When All You Want is Someone to Rub Your Booty

Last night I headed into the warm-cold northeastern night to play.   The Friday before Halloween in the grown-up world is when all kinds of delicious and debaucherous (yup, I made up a word right there, #witness) things go down. It is also the night in girl world where…


via electricdaisies

…yes ma’am.

No reason why Pretty Magnolia shouldn’t come out to play right? (her full name, after all, is Pretty Magnolia the Sex-Positive Fairy)

But ahh, New England, you tricky, tricky foreign land.

Pretty Magnolia did make an appearance, a work of fish-netted, laced, gartered, and cinched violet wonderful. She was brown-skinned, round-bottomed, thick thighed, buxom and fabulous. She should have been sprinkling sex-positive fairy glitter on everyone and everywhere. And she did. But in a land of 98% whiteness, she should not have been surprised to find that her brand of clitoratti energy lacked its usual pizzazz. By the end of the night, perfectly pleased with herself but more than a little limp-winged, Pretty Magnolia turned into a purple pumpkin and rolled her way home. Alone.

And I woke up this morning ruminating on what exactly about the evening left me feeling so unfulfilled.

(get your minds out of the gutter) (okay, maybe you’re right) (but no, you’re not)

Because I may be new to the sex-positive game but if I’m not mistaken, it isn’t just about where you find your orgasm.  It’s about intimacy.  It’s about the ways that body, heart, mind and soul make the most effective, healthy and wholesome connection.  And there’s another element, beyond intimacy, that we don’t emphasize enough but it’s particularly relevant to women of color–women whose hair & bodies are so often manipulated by the media for its own purposes even by so-called allies, who historically have been dissected, used and abused by everyone from scientists to slaveowners, turned into experiments, objects, Others.

It’s the part where we affirm that we are women, women of color, black women that we/I am a

…romantic woman love needer man seeker dick eater sweat getter fuck needing love seeking woman…

with every right to be seen that way, to have that complexity acknowledged if only in a glance, a touch, a whisper in the ear, a swaying dance, a hand on a hip or, if by mutual consent, something more physical.

I wasn’t shopping for an orgasm last night (really, I wasn’t). What I was shopping for was sexiness. What I missed, truly, madly, deeply, was being in a space with others whose look did more than fetish the curve of a black breast.

I don’t want to be grabbed at a party in Delaware or Connecticut anymore than I want to be groped in D.C. or Chicago. If the gaze has a spectrum then the fear and nervous shock/surprise found on the faces of *some* white men I encounter is no more desirable than the hard, dehumanizing & possessive lust found on *some* black men’s faces in other venues. Neither is much fun to have to navigate and neither make me feel safe much less sexy.  (Pretty Magnolia slaps faces on the regular for such behavior: #shewildlikethat )

But to be teased, tickled and tantalized all at once with just the twitch of an eyebrow? To see a man (whatever race or ethnicity) bite his lip in my general direction? To be given, as my friend calls them, “fuck me eyes” and feel the air vibrate between us as I pass by? In short, to be seen as a body that is desirable? #therearenowordsforthatkindofyum

Which, as it turns out, is part of why I miss and love black, brown (and the occasional & smarter-than-his-brothers white) men. No one appreciates a brown booty they way they do. And sometimes all you want at a party, on a date, or even in the grocery store is someone to (at least try!) to rub your booty.

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(There is a #LoveLetter Here, Somewhere)

via rawrrrrrainbows

(a letter I’m not brave enuf to write yet)

Via blackfeminismlives:One of the functions of educational institutions, is two fold: Quarantine a small minority of radical or potentially radical intellectuals into tenured positions and push them farther and farther away from communities struggling towards a more desirable system; while the rest of us, public intellectuals—people who don’t need buildings to think—many of us who have fought to get here, we get saddled with debt, huge amounts of debt…So we internalize the belief that we have to get a job. And this process—getting the job, paying off the debt—serves to estrange us from the communities that we may have been connected to in struggle before we became indebted, or prevents us from being able to connect with those communities.
Sailor Holladay

