My aesthetic was inspired by my new favorite artist Princess Nokia in her new video Brujas that pays homage to the goddess Yemaya. I love Princess Nokia because she is the first artist I ever heard to express Taíno native culture which is indigenous Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. I love Princess Nokia because she is unapologetic, embraces her roots and a role model to latinx youth and other youth of color that continue to work hard and rise like roses through concrete. Her music and her message reassures the ancestral power and light I have within myself and always pumps me up to accomplish my goals each day.
Today #BrownInChicago decided to reflect and write about our experience two weeks ago photo shoot that focused on evoking our indigenous ancestry. I am of Puerto Rican descent on my maternal side and wanted to channel a look that resonates with my spiritually. I wanted to pay tribute to Yemaya, who is a diosa from South Western African Yoruba religion. She is called an Orisha and is the mother of all Orishas totaling 14 Yoruba gods and goddesses. Santeria , which translates to way of the saints, originated from West Africa, and more commonly spread during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and was expressed as part of Yorba/Cuban Afro-Caribbean culture. Santeria promises wisdom and power in dealing with life’s hardships through a combination of practical and oral traditions.
My mother prayed to Yemaya as her favored orisha in times of need for strength and need of protection from trauma and misogyny she experienced while ending an abusive relationship with my father and she moved me away from our family to Miami for safety. When he was later arrested and deported we lost almost all our resources and child support and my mother had to start again on her own. Yemaya is a strong source of maternal energy for protection and tenacity young mother have to channel to raise their children with little resources and support. I admired my mother growing up seeing how hard she worked, took pride in her bright blue eyeshadow and grinning smile. Tonight I invited her to teach me how to do my makeup like her signature look to embody the diosa named Yolanda.
For as long as I remember she always wore blue eyeshadow that brings out her big cafe eyes and painted her lips fiery red. Inherit my gift of empathy and healing from diosa because it is the gift my mother bestowed upon me. We are resilient against life’s waves that attempt to drown and stifle our voices and dreams. As my mom painted my face she told me about how much she loves to wear blue because it’s a color so many women shy away from with make up (myself included). To my surprise I looked into the mirror and saw the ferocity and gentleness I see in my own mothers eyes.
We danced to Aguanile by Hector Lavoe y Willie Colon is about highlighting Santeria’s African roots, with a typical folk verse of the Festival of the Cross, the song has a small verse is interpreted by Lavoe in Greek ,”Kyrie eleison”, popular custom among the natives, dating back hundreds of years. She attempted to teach me more moves to dance to the song but laughed and said you can’t teach the dance you just have to feel the music and let the dancing come naturally within you. I closed my eyes and imagined myself on a warm days in Miami as a kid dancing in the living room with my mom. I may not have the best rhythm but I like to feel music and let go. Tonight daughters of Yemaya we thank you diosa for your strength to keep me afloat, and your currents to guide my path.
Throughout this project I have been able to center my identity to my brownness and connect with my native and African roots more. As a social work graduate student I’m seeking to be a healer and help provide therapeutic services to alleviate generational trauma and build self awareness. I owe my skills of empathy as a gift Yemaya has shared for me to heal others and to proudly serve as a bold Latina among a field that is dominated by white women. In a discussion with #BrownInChicago students many of the young women discussed how hard it was growing up to find positive Latinx role models to celebrate against the saturation of sexist, patriarchal and Eurocentric values. We shared stories of burning and bleaching the kinks in our hair to appease desires of straight blonde compliance. Shielding our skin that from the sun that illuminates the richness in our melanin, but we were socialized to see ourselves as shadows. The gift of this project is that I am feeling more beautiful and grounded each day with other youth as we journey together to de-center whiteness and grow together.
Lily Be Storytelling Workshop and Photo Journalism Workshop Diosa Latinx Photoshoot: Honoring our ancestors and indigeneity
We began this morning with a passage from Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence is personal account of an indigenous Australian family’s experiences as members of the Stolen Generation. The erasure of a person’s culture is stripping people of their power. Colonist use this technique to make you feel ashamed for keeping traditions alive whether that is through language, music, religion, or clothes. The these things is what protects our energy and keep us grounded to our ancestral power. This power are secret songs, recipes, dances, prayers, and wishes that we used to survive erasure.
We asked students around the table their thoughts about the reading and many stories resonated with one another’s similar experiences.
Violet: the reading reminded me of the erasure of culture and I feel sad that there are things about my culture that I will ever know or known it was lost. I feel guilty at times that my attempts to learn Spanish or more about Puerto Rican or Colombian culture is a mere caricature of what I try to embrace. But I have to be easy on myself because the goal of colonization is to make me forget my past or leave to responsibility for myself to uncover my history. I am grateful to not have to explore and connect on my own and with the support of this space,
Many other agreed for feeling guilty about their spanglish but we had to stop to check ourselves and as a reminder that the Spanish language is a colonizer language and we do not know the tongues of our maternal native ancestor.
Aide: I feel like instead there is now a shift within our generation in comparison to our past generations that had to assimilate to survive. Now we digging up our buried cultures and history so we do not forget. In order to survive we must remember our past.
Eduardo: This passage reminded me about the Korean exchange program at his High School and how he stood up for his fellow exchange student and checked a teacher for scolding the exchange students for speaking Korean and not English. He connected that experience to being young and learning English in elementary school and also being scolded for not speaking English. When you police language around students that are in their right to speak to what is comfortable to them and made me feel safe when I wanted to be understood.
Arely: I want to keep speaking Spanish alive in my family because it makes me sad that my cousins refuse to speak Spanish. I am taking extra classes to improve my reading and writing in Spanish because I think my language is beautiful.
