When Language Changes: Using the @ Symbol

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

cross posted from my Media Justice column

“So if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.”

Gloria Anzaldúa, “How To Tame The Wild Tongue” in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 2007. pg. 59.

Earlier this week I created a post on The LatiNegr@s Project about our use of the @ symbol. It stemmed from a question about if this was an appropriate term and form to use in a academic paper by a student in college. I was humbled and thankful to be asked this question and responded by providing this statement so the student could have a citation to support their use of the @ symbol.

Since writing that post many folks have had something to say and shared an opinion. For those of you uncertain about how Tumblr works, you can look to the bottom of the page and see who has responded and in what way, sometimes clicking on a person who has “reblogged” the statement can also show more input. I’ll get into some of their suggestions and thoughts in a moment. Before that I want to make a few things clear: The post I wrote was specific to LatiNegr@s. It discussed the code-switching that occurs, as a first language for some of us, in our daily lives and among LatiNegr@s. As a result, many comments and suggestions asked about other ethnic and racial groups using the @ symbol. I think this is fantastic!

The terms “Latino” and the use of the @ symbol in identifiers such as Chican@, Xican@, Mestiz@, etc. are fairly new terms. This is something that occurs when we speak for ourselves, from the spaces we occupy, and when we claim new and more appropriate and representative self-identifiers. I believe this is not something we need to be scared of or find anger in. I think these are opportunities to be challenged (much like challenging our use of ableist language), be more inclusive, and reflexive of how we use language to include, exclude, and create messages.

Language is at the core of media justice.

Language changes and that is something we may celebrate, especially when it is changing in a way that recognizes and includes people who are experiencing multiple oppressions. The @ symbol does just that by challenging a gender binary and dichotomy that has been implemented to privilege men, masculinity, and maleness especially in romance languages such as Spanish. It is also inclusive of our transgender and gender queer community who are often excluded and omitted on a regular basis.

When someone challenges and questions the use of the @ symbol, claims this is a part of “rewriting language” and who do we think we are to do that, those folks are not yet at a space to understand how language was created and in that creation it can be changed (regardless of how long ago it was created). In addition, these folks are also continuing to erase and isolate people in our community that are the most in need of our support. Finally, they are upholding the misogyny that is present in language, especially in the Spanish language. The process of unlearning can be a struggle for many and one that several may resist.

I ended my above post by stating: “The questions still exist of how to actually speak the @ sign and this has yet to really be resolved. How have others negotiated this?” This is where the most responses were shared and presented. I really loved reading how so many folks considered pronouncing and speaking the @ symbol. People shared some really thoughtful and personal testimonios of using the @ sign and how to speak it when in use.

There’s a lot of food for thought about this particular topic, and I hope it continues. I’d love to hear how others are approaching the use of language, code-switching and speaking new terms such as the @ symbol. How have you negotiated these terms?

The LatiNegr@s Project: A Response In Solidarity

In light of the recent Letter to the Editor of Latina Magazine from Alicia Anabel Santos, we, The LatiNegr@s Project/@BeingAfroLatino, stand in agreement that Latina Magazine is misrepresenting Afr@Latin@s through their recent list of “Happy Black History Month: The 50 Most Beautiful Afro-Latinos In Hollywood.” We also believe that the term Afr@Latin@ is not a fad in which to be used to sell magazines or advertisements.

However, we disagree in terms of who and what defines Afr@Latin@s.  Here is why.

Black Latinidad, Afr@Latin@s, LatiNegr@s and other panethnic terms are young in both U.S. and diasporic history. While it may seem easiest to define Afr@Latin@s as “descended of” any one particular thing, doing so only falls in line with codes that have been used to divide us (people of African-descent in the Americas) from much needed resources and divide nosotros (people of African-descent who are also Latin@ or Latin American) from creating coalitions with Anglo-identified or identifying Blacks in the Americas.  Policing culture, bloodlines, and birthplace is behavior very familiar to imperialist and colonialist regimes the world over—and it has worked for generations on generations.  None of it has ever gotten at the root of exorcising racist systems of oppression, classist modes of resources distribution or sexual violence within our communities.

