Culture

This Afro-Latina Has Gone Viral After Dedicating This Over-The-Top Graduation Photoshoot To Her Culture

@s4mlita / Twitter

We love graduation season. It gives us a chance to applaud the next generation of high school and college graduates, and also be amazed at how they honor their family and Latino heritage. There is nothing better than giving your own culture a chance to shine on such a special day. That’s exactly what Samantha Sheppard did with a beautiful and culturally relevant graduation photo shoot.

Samantha Sheppard, 21, is the first to graduate from college in her family and celebrated by having a gorgeous photoshoot.

Twitter/@s4mlita 

“First one in my family with a degree,” she tweeted on April 20. “Finally telling my parents that everything they did is paying off…had to show out for the first gens for my grad shoot. 100% Panameña, living the American dream.”

Her tweet went viral and has been liked almost 40,000 times.

Twitter/@s4mlita

“I love the fact that my culture is being spread everywhere because we deserve it!! as a biracial female at a PWI, it means sooooo much,” she tweeted.

PWI is an acronym for predominately white institution.

Sheppard said she was happy her tweet went viral so people could learn more about Panamanian culture.

Twitter/@s4mlita

“Holy sh*t this sh*t really went f*cking viral… like whatttttt. not too many people know about Panamanian culture or how hard we really work so out of all the things that could’ve gotten this big, I’m glad it’s this.”

Here’s more about Sheppard, her family, and how she helps them any way she can.

Sheppard graduated with a degree in psychology and philosophy. She said that she is also currently working at a center for autism and related disorders.

“I have a very knowledgeable background in behavioral therapy and ABA and I’ve done extensive cognitive and neuropsych and neuroscience research with two profs at LSU,” Samantha tweeted.

People on social media were so moved by her incredible photoshoot.

Her dress was definitely a showstopper. Her headdress is worth another photoshoot on its own.

Panama is getting so much love, thanks to Sheppard’s tweet.

We wonder if her family back home found out about her viral tweet. It must be a really nice feeling to know that you are helping people learn about your culture and your people.

Her parents must be beyond proud of their daughter.

We can’t wait to see what is next for this inspiring young woman.

Congrats, Samantha!

READ: Here’s What This Undocumented College Grad Has To Say About The Haters Threatening Her With ICE For Celebrating Her Graduation

4 Afro-Dominican Models Cover Vogue Latin America’s September Issue

Entertainment

4 Afro-Dominican Models Cover Vogue Latin America’s September Issue

Afro, crooked teeth, brown skin, Dominicana — am I looking at myself in the mirror? No, of course not, I am not 10 feet tall and don’t have perfect cheekbones, but still, I feel so seen. There are four black as hell Dominican models on the cover of the 2019 September issue of Vogue Latin America. You will not hear the end of this in my Afro-Latinx household. You didn’t have to go so hard, Vogue. But really you did because this is long overdue. 

The Black Dominican models featured are Licett Morillo, Manuela Sánchez, Annibelis Baez, and Ambar Cristal. Their skin is brown, their hair is natural, and they are no less Latinx than anybody else. This is a moment. We have so few of them, it’s OK to take a beat and savor them. No, racism hasn’t ended. But when the beautiful marriage of your racial heritage and your culture are largely invisible, and even diminished by your community, moments like this are special. So let us Afro-Dominicans have this. Let us indulge in our beauty because it has been forbidden for too long. 

Manuela Sánchez

Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Manuela Sánchez has become something of an It girl. In 2017, Harpers Bazaar alerted the fashion-consuming public to be on the lookout for the then-16-year-old Sánchez. The teenager had been discovered by Luis Menieur Model Management while at school, only a year before. Known for her poise on the catwalk, Sánchez has walked in shows for Fendi, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior and Versace. Yes, mi gente in the mainstream, baby. 

“I am from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We have many beautiful beaches, food and so much culture. Punta Cana has one of the most beautiful beaches in my country,” she told Harpers Bazaar. 

Licett Morillo

The 5 foot 10 stunner also hails from Santo Domingo. Licett Morillo has already proved to be a disruptive force when she became the first woman of color to close a Prada show in 2018. Naomi Campbell was the first to open one in 1997 and in 2018, Anok Yai became the second. Yeah, fashion has a diversity issue. After being laid off from her job at a plastic factory, Morillo enrolled in school. It was on her way there one day that she was scouted to become a model. 

“A lady called Nileny Dippton came over to me and asked, ‘Are you a model?’ and of course, I responded ‘no way!’ I was so late for class, I had to rush off, but Nileny gave me her business card and I got in touch,” Morillo told Dazed and Confused. 

After sending in a few polaroids to IMG Models’ associate director of scouting, Luis Domingo, Morillo was on a plane to Milan for her first show. Morillo never dreamed of being a model because she never saw herself in magazines.

Models don’t usually look like us.

“In the Dominican Republic, women who are considered beautiful look very different to me and models I saw in magazines looked very different to me. So honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind,” Morillo said. 

It hurts to hear that anyone this beautiful could think they were not, but that’s colorism for you. It distorts the truth.

