Feminism Has Changed Me: Claiming My Black Latina Identity

Here I am sharing my Intersectionality piece at our International Day of the Girl Assembly (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).
Here I am sharing my Intersectionality piece at our International Day of the Girl Assembly (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).

Throughout the last few weeks, I have been introduced to a powerful movement called feminism. I have never been as inspired and motivated to use my voice than I am right now. The more that I have been reading about amazing feminists like Cherrie Moraga and Audre Lorde, the more I  ask myself, how can I use my voice and actions to involve myself in a feminist way of life?

In my feminism class we wrote essays about how the different variables of our life like race, class, gender, and sexuality intersect and make up our lives. Writing my own intersectionality essay gave me the chance to reflect on the complexity of my life. As a black Latina, my life is very complicated and in my essay I elaborated on the problems of racism and body image in  today’s society. Not only was I able to finally write my true thoughts about how I am affected by my ethnicity and race, gender and sexuality, but I was also able to share my feelings with my school.

On October 8, 2013, our feminism class held an assembly at our school to celebrate the second annual International Day of the Girl.  International Day of the Girl was on Friday, October 11, and for our assembly, many of my classmates and I shared excerpts from our intersectionality pieces. Hearing the variety of stories from my peers was extremely inspiring because I was able see how the different variables in their lives come together day to day. We also introduced our school to one of the most influential young women in the world today, Malala.

Malala Yousafzai is a 16-year-old teenager who is from Pakistan. She was shot in the head last year for speaking up about the education of young girls. The Taliban, a terrorist group, did not support her actions and shot her. She was taken into immediate care and underwent reconstructive surgery. Her recovery has progressed wonderfully and she continues to speak out about the education of girls not only in Pakistan but also all over the world.

In class, we watched  a video of Malala speak at the United Nations. She spoke about her experience but also emphasized on the importance of education. We also watched an interview of Malala on John Stewart and I was able to witness the amount of wisdom and care that Malala has in her.

When I say that Malala is a very inspirational young woman, it is because she has showed everyone that age is really nothing but a number. At only 16, Malala has accomplished so much. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and continues to touch millions everyday. While learning about Malala, I realized that at 17-years-old, I am not much different. I have a voice that I can use to speak out about my experiences as a Black Latina and I know that I can make a difference for the equality and awareness of other Black Latinas as well as other ethnicities. The amount of passion that Malala has is remarkable and she has shown me that if I am persistent and care enough about an issue in this world, I can make a difference and touch other people.

For example, after reading A Black Feminist Statement by the Combahee River Collective, I related to their piece. As a Dominican, I come from a very diverse background. To the outside world, people see me as “Black” and most never try to dig deeper. I have dealt with having stereotypes thrown in my face and racist remarks left and right, and I have never really had people to relate to.

However after reading A Black Feminist Statement, I realized that I am not alone. I was most moved by the statement: “No one has ever examined the multilayered texture of black women’s lives.” I was drawn to this statement because I feel like it illustrates the fact that being a woman of color has many layers to it and often times people do not try to uncover those layers.

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My high school feminism class led an assembly on International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).

Through International Day of the Girl and all of the events and people who have been surrounding this day and the weeks leading up to it, I have been able to explore who I am as a girl. All of the influential women who I have been introduced to us in our class have made it apparent to me that I have people who want the same things that I do, equality and justice for not only women, but everyone who is oppressed.

As a young woman, I am going through a stage in my life where I am beginning to find myself in just the first few weeks of this high school feminism course, I have learned that I am powerful and capable of making a difference in this world.

17 thoughts on “Feminism Has Changed Me: Claiming My Black Latina Identity

  1. Great post! Like you stated, we are most similar to Malala than we think. We are about the same age, and we have one very import thing in common: we all have a voice. The important part is how we use that voice. We just need to find someone to be passionate about, something that is personal, and speak out about it. You seem to have found something: equality and awareness of Black Latinas, which is great. You are totally right when you state “I have learned that I am powerful and capable of making a difference in this world.” We can all make a difference!

  2. It is so nice to see how inspired you are by Malala because of her age, and the “Black Feminist Statement” because of your background as a woman of color. You are an example of someone living at the intersections of your race, age, and gender and it is great to see how you believe that you can make a difference as long as you care enough about an issue and that you have learned you are “powerful and capable.”

  3. I too, felt very connected to the the Combahee piece. I also had felt that for once in my life, the feelings I had been feeling were not exclusive to me, or my generation but rather many generations back felt and thought the same. I felt in unison with history. I also truly enjoyed when you stated “age is nothing but a number”, I feel that sometimes being 16/17 you feel as though your voice wont be heard, but through the example of Malala I think everyone in our class is ready to break that barrier along beside you.

  4. I love how you start your piece with the question about how you can get involved in the feminist movement and end with the statement “I have learned that I am powerful and capable of making a difference in this world.” I think this ending is so powerful because I like to think that we are all capable of making a difference and you have such a strong voice all throughout this post so I definitely believe you and am excited to see how you continue with your new “feminist way of life.”

  5. As you mentioned in your blog post, one of the greatest things one can learn is how we have a voice,” in this world. I couldn’t help but smile as you said “As a black Latina, my life is very complicated and in my essay I elaborated on the problems of racism and body image in today’s society.” I believe one’s culture is the most important thing to be proud about. It is the first step confidence to help you to believe you have a voice and that you can make a change.