(it is why I split into so many personalities, so many ways, so many days of things that I’m not allowed to give voice to…yet)

via manifest freedom:
“so, i suppose it’s not a mystery. i love you because you are still my sister. we are all still sisters. and i need you to survive. because i still see you. you are me. our survival is interconnected in ways that we can’t even begin to touch. and we survived so much. and we are moving. past surviving. into living. you and i. we are so brave.”
alicia, “i need you,” Freedom Fighter

(but I know I need to Speak soon because things are happening right now and the threat is real right now and somewhere right now someone is angry…someone is ashamed…someone feels helpless…a community is hurting and doesn’t have a language to understand what is happening…

and the next victim might be me.)

The Third Lives of Black Girls Everywhere

There was something corrupted about her.  Some days she’d joke and laugh, rubbing shoulders with others in the crowd, batting social cues left and right.  But at any point she might turn and stare into space, a smile stretching her lips into a thin corkscrew, a dark humor flushing her cheeks.  

The moment would pass. She would become human again.

But when she drank it returned and the predatory gleam of violence re-infused her face, some malevolence that soiled her eyes, marked her every movement with a curious, rancid energy.  

I would step back from her then, unnerved.  She’d be fine in the morning but at night I watched as pretense drained away, as she became a being who walked a language-restrained, whose voice, to everyone so smooth and sweet, was the voice of a woman in bondage, whose painful, silent, unconscious battle re-emerged in charmless, hollowed out encounters against the very people she loved and needed most. It made the tiny hairs on my neck recoil in alarm.

That the world existed to destroy her–well, there was no question. But that a swollen cheek or tear-stained chin became orgasmic was the other part of the story–and not the most interesting part besides.

~Kismet Nuñez, Untitled/Unfinished Book Project, September 2010

Some of the hardest battles we fight are the battles over own souls. Our sanity. It is real work to keep our love unsoiled by the pressures of a world that wants to deny our existence–that, at times, is mobilized in a concerted effort to exterminate us. A world that does not acknowledge that we are human, that we are women, that our blackness & brownness has meaning in our lives and therefore is relevant and real and beautiful, that our right to passion and to the fullness of our being is a right we deserve to fight for and kill for unto the end of our days.

It is a battle that isn’t won once. It is labor we do over and over, from the moment we wake up in the morning. Our inability to love ourselves fully is insidious and sneaky and before we know it, the damage is done. We open our eyes and the sun is shining but our love is a twisted, dark and dangerous thing, a weapon we deploy against others–often women as brown and black as we are–to keep them in line. A whip against those who are struggling and deserve our support, our help, but whose road to brilliance is a light that illuminates the self hatred in our lives.

Before we know it, we are on the way to making ourselves better by manifesting the breadth and depth of a toxic inhumanity and justifying the same with the long arm of Church, State & Politics.

It is what happens when black girls are forced into closets.

It is what happens when brown girls are told by mothers and fathers and priests that the God they love is judging them by criteria ranging from the color of their hair to the color of their hymen.

It is what happens when academic institutions construct esoteric parameters for tenure that, in their very structure, deny the legitimacy of research & writing specific to bodies of color.

It is what happens when we drink the water and let settle, deep inside us, the silt and muddy wetness of a hatred that knows no bounds, that is deadly serious, that would see us destroyed to justify itself, so that instead of waiting for the dark to come we do the work of execution all on our own.

“I’m talking to you, Brownfield,” said Grange, “and most of what I’m saying is you got to hold tight a place in you where they can’t come.” ~Alice Walker, Third Life of Grange Copeland, 1970

This morning I finished The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker (courtesy of @booksfree). And I spent last night fielding a series of crisis calls from friends in need, sistren grappling with the reality of their lives, yearning to love themselves against institutions with paradigms that deny them even a language to understand their world.

After each conversation, I forced myself to focus, because in their words I also heard myself; fighting for life, fighting not to drown under the weight of rules and regulations that do not fit the actuality of our lives. My struggle was their struggle, is my sister’s struggle, my mother’s struggle, my abuela’s….

