Rosa Clemente Speaking Engagement

Lee este artículo en español.

Yesterday, an interesting thing happened to me. I was told I am not Black.

The kicker for me was when my friend stated that the island of Puerto Rico was not a part of the African Diaspora. I wanted to go back to the old skool playground days and yell: “You said what about my momma?!” But after speaking to several friends, I found out that many Black Americans and Latinos agree with him. The miseducation of the Negro is still in effect!

I am so tired of having to prove to others that I am Black, that my peoples are from the Motherland, that Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic, are part of the African Diaspora. Do we forget that the slave ships dropped off our people all over the world, hence the word Diaspora?

The Atlantic slave trade brought Africans to Puerto Rico in the early 1500s. Some of the first slave rebellions took place on the island of Puerto Rico. Until 1846, Africanos on the island had to carry a libreta to move around the island, like the passbook system in apartheid South Africa. In Puerto Rico, you will find large communities of descendants of the Yoruba, Bambara, Wolof and Mandingo people. Puerto Rican culture is inherently African culture.

There are hundreds of books that will inform you, but I do not need to read book after book to legitimize this thesis. All I need to do is go to Puerto Rico and look all around me. Damn, all I really have to do is look in the mirror every day.

I am often asked what I am—usually by Blacks who are lighter than me and by Latinos/as who are darker than me. To answer the $64,000 question, I am a Black Boricua, Black Rican, Puertorique’a! Almost always I am questioned about why I choose to call myself Black over Latina, Spanish, Hispanic. Let me break it down.

I am not Spanish. Spanish is just another language I speak. I am not a Hispanic. My ancestors are not descendants of Spain, but descendants of Africa. I define my existence by race and land. (Borinken is the indigenous name of the island of Puerto Rico.)

Being Latino is not a cultural identity but rather a political one. Being Puerto Rican is not a racial identity, but rather a cultural and national one. Being Black is my racial identity. Why do I have to consistently explain this to those who are so-called conscious? Is it because they have a problem with their identity? Why is it so bad to assert who I am, for me to big-up my Africanness?

My Blackness is one of the greatest powers I have. We live in a society that devalues Blackness all the time. I will not be devalued as a human being, as a child of the Supreme Creator.

Although many of us in activist circles are enlightened, many of us have baggage that we must deal with. So many times I am asked why many Boricuas refuse to affirm their Blackness. I attribute this denial to the ever-rampant anti-Black sentiment in America and throughout the world, but I will not use this as an excuse. Often Puerto Ricans who assert our Blackness are not only outcast by Latinos who identify more with their Spanish Conqueror than their African ancestors, but we are also shunned by Black Americans who do not see us as Black.

Nelly Fuller, a great Black sociologist, stated:

Until one understands the system of White supremacy, anything and everything else will confuse you.Click To Tweet

Divide and conquer still applies.

Listen people: Being Black is not just skin color, nor is it synonymous with Black Americans. To assert who I am is the most liberating and revolutionary thing I can ever do. Being a Black Puerto Rican encompasses me racially, ethically and most importantly, gives me a homeland to refer to.

So I have come to this conclusion: I am whatever I say I am! (Thank you, Rakim.)


This article is written by Rosa Clemente and appeared first on Final Call.



  • Enen Tchaas Maa
    6 years ago

    Rather than get caught up in the tricks of the colonizer and the colonized, let’s look for more reasons and ways to reunite. No need to be surprised or to continue to explain who you are to those who have been culturally and physically violated, just like most of us. Just continue to study and teach until no lies can stand in the light of day. Be compassionate and smile while you keep on working to uplift yourself and others. Peace and Blessings

  • Kenny L Keys
    7 years ago

    My maternal 1st cousin married a Somalian woman; they have 2 boys. My maternal aunt married an Ethiopian man; they have a girl and a boy. Another 1st cousin has a son with a Mexican father, but he has been raise as Black. No matter what the nationality, the thing that all of us have in common is that we’re all descended from Africans. Our languages, customs, rituals, beliefs, our mixed lineages will not and can not change that reality. In reality, we are viewed as black by the world. It’s only behind the mask of political correctness that we’re referred to as anything other that that.

  • Kenny L Keys
    7 years ago


    That’s all that needs to be said.

    I’d rather be alone in this world with a few intelligent, well-spoken, communicators that have great pride in their blackness than be surrounded by millions of insecure people who strive to attach themselves to a dream or a fantasy of being a part of what they never will be in their daily existence: white, Jewish, Native American.

