For Black History Month, #IAMENOUGH and the Eva Longoria Foundation are collaborating to highlight Afro-Latina changemakers. Learn more about the Eva Longoria Foundation’s work to empower Latinas through education and entrepreneurship at @evalongoriafoundation on Instagram.
Art and activism intersect in powerful ways, offering unique perspectives on issues old and new. Artistic activism paves the way for people to raise awareness in new audiences and inspire action in communities. It stimulates individuals to listen, be heard, and most of all, head to the streets to fight for what’s right.
A self-described justice warrior, Afro-Latinx roller skater Liliana Ruiz never leaves her skates behind as she works towards reform and liberation on the California streets. From her empowering Instagram Reels that bringvisibility to LGBTQ and Black equality, or her contributions to saving her neighborhood skating rink, she is doing the work inthe Black and Latinx communities by elevating her voice and encouraging others to use their voices.
Growing up Black and Mexican has influenced Liliana’s advocacy and motivated her to fully embrace and embody her Afro-Latinidad identity. Her rollerskating infuses and conveys vital messages that encourage young people to get out and fight for issues they are passionate about. Young activists like Liliana must be taken seriously because they are speaking to a broad audience – young and old, around the world – about the future we can make together. Their conversations matter and deserve to be amplified.
How do you use art and roller skating to promote equality and justice for Afro-Latinas?
Well firstly, I am proud to represent my Black and Latinx roots. By being myself I serve as a representation for us, Anytime I can discuss on my platform about colorism in our community or about our community’s existence, period. I do because it matters. When you have that many eyes watching, what you talk about they see and can pass on. So yes, although rollerskating may seem fun and it may seem simple while doing it, there is an opportunity to be an advocate all the time.
Because we are truly complex beings, highlighting social issues is not drama, it is a duty. I also manage and run @castingblackskaters,a page dedicated to highlighting and showcasing Black roller skaters of all ethnicities, including many Afro-Latinx that happen to live on the East and West Coasts. We also work to help increase their engagement online to assist in connecting them to financial opportunities in the media and entertainment industry. We are @castingblackskaters on Instagram.
How has growing up Afro-Latina contributed to your determination to fight for what you believe in?
Growing up partly in small-town Yuma, Arizona and sunny Chula Vista, California as a Black and Mexican queer girl raised by my single, non-Black Mexican trans dad, with five siblings -three of whom were also of African descent – I have grown to be a fighter. Being a fighter is simply who I am because it is what is in my blood. My existence was always questioned in one way or another. From friends, family, and strangers, one of the only representations of Black Latinos I knew were my younger siblings and my Mexican and Puerto Rican tia, whom I was named after.
But thankfully going to college and social media pages like @hashtagiamenough & @theafrolatindiaspora opened me to a world of visibility for people with a similar culture and who look like me. Being Afro-Latina used to be something I felt like I had to prove, but now it’s more simply about who I am and who I will continue to be no matter what society and its subjects may think, show or tell me. I believe in humanity and equality. I have carried this same sentiment for things I believe in and fight for.
What triggered your efforts in participating in advocacy movements like LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter?
Being tired of seeing the same results happen to my people triggered me to participate in advocacy movements like Black Lives Matter. I also know that Black trans people are one of the most killed and their killers are motivated by prejudices, biases, and most hateful reasons. That is triggering to me. That is not okay. I may not be trans, but I know what it is like to be human yet misunderstood and unaccepted, hated, and dismissed for the life that was given to you, not chosen. I blame my heart for participating in advocacy.
How has art and movement contributed to your activism?
Poetry, writing, and visuals have been a big part of my activism. Being able to use my platform to catch people’s attention long enough for them to stop and read has helped in circulating empathy and increasing humanity while also motivating other folks to use their voice too. I have created videos with the sound of me reading something I wrote and want to share, but including visuals of me skating. I do this as a form of protest because with social media we can get so caught up with being performers or entertainers for the likes and financial opportunity. But at the end of the day I am nobody’s negro and you’re going to listen to what I have to say because what I have to say most of the time, resonates with many others’ feelings during this time.
What do you want people to take away from your performances and your activism?
I would love for people to take away courage and pass it along to others by using their voice. When I see someone live their truth, I am constantly inspired to continue to live mine, which includes using my voice when it matters and even if it may be scary. We must feed each other. Doing this, we can make really big moves, we could all make really big changes but it all starts with the individual first.
Do you feel like this generation within the Black and Brown communities are doing enough to fight for our liberation and freedom? How do you think we can better step up, especially for each other, and be united in our anti-racism?
I feel like there is always room for improvement, with ourselves first though. I am no one to judge others before myself but if I were to kindly advise myself, I would say this: Take care of yourself, your needs. Then take care of others and help with their needs. Needs are basic things like shelter, food, water, and mental and physical health. We are already in this successful system that was built to oppress Black and Brown communities to the point where we could seem divided at times. Ways we can better step up are to increase the care for each other, and that includes when we talk to each other.
We need to have more conversations, but also respect each other when we talk. We need to remember that in this system, Black and Brown people, we all have a place, and our own life worth experiences shape us to prefer, understand, or believe certain things even if we look the same or different. We may take a bit of information and try to complete the picture using prior life and knowledge. That being said, we each must acknowledge our own biases and thought patterns to smash through them to find the truth. Some of us are already working at that but most of us have not even begun. Begin.
How do you encourage other young people to get involved and engage in topics they are passionate about? What would you say to someone who wants to help, but doesn’t know where to start?
For passionate young people, I urge you to look at the people around you, the people you spend most of your time with. Find people who are passionate about social issues too, because often those are the people who make the best support system and motivators. Create your village, feed your village, and allow your village to feed you too. Also, research your favorite activists and organizations. Start small.
It could be overwhelming, the issues we face and how big they are, but that’s why I say get involved locally – because chances are there are small organizations in your community who need bodies and people to help. Offer your time even if it’s only a few hours a week. That makes a difference. Always remember to look at their values and mission: do they align with yours? Do you support it? But most importantly, do they stay true to their word? Always question things as you work in advocacy.
What makes you a justice warrior and how does this embody who you are?
In my eyes, I am a justice warrior the moment I asked the universe or God to use me for the purposes they see fit for me here on earth. Actions for justice or fairness are honorable no matter how big or small. Any time I can do what is morally right and in turn helps someone else out, that makes you a justice warrior. Whether you can see the effect immediately or years down the road, you are making a difference. You are living your purpose and inspiring future generations through each course of action.