Meet Stephanie RenéeRadio host and program director, 900AM-WURD
I was born and raised in Washington DC (the city proper, not the surrounding suburbs). Family was rooted in that area since at least the start of the 20th century. Before that, they migrated from all over. My paternal side of the family is Caribbean. Thanks to DNA testing, I am able to identify Jamaican, Cuban, Dominican and Brazilian, by way of Nigeria. My mother’s side was more of the African/European mix commonly found as a result of slavery.
At AL DÍA's cover photo shoot
In D.C. during the 1970s, there was only Black and White, so I grew up only thinking of myself as Black. My abuela (paternal grandmother) made it a point to begin giving me more of my family history, and spoke often of Mexican cousins and our NYC family’s very colorful mixtures. My first trip outside of the U.S. was to Mexico, where she showed me shrines of the Black Madonna and said that this was our heritage. It was only after becoming a student at Penn, where I met more people with diverse Caribbean/Latino backgrounds that I began to allow myself to claim that culture for myself. So now I am much more comfortable accepting Afro-Latina, even though I wish I was still fluent in Spanish (I’m working on it).
My features generally don’t give me the option of people not assuming that Black is in the mix somewhere, but my lighter complexion and curly hair also generate lots of assumptions about my self-identification and even personal politics that are incorrect. I have dated Latino men whose families have been much more accepting of me because of my lighter complexion and my passable Spanish than they likely would be of a darker-skinned, native-born Latina. In my visits to Brazil and the Dominican Republic, I have learned that my ability to blend in with the natives would afford me lots more professional opportunities than someone of darker skin. So I definitely think there is a bias toward the Afro in Afro-Latina, here in the U.S. and across the globe. The stigma of slavery and colonialism loom large.
I love, love, love hashtag awareness and celebration (i.e. #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName). In practice, I see the lines blurred for many people between Black and Brown, but for others the walls are high and deeply personal. My Black identity in D.C. as a child was always peppered with Puerto Rican & Dominican neighbors and other people from throughout the Caribbean diaspora. So I’ve often seen the identities as relatively interchangeable. But I’ve found here in Philadelphia that there is a tangible resentment between some communities of Blacks and Latinos, based on economic opportunity and colorism.