Afro-Latina Business Leaders to Know

March 1, 2021

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Written by: Alicia Ramirez-Hernandez, Cisneros Class of 2023

Uplifting Afro-Latinx voices isn’t just a thing we should only do in February; it should be a part of our everyday lives. One way to do this is to consider where we shop. Afro-Latinx businesses create products and services para la cultura and it’s important for all Latinx people, which are some of the fastest-growing markets in the country, to support Afro-Latinx business leaders. The following Afro-Latina entrepreneurs have used their culture to create products we can all appreciate:

1. Kalima DeSuze, Cafe con Libros

DeSuze is an activist, social worker, and founder of Cafe con Libros, the only Feminist bookstore in Brooklyn. This bookstore and coffee shop is a space for empowering Afro-Latina voices, where they can come together to learn, connect and spark conversations. With nearly 99 percent of their books for sale written by and for women, Cafe con Libros is uplifting the stories of women and girls and work to redefine the word feminism. DeSuze has said, “In terms of my identity, and my empowerment, it comes from Black feminism. My spirit comes from my ethnicity as a Panamanian.” She has created a much-needed space with love and had helped us create countless reading lists.

2. Mabel and Shaira Frias, Luna Magic

Dominican-American sisters, Mabel and Shaira, are the founders of Luna Magic, a new indie beauty and lifestyle brand. Mabel has over 10 years of experience in digital merchandising in fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands, while Shaira is an entrepreneur and professional makeup artist. Together, they founded Luna Magic in Los Angeles “with a mission to introduce… diversity, inclusivity, and vibrancy to the beauty industry.” Their best-selling eye-shadow palette has shade names that celebrate Latinx culture and music, such as “Salsa,” “Amor,” “Banda,” and many more. The duo was also recently featured on Shark Tank!

3. Bianca Kea, Yo Soy AfroLatina

Kea is the founder of Yo Soy AfroLatina, a brand that highlights experiences and culture to empower Black women within the Latinx community. Noting a lack of representation of Black Latinas, YSAL is “a celebration of a culture that is just as diverse as it is rich in pride.” Feeling a disconnect from her Mexican roots, Kea began to travel and learn about the Black diaspora within the Latinx community. She said “I wanted to take phrases that had a bad connotation attached to them like ‘Morena’ or ‘Pelo Malo’ and turn them into phrases that celebrated us and our Blackness.” Through this mission, Kea has created a brand that acknowledges and continues to honor the beauty of Afro-Latinidad.

4. Marisol Catchings, Azteca Negra

A Black Chicana raised in San Francisco, Catchings founded Azteca Negra, a “culturally-conscious line of textile, handmade jewelry, accessories, and novelty pieces.” After finding it difficult to purchase accessories representative of her identity, she decided to take matters into her own hands and create original pieces. These pieces include textiles from Mexico and Africa, along with 100% upcycled leather and natural beads. Speaking on the process of naming her brand, Catchings said “Azteca Negra…. calls forth beauty, spirit, ancestors and complicated histories,” which made it the perfect name for honoring her culture. Catchings is also co-founder of Just BE, a network founded in 2016, to build a community for Black women entrepreneurs.

5. Lisette Scott, Jam + Rico

Jam + Rico, a combination of Jamaica and Puerto Rico, is a fashion jewelry brand inspired by Caribbean and Latin American culture. Its founder, Lisette Scott has immigrant grandparents from Jamaica and Puerto Rico, which brought curiosity about her heritage. Through her travels to the islands, she was inspired by the colors, art, and language to design a product that would create a closer connection between her and her ancestors.

These successful women are proud to be Afro-Latina. The love for their culture has inspired their business ventures and dreams. It’s important to uplift all voices in the Latinx community, and I’m glad to be able to focus on Afro-Latinx voices during Black History Month.

Alicia Ramirez-Hernandez is a second-year Cisneros Scholar in the GW School of Business. She is pursing a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resources. Alicia’s views are her own and not necessarily reflective of the Cisneros Institute.