…and it is more than just breathing. It is a daily battle to breathe and stay human, to avoid becoming as twisted and gnarled and wrong as they’d like us to, as they imagine we are, because that is what they see when they look at their own reflection.

But how the hell do you give birth to yourself–and keep that self alive?

That is part of the excitement over Willow Smith’s video. And the general hub-bub over the Sesame Street “I Love My Hair” video (and the mash-up). And the importance of wearing purple on Oct. 20th and advocating against homophobia on a daily basis.

Because this is a little girl not only breathing but manifesting every innocent and fabulous part of herself, sharing it with the world, demanding that we be “warriorettes” and “warriors” right along with her.

Because little girls are here and around the world are going to watch Willow, are going to watch the “I Love My Hair” muppet (who Puff is right–needs a name) and dance, unconsciously or consciously mapping new terrain in the way they are allowed/able/affirmed/admonished to understand themselves. And growing up in a world of social media, they may even be able to start making their own language to understand themselves, troubling the edges of what we all believe to be true or untrue, appropriate or inappropriate, manifesting a love that isn’t wrong or right but at least free–and therefore all their own.

Because if we do not find ways to fight against the terrain of hatred that we’ve sown, willingly or unwillingly, in our lives and in our society, what we can expect is many more little girls, little boys, and children who fall somewhere in between, hurting themselves, killing themselves, or killing others because they are doing with their bodies and their hands what society is doing to them.

Be a Warrioriette/Warrior

Purple in Solidarity (#SpiritDay)

I’m rocking my purple in GLBT solidarity….

“We are losing too many kids. This has been kept silent for too long,” says Aaberg, 36, ofFridley, Minn., a Twin Cities suburb.

She is joining hundreds of thousands of young people across the USA who will be wearing purple Wednesday to call attention to the deaths of six youths who committed suicide after they were bullied or harassed because they were gay or were thought to be gay.

And want to note a couple of things:

Til then: #itgetsbetter

Day 30: A Beautiful Brown Work in Progress

One dark and stormy night, @Latinegro founded the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. He scheduled it to coincide with Latino/a and Latin American Heritage Month (I hate the word Hispanic) which began today and ends October 15th. And, hospitable fellow that he is, he’s invited any Latino blogger to join in.

Since I can count on one hand the number of fellow Afrolatina bloggers I know, I think I’ll take the plunge. After all, I haven’t written a post specific to Latina or Afrolatina issues for awhile now. For 30 days and nights, I owe the interwebs at least two paragraphs on the topic o’ the day. To follow along (or backtrack) click the tag “latina/o heritiage month.” Today’s topic(s): What I learned in the last 30 days

Well family–all caught up.  I even got some decent two paragraph responses in.

I’d like to thank @Latinegro for setting up the blog challenge.  This man is the kind of consistent and thoughtful blogger I aspire to be.  I look forward to engaging in the afro-latino/Latinegr@ blogosphere he is damn near single-handedly creating.  Giving brown people a voice on the internet is difficult for a number reasons but we need to make sure our voices are heard.  The debate is going to continue with or without us and not for our benefit.  #leggo

Back to the prompt:

The last thirty days have been something else.  In the real world and the digitalone.  This blog is about autobiography, archive and insurgency but I don’t even know where to start.  Short answer is easiest.

First, I’ve learned that I love blogging. I love writing.  New media is a fun and exciting place for me.  And I need to go with those feelings.  This blog, joining the @FreshXpress blog network, finding a “Kismet” voice, splicing black girl identity and making new connections–all of this gives me life.  And more foolishness is in store.

Second, back in the real world and over the last year, the stereotypical parts of my Latina have receded a bit–food, music, pop culture.  I had a hard time answering those prompts, and not just because I did half of them last minute.  My location makes it difficult to remain as close to the community as I’d like to be–although, as a trade off, since I live in an area where multi-racial encounters are fairly common, making my black & Puerto Rican-ness much less “interesting” to the average white person.  Or black person.

