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Celebrate Afro-Latinos in Spanish class

January 31, 2019

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what content or levels or how you teach, this post is about your Spanish curriculum. It is about how you--how we--include afrolatinidad in our courses. It is about how you--how we--share with our students the many different colors of latino.

Wait, what's that you say? You don't talk about what it means to be afrolatino?

Well lucky for you, February is Black History Month, and it is a time to celebrate afrolatinos and afrolatino culture with your students in particular ways; a time to highlight afrolatinidad in addition to the things you are already doing throughout the year. I've got a simple series of lesson plans and activities for you to use this month–or anytime–to make sure that afrolatinidad is represented in your courses.

What does it mean to be Afro-Latino?

It's Friday, February 1. Today is the day to begin!

Before anything else, I recommend getting everyone on the same page as to the meaning of the term afrolatino. Write this question on the board:

¿Qué significa ser afrolatino?

Quickly clarify terminology with your students by saying, "En inglés, se escribe 'Afro-Latino'; en español, se escribe 'afrolatino'.As you make this statement, write this little chart on the board to support comprehension:

Equip your students with a basic working definition of the term afrolatino. This will give them a frame of reference to which they can apply further knowledge moving forward. Click here to access this projectable reading that will make sure that everyone understands what we are talking about when we say afrolatino.

A note for teachers: It is true that afrolatino is a term that comes more from the US than elsewhere. In many Spanish speaking countries, it is more common to describe other individuals by the shade of their skin (ex: "my black friend", "my white friend", "my mulato friend") instead of by their heritage. There is a growing movement–especially within the US but in other countries as well–to embrace African heritage and pride, and using the prefix afro-(afromexicano, afrocolombiano, afrolatino) is one way of claiming that heritage.

What do Afro-Latinos want you to know?

So we know what Afro-Latino means...but what does it mean to be Afro-Latino?

Being just a white girl that taught in the hood, I'm not exactly equipped to share an authentic perspective answering this question. So I do the same thing for Black History Month that I do for the many cultural explorations that I do with my students during the year: I go out and I find authentic perspectives, and I let them lead the conversation, with me as the guide.

Here's what Afro-Latinos want you to know:

Present "What Afro-Latinos want you to know" viewing guide

Before you show students the video, give them a copy of this viewing guide:

Explore afrolatinos and afrolatinidad in your Spanish classes during Black History Month with readings, songs, biographies, and more!Click here to get this FREE resource!

Explain to students that as they watch and listen, they should take notes related to the words, thoughts, actions, emotions, observations, and desires of the men and women interviewed in the video, but also for the people that the interviewees talk about. For example, even though no one in this video thinks that they should "avanzar/adelantar la raza", they talk about someone saying it to them. So write it down!

Watch "What Afro-Latinos want you to know"

Watch the video. Take notes on your own copy of the viewing guide along with your students so that you can help spur on conversation.

Share what everyone wrote on their papers. Here are some different ways to get into the discussion:

  • Just discuss! Ask one question at a time to the whole class.
  • Post six large posters around the room and do a Gallery Walk with each question on a poster. Then, use the posters as a prop to guide the class discussion.
  • Put students in groups and have them share their notes using the Team Windows structure. Once finished, ask each group to contribute observations to the class discussion.

Connect students to the video with personalized questions

Ask questions like these to connect students to the experiences of the men and women in the video:

  • ¿Cómo describen Uds. su etnicidad?
  • ¿Cómo describen Uds. el color de su piel?
  • ¿De dónde son? ¿De dónde son sus familias? ¿De qué países?
  • ¿Para qué les critica la gente?
  • ¿Para qué les aplaude la gente?
  • ¿Forman Uds. parte de una minoría étnica, religiosa, sexual, lingüística...?
  • Cuando piensan en una persona latina, ¿cómo es la imagen que tienen en la mente?
  • ¿Cómo es el esposo/la esposa ideal para Uds., según sus padres? (apariencia, religión, raza, profesión, etc.)
  • ¿A veces sienten Uds. que sus amigos o su familia no les entienden? ¿Por qué?
  • ¿La gente les ve a Uds. de la misma manera en que Uds. se ven?
  • ¿Qué expectativas tienen [sus padres, sus maestros, sus amigos, la sociedad, etc.] para Uds.? ¿Cumplen con las expectativas o las rompen? ¿Cuáles?
  • ¿Alguna vez han experimentado discriminación por causa de su [raza, religión, sexualidad, idioma, estatus económico, etc.]?

