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Q & A with Social Media Week Panelist, Janel Martinez, Founder of “Ain’t I Latina?”

by Anie Akpe

Q & A with Social Media Week Panelist, Janel Martinez, Founder of “Ain’t I Latina?”
janelmartinez_pressshot_custom-f94a0ddab6edbfaff00d471e08813cbbaebccf1c-s6-c30As requested and promised, we finally caught with the very busy Fem Boss Janel Martinez, Founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online platform for Latina women of African descent, whose mission is to find images, stories and perspectives that embodies the Latin culture and diversity.  Martinez is a panelist in this year’s Social Media Week event  titled “Advances in Global Entertainment Technology” (#smwGET) with which takes place this Friday at New York University’s campus. Without further delay, let’s jump right into the interview.

Why did you start “Ain’t I Latina?”
I started “Ain’t I Latina?” after years of feeling like their wasn’t a publication or website that spoke to me, in particular my identity. My family is from Honduras, we’re Garifuna, which makes us Afro-Latinos. As an Afro-Latina, I didn’t see myself, a millennial, career-driven Latina, or women like my abuela (grandmother), tías (aunts) or mom reflected in mainstream, Spanish-language or niche media like Latina Magazine or People En Español, so I took it upon myself to create that platform I was looking for.

 What is your full-time job and how do you juggle both?
I’m a journalist, reporting specifically on technology and entrepreneurship. I work a full-time job, a 9 to whenever-o’clock (you can never predict news, right?), and spend my evenings and weekends working on “Ain’t I Latina?” I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge balancing my job and my passion project, but the feeling I get when I read the comments or emails I get from readers makes the sacrifice and sweat equity worth it.

I often rely on my tech tools to keep me on task—the calendar app on iPhone, my Google calendar, Gmail app, and my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram apps, to name a few. My iPad is with me at all times. If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist; so it’s so important for me to stay connected.

Why was it important for you to reach out to Afro-Latinas in the Diaspora?
It’s essential! Oftentimes, there’s only one view presented of Latinas and Afro-Latinas go ignored. “Ain’t I Latina?” is an online destination for Afro-Latinas, so whether you’re based in the U.S., Central or South America or somewhere else abroad, I want my fellow Afro-Latinas to feel like their voice is being captured and heard.

The “Everyday Chica” features highlight millennial Afro-Latinas blazing a trail in their respective industries, leading by example for future generations of Latinas both in the states and internationally. No matter where they live, I want Afro-Latinas to see there are other women, like them, who are innovative, strong, beautiful, smart and embrace their curly/kinky hair and brown skin.

What do you think is the main business concern for Afro-Latina entrepreneurs in the Diaspora?
I think it’s very similar to women as a whole in that we’re constantly defined by stereotypes. As a woman, you’re seen as less than a man and emotional; add Latina/Black to the equation and you’re exotic, hypersexual, angry and uneducated, among other things. We know that you can’t define a whole group of people based on stereotypes, but to this day we have to constantly work against those perceptions. Yes, we’ve come a long way but it’s still a problem.

We still have to prove that we’re a viable power in business. Again, we have to create our own narratives and highlight Afro-Latinas in business because there are a lot out there.

 What are some of your goals for “Ain’t I Latina?” for 2014?
“Ain’t I Latina?” just turned two months and as we move into the year I want to be consistent—consistent with the brand, messaging and overall output of content. I know it sounds simple, but these beginning months can make or break you, and I plan to continue building on “Ain’t I Latina?” for years to come.

There are so many different dimensions to content these days and I’d like to see “Ain’t I Latina?” expand from articles to video and interactive conversations. I kicked off the launch of “Ain’t I Latina?” with an event and plan to host 1-2 more events this year. I want to present and bring the conversation from online to in-person. Keep an eye out for a panel discussion in the spring.  The biggest goal is to continue providing a platform for Afro-Latinas to feel represented, inspired and well informed.

Any new projects you are doing with “Ain’t I Latina?”
I’m happy to announce that “Ain’t I Latina?” will be featured in an upcoming documentary. Omilani, who is a talented singer and songwriter, is producing a doc called “Latingeras” which will outline the history, connection, and narratives of Afro-Latinas. There are several projects in the works, which will be announced in the coming months, so definitely follow AIL on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and subscribe to the blog for the official announcements.

What are your long term goals with “Ain’t I Latina?”
I want “Ain’t I Latina?” to be a movement that exists well beyond the site. I envision an ongoing web series, online discussions, panel events and even a conference. There’s no limit to what I see for the future of “Ain’t I Latina?” But, ultimately, if a young woman comes across AIL and feels empowered and confident because she knows there are other women out there she can identify with, my job is complete. I want other Afro-Latinas, especially women between 18-35 years of age, to feel like they have a place to connect. I’ll always be working toward that goal.

How do you reach out to the Afro-Latina community to get involved?
Technology is amazing. I’ve been able to connect with so many Afro-Latinas through my site, social media and online communities. I had no idea how vast the Afro-Latina community is online, and happy that it fuels collaboration. While there are numerous groups, from my experience, everyone has been welcoming and willing to share one another’s insights and knowledge.

Make sure you follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and join for Social Media Week on Friday February 21st by clicking here.


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