But part of it is that my political identity is shifting.  My Latina has been manifesting in ways that are more Afro-diasporic (Yoruba, slavery research, solidarity with Haiti).  And my black has grown more diasporic as well (trips to West Africa, starting to loc my hair).  It will be interesting for me to see how I answer this challenge in another year–and with more disciplined commitment.

And that is the final thing I learned, and not just here in my blogging life.  Discipline is key.  Shall we bring Ralphie back?:

Yuh.

Happy Latina/o and Latin American Heritage Month. Love you.  Go forth.  Commit (black & brown) politics. Make social justice babies.  Come back and visit the Kis.

Days 21-29 Catch Up: The Quick & Dirty Finish

I’ve got to apologize to @Latinegro because this is starting to feel like one of those old-school chain letters. Bad blogger.

Then again, I always did like those things….

One dark and stormy night, @Latinegro founded the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. He scheduled it to coincide with Latino/a and Latin American Heritage Month (I hate the word Hispanic) which began today and ends October 15th. And, hospitable fellow that he is, he’s invited any Latino blogger to join in.

Since I can count on one hand the number of fellow Afrolatina bloggers I know, I think I’ll take the plunge. After all, I haven’t written a post specific to Latina or Afrolatina issues for awhile now. For 30 days and nights, I owe the interwebs at least two paragraphs on the topic o’ the day. To follow along (or backtrack) click the tag “latina/o heritiage month.” Today’s topic(s): Uh huh, keep on reading….

*does a salsa spin and keeps on cheating*

Day 21: What Latin American Country/Island I Have Been to? I wrote this when I went to Brazil for the first time.

Day 22: Do you consider yourself more Latino than American?

This one is a good one.

I consider myself American. Of course, when I think “American” I am also thinking pan-hemispheric. My America encompasses everything west of the Treaty of Tordesillas.

But I still consider myself American in the United States sense. True, I wish the U.S. would live up to its creed and unwrap itself from its imperial ventures around the globe (including the island of Puerto Rico). And I definitely felt Michelle Obama when she described how proud she was of her country–and that it was the first time she felt that way.

But my Latino identity, as multi-tiered as it is, remains wrapped around a history particular to the United States. Trans-atlantic slavery to the U.S. South and the Caribbean, one-drop rules, cotton and tobacco farming, property loss through gentrification and eminent domain, labor migrations to cities in the North, espiritismo and Pentecostalism, bootstraps and the 14th Amendment. Even my privilege is wrapped up in being from the United States. They are indistinguishable. I blame it on my mama.

Day 23: Hispanic or Latino: Which do you prefer?

Day 24: Should Puerto Rico be a state?

Aww snap. Hit me with your best shot, why don’t you?

I think Puerto Rico has the right to self-determination. If that means state, so be it. If that means independent nation, so be it. Or whatever is in between. The struggle for Puerto Rico is not so much the form that emancipation should take–although this is critical and important–but the fact that this choice has never been presented to the island with no strings attached and with the full support of the federal government. Puerto Rico is consistently treated like the pathetic step-child by state and federal governments who use the island for experiments in sterilization & education, a dumping ground for military waste and a playground for corporate execs and Wall Street elites. Which flows into the common wisdom. Don’t believe me? Ask the person sitting next to you if you need a passport to visit the island? #fail

Day 25: Post a picture of your familia and explain the significance.

My mother and father met in high school. My dad has a story he liked to tell about first meeting her. Walking with a friend, he bumped into a young woman in the hallway at school. She kept moving; him, being the swaggalicious heterosexual black boy he was followed her with his body until she was out of sight, his oblivious friend continuing to talk all the while. By the time he turned back, he said, he’d already decided, “I’m going to marry that girl.”

I don’t know how he got this shot of my mother and my aunt and himself. And there’s something vaguely lecherous about him spying in on what was obviously a sister moment (my aunt has the uh-uh look she still gets on her face when her train of thought-speech has been interrupted). But whenever I see this photo I think of that story. One day, I’m going to marry that girl.