The struggle against racist systems of oppression is about Blackness, as it relates to Afr@latinidad, being acknowledged as its own entity.

Afr@Latin@s are not Black in the same way African-Americans are Black.  Some are Afr@Latin@ because they have African ancestors connected to a particular land with its own particular culture that is not the U.S.  Others are Afr@Latin@s because their experiences, culture, lineage, and personal histories are both of Latin@ or Latin American-descent and of Black descent, whether that be U.S. or diasporic.  This is particularly true of the fast growing population of Afr@Latin@s in the United States—those of Latin@ and Anglo-identifying Black descent.  Still others are Afr@Latin@ because they self-identify as both marked by Blackness and as part of a global struggle against racist oppression enacted against Latin@s and Latin Americans of African-descent.

There have been generations of Afr@Latin@s born on U.S. soil. We cannot ignore or dismiss this history. As early as the fifteenth century and into the last decades of the nineteenth, Africans moved through the slave holding societies of North, Central and South America.  Most often as slaves, though sometimes as free people of Color, they crossed false boundaries created by colonial regimes.  Over the course of a lifetime, a Black person might find themselves enslaved in Cuba, fomenting slave revolt in Haiti, and freed in New York City.

Moreover, and especially in Latin America, Blackness existed and exists along a spectrum created at the intersection of two things.  On the one hand, state-sanctioned racial codes policed and police the line between Black and white.  In Latin America, gradations of morena, quarterona and other castas further divided people of African-descent, even determining access to freedom, occupations, and education.  As a result, Black identity was never any one thing but was always stigmatized in relation to whites.  On the other hand, Blackness itself was and is deep and varied, as Africans hailing from Dahomey created families with those of Congo or Segu, and a myriad other societies and cultures over time, including those here in the Americas.  The combination created and creates conflicting racial identities.  This is why there are even Latin@s of African-descent who do not identify as ‘Afr@Latino@.’  And yet their agency is important too.

This is our history.  ‘Afr@latinidad’ is not linear.  But our struggle creates commonalities.  Because Afr@Latin@s usually don’t match a specific “Latin@” image, we are forced to negotiate our identity and are discursively or personally positioned as outsiders in ‘Latin@’ spaces.  The struggle for inclusion, rights, and resources is also about our children, grandchildren, and kin.  And while relations between Afro@Latin@s and African-Americans, or Caribbean and Latin American folk who identify as indigenous or white, have never been perfect, bonds existed and continue to be formed.  We cannot dismiss or police individuals for how they have structured their families, and we must not think we can dictate individuals racial identities to them.  Self-identification is key.

We are concerned with the definition presented in the Letter to Latina Magazine because there is a difference between denying and accepting African-roots.  We gain nothing by using mainstream constructions of race to define our politics or our struggle.  Coalitions and acceptance are political imperatives as we work on behalf of ourselves and our communities.

To be clear: we will always stand strong when it comes to the exploitation and colonization of our people. We will not stand for commercialization and corporate colonization of Black and Latin@ people anywhere in the world. In Latina Magazine’s blatant disregard of the term and identity Afr@Latin@, they have allowed us to have a dialogue that makes our community stronger.

We always support dialogue that promotes Afr@Latin@s and African Descendants.  Discussion of Latin@s of African-descent needs to happen; often. Acknowledging, honoring, and raising awareness of Black people in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean is critical, necessary, and not up for debate.  And people of Color producing and sharing knowledge is powerful.  Remembering our historical legacy and the long struggle behind and ahead will only make us stronger.

In Solidarity,
The LatiNegr@s Project/@BeingAfroLatino Team

X-Posted at The LatiNegr@s Project

DC/MD/VA! The Latinegr@s Project is Coming Your Way!!!

Photo Credit: Chester Higgins via The LatiNegr@s Project (http://lati-negros.tumblr.com)

March 29-31 is the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference at George Mason University.

The LatiNegr@s Project will be holding a roundtable for the People of Color caucus entitled:

How Did We Get Here?: Being AfroLatin@ in the Ivory Tower, in Activism and Online

on Friday March 30 at 3:15pm.

