The Caribbean Student Association and Unidos talk about Afro-Latinos for Black History Month

President of Unidos John Horton begins presentation to discuss the history and origins Afro-Latinos Friday Feb. 22 in B. L. Perry. 
Photo Courtesy of Anire Glenn.

The Florida A&M University Caribbean Student Association and Unidos came together to celebrate Black History Month, Friday Feb. 23 in B. L. Perry. The purpose of the event was to serve as a general body meeting for CSA and Unidos and to inform people of the importance Afro-Latinos have in the black community.

Afro-Latino refers to someone of African descent whose origins are in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to a 2016 Pew Research Study, one quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America.

Sophomore business administration major and Mister CSA Jean Tanelus aimed to inform people of the challenges Afro-Latinos have faced. Identifying as Haitian-Bahamian, he believed the rattler community could spread more awareness.

“FAMU lacks culture for both the Caribbean and the Hispanic side,” Tanelus said. “FAMU always talks about culture but where is it?”

One common misconception some may have with Afro-Latinos is confusing race with ethnicity. Race refers to physical characteristics like skin or hair color while ethnicity refers to factors such as ancestry and nationality. 

Senior music major Moriah Treadwell said she has witnessed colorism preferences in the black community and has had her “blackness” questioned due to her physical appearance.

“A lot of black guys would tell me or someone else that they prefer white girls,” Treadwell said. “Some guys don’t even like black girls… they don’t like them too dark. They prefer white girls or girls who are lighter complexion.”

Colorism within the Latino community was one of the hot topics discussed. Colorism refers to the superior treatment of lighter skin tones within a group rather than their darker skinned counterparts. Colorism affects the daily lives of all those who encounter it and can be a source of pain and rejection.

Junior business administration major Maryanne Schlar attended the meeting in hopes of gaining more knowledge about Afro-Latinos and joining Unidos. Schlar said she believes people see her as a white passing Mexican-American, and although she has not experienced colorism personally, she has observed it on multiple occasions.

“My mom is Mexican, Native American and Native Mexican. My grandfather is half American Indian and half Mexican Indian,” Schlar said. “My grandfather is darker skinned and my mom is a little darker than me and a lot of people discriminated against her when I was younger.”

Schlar went on to recall a woman asking her mother if she was the Mexican nanny of her own children because her mother’s complexion was darker than that of her children's. From this experience and many others, Schlar said she now speaks up to make a difference.

“If I see someone getting discriminated against I always try to speak up or talk to that person and ask them ‘why are you doing this?’” Schlar said. “What is your benefit from this?”

Members and non-members were welcomed at the meeting and shown a PowerPoint presentation. Featured in the presentation was “Love and Hip-Hop: Miami” cast member and multi-talented artist Amara La Negra. Identifying as Dominican-American, she has been vocal about racism in the United States, within Latino communities and Latin America. 

Professional pharmacy major and president of Unidos John Horton also identified as Dominican-American. He noted the shared experiences descents from the diaspora are worth informing more people about.

“There’s another side of Black people that people don’t really recognize,” Horton said. “In America we usually know the story of how slaves came to America and how they were treated. We also have to see that just because of color, the same things happen to Latin Americans as well and all around the Caribbean.”

At the event, guests were able to fellowship while enjoying light refreshments. In the future, both organizations hope to host more informative events to showcase all the different cultures they represent.