Day 26: Favorite Latino Actor or Actress. Redirect: Rita Moreno.

get em, boo!

Day 27: Favorite Latina/o Author

That’s tough. All the usuals are in evidence: Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, Michele Serros, Junot Diaz (I’ve got no beef with Oscar Wao) & Piri Thomas. Eduardo Galeano and Gabriel García Márquez are my favorite Latin American authors–One Hundred Years of Solitude is a classic. Isabelle Allende is the writer I hate to love: on an intellectual level her work goes too far but no writer since E. B. White has been able to wring tears from me the way she can–and not during the scenes of violence.

Truth is, I don’t have one. And now that I think about this prompt, I realize I can’t name an author who fits my imaginary criteria for favorite: great writer, Puerto Rican & latinegra descent, speculative fiction aficionado.
Most of the brown writers I’ve come into contact with have been of Chicano or Mexican descent, or been male.

I toss this one out to la familia. If you’ve got someone I should read, pass the suggestion along. I’ll even blog it.

Day 28: Family Ancestry

Ay carajo. as @LuvvieiG might say: iFail. iRedirect.

iAdd: my grandmother’s grandmother was apparently Taino. Her grandfather was Spanish. There’s some additional rigmarole about her being “very beautiful” and I think my childhood self imagined her as a princess (too much Pocahontas, I know. See what Disney does to your brain?)

The family ancestry that is important is the one I’ve been describing over these last twenty-eight prompts: United States Slave South on my father’s side & Peasant Farming Puerto Rican on my mother’s. A match made in post-colonial heaven. But I look forward to chatting more about family ancestry as this blog develops. I’ve got a few projects planned out–stay tuned.

Day 29: Latino Politics–What affects you?

My earlier concern with black and brown political unity and pan-brown dialogue irrespective of language bears out in several larger issues that aren’t seen as specifically “Latino” issues. Keeping abortion legal and protecting my right to deliver a child to term is critical and critical for Latinas who come from families and communities that are “traditionally” more Catholic, more patriarchal and more conservative. I used quotation marks because most of that is anecdotal. In my personal experience, the truth that doesn’t like to be told is that a Latina girl or woman is as likely to have a child as she is to abort with or without approval from the father (or her father, or priest, or pastor). We are not a womanhood being run by the men in our communities so don’t let the passive-Latina-wife stereotypes fool you. Reproductive choice, one way or another, I dare say, has been a fact of life since the First Man looked down to measure his ding-a-ling while the First Woman looked around, saw someone left the gates of Eden unlocked and decided she wanted something more.

The real problem is that these shouldn’t be closeted choices–any woman should be able to choose when and what she is going to do with her body and that includes the nine months it takes to bring a life into this world.

The other issues are old hat by now but we need to keep talking about them. Gentrification is DESTROYING our communities. It is at the root of gang violence, education resources, voting patterns, tax brackets, foreclosures, unemployment–everything. Violence against women and girls of color, including street harassment, is tied up with this too. Rebuilding New Orleans is a personal issue for me. Ending gun violence in Chicago is another one. Equal access to higher education–and rigorous academic teaching and standards is a third.

Immigration is an issue that does not affect me as directly. I was born on the mainland. Puerto Rico is U.S. property. My obligatory brownness makes Driving While Black & Female a problem but not one that will get me deported (thrown in jail on trumped up charges and at risk of other bodily violence, yes). I live on the east side of the Mississippi and above the Mason-Dixon line. I speak fluent English. In other words, I’ve got a knapsack of privileges that protect me the ICE-industrial complex even though I am black & brown. My citizenship status is a kind of freedom paper certain everyday injustices that punish so many people from just trying to live, work and raise families in the U.S.

But as a larger fact of life…if ICE is coming for them at midnight they will be coming for me in the morning. Two degrees or less separates me from someone deported or threatened with deportation. That is unacceptable.

Latinos. We got issues. And these are issues that interlock…which means that maybe as we topple one at a time, we can more easily topple them all.

Stay tuned for Day 30….

