How are you Black and speak Spanish? “Honduras? Is that in Mexico?” “I didn’t know that Black people speak Spanish” If I were to get a dollar each time, I heard any of those phrases or questions, I would be extra rica con dinero right now. These questions and comments that I have heard all throughout my twenty-two years of living is what led me to start my T-shirt business Mema Coleccion.
Growing up in Los Angeles, there is not much of a diversity of the Caribbean and Afro-Latino culture such as other cities like the Bronx, Miami, Houston and etc. It was and still is exceedingly rare that I ever found someone who was just like me AKA Garifuna and Afro-Latina in this city. I grew up always having to explain myself everywhere I went especially at school which I ended up getting used to. I used to hate having a Spanish class because it was never a time where el maestro would ask me where I was from and then students would constantly ask me to help them pass the class ( in other words: cheat off me).
I guess you can say I was referred to as “The Black Girl Who Speaks Spanish”. Sometimes, it felt that I had to pick a side when It came to people who I should befriend. When it came to Non-Blacks, I could relate to them through language as well as some of the cultural aspects like eating tamales for Navidad or playing Chalupa (Honduran Bingo) every Sunday with the family. When it came to the Black side, I could relate with them because obviously of skin tone and hair texture. We were also relatable because we shared similar African history but different locations due to body of water. Luckily, I was able to befriend everyone and just be that one girl that others would call “different”.
On January 2018, I was watching a brand-new show as well as part of the Love & Hip-Hop Franchise: Love & Hip-Hop Miami. I instantly became interested when I found out there was going to be a beautiful, dark skinned woman who just so happened to be Afro-Latina aka Amara La Negra. When I watched the first episode, I had a lot of emotions because in that episode Amara was rejected by a record producer because she wanted to claim her Black Dominican roots in her music. It is really tough because like I said previously it feels like you have to pick a side. I had said to myself “Why don’t people understand that Black people are everywhere!” Boom! that is when it hit me… I should start a clothing line based on my experiences as Afro-Latinx/ Garifuna Women.
Immediately, I started coming up with phrases and designs to bring my clothing line to light. I wanted my t-shirt line to speak to my community as well as relate to our experiences that only we could relate to. I felt that this would be the only way to get our voices heard because there are a few Afro-Latinx celebrities, but they do not like to claim it due to it potentially hurting their image. I refuse to be that person who does not claim who they were born to be or lose their culture trying to act as if I am from another culture.
It was not an easy process because my clothing Mema Coleccion did not come out until 2020. There were a few obstacles that led to the delay pero al fin it came out. It has been an entire month since it was released and I must say that it is doing pretty well. I have received so many messages from other people from different countries thanking me for putting our experiences as well as culture out there for others to see.
Quieres saber algo, Amara La Negra actually wore one of my shirts that I sent her as a gift! I just found it insane that the same person who inspired me to start my shirt is actually wearing it! Que loco es el Mundo pero I’m proud of myself for allowing my experiences to be seen and recognized by my community.
My name is Marcela Bermudez and I’m from Long Beach, California, My family is from Honduras and I’m also a Garifuna woman. I’m an entrepreneur who own a Garifuna/Afro-Latinx Business called Mema Coleccion.
Instagram: @marcelasheney @memacoleccion