Afro-Latinx Community Advocacy in the American South

My name is Christy Garrison Harrison. Areas in which I conduct research and teach are history and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). I currently teach at Atlanta Metropolitan State College.

As a historian with a certificate in WGSS, my objective has been to insert southern Black women’s contributions—and their quests for social justice—into the historical canon by documenting their political prowess in community organizing. My most recent article, published in the Journal of Georgia Association of Historians, was about civil rights activists Ella Mae Brayboy, Dorothy Bolden, and Pearlie Dove. In “Place as Biography: Atlanta’s Influence upon Ella Mae Brayboy, Dorothy Bolden, and Pearlie Dove’s Activism,” I discuss ways in which birthplace and community affected how the women implemented their activist strategies. While working on a book proposal about Black female activists, discovering tangentially related material raised new research questions.  A different essay began to take shape, one that was based upon studying members of the Afro-Latinx community who were engaged in community activism in the American South, and their efforts to retain their cultural citizenship.

Initial research efforts evolved into two strands of inquiry. The first strand consisted of establishing and honoring a nuanced depiction of the multiple social identities reflected within the American Afro-Latinx community, i.e. Latinegra, Black Latinidada, Afro/Indigenous Latinidada.  The second strand is evolving into identifying how the Latinx community engaged/es in community activism. At this point in the process, I am gathering empirical data on community advocacy and extricating sources that highlight the Afro-Latinx population. In terms of chronology, I am torn between confining the women’s narrative to the late 20th century era, but I feel an inexplicable pull toward including the women of the late 19th century as well.

In hindsight, my initial research enquiry was a bit naïve. My template did not emphasize the discrete influences nationality and colorism have upon members of the American Latinidada community.  The proposed piece was to document how Afro-Latinas were creating modes of agency to either gain or protect access to their civil rights, voting, fair housing, education, and employment within the southern region of the United States.  The research has been expanded to include not just a gendered examination of advocacy, but how these overlapping identities reflect concurrent battles for many social justice warriors. The first is to preserve their cultural citizenship, the second is community advocacy (especially in today’s political climate,) and the third is to fight sexism amidst colorism within their respective communities.

The scope of this work has changed. However, that is the daunting, yet exhilarating part of conducting research on Black women of the Diaspora. It confirms the work is rich, multifaceted, and it validates the need for continual intellectual exploration. Looking forward to sharing the finished project with you.

-Dr. Christy Garrison Harrison, @CCGPHD