Days 14-20 Catch Up: I Love Brown People

Quick & dirty blogging continues with the video series:

One dark and stormy night, @Latinegro founded the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. He scheduled it to coincide with Latino/a and Latin American Heritage Month (I hate the word Hispanic) which began today and ends October 15th. And, hospitable fellow that he is, he’s invited any Latino blogger to join in.

Since I can count on one hand the number of fellow Afrolatina bloggers I know, I think I’ll take the plunge. After all, I haven’t written a post specific to Latina or Afrolatina issues for awhile now. For 30 days and nights, I owe the interwebs at least two paragraphs on the topic o’ the day. To follow along (or backtrack) click the tag “latina/o heritiage month.” Today’s topic(s): Well, see below….

Ahem. I’ve got a mini-break while my Time Machine backs up, but I’m also going to be doing some full out cheating. Sowwy.

Day 14 is Favorite Latino Musician. I’m doing a redirect.

Day 15 is Latinos in the Movies. I’m giving you a video:

Day 16 is What Do I know about indigenous culture. I’m doing a redirect.

Day 17 is Why I love Latinas (or Latino Men). Seriously? This deserves so much love. But I’m going to give you some superficial. And a picture is worth a thousand words:


Day 18 is Latino Art is just a good excuse for me to pass on this video:

Day 19 is Religion. The Organization for Lucumí Unity

& Day 20 is Latino Stereotypes I Wish I Could Change:

That all brown people are illegal immigrants, thugs, kidnappers, bandana wearing, open vagina welfare queens who have too many babies waiting to steal jobs that “Americans don’t want” and loafing on someone else’s Social Security number. Or Jennifer Lopez.

Or that black and brown peoples are 1) somehow separate and 2) don’t get along. Toma:

Mr. SONI: Well, I would say that economically speaking, they are part of one community. I think it’s very important to remember that five years ago, when Katrina made landfall and the levees were breached, hundreds of thousands of African-American workers and their families lost their jobs and their livelihoods and they were excluded from return. They were displaced and effectively locked out of jobs in the reconstruction.

Meanwhile, immigrant workers were brought in – included, but exploited. While one community was excluded and locked out, another community was exploited. And because of public policy and because of, you know, very divisive public policy and corporate practice in the last five years, there has been a sense of competition among these communities. These communities have found themselves pitted in some ways against each other.

On the ground, however, as far as everyday economics of real life goes, I believe that they are part of one community and that a closer look reveals a lot less competition and a lot more cooperation than one would think.

KEYES: Gerod, your radio program takes calls mostly from African-Americans. What have they been saying about the influx of Latinos into the city?

Mr. STEVENS: I can agree wholeheartedly with his previous statements, but I do think that there has been some discontent with the African-American population more so because of the fact that they were here before. And one thing that has been discussed is that the Latino population that has come into the city did some jobs that not necessarily African-Americans or any other race wanted to do in the rebuilding process. So, a big thank you went out to the Latino population in helping with the rebuilding of this city.

I do think that what has been brought up and probably talked about more so is the number of jobs, the number of millions of dollars that have come into the city for the rebuilding population – rebuilding the population. And African-Americans have been left out of the process.

And who has been exploited is the Latino population because they’ve come in -being brought in by a lot of, I would say, huge contractors that get these big federal contracts, bring in a Latino population that may be working for less, just so they would have some income and also could be in the United States, and then after they do the work, maybe even exploited to the position of being called by Immigration to deport them so they don’t have to get paid….

Listen to the rest here.

Day 13 Catch Up: Freedom Fighters

One dark and stormy night, @Latinegro founded the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. He scheduled it to coincide with Latino/a and Latin American Heritage Month (I hate the word Hispanic) which began today and ends October 15th. And, hospitable fellow that he is, he’s invited any Latino blogger to join in.

Since I can count on one hand the number of fellow Afrolatina bloggers I know, I think I’ll take the plunge. After all, I haven’t written a post specific to Latina or Afrolatina issues for awhile now. For 30 days and nights, I owe the interwebs at least two paragraphs on the topic o’ the day. To follow along (or backtrack) click the tag “latina/o heritiage month.” Today’s topic(s): Afro-Latinos You See Everyday

I live in a state that is 98% white and edges the arctic circle. I’m lucky if I see a tan.

