We are spotlighting the work of five Afro-Latinx whose work you should be listening to. These five poets are an excellent starting point for understanding the power of poems as social commentary and gaining perspective on the Afro-Latinx experience.
Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe- Del Orbe is a formerly undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic who writes and performs spoken word poetry. Her Instagram page features a collection of her poems, thoughts presented as a stream of consciousness, photos, and memes. Her poetry works to shed light on issues facing the Afro-Dominican community, including the immigrant experience. Braided her desires to promote resistance and visibility for low-income immigration, Del Orbe’s work is definitely one for any poetry enthusiast to watch.
Negra Bella- The daughter of a Dominican mother and an African-American father, Sharee Yveliz grew up feeling neither Latina enough or Black enough. But as she found her place, she began encouraging others to love the skin they’re in. As a result, we have this poignant poem titled “Negra Bella.”
If you’ve ever been told you’re pretty for a morena, been criticized for your “pelo malo,” or been encouraged to seek a significant other that will help you “mejorar la raza,” then this poem will ring true to you. In this piece, she empowers viewers to forget all those messages and to live up to their own ideals.
Elizabeth Acevedo-Elizabeth Acevedo is an Afro-Dominican spoken word poet and author who hails from New York City. With each line that she delivers, Acevedo does members of the Latino community, many who fail to recognize that Afro-Latinos exist, a favor by highlighting and praising its African ancestry. Her work lovingly celebrates the influence her blackness has impressed upon her own cultural traditions. “My first language I spoke was Spanish/ Learned from lullabies whispered in my ear/ My parents’ tongue was a gift which I quickly forgot after realizing my peers did not understand it./ They did not understand me,” she says in her poem “Afro-Latina.” Besides holding an impressive presence on Instagram, Acevedo has addressed TEDTalk stages, appeared on BET and Mun2 and authored books like “The Poet X” and “Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths.”
Venessa Marco – An Afro Latina of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent – is bold in her poem, titled “Off White.” With this piece, she speaks about what it’s like to be a lighter-skinned Black woman, and how the comments she received were still damaging to her self esteem. “You’re pretty for Black,” she says. “You not Black enough. You better race. You exotic. Wifey material.”
Her poem reminds us that Blackness doesn’t just look one way, and we should celebrate it in all its forms.
Jackie Torres– As Afro Puerto Rican Jackie Torres addresses the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police in “Another Hashtag, Another Mourning,” she’s not only discussing a critical issue that replays in the United States, she’s also using this storytelling method to draw attention to anti-Blackness within Latino communities.
“I really wanted this piece to capture the sense of collective mourning that I think most Black people feel in the wake of a police shooting; coupled with being an Afro-Latina surrounded by non-black Latinos who don’t understand the gravity of that feeling,” Torres says.
Care to share the wealth with more recommended Latinx poets of your own?
Tell us who you believe we should be listening to in the comments below!