Latinos just don’t know how or where to insert our voices if we do not identify as “Black” or even “American.” Maybe some of us do not care to, ignorant to History in the U.S. and not knowledgeable of just how influenced Latino movements here and in our home countries have been by Black-led revolutions and social justice movements. It is imperative that we remain in unity, and not in denial of where we stand.
In the past, Latinos have been influenced by and inspired to join movements like the Civil Rights Movement, join student organizations like SNCC, and create our own nationalist organizations like The Young Lords Party (notably influenced by the creation and leadership of the Black Panther Party). We have a Latino Studies department at our universities because Latino students were encouraged and motivated by students protesting for a Black or African American Studies departments (not making this up). We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, develop Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) in the same spirit of fighting for equality and creating space for our youth of color. For this generation, the movement is #BlackLivesMatter, and it is undoubtedly awakening the revolutionary senses of Latino youth in the know.
Revolution runs through the veins of Latino history, in our home countries we had to fight for our independence from our colonizing forces and later on from dictatorships and imperialist forces. Let this post serve as a reminder that the conversation remains relevant today, there are still Latino nations fighting for democracy and independence in 2016. Immigration to the United States does not deny our relevance in communities alla, rather it gives us exposure and allows our children existence in more than one place on the globe.
Latinos are here, have been here (put down roots and created history here) and can no longer separate ourselves from American politics as if we are not included. #BlackLivesMatter impacts our Latino brothers and sisters who aqui identify as Black, or are categorized as such by physical attributes like skin color and hair type or even location if residing in predominantly Black and/or Latino communities (i.e., In communities like the Bronx, NY where our Latino men and boys were and are subjected to unjust policies like “Stop & Frisk” or questioning based on “suspicions” usually based on physical appearance). It impacts Latinos who aqui experienced Jim Crow segregation and aqui watched the next generation continue to fight. It does not matter how race in Latin America is constructed when we are discussing and participating in conversations regarding #BlackLivesMatter. When we insert ourselves into the conversation, we insert concerns for a future we continue to build here. We insert the voices of those who came here before us to get a world-class education, take care of their families,or pursue artistic dreams. We insert the voices of those who could not communicate in English and put their heads down as insults were thrown their way and they were devalued as humans. We insert a battle cry for justice for people oppressed by the system, for deliverance on the promise of the American Dream, for freedom and the right to live in the skin we are in without fear of persecution.
I urge us to share our American voices with our families and friends, church leaders and local business owners in both English and in Spanish.