Come see us and support us too!

Also, LatiNegr@s Team Member Bianca Laureano will be discussing her experiences surviving the academy and beyond on the same day at 9:00 am as part of ANOTHER panel for the People of Color Caucus: Litanies of Survival from the Ivory Tower and Beyond. She will discuss continuing to have her work and herself survive after being pushed out of a women’s studies Ph.D. program.

Register here. [But if you drop in all guerilla machete style just to come say hi, I promise I won’t tell]

Full schedule here.

Come!  Meet us!  Play!  Touch our hair!  Actually…please don’t.  But do come hang out!

 

 

Scrying Nicki Minaj, Stupid Hoe, and #Afrofutures

If a video drops in a forest of things that seem to matter a lot–like  fingers waving in presidential faces and self-deportation–does it make a sound?

Nicki Minaj dropped “Stupid Hoe” last week.

Maybe I’m too old to have my thumb on the relevant spaces in the interwebs, but it seems like the video barely caused a buzz.  Responses from Jezebel, Clutch, and Vibe were mainly negative, complaining about Minaj’s use of animalistic imagery, neon colors and her less than creative wordplay.  Black feminists offered mainly negative critique for obvious and perfectly legitimate reasons.  Minaj’s challenge to “stupid hoes” included a reference to “nappy-headed hoes” and images of a pale, plastic, Venus Hottentot Barbie.

Me?  Minaj hurts my head.  She perplexes me.  I think of her as Trickster, two-faced in her betrayal of global black feminist possibility and powerful in her contradictory elucidation of black woman’s power within the realms of celebrity and hip hop.  Reading her as Ellegua, that frightful guardian of the crossroads and the in-between and the everything-that-is-not-yet seems to fit an artist who switches alter egos as easily as she switches clothes.  Conjuring the ritual and physicality of possession seems to fit a celebrity who changes clothes as she changes personality, putting on her and taking off her tropes as each personality comes down.  The sometimes garish, sometimes delightful carnival of color, glitter and expression–even the repetitive dancehall/house music refrain–also fit a woman whose aesthetic choices continually find their footing in her Trinidadian roots.

In other words, I think of Nicki Minaj as diasporic black, as radical, and as speculative.

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Winter Has Come #CapricornSeason

Norma Wood. 17mm, f16, 20 ", ISO 200 Image Credit: Akos Kiss

To some, December means the end of the year, the end of the warmth and the return of caramel macchiato and pumpkin spice latte addictions.

For me, December means the end of stress, other people’s labor and the beginning of beautiful snowy landscapes, family gatherings and time I can call my own.  I have time to dive into ideas I dreamed up during the summer months and tackle fall’s loose ends.  I’ve always done my best writing and thinking over winter breaks.  Something about the cool air just clears my brain of all the clutter.

Winter is here.  Capricorn season is upon us.

And so is 2012.  Sooooooo much happened….

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Meet the LatiNegr@s / @BeingAfroLatino Team (#MacheteBehavior)

Y’all know Nuñez Daughter is all about black latinidad, Afrolatinos, Afro-Latin America, histories of slavery and the experiences of black people all across the African diaspora? That’s part of the reason you’re here–right?

Let’s hope so.  Because me, Tony Stark (Anthony Otero), La Bianca (Bianca Laureano) and La Republica Detroit (Violeta Donawa) have formed like Voltron–if Voltron knew how to cook arroz and collard greens with platanos and ran new media projects on the side.

I like Tony’s intro so I’m gonna steal it from his blog:

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Hero Work: Leslie Brown (+ Piri Thomas + Clyde Woods) #iRemember

Leslie Brown

Thinking a lot of academy thoughts this week.  Reading Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower.  

Dr. Brown just articulated better than I ever could what it is like being a College Educated Negress:

Where can students of color get intellectual validation that does not require them to so fully assimilate that they lose the best of themselves, their families,and their cultures? It occurred to me that through grade school and high school we had learned to compete, to keep up, but not to surpass; to stand alongside but not in front; to fit in but not to reshape.*

Standing alongside you begin to know the discomfort of ghosts.

