Despite Los Angeles’s racial and ethnic diversity, many communities in the city’s broad patchwork lead separate lives and push against one another. In changing neighborhoods like South Los Angeles, a historically-black neighborhood that is now predominantly Latino, community relations can be especially contentious.
A new article from Fusion’s Jorge Rivas (who, in the interest of full disclosure, is a former Colorlines staffer) explores a social media project from Walter Thompson-Hernández, a researcher at the University of Southern California and Angeleno of mixed black and Mexican descent, that highlights those mixed-race individuals whose unique experiences tell a rarely-heard LA story. Channeling his research on other individuals with his mixed background in South Los Angeles, Thompson-Hernández created the Instagram account "@BlaxicansOfLA" to allow fellow "Blaxicans" to tell the complex and eclectic stories of their lives, forged from and between two communities, experiencing adoration and acrimony, and seeing parents cross community divides in the name of love.
Thompson-Hernández’s project highlights these stories in a similar fashion to "Humans of New York," posting pictures of individuals accompanied by their words and stories. Over four months, he has collected 76 photos and stories, including those from those of different mixed black-Latino heritages. According to Fusion, he asserts that identifying as "Blaxican" is a revolutionary act that promotes cross-ethnic solidarity:
Thompson-Hernandez says Blaxicans in South of LA are more likely see life through a more politicized lens.
“I have always said that identifying as a Blaxican is a political and revolutionary act,” Thompson-Hernandez wrote in his own profile.
“Being a Blaxican means that you can be affected by the senseless killings of black men on the street and also have relatives on the verge of being deported,” said Thompson-Hernandez.
He says Blaxicans can bring both sides together.
“Blaxicans can act as a bridge to understanding black and Latino needs and challenges because at times [the issues they face are] similar,” said Thompson-Hernandez.
The results, as you can see in a few of the posts below, are beautiful:
"My mother is Mexican-American, first-generation born in Corpus Christi, Texas. My father is African American from Richmond, Virginia. They met in the late seventies in Richmond, after my mom served four years in the U.S. army and moved to Richmond to leave Texas and have a different life and my sisters were born there – three girls and I think growing in Richmond in the early 80s and in the 90s, it was a difficult space to be a person of mixed heritage who was not half black and half white but rather of two origins of groups of color. So in Richmond – at that time – there wasn’t a context for Latinos, specifically Mexicans, and if there was it was Puerto Rican, it was Cuban, it was the growing Salvadoran population so I had to do a lot of educating other people about who I was and my sisters and I were close and created a solidarity amongst ourselves about who we were and our identity.” : @mychivas
"At Garfield High School, I feel like it got a little more normal because in middle and elementary school all the kids were more evil. People still made fun of me but at that point it was a little more normal for me to be a Black woman in East LA. And if there were other Black girls in school they were charter students and were there temporarily for a few weeks. But I would trip out and say ‘Wow that’s another black person over there! That’s unreal!’ But, today, I’m a Black Chicana – that’s it. I am positive of that and there’s no way you can take that a part. You can’t have one without the other. I don’t feel the need to fight anymore; it’s established that I’m a Black Chicana." : @mychivas
“If there was a race riot when I was younger, I would go to the Mexican side. If there was a crew thing, I would go to the Mexican side. A lot of mexicans would be like fuck those morenitos, fuck those black fools and that messed me up for really a long time. I was riding on one side of the road with just one people until I got to high school. In the tenth grade I started kicking it with black people for the first time, really. I became friends with them and my best friend was this Jamaican dude and that was the craziest thing for me because I had never been with black people ever because it was easier for me to identify with Mexicans because I was brought up with my aunt in Compton and Watts in a very traditional Mexican household. And thats how I was brought up, but now I’m the most balanced Blaxican I know. I’m dead in the middle. Dead bolt. I’m so down with both of my people it’s ridiculous. I would die for either of them. And it took a long time to love who I was — to love who I was, the whole me.” : @mychivas
Click here to read Rivas’s story in full at Fusion, and click here to follow Thompson-Hernández’s stunning "@BlaxicansOfLA" page.