“In some rooms, I’m never Latina enough, in other rooms I’m never black enough, I’m constantly code-switching…”
NPR’s Latino USA had an amazing discussion on the topic of Afro-Latinidad, zeroing in on the panel’s thoughts about who actually gets to call themselves “Afro-Latino.” The panel, expertly led by NPR’s Latino USA anchor Maria Hinojosa, consisted of Amilcar Priestley, director of the Afro-Latino Project and co-director of the Afro-Latino Festival; Marjua Esteves, Senior Editor at Vibe; M. Tony Peralta, artist and creator of lifestyle brand Peralta Project; and Jamila Brown, of HUE, a digital marketing company.
NPR’s Latino USA held a panel that kept it ? on Afro-Latinidad.
The conversation ran the gamut, from the realization that as a Latino you could even be black, to the “pelo malo vs. pelo bueno” conversation, to the discussion about whether ancestry, physical appearance, or both, are the main qualifiers over who gets to claim to be Afro-Latino. An important point that everyone gave a big “mmm-hmm” to was someone phrasing the question of Afro-Latinidad as “What color does a police officer think you are?”
The conversation of anti-blackness and racism within the Latino community came up when discussing the case of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a Mexican-American police officer. Of Yanez’s motivation, Hinojosa says “you bought into the entire narrative of anti-blackness as a Latino and you acted on it.”
The conversation ends on what can be done about changing views, with the suggestion that white people educate and challenge themselves as people who can have a major impact on dismantling white supremacy from the inside. Another important suggestion was to build on the work of others who have been making an effort to dismantle anti-blackness in Latin America for centuries. Most importantly, the panel states that we need to unite around the issues facing us, from racial profiling to being targeted by the police and deportation of immigrants, many of whom are black Latinos. The panel ended on “we all need each other, particularly in this political climate.” Word.
Later in the radio program, Hinojosa spoke to Congressman Adriano Espaillat on his experiences as an Afro-Latino.
Rep. Espaillat, of New York’s 13th District, made history as the first Dominican to serve in the U.S. Congress. As an Afro-Dominican, he was welcomed warmly by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. But he faced opposition when he tried joining the Congressional Black Caucus. This isn’t the first time Espaillat has come up against opposition for being Afro-Latino, and he isn’t as frustrated about it as one may think. Not being frustrated, however, doesn’t mean he isn’t a fighter and isn’t ready to kick some doors down.
Listen to the second part of the program to hear what Rep. Espaillat’s Afro-Latinidad meant to him and how it helped shape his political career.
Latinos have smashed almost every glass ceiling in professional sports in the United States. It is common to see Dominicans (did anyone say Alex Rodriguez?), Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and Mexicans, among others, hit the ball out of the park or pitch the perfect game in professional Major League Baseball.
World boxing is dominated by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans (Saúl Canelo Álvarez just signed the richest contract for any athlete in history with streaming service DAZN, $350 million for eleven fights over six years). However, there are two sporting arenas that remain elusive for nuestra gente: the NFL and the NBA. Latinos who have become stars in basketball or football are few and far in between, which makes the improbable journey of Dominican NBA player Felipe López all the more extraordinary.
López’s life and career is the subject matter of the new film Dominican Dream, which launched at the Tribeca Film Festival this May 2019. Here are some facts for this true legend and one of the many faces of Latino pride in the United States professional sports landscape.
Here’s all you need to know about the film that honors Felipe López.
Joining great documentaries on basketball, such as the unmissable Hoop Dreams, this feature directed by Jonathan Hock tells the rags-to-riches story of our beloved López, who in 1994, at the mere age of 17, was the hottest prospect in basketball. His journey all the way to the NBA was a given. Los sueños sí pueden cumplirse. This film is part of ESPN’s series 30 for 30. The director had previously helmed Through the Fire, the story of another young basketball star, Sebastian Telfair. You can watch the trailer here.
He was once known as “the Dominican Michael Jordan.”
Felipe’s smart moves, athleticism, and quick reactions earned him the moniker of “the Dominican Michael Jordan”. To be compared to the greatest basketball player of all time is quite something, and that in itself turned Felipe into a bastion of Dominican pride. In fact, Felipe wanted the film to be more about immigration than the courts. He told CBS: “Jonathan Hock introduced it to me not as a basketball story, but more as an immigration story. I loved it because to me, it’s a topic that we are living. There are so many migrating families going through adversity coming into the country.”
His journey in the NBA was bittersweet.
Felipe was touted as the next big thing in professional sports after being an absolute star in St John’s High School. He played only for four seasons in the NBA, which makes his journey a bit of an anticlimactic and tragic one for some. After the NBA, where he played for the Vancouver Grizzlies, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Washington Wizards. He never got to hold the prized championship trophy.
López moved to the United States with his family when he was only 14 years old.
