Simma Lieberman

Episode 42: An Afro-Latina Conversation on Race

With social media buzzing about Gina Rodriguez, Cardi B, and what it means to be Black, African American and Latina this episode of Everyday Conversation on Race is timely.

If you’re interested in the topic, have an opinion or want to know more, you’ll love this conversation on race with Cessie and Mercedes.

Cessie Alfonso and Mercedes Martin join me to talk about cultural intersectionality and their own Afro-Latina identities. Spanning generations, geography and sexual orientation, they find that diversity, equity and inclusion are more relevant than ever today as more people identify become aware of their own intersections beyond race and ethnicity.

 

Topics in this episode include:

  • What it means to be Afro-Latina in the United States and accept their own cultural intersectionality
  • Afro-Latina identity is complicated and often misunderstood
  • Experiences of feeling not being accepted by either culture because it’s impossible to only “choose one” identity
  • Response to racism and rejection
  • Addressing the claims that someone can’t be Black if they speak Spanish
  • Why they can’t separate and only claim one culture since they are mixtures of all of their cultures
  • More Afro-Latinas, Afro-LatinX are speaking out about their experiences
  • Cessie’s response when people question whether she is Black or Latina, and why she’s speaking Spanish
  • How African slaves were brought to the Caribbean Islands even before slavery in the United States
  • The difference between race and ethnicity
  • Why conversations on race are important and how they are different today than in the 1950’s and 1960’s
  • Growing up in New York vs in the California suburbs as Afro-Latinas
  • The browning of America in US culture and how that will be reflected as more than Black and White but the multitude of identifications
  • How we create space for the multiplicity of backgrounds in our population now and in the future
  • Stereotypes and assumptions about Afro-Latina and Afro-LatinX
  • How to learn more and engage in conversations on race and ethnicity

 

Bios:

Mercedes Martin is a Cultural Accessory Designer, Entrepreneur, and Educator. She runs a successful African-Diaspora inspired brand called Tres Mercedes- designing embellished sunglasses, hats with African Fabrics, Ancestor candles, and statement piece earrings & rings. She self- identifies as a natural curl hair spiritual Black Woman, but if she gotta be more specific about ethnicity: Black and Afro-Cuban American. Born in California and raised in Oakland.

 

Part of the Millennial generation she has had her own small business, Tres Mercedes since 2010.

link: www.tresmercedes.com

Instagram: @TresMercedes

 

 

Cecilia “Cessie” Alfonso, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, is a nationally recognized expert in forensic social work, domestic violence and organizational development in the area of cultural competence and valuing diversity.  She is the founder and president of Alfonso Consultants, Inc. For the past 20 years, Alfonso Consultants, Inc. has provided social work and psychosocial assessments to the clients of civil and criminal attorneys throughout the United States, as well as internationally. As a mitigation specialist, she and her associates have conducted over 700 mitigation investigations since she began providing services.

Ms. Alfonso is a bilingual (Spanish speaking), bicultural (Afro-Puerto Rican-Cuban) social worker who has trained attorneys and professionals to appreciate and integrate into their practices and organizations the ethnic diversity and cultural aspects of their clients’ lives. She is also a nationally recognized domestic violence/battered woman’s expert who has appeared on national television and British Broadcasting Company (BBC) radio and is one of the few African Americans qualified as an expert in domestic violence in the State of New Jersey.  She has conducted training in domestic violence to professionals in the criminal justice system.

 

Ms. Alfonso has received the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association’s (NLADA) Life in the Balance Achievement Award for her pioneering work as a forensic social worker/mitigation specialist. In 2008 she was recognized by Governor Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey as a leading mitigation specialist who significantly contributed to the ultimate abolition of the Death Penalty in the State of New Jersey.

 

In 1987, Ms. Alfonso, along with her associate, Kathryn Bauer, wrote one of the first articles ever written that details how the social worker skill set can assist criminal attorneys in preparing and presenting the life history of their defendants facing the death penalty.  Ms. Alfonso has been qualified as an expert social worker and has testified in the penalty phase of capital cases in states such as Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Her expertise has contributed to criminal defense attorneys obtaining life sentences for their clients.

 

Ms. Alfonso’s ability to educate attorneys on how to engage and defend individuals who are different from themselves in terms of race, class, gender and/or sexual orientation has enabled attorneys to communicate to the jurors why they should give their clients life as opposed to death.

