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Black & Chicana Culture in Design

Updated: Jan 20

I've been a designer from a very young age; even before I knew what a designer/architect was. I have been soaking up design knowledge like a sponge. Spending time with various family members in their homes, was a given.

Growing up both Black and Mexican was alienating because only my brother and I were in between two different cultures. We has to assimilate to both. Being mixed at family get togethers meant that we were always different from the host family, even though we looked alike for the most part. When I was with the Black Side of my family (specifically at my Auntie Dee Dee's House), there was always incense wafting through the air. It mixed with whatever was cooking: cakes to be sold, chicken to be devoured, iceberg lettuce freshly sliced, popcorn on the stove. Everything was light colored; the walls, the sofa, most of the décor, and all of it was blessed over. I come from a family that is very invested in the Temple of Spiritual Truth. This Church is known for being very spiritual and open to the metaphysical. The veil is thin with them. I would bet that there were special incantations that blessed those walls. I have taken this with me. More popcorn, way less chicken, of course!

On the Mexican side, The outdoor and entertainment spaces were very important. Even in the winter time, it seemed we would still congregate outside (even if it was just for a few shivering moments). My Father smokes and thus he was usually outside every 5 minuets. He came in for food and conversation with his sisters and such. The food is really what brought everything together (and not the Banda music playing in the background). I remember being at my Tia Maggie's house one Christmas and eating bowls and bowls of Menudo. The rest of the house is vague, and frankly, didn't matter to a visitor. All I needed was a place to sit down and eat. As I got older, We older kids (20-somethings) Needed a place of our own to do cousin things (smoke weed). So we ended up around the pool table with our coats on in a cold basement and loud rap music. When I think of everyone now, I think of them fondly in that basement and I try to ignore all the other drama that seems to plague that side of the family.

While my families aren't perfect, they bring me great joy and I know that I wouldn't be myself if it wasn't for them. I wouldn't be the proud alien I am. It is because I grew up feeling so different that I was able to strive in "high contrast" situations. I those spaces, I don't always feel safe, but I have the character built in childhood to overcome.

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