Luis Felipe (his full, telenovela name!) was born on December 19, 1974, in Santiago. With his family, he then settled in the New York area when he was a teenager. Just three years after arriving in los estates, he was gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, perhaps the most important sports publication in the world.
His dad was also a sportsman: de tal palo tal astilla.
Like many in the isla bonita, Felipe’s dad had a fondness for baseball. He participated in the amateur baseball league of the Dominican Republic.
He played for Rice High School in New York City. Guess who else came out of New York high schools.
No other than NBA stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) and Dean Meminger, who at the time was also considered top prospects.
He played college basketball for St. John’s Red Storm.
This team is proudly New Yorker and hails from St. John’s University in Queens. The team plays in the Big East Conference and has one of the biggest followings in the NCAA. What a way to start!
López made quite a mark in his college team.
He is one of the top four scorers (he recently went from third to fourth place) in the team’s history. Not bad for a recent migrant trying to achieve his dreams, eh!
He was first picked by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1998 NBA Draft.
He never got to play with stars like David Robinson, as he was quickly exchanged for Antonio Daniels and went to play for the Canadian team Vancouver Grizzlies. The fact that the NBA was just testing the ground in the Canadian market might have contributed to the bumpy road that Felipe had during his first steps in the league. One can only imagine what he could have accomplished with the San Antonio Spurs.
He played 112 games for the Grizzlies.
As happens with a lot of professional athletes that are traded like objects (there are serious ethical issues with this), Felipe was then sent to play with the Washington Wizards in 2000. He then became a free agent and played with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team with which he last saw action in the NBA. He signed with the Dallas Mavericks and trained with Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Clippers, but never played a game with these teams. We can see that his career was full of ups and downs, through which he kept his cool and a positive and generous attitude.
His game in the NBA never quite reached the level of his high school and college days.
In the NBA he averaged 5.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and one assist per game. To be honest, these are OK numbers, but nothing too impressive by superstar standards.
He was a pioneer, though: he was the first high-school athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, sí señor.
Can you imagine being a Latino kid in the 1990s and see this cover? The Statue of Liberty on the background and a playful yet imposing Afro-Latino dynamo being the face of basketball? There perhaps too many expectations around Felipe’s career, which he acknowledged in an interview for SI, saying he wasn’t able to“make it all come together … and make it be the story that everyone wanted it to be.”
He is generous by nature and he established The Felipe Lopez Foundation
As a teenager, Lopez saw a way out of trouble (he was too busy shooting hoops!), but he knows that not all kids have the same opportunities. Out of his church in the South Bronx, he offers a space for kids from 5 to 17 years-old to be better students and better peers. Way to go, hermano! By the way, he also works with USA Basketball to develop clinics all around the country. We think that Felipe’s Dominican-American Dream is alive and well, thank you very much.
Together Bricia and Paulina Lopez have managed to build quite the local empire. The two jefas have built LA treasures like La Guelaguetza and I Love Micheladas, brands that were created out of an adoration for Mexican culture and a desire to serve Latinos. They’re also the founders behind Super Mamás, a weekly podcast that allowed women of color an opportunity to hear themselves. Through the podcast, the two sisters work to inspire women and give them tips on how to launch their own businesses, brands, and visions. They also encourage self-love and self-care. Their ultimate goal was to give mothers a community, a place to know that they aren’t alone.
It’s part of what also inspired them to create an event that was an extension of the podcast for their listeners. Super Mamás Social is an annual live recording of the podcast that brings mothers together to learn more about their businesses interests and be social.
This past Saturday marked the social’s fourth year and the blowout was muy muy exciting!
The event included a live taping of the Super Mamás Podcast and featured who shared their own powerful stories on the podcast before. This year’s attendees included Liz Hernandez of Wordaful, artist Melanie Fiona and Emmy Award Winning Televisión host Myrka Dellanos.
The event had so many opportunities for moms to relax and focus on themselves.
The chicas behind Super Mamás paired up with Macy’s and Clarins to create an actual GLOW ZONE teepee at their social. The tent allowed guests to re-examine their skin care regimen with professionals, receive make-up touch-ups, and fragrance matches.
Of course, Super Mamás had the happiest of meals for the happy day.
To celebrate the Mother’s Day weekend, Mc Donald’s Flower Mart provided all kinds of goodies, including Happy Meals for kids.
It also gave us a chance to network with and receive advice from The Most Jefas of Jefas.
Liz Hernandez, founder of Wordaful and radio and television personality behind some of the biggest entertainment radio and news programs in the business, was there and she SHOWED UP. Hernandez talked with Bricia and Paulina about the word reflection and so many of us walked away not only feeling a little bit wiser, but more empowered and capable too.
And like a true Super Mamás fan, Guacardo showed up too!
And spoiler alert! He loved it too!
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