The questions that you are able to ask and the depth to which you discuss them will depend on the proficiency level of your students. Teach to their eyes and only keep the discussion going if you are able to provide the support that they need to understand it with reasonable ease.

Connect students with Notable Afro-Latinos

To begin class each day for the rest of the month, have one of the Notable Afro-Latino slides on the board. Students can complete the note-taking card that is included in the lesson plans as their Bellringer activity, or you can read it quickly together and look for connections.

Already have big plans for the month (*cough* Wooly Week *cough* *cough*) and can't start class with it? No problem! Post a biography outside your class door each day, or in different locations throughout the building. Throughout the month, your Password to enter class can be [NAME] es afrolatin@, and possibly sharing a fact about that person.

Mini biographies of 20 notable afrolatinosClick here to access biographies for the month!

Introduce an afrolatino that your students already know and love

Bruno Mars, baby!

Using songs by afrolatino artists as Songs of the Week is a great way to celebrate afrolatinidad. The first song of the week that I recommend using is Just the Way You Are / Yo te voy a amar, which was suggested to me by a reader (whose name I can't remember!):

I love kicking off the month with Bruno because he is! There are few pop icons bigger than Bruno right now, and most of your students will know and love him already = instant engagement.

Bruno shows your students that you don't have to have dark brown skin to be afrolatino. You don't have to speak Spanish as your first language to be afrolatino. You don't have to be only of African and Latin American descent to be afrolatino. Bruno shows us that being afrolatino is not some crazy cultural anomaly; being afrolatino is simply one way to be human.

While Bruno does not typically sing in Spanish, he performed part of his anthem "Just the way you are" in Spanish for a benefit concert for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane María. (And I dare say he sang in Spanish better than Bieber ;-)). This allows you to open...or re-open...the conversation about Hurricane María in your classes. For updates, check out recent issues of El mundo en tus manos.

Use the Spanglish version of Just the way you are to celebrate Bruno Mars' afrolatino heritage

Click here to access song of the week activities for Yo te voy a amar

The song of the week activities for Just the way you are / Yo te voy a amar take you from Bruno's biography through several lyrics activities, and eventually they will connect your students with YouTuber and La Voz Chile star Dani Ride, who wrote the adaptation for the song that Bruno sang in concert. 

Learn what it means to be Afro-Latino...¡en español!

As the week goes on, keep using your Notable Afro-Latino cards to start off class or as Passwords and completing the daily song activity for Just the way you are.

On Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday (days with less time-consuming song activities), share with your students parts of the following video from YouTuber @AmericanBoy:

Watch all or part of this video with your students. Esteban (Steven) is not Afro-Latino. He is bilingual, and as you will hear, he is often confused for Dominican because that is the only explanation most people have for how a black man could be able to speak Spanish (!!!). Esteban has been studying Spanish since age 12, and I recommend following his YouTube channel for videos about language, language learning, culture, travel, and more.

I recommend sharing this video with your students because Esteban speaks in a way that will be comprehensible to many of your students (to make it even easier to understand, slow down the YouTube video speed to .75x!).

The video is a bit long to use in class, so preview it and choose the segments that you think will best suit your instructional goals. He begins with an introduction about his personal connections to the term afrolatino, and then he moves into three segments:

  1. What does afrolatino mean? 02:42-03:44
  2. Why do we use this term in the US? 03:45-07:43
  3. Some of Esteban's favorite afrolatinos 07:43-09:57

Write and Discuss the video

Do a quick Write and Discuss to reflect on what you've watched. During a Write and Discuss, students are recalling what they remember, and you are asking leading questions to help them remember details. You're also asking personalized questions to help them form connections with the content. As you do this, WRITE out the summary that you co-create with your students on the front board. When you're done, read the summary together with your students.

Afrolatino song of the week #2: Nuqui

It's Monday again (February 11), which means that it's time for a new Song of the Week! This time, take your students to the Chocó Department in Colombia with ChocQuibTown's feel-good anthem, Nuqui(Te quiero para mí).

