Written by: Alexandra Bayon, Cisneros Class of 2024
Every day we aim to uplift those in the Black community, as the month of February comes to a close, we especially we want to celebrate and recognize their accomplishments. The Afro-Latinx community has contributed politically, culturally, and socially to the wider Latinx community. The Latinx identity is incredibly diverse; we come in various shapes, colors, and sizes and deserve recognition for the nuance and complexity of our different experiences. This article features six Afro-Latinx celebrities who have advocated for their communities from their artistic and athletic platforms.
Lauren Ridloff is Afro-Mexican, originally from Chicago, Illinois. You might recognize her from Marvel's: Eternals, as Makkari, the first onscreen deaf superhero. While the movie featured captions for the signing that takes place during the film, Ridloff has advocated for the accessibility within the overall film industry by including more subtitles so that hard of hearing audiences can also participate. Ridloff brings ASL to life, and insists that attention be paid to these audiences so that their voices are not brushed behind a proverbial curtain dismissed and forgotten.
Most known for her role as Blanca Rodriguez in the FX original, Pose, MJ Rodriguez has been breaking down barriers as the first trans individual performer to be nominated for an Emmy and the first trans person to be awarded a Golden Globe. Rodriguez has been vocal about the lack of representation for the trans community within prestigious award ceremonies. Upon winning her Golden Globe, Rodriguez tweeted "This is the door that is going to open the door for many more young talented individuals...They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS."
Jharrel Jerome is most acclaimed for his role in When They See Us. This role earned Jerome an Emmy for his portrayal of Korey Wise of the Central Park Five, a group of boys wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 12 years. Jerome was the first Afro-Latino to win an Emmy, as well as the youngest winner in this category. Jerome emphasizes importance of Afro-Latino representation, especially in an industry which has very limited illustrations of what it means to be Latino. He speaks to the importance of claiming space and of being seen.
Tessa Thompson is an actress of Afro-Panamanian and Mexican descent, most widely known for her role as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame. Thompson has been incredibly vocal about using her platform as an actress to speak up for those in her community. She places emphasis on the privilege she has of having her voice be heard, and utilizing this to amplify the voices of those who know more than her. She is passionate about bringing black voices to the forefront, demanding that they be acknowledged and listened to, speaking out against things like the ethnic and racial wage gap, as well as the disproportionate effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on black and brown communities across the United States.
Number 12 for the New York Mets is a shortstop by the name of Francisco Lindor. On the field he is known for his brightly colored hair, as well as his excellent fundamentals and fluidity of his movements. Off the field, however, Lindor continues to stand up for his community. He is currently the only Latino player in the MLB with a signature shoe, which was released in collaboration with New Balance. Lindor is of Puerto Rican descent and advocates against racism and colorism in the MLB, not only for Afro-Latinos or Latinos, but for players of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Lindor has said: “We are fighting, not just for the Black community, we’re fighting for everybody of color. We can’t just say ‘All life matters’ if we don’t go after the ones in need at that moment, and that’s people of color.”
Zola director, Janicza Bravo was recently nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Bravo is of Panamanian descent and has often spoken up about her Afro-Caribbean roots and how they have not been widely accepted within the greater Latino community. Her culture serves to be a primary influence on her pieces, affecting things like the style of the characters. Her movies discuss heavy topics of race and don’t shy away from critiquing the status quo. Bravo has also been adamant about the lack of diversity present within the directing industry and the need for diverse voices in her field.
The celebrities featured in this piece have all risen to fame due to their extraordinary talent within their respective fields. They have captured the attention of mass audiences and created platforms where they not only promote their work, but also raise awareness for those in their communities who do not have the privilege of being heard in the same way they do. They have stood tall, pulling voices from the shadows and amplifying them.
Alexandra Bayon is a second year Cisneros Scholar majoring in communications. She is from Long Island, New York. Alexandra’s views are her own and not necessarily reflective of the Cisneros Institute.
Graphic created by: Alexandra Bayon