Growing Up Afro Latina In the South – Kisha Gulley


“My name is Captain so and so where are you from?”

“I’m your flight attendant Kisha, I’m from Arkansas.”

“No you aren’t.”

At this point I roll my eyes. Introducing yourself to your crew is customary in the aviation world. You want to know who you are working with. For me though it always got awkward. I grew up in Arkansas, but I never felt connected to Arkansas. I don’t speak with a southern accent so nobody ever believes me. If you want to be honest I don’t even speak like anybody I know.

I was born in Panama, my family is Panamanian. We moved to Arkansas when I was in the 6th grade.

“Well, technically I’m from Panama by way of Arkansas”

“You look like you are something.”

I honestly don’t even know what any of that means. My entire life I’ve been told I speak “proper.” Or people are trying to figure out why a black person can speak Spanish.

Growing up in Arkansas was different for me. The term Afro-Latina wasn’t even something I heard of until I was older. I never felt like I belonged. I always felt like there was something missing.

People automatically assumed if you spoke Spanish then you were Mexican. They didn’t know you could be black and a Latino. I took Spanish in school and I always felt bad that I didn’t have to think about the answers. Because for some reason I felt ashamed, I saw how my mother was treated and I felt bad for being able to speak two languages. When my mother spoke to me in Spanish I would answer in English. My mother was a maid at a hotel, but so were the other Latina ladies. It was the only job any of them could get. 

I remember there were times people used to tell me we floated over here on a tire. I always wished I was the same, but I was different. Looking back I wish I would have embraced it more. Instead I spent most of my youth trying to fit in. I would go to school emulating the styles I saw black women wear. I wanted to straighten my curly hair, dance the way they danced, talk the way they talked. I would go home and eat rice every night. Listen to my mom blast salsa music and watch telenovelas every night. 

The only difference between now and when I was a child is that now I am fully aware of who I am.  I am a proud Afro Latina and I speak Spanish every chance I get. No one will ever make me feel ashamed of who I am again. Back then I never knew what to say when people asked why I looked a little different or sounded different. Times have changed though so I make sure I teach my son about our culture every chance I get.

Now here I am as an adult, living in Dallas, explaining why I am a black woman who looks like “they are something.”

Kisha Gulley is a proud Afro-Latina wife, mother and former flight flight attendant. She was born in  Panama,  raised in Little Rock currently resides in Dallas. 

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Yury says:

    PANAMÁ REPRESENTING 💯🇵🇦🤗, hola mi bella hermana de Pana 😁 believe me I went and still go through the same ordeal. I once lived in Dallas, the Frisco area, but now reside in Fl, very diversed here, and I love the beaches, remind me of home 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Celine says:

    Representa panamama! 🇵🇦 I totally know what you are going through. My parents live in San Antonio where my father is originally from and for my mom and abuela who are the Panamanian ones, the Mexicans look at them crazy and the black people too bc they speak Spanish. I greeup in NY and had the problem that I didn’t speak Spanish fluently so I wasn’t Spanish enough. Or that I couldn’t be Latina bc I was dark and I didn’t have a Spanish last name. Many Panamanians don’t and ppl don’t realize that and also of course bc my father is African American. Ironically though, he does have Mexican heritage lol. Thanks for sharing your story ❤️🇵🇦😘

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kisha Gulley says:

    Thank You so much I really appreciate it! Some people really don’t understand what we go through.

    Like

  4. Abigail Cerna says:

    I Love this !

    I love the way you embrace it. I wish I was able to do that.

    For me it’s a blessing and a curse all in one. I like that I understand. But I hate the way people look at me. I don’t fit in with the blacks because I speak Spanish and I don’t fit in with what they call “regular Latinos” because of my skin color. I hate California because there is Not too many of me. I want to be able to walk around and be looked at as normal. I’m in Texas now. But for me since I’m bilingual there’s suppose to be “more opportunity” but they still choose the light Latina over me because that’s what’s normal to them they feel more comfortable.

    🤷🏾‍♀️

    Like

  5. Kisha Gulley says:

    Reblogged this on The Kisha Project and commented:
    I am so excited Jenay has this platform for us to be able to share our stories. I talk a lot about marriage and motherhood, but our culture is also important to me while raising my son. Here is a guest post I did for #IAMENOUGH

    Like

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