    Just like her, I don’t see an ounce of Native American in me; I don’t see an ounce of the Jewish blood past down from my maternal great-great grandmother to me, and I don’t see any German in me, despite my lineage. I am simply what I am, what I’ve always been, and what I’ll remain, until my death: a black man that is comfortable in his own skin; that will always come before my political affiliations, before my gender, before my sexuality and before the languages that I speak.

    Well said Rosa Clemente

  • Garry
    7 years ago

    I am black. My nationality is Haitian. Period.

    I have great respect for all races and ethnicities, because of the great people who represent them that I have met throughout my whole life.

    This is a very thoughtful article.

  • Raymond Muhammad
    7 years ago

    Who ever says you are not Black dose not understand it themselves much less are conscious. Love you my sister

  • 7 years ago

    So true!

  • Michael McDaniel
    7 years ago

    Well said Sis, what an intelligent and thoughtfilled discourse Thanking you I’am

  • 7 years ago

    Gracias amiega … My Puerto Rician co-worker tried to teach me espanol with no success but I did learn that pronunciations between Latinos may differ from region to region somewhat but you … My Jamacian co- worker who says she is British taking the ethnicity of the slavemaster was offended at my addressing her African heritage refusing to accept it …. Like you said d the slave ships stopped at all these different destinations and we our ancestors either jumped ship or were left at various locations throughout the world but have a common heritage… The motherland… Is our common bound.

  • Eliza
    7 years ago

    Thank you so much for this article!!! I’m so glad that I am following your page on Facebook. I’m Cuban-Dominican, but it took me so long to come to the conclusion that I am black and this is all because for so many years being black has been devalued and I was scared to identify as such! I mean come on, even from my own family that is black you’ll hear things such as ‘pelo malo,’ or ‘ese negro’ in a derogatory manner… Love this article because I can very much relate to it. I hope to meet you someday Rosa!

  • Ras. Daniel "Panama"
    8 years ago

    People in the U.S. Have a very small perspective on the world , it’s either black or white. Marcus Garvey upon his arrival in Panama in the 1920s Discovered that his knowledge of the Diaspora was completely wrong and decided to expand his horizons
    in order to make a change.
    I being a Panamanian and Living in Chicago for Many years Have had many of these exchanges with with my many Black Nationalist “Pan Africanist ” Friends / Brothers who have a very interesting view of the diaspora. In short I have come to believe that being ” American”( U.S.). has Made us comfortable enough to forget about the places where we first endured the pain of our long journey into our current condition . “A people without a Knowledge of their History Is like a Tree without Roots” -Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

  • Larry Lorenzo Goodsense
    8 years ago

    I have to question your statement: “….. but we are also shunned by Black Americans who do not see us as Black. ” I think the truth is jus the opposiite. Latinos are accepted and embraced by African Americans as light-skinned Blacks. One Latina actress (Jessica Alba or Eva Mendez) once complained that she was too often being cast as the girlfriend of an African-American lead. So not only black people but also the Hollywood image makers perceive Latinos to a large extent as a subset o Blackness — light-skinned Negroes and creoles. This applies especially to Caribbean Latinos (Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Panamanians, and Cubans) where Black African laborers bred children with indigenous, mulattoes,and whites. Centuries later you can see “Africanness’ not only in the skin color of many of them, but also in Negroid facial features, some body parts, and hair. In fact I remember an uproar in Puerto Rico in the mid-90s because a German travel magazine described PR as “an island oof mulattoes.” Pueto Ricans and Dominicans also refer to one another with the N-word and fellow Blacks don’t give their use of the N-word by Dominicans and Puerto Ricans a second thought.

  • Brandon Pemberton
    8 years ago

    According to all true and divine records of the human race there is no negro, black, or colored race attached to the human family, because all the inhabitants of Africa were and are of the human race, descendants of the ancient Canaanite nation from the holy land of Canaan
    What your ancient forefathers were, you are today without doubt or contradiction.

    HMK Circle 7 Noble Drew Ali

  • paul
    8 years ago

    Excellent!!!….Love it all only that I think it’s a mistake that you say your ancestry is only African and not Spaniard.

  • Phyllis
    8 years ago

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    Yours in diasporic solidarity.

  • Adassa
    8 years ago

    I am black and I am very proud….

  • Gloria Metayer
    8 years ago

    Unfortunately, in the hispanic community the light skinned latinos do not want to recognize darker skinned latinos and adapt to the same racists attitudes of the white American people who discriminate against them.