 

Cecilia ” Cessie” Alfonso has received the following awards:

 

Recognition Award, First President of National Association of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists (NASAMS), NASAMS 20th Anniversary Conference, March 2013

 

Life in the Balance Achievement Award – National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, March 2008

 

Recognition Award, presented by Governor Corzine of New Jersey – Leading mitigation specialist who significantly contributed to the ultimate abolition of the Death Penalty in the State of New Jersey, 2008

 

Mim George Award – National Association of Sentencing Advocates (founding member 1995), 2005

 

Outstanding Faculty Member in the Defender Institute Basic Trial Skills Program – New York State Defenders Association, June 2000

 

Contact info: cessiealf@aol.com

(518) 928-8199

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 26 : Why Having an Interracial Family Doesn’t Make You Free of Racism


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In this fascinating conversation on race, John Blake, the CNN reporter who covers race, religion and politics shares his experiences and thoughts on race. You definitely want to hear this episode of ”Every Day Conversations on Race.”

 

Race has always been an important issue to John Blake. He shares his experience as a biracial young man growing up in West Baltimore where the Freddy Gray riots occurred, and where The Wire was filmed.

 

Regarding Governor Northam of Virginia, and the issue of Blackface, John refers to Lyndon Johnson and Abraham Lincoln who had racist histories, but later did great things for Black people., “Some of our best friends have been racist,” he wrote in a recent article.

 

“Thinking about Lincoln and Johnson,” he states “made me ask whether we want someone who works for  Black people who has made mistakes that we can talk to, or someone who is able to successfully hide their racism and do nothing.”

 

He said that social media will destroy people over one wrong statement and there’s no redemption. “We fixate on other people but not how we all have issues of race. Even I do,” he admits.

 

We talk about the myth that if there all you need to get rid of racism, is more intermarriage and biracial children.

 

Listen now if you want to know

  • why you can still be racist even if you have people of color in your family or a Black best friend
  • what’s whitesplaining and how some white people try to tell Black people what racism
  • why John Blake was accused of mansplaining by his wife
  • how reporting on gang activity in Los Angeles affected his thinking on race and systems
  • what he thinks of Rachel Dolezal
  • why we need new ways and language of talking about racism
  • actions we can take to look at ourselves, further the conversation on race, and stop racism

 

Episode 25 : The Truth About Anti-Semitism at the Women’s March – A Jewish Woman of Color and member of the Women’s March Isteering committee


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April Baskin,  a Jewish woman of color joined me for an Every Day Conversation on Race to share her perspectives on Judaism, race, the women’s march and social justice.

 

Her African-American, Native-American and White Ashkenazie Jewish background made her the person she is today, a social activist who has been instrumental in bringing people together across differences. She has had many every day conversations on race, ethnicity, religion, and economic class.

 

April has a very strong Jewish identity and has held several leadership positions in mainstream Jewish organizations.. Even though she was the VP of Audacious Hospitality at the Union for  Reform Judaism, she has experienced racism within the Jewish community. The false myth that all Jews are white, has sometimes led white Jews to question her Judaism, telling her she is not Jewish enough or interrogating her by asking, “How are you Jewish.” This is a question that white Jewish people are not asked, nor are they told they are not Jewish enough.

 

There is another false belief amongst some  more right wing  white Jewish people that there is a “special issue” of Black antisemitism. There is some antisemitism and racism in every group particularly when people don’t know each other.  Instead of getting to know individuals in any group, some people take the “easy and lazy” way out and rely on the media, one negative experience or Facebook and Twitter rumors to generalize a group. It’s a cognitive dissonance that when someone in  a group we are part of (racial, cultural, etc.) we see them as on individual but when it’s an individual from another group they represent everyone.

 

We also discussed her thinking that some of the claims of anti-Semitism are coming from trolls and people who don’t support equality and want to use Jewish people as scapegoats to separate us from Muslims and people of color who have also been targeted and attacked. Their strategy is to make Jewish people feel like they are being attacked by people on the progressive  side and no longer align with them.

 

This has been particularly problematic in the recent Women’s March, of which April is on the steering committee. In our conversation on race, April spoke about the misconception that the whole leadership of the women’s march was anti Semitic based on the relationship one of the leaders has with Minister Farrakhan who had consistently made anti-Semitic statements.