So I’ll count Twitterati as people I see everyday. #nowintroducingyouto Alicia

*waves* hey boo!

From her About page:

i am alicia. i am a queer robot. i’m afro-latina. pan africanist. radical womanist. opera singer turned therapist turned english teacher. [former] vegan. coffee addict. i enjoy onomatopoeia and unicorns.

Can you see why I love her? Who the hell loves onomatopoeia and unicorns? And coffee? All at once? *faints*

No, but really. I first met Alicia (self-identifies as black-also-known-as-Puerto Rican–i see u boo!) in volunteer training at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center. She was the Crisis Services Coordinator–which basically means she ran everything related to the crisis hotline including hospital visits, volunteer issues, supervised training and more. Alicia eventually left there but since she’s continued to do amazing things in the realm of violence against women, queer justice, youth homelessness.

Her story is as inspiring as it is intense; I encourage you to go visit her at her blog, Freedom Fighter. She is ride or die. Be prepared.

Day 12 Catch Up: Como?

One dark and stormy night, @Latinegro founded the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. He scheduled it to coincide with Latino/a and Latin American Heritage Month (I hate the word Hispanic) which began today and ends October 15th. And, hospitable fellow that he is, he’s invited any Latino blogger to join in.

Since I can count on one hand the number of fellow Afrolatina bloggers I know, I think I’ll take the plunge. After all, I haven’t written a post specific to Latina or Afrolatina issues for awhile now. For 30 days and nights, I owe the interwebs at least two paragraphs on the topic o’ the day. To follow along (or backtrack) click the tag “latina/o heritiage month.” Today’s topic(s): Do I Speak Spanish?

(& I promise I’m not looking at these prompts ahead of time)

Do I speak spanish? Yes. But no. A guy friend of mine once got on me by saying I speak “Caveman Spanish.” It wouldn’t have hurt so much if it weren’t actually true.

Language is like a muscle. If you don’t exercise it, you lose it. It gets flabby and fat and eventually that fat is just an unhealthy weight around your languid body parts. My Spanish isn’t quite at the unhealthy point yet but it is getting there.

Abuela Nuñez spoke Spanish to us regularly. It is, after all, her first language and she had no reason to change for her grandkids. I’m the oldest so if those few early years of Spanish count then it makes sense that I still know it. But they probably don’t. More likely, it’s the nine years of Spanish beaten into me in grammar school and the odd course I picked up to fulfill language credit in high school and college. My mother, married to an anglophone, did not keep it up with us much less herself. My aunt, married to a fellow Chicagorican, spoke enough that my cousin speaks at least as well as if not better than I do (again, this isn’t hard).

But my sister, who took nine years of French she barely remembers, doesn’t speak Spanish nearly at all. On a trip to Puerto Rico, she grew frustrated with not being able to articulate her thoughts or engage our extended family in conversation. When she asked me how I could, I shrugged and answered, “Because I cared enough to.” This was meant to be less snarky than it came out. What I meant was–I’m literary. I like words. I’m interested in language and discourse. It is how I define myself. And being black and Puerto Rican is how I define myself. All things being equal, knowing Spanish (even as a cavewoman) is one of the ways it makes sense for me to manifest that identity.

There are plenty of Chicagoricans who speak some version of creole-pidigin-ebonics Spanish with fluency and flair. There are plenty of island-born Puerto Ricans who can’t speak a lick of proper Castilian. There are plenty of Nuyoricans who wouldn’t know a mesa from a carro…and plenty of Barcelonans who would then wonder “what the hell is a carro? ”

The point? Knowing Spanish doesn’t make you Latina/o. It just makes you multi-lingual. A great thing to be but how about you tell me what you did for your gente today instead. Even if that gente is just your family. Kinship and community responsibility is what makes you Latina/o, black, brown, red, orange, young, old…or feminist.