It was revealed within a few other reflections in the room that many students had a similar experience of being forced into speech therapy services or put in low comprehensive courses Spanish was their first language and they were still learning English. Offering the wrong referral services can highly impact the self-esteem of a young student who is made to feel their Spanish is a barrier.
The remainder our meeting was spent split into two groups. Students with Lily Be who was crafting their stories and students in our Diosa Latinx photo shoot. Towards the end of our meeting we all came together for an impromptu bruja circle photo opt. I never felt so fierce, magical and strong while hand and hand with my sisters. All dope Latina women with different strengths and experiences. All between us centuries of beauty and light we share within our blood through our ancestors.
With the Logan Square Neighborhood Association
LSNA’s youth organizing work is founded on the values of racial justice. Youth are vital leaders in the push for both policy and cultural responses to the violence of displacement. Displacement destroys culture. Youth leaders find themselves in a neighborhood experiencing swift racial and economic transition that feels violent and painful. They no longer feel welcomed in their neighborhood hangouts or feel secure that their parents (working-class immigrants) will be able to keep pace with the rising rents and property taxes. For our youth the fact that gentrification is a racialized process is common sense. They see the buying power young white people have in their community, and LSNA’s organizers help deepen their analysis through workshops that emphasize the historical housing policies in Chicago that created the Black and Latino ghettos of our city.
This July a group of seventeen youth leaders with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association started a journey to fight the erasure of displacement by documenting their families’ migrations from Latin America to Chicago. Youth leaders were also commissioned by their abuelitas and parents as they submitted DNA ancestry kits to see where their families’ journeys actually started. Our ancestry results capture the mixing of people’s brought violently together in 1492. Our Mexican students –the great majority of the group–carry between 60-90% indigenous ancestry. Africa is also present with us—all of our youth came back with some African ancestry. And our young people from the Caribbean have between 15-35% African ancestry. We suddenly feel ancient and feel the weight of the loss of our indigenous and African identities–colonization is also erasure of one’s stories.
In partnership with the Genealogy and Storytelling Project LSNA youth will:
- Uncover the history of migration and displacement and the impact they have on their lives today;
- Boldly claim their own place in history as part of the Latin-American and Pan-African Diaspora;
- Dismantle the dominant narrative of white supremacy within the specific process of gentrification and more broadly;
- Engage more Latinx families to celebrate their place and histories in the community as one weapon against displacement.
 In the past year, 110 youth have been involved in LSNA’s anti-gentrification work taking significant roles in outreach efforts to residents, developing actions, introducing new strategies and concepts, and meeting with local officials about the need to create policy solutions to address rising displacement.
 Latinx= The “x” makes Latino, a masculine identifier, gender-neutral. The “x” also encompasses genders outside of that limiting man-woman binary. Pronounced “La-teen-ex.
Goals of today’s session:
- Introduce youth to the themes of science fiction writing as a tool for social revolution (i.e. afrofuturism, chicanofuturism, latinxfuturism)
- Give students the space and framework to begin writing their family stories and get feedback
- Go over DNA Celebration Day
- Check-in: What aspect (big or small) of your life do you think your ancestor who migrated would be most surprised about?
- Geneology and Genetics is ScienceFiction – On POC imagining our futures: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1_n1szmHsGT7fOwRhsrX9f7SDsNC-WkuJQONOJNvRe_o/edit#slide=id.g160ab45571_0_31
- Read as a group an excerpt from Octavia Brood’s anthology: https://docs.google.com/document/d/145a8wMkfiT99DSwIU12THrNYSY0mULTPgbZQKFcz5pg/edit?usp=sharing
- 4) Practice: Writing Ourselves Into The Future (start at 2:30pm)
5). (If there’s time): Share excerpts, premises of stories with one another? And have a praise session
Below are excerpts of the stories students created today:
- Framing & big picture overview
- Review process and timeline
- Introduce Journey Guides
- Discuss ways we want to go on this journey together
- Introducing the ancient and ever-present power of storytelling
- Introduction to Genealogy
- Review the history of the creation and use of the concept of race
- Review the history of Latinxs in Chicago, specifically in the northwest side
- 11am Juliet & Violet: Welcome, Introductions and Icebreaker, Review Agenda
- 11:20 am Juliet/Violet: Group agreements to create Safe Space
- 11:35am David: Framing & big picture overview,
- 11:50am Working Lunch
- 12pm David: The ancient and ever-present power of storytelling in our personal lives, the lives of our community, our organizations and as a tool to heal racial wounds.
Followed by first Storytelling assignment – Construct a short 3-5 minute story about what you have learned of your ancestor’s journey so far.
- 1pm David: Interactive presentation on the history of the creation and use of the concept of race. Specifically the historical interconnectedness and impact of power and economics and racism on all people who reside(d) in America yesterday, and today.
First research and storytelling assignments: Consider the major social, economic and political conditions that shaped your ancestors’ decisions over the last 200 years.
- 2pm Kerry: Introduction to the Practice, Power, & Limitations of Genealogy
Question: What are your hopes for this process?
- Why We Do Genealogy?
- How We Do Genealogy?
- What sites are available to search for Latinx families?
- What genealogical records are available?
- What kind of information was included in these records?
- What do we learn from the records?
Check-in: How are you reacting to this process?
Genealogy Learning Outcomes
At the end of this project, you will know more about:
- The value of genealogy as a way to connect with the strengths of our ancestors
- How to search the major genealogy sites
- How to find and document your family history
- How to understand genealogical DNA test results
- How your family history is part of your story
3:30pm Jesse Mumm: Latinxs in Chicago: waves of migrations, racialized housing
practices, a history of displacement and recreating home
4:45pm Juliet/Violet: Closing PAR Questions:
- Jot down a few notes to yourself→ share in pairs→ Whole Group:What surprised you today?
- Jot down a few notes to yourself→ share in pairs→ What do you want to learn more about?