 

 

April made the compared that by saying that if a Jewish person in a synagogue makes a racist statement that doesn’t mean all Jewish people are responsible, and it would be wrong to assume that and condemn all Judaism.

 

It’s important for April and other Jewish women to be part of the women’s march and educate people who may not know about Judaism and what is considered offensive no matter who they are.  At the same time, it’s important for white women involved in the Women’s March to learn about racism. We need each other and the only way we can be successful and eliminate inequality is by education, experience and working together.

 

This is why April feels that open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations on race are crucial to stop hate and fear of people who are different.

Episode 22 : Latin X in the Conversation on Race


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Conversations on Race and LatinX with Bernardo Ferdman and Placida Gallegos

 

What is LatinX? Bernardo Ferdman, a Jewish Latino, born in Argentina and raised in Puerto Rico, and Placida Gallegos, a Chicana woman define LatinX, and talk about issues of race, skin color, and ethnicity in the Latin culture.

 

They share issues of skin color, ethnicity and race in the Latino culture.  Placida talks about her family and how being light skinned was valued more than her siblings who were darker, as well as how men had more power and value than women.

 

Bernardo talk about his experiences as a white Latino who is also Jewish, and what binds LatinX people together.

 

The Spanish language is gender based, and there are different endings of words based on gender. LatinX includes all genders, ethnicities and skin colors.

 

Topics of interest:

  • LatinX- why, how and impact of the term
  • Questions about the term and pushback
  • Origin and meaning of the term Chicano
  • Colorism in the overall LatinX culture
  • Terms that used to be acceptable and is no longer
  • Conversations on race within the LatinX community and outside the LatinX community
  • Generation differences in the Latino community
  • History of Salsa and Caribbean music and new music blends
  • Intersections and complexities of Latin culture
  • Bad Bunny, Cardi B, and the popularity or Latino reggaeton, and trap music
  • Objectification of Latina women
  • The racial aspect of immigration issues today in the US
  • Patterns of racism in the immigration discussion
  • Impact of the media, dehumanization and villification of people from Mexico and countries who are fleeing violence and oppression

 

Bernardo

Placida Gallegos

 

 

Episode 21 : Healing from racial and economic trauma


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Key topics:

Block Chain for Social Justice

Resilient Wellness

Black female entrepreneurship

Racial and economic trauma

Diversity, Equity  and Inclusion in the Block Chain world

 

Daisy Ozim who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Lagos, Nigeria, is the founder Resilient Wellness, a co operatively owned healthcare system that provides holistic medicine and health education to marginalized and underserved communities.

 

She’s also the director of Blockchain for Social Justice that uses Block Chain technology to uplift marginalized communities and eliminate poverty and close the wealth gap.

 

Daisy says it important to talk about race because racism is one of the biggest issues that we’re facing in society as a whole.  It’s also important for us to talk about race because we cannot heal or address racism and  all of its manifestations if we don’t have a conversation about it.

 

Her organization Block Chain for social justice is a collaborative organization and that focuses in three key areas,

  • Block Chain developer training. Daisy helps people of color and people in lower income communities become block chain developers because they can make $250,000 to $400,000 a year

 

  • Education and access that results in creativity

 

  • Equity in the Block Chain community

 

Block chain technology can be used for social justice and to help low income and people of color or it can be used to further nefarious goals that hurt people of color.

 

She wants to ensure that people of color can generate wealth and protect themselves from economic trauma like the Black Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 

Her public health work helps people physically, mentally and emotionally heal from racial trauma and internalized racism

 

Guest: Daisy Ozim

Daisy Ozim

 

Episode 20 : Political Correctness vs Cultural Competence, Expanding the Privilege Convo


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Dr. Nika White

 

Dr.Nika White a thought leader in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion talks with me about race in South Carolina and her earliest memories of racism as an African-American woman. This is a very powerful discussion with real solutions.

 

Keypoints:

 

In order to have a meaningful conversation on race, across race, we need to be focused on cultural competence as opposed to being  “politically correct.” The emphasis on “political correctness,” hampers openness, listening to each other and can be a barrier to conversations on race and other differences.

 

There more kinds of privilege that need to be acknowledged and recognized. When privilege is not recognized, it can lead to bias, assumptions and biased behavior. At different times, different privileges are more prominent and have a more profound impact on people’s lives.

