The African in You

by Aurelis Troncoso

He walks in slowly into the bus
Each step with a different stench of fear
Afraid of what his family had tried to bury away through so many generations in shame
He spots what appears to be a blur of his ancestry
Indecisive of whether to sit next to this African woman
He sighs with disgust and utters words in a language that was once Taino
That was once Yoruba
Hispañola y Africa

Two different places with roots undoubtedly tied together
His nose is narrow, like that resembling of Spaniards
He separates himself from half of his history
Dismissing shackles as if lashes can be shaken off that easy
And with ignorant hatred he sinks into his own flesh
Not realizing that his skin is as dark as hers
That maybe that should be a hint of how close Dominican Republic is to Africa
But again, he chooses to dismiss half of his ancestry
Half of the truth
Hangs on to “my mother had straight hair”

But lightening cream, hot combs & perms never quite did the trick, did they?
Because after so many years
The hair in your scalp is as thick as the smell of coffee beans your father brought home
every afternoon
The strands of your father’s hair collecting every bit of sweat
Every tear an ancestor cried
But you argue “Pero papi tenia pelo malo”
And you to this date believe that the texture of his hair cursed you

Multiple rapes manipulated the reshaping of your nose
Fires across villages, across generations
Caciques hung from trees, Brothers hung from trees centuries later
Burned out, the way we are

But behind your conscience still dangles from trees the body pieces of your ancestors
& You wonder what is it that is slowly decaying in your lungs
You were cradled in the womb of Diaspora
Balancing within ships
Tucked away with nothing but a piece of kente cloth underneath your tongue
Displaced misplaced into America
A land not known to you until they forced your tongue to roll a different way
But your accent clings onto your homeland

No matter how much makeup you use to disguise your shackles into something else
You are Afro Latino
& The kinks of your hair are beautiful
The color of your skin is golden
No matter how much they try, no matter how hard you try
You will always be Afro, hermano.

 

References:
Taino (known as Taino Indians)- The Taino Indians were a matrilineal society who were, for the most part, peaceful and lived a semi-sedentary lifestyle. Shortly after European contact in the mid to late 1400s, the Taino were a virtually extinct population due to disease, slavery, and conquest by Europeans.

Hispañola– is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Yoruba (language)- spoken by Yoruba people, a tribe located in West Africa; predominantly in Nigeria.

Spaniards– referring to the conquerors of the 1400s who were Natives of Spain.

Caciques– Referring to the Taino tribal leaders.

Kente– a royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance and was the cloth of kings. It later became widespread. Patters on the cloth have particular meanings about life. (It is believed Africans on slave ships would sneak on the ship a piece of kente cloth and place it underneath their tongues and jump into the ocean as they believed the kente cloth would take them back to their homeland.)

Lightening cream– used to lighten dark skin color.

Hot combs & perms– tools used to straighten hair that is believed to be “bad hair” or kinky African hair; these products essentially kill the individual’s natural hair roots by burning the scalp.

Diaspora– the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland  (Referring specifically to the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade)

 

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I met this beautiful sister when she was in high school. I heard her powerful spoken word onstage and since then, have traveled with her on the journey to being empowered Afro-Latinas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Aurelis:
Aurelis Troncoso (age 19) is a political poet who writes about issues  affecting the society in which we live in. Her main goal is to educate people through her poetry. She is an Afro-Dominican from the Bronx, and is currently is currently studying at Hampshire College as a James Baldwin Scholar in Amherst, MA. She is currently concentrating on Educational Policy and Mass Incarceration Studies, with a particular focus on the School-to-Prison pipeline. In her early teenage years, she was a member of Urban Word NYC and was a finalist of the annual citywide Urban Word Slam Finals. Her experiences include performing for various events and organizations such as TEDx events and the well-known Apollo Theater. She believes education and art can change lives.

 

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