Preserving New York’s Latino History, One Photo at a Time

On Feb. 14, 2019, Manhattan-native Djali Brown-Cepeda launched Nuevayorkinos—a digital archive devoted to documenting New York Metropolis’s Latino historical past and tradition via household images and tales. “I began the undertaking as mainly this love observe, this ode to my metropolis, to the 5 boroughs wherein I grew up,” Brown-Cepeda mentioned throughout an interview for TIME100 Talks that aired on Oct. 15. “It was a method for me to provide the flowers now to folks which have been missed, forgotten, and which might be being displaced.”

The Nuevayorkinos digital archive has collected tons of of tales, starting from recollections of childhood in Brooklyn within the Nineties to a grandparents’ East Harlem wedding ceremony within the Fifties. Nuevayorkinos, which has greater than 31,000 followers on Instagram, has additionally memorialized family members who’ve handed on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. With previous bodily exhibitions on the El Musearch engine marketing del Barrio in Harlem, New York, and the Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana in San José, California, the archive has grown in recognition exterior of New York Metropolis’s 2.5 million Latino inhabitants. Regardless of this, Brown-Cepeda says the archive will proceed to middle New Yorkers.
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“My submission pointers [are] quite simple, it’s important to be Latinx from NY city initially,” Brown-Cepeda, 24, says. “This doesn’t embody New Jersey and I stress this as a result of you wouldn’t think about the quantity of, ‘properly, I can see New York from the place I’m from. I’m not saying that in any form of exclusionary method, however I’m not from New Jersey. So I don’t know that have.” (Along with these two circumstances, the rules state that the digital supplies submitted ought to have been taken inside one of many metropolis’s 5 boroughs earlier than 2010.)

“Latinidad doesn’t look a method. The East Coast expertise is totally different than the Miami expertise, totally different than Texas, totally different than California,” she continues. “It felt essential as a Black girl, as a Latina girl, as a second-generation American, as somebody from my zip code that I used to be the one form of offering this platform and offering this house.”

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With Dominican and African American roots, Djali described how her identification uniquely furthers her mission behind the archive. “As somebody who grew up in a really pro-Black, pro-Indigenous, pro-immigrant family by my Dominican mother, my Haitian stepfather, my Black dad, my Afro-Indigenous grandmother, I simply all the time knew the significance of exhibiting up for all of my identities. It was one thing that I by no means have and I’ll by no means compromise,” the Afro-Latina curator explains. “As a Black girl, as a Black Latina, Latinx, Latinengra, Afro-Latina, Afrodescendiente, there was simply no illustration.”

Afro-Latino tales have usually been relegated to the margins of historical past. In line with a research by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, throughout the 100 top-grossing films from 2007-2018, solely 3% of movies featured leads or co-leads with Latino actors. Afro-Latinos have been a good smaller fraction. Solely 6% of the U.S. publishing trade identifies as Hispanic/Latino/Mexican, in accordance with a 2015 survey carried out by youngsters’s writer Lee & Low Books, and solely 5% as Black.

Learn Extra: ​​These Afro-Latino Actors Are Pushing Back Against Erasure in Hollywood

“I need to present folks with totally different racial backgrounds as a result of Latinidad shouldn’t be monolithic,” Brown-Cepeda says. “We aren’t all Sofia Vergara, who I like, however we’re not all her. We aren’t all Penelope Cruz. We aren’t all Salma Hayek. We don’t have the identical story.”

With the hopes of amplifying Black and brown tales and legacies—particularly in New York Metropolis’s rapidly-changing neighborhoods—Brown-Cepeda partnered with LinkNYC to show photos from the Nuevayorkinos archive on its kiosks throughout town’s 5 boroughs as a part of a Hispanic Heritage Month marketing campaign. These are folks, she says, who’ve contributed to the social material of town, of the state and of the nation, with out recognition, correct fee or a platform to talk up.

“So many people are given our flowers autopsy. So many individuals learn the works of Zora Neale Hurston after the actual fact,” she continues. “We have to do higher in exhibiting up within the current and in order that’s why I discovered it to be essential for folks to share their very own tales.”

Via the Nuevayorkinos undertaking, Brown-Cepeda hosted a back-to-school drive earlier this yr, offering native faculty youngsters with backpacks, provides and free bilingual books that includes Black and brown major characters. “We’re who we’re due to our communities,” Brown-Cepeda says. “​​In predominantly Latinx neighborhoods which might be being gentrified, it’s so essential that we stay dedicated to our communities regardless of how massive or how small the scope is, it actually does go a good distance.”

From Oct. 22, 2021 to Jan. 3, 2022, the assortment Nuevayorkinos: Essential and Excluded, highlighting the tales of important, immigrant staff who have been initially excluded from unemployment and pandemic support, will likely be exhibited at MoMa PS1. | Preserving New York’s Latino Historical past, One Picture at a Time

Aila Slisco

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