Nuqui makes the perfect follow-up to last week's Bruno Mars song because ChocQuibTown is afrolatino in a completely different way. It is aso perfect for Black History Month because it is a place-based song that highlights a region of Colombia that has a high afrolatino population.

Nuquí by ChocQuibTown is a perfect song to celebrate Afro-Latinos during Black History MonthClick here to access the Nuquí Song of the Week plans!

Pair the song activities for each day with your Notable Afro-Latinos cards!

Use texts about afrolatinos for Free Choice Reading

Whether or not you have an existing Free Reading Program, dedicate some time this week to Free Reading. There are many different texts out there about afrolatinos and afrolatinidad. Instead of opening up your full class library for reading material selection, why not offer students a special limited selection related to afrolatinos. Here are some items that you might include:

Grudgeball: Notable Afro-Latinos

On Friday, you will have worked through 10 of the Notable Afro-Latino biographies...time for Grudgeball! The Grudgeball game slides are included in the 20 afrolatinos notables product.

Afrolatino song of the week #3

It's a new week...time for a new song! I'll be adding two more songs of the week to the bundle before mid-February, but in the meantime you might consider some of these sources:

Keep working through your mini-bios each day!

Are you afrolatino?

Or, rather, do you consider yourself to be afrolatino?

Partway through the week, share with your students this FAN-TA-STIC video by Ana Reclama (do your students a favor, though, and show it at .75x speed so that they can understand it!).

This video is important because Ana gives us an insider's perspective that lets us see that afrolatinidad is often misunderstood by and biased against even within the latino community. Ana is proud to be afrolatina, and she makes an argument for why other latinos should be proud of their African heritage, too!

¿Qué reclama Ana?

Before students watch the video, give them a 1/2 sheet Ana Reclama speech bubble.

Explore afrolatinos and afrolatinidad in your Spanish classes during Black History Month with readings, songs, biographies, and more!Click here to get this FREE resource!

While students watch the video, have them take notes on the back: tell them to write down anything that that Ana says that resonates with them. They can write it down in Spanish or in English.

After the video is over, give students a minute to scan their notes and to identify the one quote from Ana that stood out to them the most. They should write that quote in the speech bubble on the front of the card.

Share out the quotes with the class. You can do this by simply asking students point-blank what is written on their cards, or you can do something a little more interesting. Check out this post on Literature Circles activity for some unique ways to read around the room!

Week 4: More afrolatino music and more perspectives

Start with the final song of the week (soon to be added to the bundle!) and continue with the Notable afrolatinos cards. Dedicate 10 minutes for Free Choice Reading of afrolatino texts, and on Friday (March 1), play the second round of Grudgeball.

The Truth about Afro-Latinos

As the month comes to a close, consider sharing this video, "The Truth About Afro Latinos", with your students. This video--which is in English--presents painful perspectives very well. If you show it, please be careful: there are some f-bombs dropped in from 4:03-4:14, and again an f-bomb and some questionable content from 09:50-end, so you might choose to mute the video or to download and edit it for class. Preview the whole video before showing to your students to make sure that it is appropriate for your classes!

This video is a perfect end to the month because your students will see many of the men and women that they read about in the mini-biographies and the extended ones (during Free Choice Reading). I think that it also leaves the audience with an unsettled feeling, which I believe to be a good thing. If all we do is celebrate, we don't build empathy. When we share with our students the difficult, the complicated, the painful parts of being afrolatino, we leave the door open for them to feel a call to action.

Afrolatinidad isn't just for Black History Month

I'm sharing these materials now because I know that a lot of teachers are looking for a special way to celebrate afrolatinidad during Black History Month. Remember, though, that you can use these materials ANYTIME. When you learn how to make input comprehensible, you will be free to teach your students about current events, pop culture, history, and deep culture all year long.

When culture is a part of your curriculum, afrolatinidad will naturally appear throughout the year because afrolatinidad is latinidad.

Explore afrolatinos and afrolatinidad in your Spanish classes during Black History Month with readings, songs, biographies, and more!

Look inside the Afrolatino resource bundle

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