 

The point of talking about privilege is not to create shame or guilt but to have greater clarity in the conversation on race and foster more inclusion. Privilege is about the cards we are dealt that give people an automatic advantage in certain situations. Once we recognize our areas of privilege we can use those privileges to ensure equity and inclusion for everyone.

 

Diversity has a lot of layers beyond race; age, sexual orientation, socio-economics, etc. that need to be included in the conversation. For some people it’s easier if we begin by talking about the other dimensions and then talk about race.  Everyone must be included. If we don’t address issues of privilege we will not be able to stop racism.

 

White men can play a key role in change and creating opportunities for everyone else. There are great people of all backgrounds working in the diversity, equity and inclusion realm. It’s not just people of color doing it.

 

Nika shares a story of being in a meeting when a white man tried to shut her down. Another white man spoke up in support of her. Don’t wait for people who are the targets of biased behavior to say something. Speak up right away. We all need to play a role in building equitable workplaces and communities.

 

When people don’t see a problem when there is bias, they are perpetuating the problem.

 

Dr. Nika White

Episode 19 : Are LGBTQ People of Color Viewed as Sexual objects?


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My guests were in this episode are Paoi Eulalia and Alessandra Stevens from MXD Magazine.

MXD Magazine is a publication that celebrates LGBTQ People of Color (POCs), non-conformists, and allies. Both Paoi and Alessandra are Filipino-American but represent different genders and generations.

 

One of their objectives is to fight racism masked as sexual preference, among other façades. Too often LGBTQ people of color are either objectified as exotic sexual objects or are totally invisible. We discuss the different ways LGBTQ people are seen as sex objects and not as real people.

 

MXD Magazine aims to celebrate and bring LGBTQ people of color deal with issues that concern them.

 

It’s still all too common that LGBTQ people are presented in the media as all white men. Not only are people of color in general missing from the conversation but also Transgender people who are most often targets of violence and discrimination are discounted.

 

Within the LGB community there is still a lack of education, bias and transphobia.  MXD Magazine is all-inclusive and features several people who are transgender. The magazine is still in its infant stages and most of the articles and features are male focused but by bringing in Alessandra and other women they hope to change that.

 

We discuss how the right therapy and therapists can make a difference in people’s lives for self-acceptance, internalized homophobia and transphobia.  Both Alessandra and Paoi see the importance of increasing the amount of LGBTQ therapists who are people of color and eliminating the stigma that some people still have regarding therapy. They each share their own experiences as to how therapy has helped each of them become the healthy emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

 

We agree that there needs to be more attention paid to intersectionality in the LGBTQ community in order to have the conversation on race and other differences. No one is just one identity, or just LGBTQ.  People are from different cultures, generations, religions, races, etc.  Those multiple identities can create commonalities and connections if we are willing to look at them. No conversation on race, gender identity, or sexual orientation can be meaningful without understanding intersectionality.

 

Resources mentioned in this episode

www.MXD.com

Paoi Eulalia   Publisher@MXDMagazine.com

 

www.RaceConvo.com

www.simmslieberman.com

@theinclusionist

Simma@sSimmaLieberman.com

Episode 18 : Are Whole Cities Racist?


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LeRon Barton is a widely published author on race, mass incarceration and dating. He is    40 years old and African-American.

 

Key topics on the show are:

  • The importance of white people having conversations on race with each other.
  • What white people and other people can do to be allies
  • When people not in the target group need to speak out against racist or inappropriate comments and when they need to not speak for people of color or members of a group being targeted
  • Why too many white people are afraid to have a conversation about race with people different than them
  • Times when Black people don’t speak up because they don’t want to be seen as the angry Black person , so they water their comments down
  • How Obama had to walk a fine line when showing emotions
  • Simma and LeRon disagree about Obama as a president
  • Why we need more cross-race conversations about race that discuss solutions and not just talk
  • LeRon and Simma disagree about South Carolina. LeRon thinks there is nothing good about South Carolina and Simma says that she spoke at a diversity conference in South Carolina and met great people. Also, South Carolina has had a lot of civil rights activism and you can’t put down everyone in a whole state. Can a whole state be racist? Simma says no.
  • Solutions to racist monuments- should they be taken down, put in a museum or destroyed?
  • How to handle the dangers of being Black in America today, and in particular being a Black man. LeRon wrote an article- on “Staying Alive While Black.”
  • Is stand your ground and open carry only for white people?