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It’s the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, but it’s the second part of our celebration of Afro Latinx voices.
Last week, we highlighted an Afro Latina-focused Instagram tackling white supremacy with beauty and education. This week, it’s all about legacies – what we leave behind to inspire future generations.
So hit that forward button, send this email to your fam and friends and let’s hop into it!
A legacy of service
100 Black Men of Atlanta wants people to know about the Afro Latino men who will remain influential in Atlanta long after Hispanic Heritage Month ends.
One of those men is Sid Barron, a Black and Honduran businessman whose company, Asbury Automotive Group, recently completed a $3.2 billion merger.
While his professional portfolio is impressive, he’s especially proud of his work mentoring young Black and brown students, which is 100 Black Men’s specialty. The organization connects with kids through such programs as a robotics program that inspires K-12 students to join the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.
Barron, the chairman-elect of 100 Black Men of ATL, loves cheering for the students as they walk into their first day of school. If the students go to Saturday school, members attend classes and have lunch with them. Since the organization also mentors college students, one of Barron’s mentees was able to get his foot in to the auto business thanks to his help.
Barron said their kids are up against circumstances such as high poverty and dropout rates. So when it comes to mentoring, he said 100 Black Men operates under the motto: “They will be what they see.”
“These are brilliant kids. All they need is that example outside of their neighborhood so they can see exactly what their capabilities are,” Barron said. “If you’re a young male from Honduras, and you don’t see someone who looks like you that could be a businessman, you assume that your only status in life is to be a laborer.”
Barron credits his mother, Mayfern Barron, for his community service spirit. Barron was born in Honduras but moved to the U.S. as a toddler, first to Florida then Atlanta in the mid-70s, where Barron watched the state flourish into a multicultural hotspot. Gwinnett County, Ga., near Atlanta, now ranks eighth in the nation’s top 10 counties for diversity and is home to the state’s largest Latinx population. Barron said there are parts of Georgia where Spanish is the predominant language.
Barron watched his mother make her way through American life despite her language barrier. While Mayfern Barron oozed kindness, she also demanded respect as a woman of color. In 1971, she became the first head nurse of color at what is now Emory University Hospital, where she worked for 45 years. According to her obituary, the hospital’s emergency room is still using her procedures and protocols. Barron said his mother made sure she was addressed as Mrs. Barron.
She kept that same energy as a devoted Catholic. Despite her heavy accent, she became the voice of the Afro Latino and helped diversify the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“She made them pay attention and treat her just like they treated everybody else, and it really helped the Black Catholic community grow in Atlanta,” Barron said.
Mayfern Barron’s tenacity didn’t weaken her nurturing spirit. When she cooked, she made enough so that everyone ate – whether they were blood or not. She was a listening ear to young pregnant women, the ill and the elderly. She was a registered nurse who worked the 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. shift so she could put the kids to bed and be home by the time they woke up.
“She taught me that you don’t have to have a lot of money to serve your community,” Barron said. “We didn’t have very much growing up, but we had an overabundance of grace and love that was worth more than I can express.”
Mix(ed)tapes of Afro Latinx bops
While exploring the interwebs to hunt down more examples of Hispanic pride, I stumbled upon a podcast called Mix(ed)tape. And y’all, this podcast is treasure trove of Afro Latino culture and knowledge.
Melissa Villodas, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Social Work, and Andrés Hincapié, an economics professor at UNC Chapel Hill, started the podcast in June 2020, when Black Lives Matter protests flooded streets around the globe. As Afro Latinx dancers and academics, Hincapié and Villodas use music education to call out the whitewashing of Afro Latino music and dance culture. They decided to call the podcast Mix(ed)tape as a nod to the mixture of cultures that shows up in the Latinx dance community and music. Mix(ed)tape is currently two seasons in and has gained listeners who live faaaaar away from their North Carolina Triangle audience, according to their website.
Hella intrigued by their mission, I decided to listen to Mix(ed)tape’s latest episode, or “track,” which talks about kizomba, a popular genre of dance and music that originated in the south African nation of Angola. Kizomba means “party” in Kimbundu, a tribal language spoken in Angola.
Here are a few of my favorite moments of joy from that episode:
- Music that marvels at Black Skin: Hincapié gets right into the liberation by starting things off with a song by Angolan kizomba artist, composer and producer C4 Pedro called “Pele Negra,” which means “Black ” I found the English translation of the lyrics, and I was swooned by C4 Pedro’s affirmations to Black women.
Brown eyes, dark skin
Holy breeze, freshness
Real tight curls
Genuine, with no mixture
“Notice how C4 Pedro reverses the usual anti-black stereotype that associates beauty with racial mixture,” Hincapié said in the podcast. “There’s not an inch of that mantra of ‘Mejorar la raza,’ of ‘improving the race,’ in ‘Pele Negra’s’ message. Zero.”
- Kizomba’s roots can be found in semba, an ancient rhythm created on Angola’s coast during the 17th century used to express joy and abundance. Before Christianity expanded into Angola, Angolans worships their gods through semba. Semba was also used to celebrate a good harvest, births and marriages. During the 19th century, semba music carried messages of revolution and independence. But once Angola got out from under Portugal’s rule in 1975, an almost three-decade civil war started over the newly liberated territory. The infighting didn’t end until 2002. Villodas said the Kizomba sound emerged from the political chaos during late-80s and 90s as people inspired by a musical style called Zouk took semba beats and slowed them down. According to Villodas, Angolans fled civil war during the 90s by immigrating to Portugal for economic and academic stability. They brought their culture with them, which included the dance and rhythm of Kizomba.
- Hincapié and Villodas paired this episode with a Spotify playlist called “Kizomba Black Pride.” So after listening to their enlightening podcast, you can then enjoy your own hour-and-a-half long celebration of peak Blackness.
- During the second half of this episode, the hosts spoke to Kimberly Nicole, a Black marketing and communications professional who shares her love for Kizomba and semba as an instructor at her studio, Kizomba RDU in North Carolina. Nicole goes more into her dance journey in Season 1 Track 3A of Mix(ed)tape.
Keep singing, dancing and spreading your Black Joy. See ya’ next time.