  • A Odell
    8 years ago

    Great sharing of your truth! It is clarity like yours that is missing from our dialogue around and about race, but more importantly for me, I appreciate your strength and fortitude to own it and express it. Makes living life very simple, inside the complication that is this life of ours. Peace!

  • E.Joyce Moore
    8 years ago

    Who is Black?
    Black is not the colour of my skin
    But a culture from within.
    The features set upon my face
    can vary and not leave a trace
    of no straight line
    to lineage
    that you can find
    to label me
    I am your worst nightmare.
    Undeterred by your efforts
    to shape me
    into your stereotypes
    in spite of the media hype
    you don’t get me
    or tell me who I am
    and frankly I don’t give a…
    second thought
    to your prolific view
    based on the misology
    you embrace
    a very deliberate ignorance

  • 8 years ago

    That’s because the person you were talking to was ignorant. I debate Puerto Ricans all the time that claim the island wasn’t affected by slavery. Ignore is the root word of ignorance, and people just choose to ignore history.

  • 8 years ago

    “Black is a political condition.” – Albert ‘Nuh’ Washington

  • Julie
    8 years ago

    So well written, I can say no more. Thank you!

  • 8 years ago

    after reading the story of the history and origin of Memorial Day, I think that the history writers, need to add that fact to the history book, so that all Americans can learn that Memorial Day has more to do with than just associating it with current wars and the casualties suffered , but about the selfless humane act that these people of color chose to perform , to make sure that these soldiers of then Civil War, received proper burial.

  • L. Thorn
    8 years ago

    thank you….when people see my brother, my sister and I together, we all have the same features but he looks Caucasian, my sister looks African American and I look what is classified as Hispanic. I have to explain to people that we have the same parents, but because of our heritage, we may end up with different skin color, hair texture and body frames. The mixture in my family is funny because my uncle is black with green eyes, my titi “aunt” looks Arabic and my other uncle looks European. Our genetic make up consists of European (Spanish), Arawak Indian (Taino) and African. I tell people that in Puerto Rico you cannot use that phrase “milkman’s baby” when the child does not resemble the parents because of our ancestry. Thank you for writing this.

    • Leslie G
      8 years ago

      Unfortunately, Ms. Clemente’s experience is common. I think that many people are not familiar with the concept African Diaspora nor do they recognize their own African heritage, even those whose physical appearance overtly reflects this ancestry. Because blackness continues to be positioned at the bottom of the racial hierarchy globally, many do not want to be associated with this race, culture, and consciousness (Karenga). For example, in Argentina, many people continue to believe that there are no black Argentinians. I have personally experienced many black Latinos speak Spanish and non-black Latinos compliment them for learning to speak the language so well because they could not possibly be native Spanish speakers. We must continue to educate others about African Diasporic cultures and embrace our blackness so that others don’t have the opportunity to make uninformed comments.

  • Yusef Mgeni
    8 years ago

    “Blackness…and race are 3 things–color, culture and consciousness.” (Dr. M. Ron Karenga) Thank you, Sister for speaking truth to power. Yusef Mgeni

  • 8 years ago

    Wonderful mindset! Let no one define you, for some of us are so ignorant. Hang tough!

  • Eilleen Maldonado
    8 years ago

    For the ignorance in ones mind is still being fed by the government. The government fails to tell the truth but always seems to punish those who they claim commit perjury. A land of make believe is what and where we live in. Sad to say that America the great is far from that. In respect to your story , I accept and believe that we are all black ; people just fail to acknowledge that because of some set authority to which they claim to have or have stolen from our people. As a college student who has read, done research, and continues to have an interest to know my true ancestors I can only begin to lead those who are in denial by telling them to read the book: America in 1492 ; The World of the Indian Peoples Before the Arrival of Columbus. As the crappy story of Columbus is also false, and this is what they teach our students in school; who are the future of tomorrow. But in celebration of today Memorial Day isn’t about remembering those in the service, that’s also a cover up;
    Memorial Day was started by former slaves on May, 1, 1865 in Charleston, SC to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. They dug up the bodies and worked for 2 weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom. They then held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 Black children where they marched, sang and celebrated.
    Thanks to Abstrakt Goldsmith for this nugget of history that most of us never learned in school.

    We need to teach and preach the truth…I am so on your side; Preach it sister..

  • Breanna
    8 years ago

    Yes, girl! Say it loud, “I’m Black and I’m proud!” Sisters of color unite!

  • moreno
    8 years ago

    Tell it sister i have been saying most of this for years. People don’t want to hear it or see it. Well stated.