Annibelis Baez

Annibelis Baez has walked for some major fashion titans including, Dior Haute Couture, Kenzo, and Lanvin. 

“Fue maravilloso poder formar parte de un trabajo tan maravilloso @voguemexico Muchas Gracias por esta tremenda oportunidad, fue una experiencia increíble, música,baile y risas.  Compartir entre amigas fue lo mas divertido. Como olvidar cada detalle,” she wrote of the photoshoot on Instagram

Ambar Cristal

Cristal expressed deep gratitude for Dominican representation on Instagram. She urged fellow Dominicans that regardless if you come from humble beginnings, dreams can come true. 

“Hoy quiero dar gracias a Dios una vez más, ver mi rostro en la portada de Vogue, es como seguir creyendo en los cuentos de hadas,” Cristal wrote. “Vengo de una familia muy humilde en mi país, mi madre nos educó vendiendo habichuelas blanditas en nuestro barrio de la Toronja, hoy quiero que todos los jóvenes Dominicanos no dejen de soñar y que sepan que todo se puede conseguir con Fe y mucho trabajo.” 

They hate to see it!

While there is much more work to do in terms of Afro-Latinx representation, all I can say is I am so lucky to be alive in a time where I get to see four women who look like my family on the cover of Vogue. There is a younger version of me who was starved for this. There is a younger version of me who is wistfully clinging onto every page. 

Louisiana Police Detained A US Citizen After A Judge Cleared His Release Because He’s A Latino

Things That Matter

Louisiana Police Detained A US Citizen After A Judge Cleared His Release Because He’s A Latino

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On Aug. 31 2018, Ramon Torres was pulled over based on the suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Torres refused to take a breathalyzer test. As a consequence, he was arrested and jailed. The next day, a judge ordered his release, however, he was not immediately let go. Instead, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office placed Torres on an “immigration hold.” 

Torres is originally from Honduras, but arrived to the United States with his family when he was a child. In 2009, he became a naturalized citizen.  

Those who know Torres, attempted to intervene and supplied the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office with documents, such as his birth certificate, social security card, and U.S. passport, proving that he was a citizen. These documents should have been enough to confirm Torres’ citizenship. Yet, their efforts were ignored and he was kept for a total of four days. 

Torres was released only after his friend hired a lawyer. 

“The increasing national rhetoric of fear and racism around immigration is tearing apart our local communities,” said Katie Schwartzman, the legal director of the ACLU of Louisiana. 

This week,  the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a suit on behalf of Torres. According to the suit, Torres was held for immigration review due to the color of his skin and his Latinx sounding name. It is an example of racial profiling, an act that is both illegal and unconstitutional. 

Torres’ Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights were violated. As a result, the ACLU is seeking to award him compensation for his unlawful detention. 

The ACLU is blaming the harmful rhetoric that is currently being spread throughout the country. The line has to be drawn between local law enforcement and federal immigration. Local authorities are there to protect, but time after time, their actions stem from the damaging comments said by government official and their own racial biases. 

As a reminder, it is not the duty of local law authorities to enforce immigration policies, especially when they are unconstitutional and unjust. Law enforcement should be able to recognize when protocols are wrong to conduct and hold each other accountable in order to do their duty to protect their community instead of harming it. 

Immigrant communities are being unfairly targeted, harassed, and terrorized by the very law enforcement agencies that should be protecting them.

According to the suit filed by the ACLU, Torres asked why he was still being held by law enforcement and received a response by an individual who said it was a policy of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office to automatically hold every Latinx person to conduct a thorough investigation of their immigration status. 

This policy is more than questionable. The intention the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office claims to have is to prove that the people they are holding are U.S. citizens. However, when presented with the right and lawful documents they turn a blind eye. It is not a matter of serving their community. In this case, the deputies are looking to terrorize Latinx folks. It is a tactic that has been used in this country before. For example, sheriff Joe Arpaio who conducted traffic patrols that targeted immigrants in Arizona. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt because of his tough scare-tactics against immigrants, but was pardoned by Donald Trump when he took office. 

What kind of message does that send to local law authorities? For starters, without accountability, people like Arpaio and those at the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office know that they can get away with harassing Latinx people because they are backed by an administration that shares their same beliefs. Furthermore, it makes it seem okay for the people in power to bully immigrants into hiding. They are demonstrating that Latinx folks are the ‘other’ and it does not matter if they are citizens or not. We aren’t welcome. 

Policies like the one the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has in place do more harm than good, thus feeding into laws that are rooted in xenophobia.

If it happened to Torres, who is a citizen of the United States, imagine the many people that have to face the same thing every day – some of which may be citizens or are undocumented. People shouldn’t have to worry about carrying multiple forms of identification with them 24/7 or that these documents won’t be enough to support them, but it’s a reality for many due to the unjust profiling that occurs. 

Immigrants are thought of as easy targets, but organizations like the ACLU are attempting to change that by fiercely defending their rights. In their press release, the ACLU states that their goal is to “continue the fight against all forms of anti-immigrant bias and discrimination. The safety and wellbeing of our communities depend on it.”