and health care, and over-representation in the penal system – we could be much more effective, if we worked together to redress social concerns.”
Houston, who earned her Ph.D in American history, insists that each group must put its own socio-cultural house in order before they can work together. “As a scholar studying the two communities, I feel that we need to have hard, internal discussions about stereotypes we have about each other. Until we have those conversations, it will be difficult to be effective in coalition building.”
Perhaps the ultimate coalition project between African-Americans and Hispanics will take place at the DNA level. The life of Chandra Pitts boldly demonstrates this. A child of a Mexican-born mother and an African-American father, Pitts –a Wilmington, Delaware-based entrepreneur and Founder/Executive Director of One Village Alliance; a non-profit, 501 [c] 3 organization created to uplift Black and Hispanic children and their families through educational excellence – has experienced, along with her seven brothers and sisters, all of the complexities of race and ethnicity growing up in a non-multicultural part of New Jersey.
“Because we were biracial, we weren’t considered Black from kindergarten to the eighth grade, Pitts recalled. “My skin color was different. My hair was different .And there was racial hatred from the Whites. But we never got that from the Black community. I coped with it with a strong sense of cultural pride. My mother used to come to school with her big sombrero and poncho … She celebrated Cinco de Mayo, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Mexican Independence Day with the students in my school, and she opened the first Mexican food store in Bridgeton, New Jersey.
My father took us to Philadelphia, and we definitely felt the love from the African-American/Afrocentric community there. So, the most important intervention in my life was being able to accept everything that my parents were giving me, with regards to having a strong sense of self and cultural pride in who I was; as a woman, as a girl, as a Mexican and as a African-American.”
The great Afro-Cuban anthropologist/musicologist Fernando Ortiz (he coined the term “Afro-Cuban”) posited a theory called transculturation: a process that describes how different peoples go from conflict to intermarriage and create a new hybrid people. Perhaps Chandra Pitts represents the final stage of that profound process that may someday herald the birth of a new nation.
“People ask me what I’m mixed with. And I tell them, I’m one hundred percent Mexican, and I’m one hundred percent African-American, and I’m one hundred percent woman!”