  6. I really enjoyed reading your post because it was the first time reading through the lens of a Black Latina and I found it interesting when you said that “to the outside world, people see me as “Black” and most never try to dig deeper” because that’s a conclusion that people automatically jump to when they see you.

  7. I couldn’t agree more with what Russell said about your post. The will to fight for a cause is always there it just takes effort to bring it out. Your a fantastic model of how that can be brought out from a person and be turned into a cause to fight for. People like Malala are really no different from us, exactly like you said. The only difference is they found their cause and wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. I think that your realization of what you want to fight for is great and it’s even greater to think about how someday all girls will have those realizations.

  8. It’s great to see that the example of Malala was so revealing to you. As you explained, even at this age we have already had an experience of the meaning of our lives at the intersections, with many “variables”, and, though they may not be close to the world of Malala, they are part of our identity in a similar way. Age, at this point, really comes into play just as a number, as you pointed out. We have the right to approach circumstances with our complete identity, without any filters to shelter us from their reality.
    After the link with Malala, I found very interesting that you analyze your position through the words of the “Black Feminist Statement”: there are sure many variables that play a role in your identity – I’d be very interested to hear more about it and how this combination is important to who you are now and what you want to do to promote change.

  9. It is so important to find ways to take action. I think its great that you feel like you want to make more of an impact and are looking for ways to do this. I agree with Emmett and Russell. It is one thing to say you want to take charge and make a change, but until you act on it, what are you really doing? I love how you discuss finding yourself in relationship to this class. It almost makes it seem like this class is unlocking a part of you. Your analyzation of A Black Feminist Statement is on point. I agree with you that people judge, and only see people from the outside. When people see certain things they assume, and assumptions mean nothing.

  10. “To the outside world, people see me as “Black” and most never try to dig deeper.” Hannah this line is EXCEPTIONAL! For years, I have wondered why people did not pay much attention to my thoughts and opinions, they did not matter. Being able to share them with people who actually listen has been a life changing for me as well. In your piece, you show that you and I are not alone. Also, you speak for all others like us who haven’t yet discovered their own voices, who haven’t learned that they too are “powerful and capable of making a difference in this world.”

  11. Hannah, I really loved your post. I couldn’t agree more with your comment on the statement “No one has ever examined the multilayered texture of black women’s lives”. Society, as we have all experienced at one point or another shoved a mirror in our face, a mirror that already had their preconceived reflection on us, and that is how we end up navigating the world. I related to that quote because as Latina girl as well, we are generalized and stereotyped by so many factors. Our skin color and our bodies are twisted against us and we are told that we are too curvy or not curvy enough, or too exotic, or poor, or uneducated, or dirty, or promiscuous, or deserving of abuse and even deserving to have our bodies sold. Our identity to the world is not just judged by our skin color, to the world our skin color implies so much more. I applaud you finding your voice and being inspired by the Feminism course and by Malala to speak up and reveal your identity beyond the stereotype, to really touch people. It takes a very brave person!

  12. I agree when you say “I am powerful and capable of making a difference in this world.” This feminism class has challenged us and made us realize our potential. When you speak about Malala you say how age is nothing but a number, this is so true. This line reminded me of Paris post when she explains that it is never too late to use your voice. We are all going through this feminism class and learning about ourselves. We are not alone and together we can use our skills from feminism and spread the change we have each experienced.

  13. I think your post rings true to your obvious activist roots. I think our class has challenged you and showed you your potential. I agree with your statements about Malala, although she is young that does not mean she is not capable. I am proud that this class has helped you identify with your latina side I think we are all discovering certain aspects of ourselves in this class and I think it is important that we share them.

  14. I agree that age is nothing but a number. After seeing 16 year old Malala do her thing at the UN, I am convinced that we have internalized age as something that holds us back from making a change as a whole. I believe that we fear that based on our age people won’t take us seriously. However, throughout this experience I’ve realized that we are all capable of making a difference on the issues that we are so passionate to resolve. I also agree with you about the stereotypes of being “black”. What do you do in a society where you are not considered the majority or the ideal?

  15. Hannah, I also think that writing the intersectionality essays was a good way of just putting out every part of yourself onto paper. It was so inspiring to hear and see everyone in our class putting themselves out there and discovering themselves. When you talk about how you are not that different from Malala, its interesting how we are all like Malala. We all have a voice, we can all make a difference. It can also be comforting to realize that we are not alone, all girls deal with stereotypes and remarks.

  16. I love how you were able to connect yourself to Malala, who is living proof that “age is really nothing but a number,” and you, too, have a powerful voice that “can make a difference for the equality and awareness of other Black Latinas as well as other ethnicities.” I also found your reflection on A Black Feminist Statement that very eye-opening and inspiring. I can relate to the experience of “having stereotypes thrown in my face.” Realizing that you are not, nor do you have to be, these stereotypes is very enlighten and empowering. However, helping others to, or even want to, “dig deeper” and “uncover those layers,” is a very different and difficult process, but is still just as important.

  17. I love how you were able to connect yourself to Malala, who is living proof that “age is really nothing but a number,” and you, too, have a powerful voice that “can make a difference for the equality and awareness of other Black Latinas as well as other ethnicities.” I also found your reflection on A Black Feminist Statement very eye-opening and inspiring. I can relate to the experience of “having stereotypes thrown in my face.” Realizing that you are not, nor do you have to be, these stereotypes is very enlightening and empowering. However, helping others to, or even want to, “dig deeper” and “uncover those layers,” is a very different and difficult process, but is still just as important.

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