Diasporian Chat Sessions Vol. 1

One of the many things that fascinates me about the diaspora is how even more diverse we have become as a people.  With black folks being spread out all over the globe, we’ve both maintained and adapted (or been oppressed by…) new customs, traditions, languages, experiences, etc.  I had a nice chat with my soon to be travel buddy, Kamaria O’Reagan, about all things diaspora in her life.

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N: I’ve known you for a while so I’m familiar with your background, but everyone else isn’t.  Can you tell us about your ethnicity, race, or however you choose to identify?

K: So my parents are black, my mother is Costa Rican and Panamanian and my dad is Jamaican. I was born here in Brooklyn so I am first generation.  I identify as being Afro-Latina and West Indian.

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N: I feel like you have an interesting mix because you have the Caribbean mixed with the Central American mixed with the Black American experience.  Is there one that you identify with more and if so, how has this changed over time?

K: I can’t say that I identify with one over the other just because they are all a part of me. I have definitely had to defend my Latin experience more and have been placed in positions where I have been asked to prove being Latina. Like there is a certain check list that I have to meet in order to qualify because my skin is black. So I have definitely had the black experience but that has also been brought into question growing up which I thought was very interesting.  Not interesting really but more so frustrating.

N: So, you’re in a Latin sorority.  Is there a reason you chose that over a black one or was that not really a factor in choosing your org?

K:  When I went to Villanova, I didn’t even know of Latin fraternities and sororities. I did gravitate to the divine 9 more in my research.  The sisters from the divine 9 that were on campus at the time, I didn’t personally connect with them in a way that I felt I should pursue those organizations seriously.  When I met the sisters of Lamda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc. I just felt that they accepted me and felt more comfortable with them.  They didn’t make me feel like I was an interest, they made me feel like I was just a cool friend.

N: Were there ever times that you have to defend your “Latiness” within your sorority?

K: I wouldn’t say I have to defend that in the sorority,that comes from me speaking with other black people.  Or speaking with other Latinos who don’t realize that Afro-Latinos exist or they don’t identify as being black but they are.  I remember growing up and there was this guy that was Puerto Rican and he told me that he was more black than I was.  It was a really weird dynamic because he didn’t even understand that I am black AND Latina and that’s something that he cannot take away from me.  My issue has always been I shouldn’t and I don’t have to prove who I am. Whether I do things that are stereo typical to each culture doesn’t matter.  It’s always been frustrating because people will come at me and say “you’re not black because you speak properly” or “you’re not Latina because you don’t speak Spanish fluently.”

N: You have what I believe to be an Irish last name, what kind of reactions do you get from people based off your name?

K: Well, being in Corporate [America] I get a lot of “oh, I thought you were going to be a white red headed Irish girl and then you weren’t.”  So there’s always a surprise.  And, my dad always told me growing up about how he would go to interviews and he would get a very similar reaction, whether it be verbal or non-verbal.  I just knew growing up I would experience that in the field I am in because the resume is the first thing people see.

N: How far back can you trace your family’s genealogy?

K: I can’t go back past Jamaica and Panama.  I haven’t taken the ancestry DNA tests yet but I really want to.

N: Because this is still a travel blog, where are some of the places you’ve traveled to and where would you like to go?

K: I have traveled to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Antigua, St Martin, St Thomas, and the Bahamas. I think that’s it. I would like to go to Guatemala (which I’m going to), France, Thailand, Botswana and Nigeria.

N: What has been your best experience abroad thus far?

K: My best experience has been in Costa Rica. It’s my haven, it’s my second home, it has my heart. When I go there I feel the most comfortable.  My family is there and the energy is right. I have never felt any negativity or felt unsafe.  That speaks to the country’s motto: “pura vida.”

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*All photos courtesy of Kamaria*

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