And that pressure to assimilate, to choose between where your family is and where you are…well.

Piri Thomas

That feels a lot like the dissonance of being raised under the determined, near frantic optimism of a colorblind, post-Movement, Puerto Rican mother and an African-American father seething with internalized racism in cocaine80s Chicago.

And that feels a lot like wanting things and not having them and striving for things and not getting them, and dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s and still watching the goal move further away again and again and again, and picking up Piri Thomas for help and picking up Cherríe Moraga for help and picking up, good gawd, and picking up and holding close and hugging Gwendolyn Brooks for help and good heavens almighty, it feels like picking up Octavia and picking her brain and reading every word and holding her hand when things were too much….

And it feels a lot like frustration and tastes bitter as blood.  Because Piri is dead now. And it took over 24 hours for an obituary to post.  And I never had a chance to tell him what his work meant to me.  And Gwendolyn is dead.  And she lived in Chicago.  And I, knuckle-head high schooler I was, missed the chance to tell her what she meant to me.  And Octavia is dead.  And she lived half a country away and I was never gonna get to tell her what she meant to me but damn if only I could have.

And….

And it feels like the cold that sweeps across the back of your neck when you realize a mentor you loved like a father…his facebook page is still active.  Active. Alive. Living.  And you want to post something but you can’t.  Because how do you tell someone that you are also active.alive.living now but only because they lived?  How do you tell someone that you have survived this far in part because of what they were and that you are remembering them all the time and regretting every phone call you didn’t make and even that doesn’t make you feel better because you know they knew that they knew that you knew you were loved anyway.  That nothing you could do could lose their love for you.

And it feels like ……..

But is also full of promise.

After all, here I am.  Writing stuff.  Grateful for things like Facebook profiles and black Latinidad Twitter communities and emails from mentors that affirm that “yes, I check it too” and voices who check in with me from across social media to say, “Hey there.  Hey.  Hear my voice.”

I am still here.  Writing stuff.  Thinking thoughts.  I haven’t disappeared yet.

#Lawd

*Leslie Brown, “How a Hundred Years of History Tracked Me Down,” Telling Histories: Black Women Historians and the Ivory Tower, 262

Interlude: The Sable Fan Gyrl Presents….

Robots of Brixton from Kibwe Tavares on Vimeo.

ROBOTS OF BRIXTON

Brixton has degenerated into a disregarded area inhabited by London’s new robot workforce – robots built and designed to carry out all of the tasks which humans are no longer inclined to do. The mechanical population of Brixton has rocketed, resulting in unplanned, cheap and quick additions to the skyline.

The film follows the trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city life, living the predictable existence of a populous hemmed in by poverty, disillusionment and mass unemployment.  When the Police invade the one space which the robots can call their own, the fierce and strained relationship between the two sides explodes into an outbreak of violence echoing that of 1981.

 

via Factory Fifteen.  Another interesting video features an ambiguously brown girl or young woman, riding a train through “a suggestive re-representation of the existing and possible future.”  Lots of dark and twisty metal and empty spaces in this one.  #Prophetic

And if you still haven’t checked out “White” by A. Sayeeda Clarke, also full of speculative, afro-boricua futuristic goodness, then you are missing out.

In other news, N. K. Jemisin is dropping early chapters of the third book in her mind-blowing Inheritance trilogy, “The Kingdom of the Gods.”  And while I can’t look because I know I’ll be hooked and then all I’ll be able to do is curl up in a little ball on the floor of my room and rock and moan until the entire book is available for purchase, I encourage you to check them out.

Seriously.  Check them out.  And if you haven’t bought the first two in the trilogy, make that happen too.  Especially all yall who wanna buzz about the Help and justify your $15 movie ticket purchase with some foolishness about supporting black actresses.  Want to support black women making art?  Let’s go.  Don’t read books?  Buy it for a girl of color in your life who does (and yeah, I’m looking at you non-poc folks as well.  You’ve got at least one black friend.  Buy it for them.  They’ll appreciate it.  They may even thank you).

Besides, a book is whole lot cheaper than a movie ticket these days.