Bianca Kea representing Afro-Latinxs

Celebrating Black Lives

By Mennlay Aggrey

5 min read

Bianca Kea representing Afro-Latinxs

It’s already March and we’ve entered International Women’s History and Endometriosis Awareness month, but we believe every month should be spent celebrating Black lives, with emphasis on the important work done by Black activists, artists, creatives, and healers. To honor this fact, we want to give pause to appreciate and highlight the incredible people who joined Xula in our Africana History Month series.

Black history doesn’t stop at the U.S. border — it’s global. We are honored to witness and celebrate the contributions of Blackness throughout the African diaspora through the lens of Black herbalism, AfroLatina pride, and film from the modern diaspora. Honoring Black lives goes beyond the month of February and social media posts. It is an extension of our work as a brand as we set out to reconnect our BIPOC communities to ancestral plant knowledge.

To sum it all up, here’s a look back at the Xulas we collaborated and connected with for our Black History Month series.

Yo Soy AfroLatina

photo of Bianca Kea
photo of Bianca Kea by CS Visuals

Approximately 1.38 million people in Mexico identify as Afro Mexican. African descendants have been in Mexico since the early 15th century. Even so, Mexico and Latin America alike have displayed anti-Black sentiments that harm our communities. We find it in every aspect of Mexican life—from its very culture to the way the country is governed. The ideology of Blackness in Latin America is a complex and deep wound.

Last month we chatted with Bianca Kea, founder and creative director of Yo Soy AfroLatina about the discourse, beauty, and joy from the AfroLatina community. “People simply saw me as a Black woman there,” she said when she spoke with POPSUGAR about her recent move to Los Angeles. “They didn’t know that I could speak Spanish. They didn’t know that I could understand them and be at the intersection of two cultures. That is when the idea for Yo Soy Afro Latina started brewing and coming about.” To watch our IG Live chat with Bianca Kea, click here.

Visual diaspora artist, Mai’yah Kau

Photo of artist Mai'yah Kau
photo courtesy of Mai’yah Kau

Mai’yah Kau is a queer Liberian artist from Staten Island, NY. Their inspiration derives from West African storytelling, spirituality, and intangible cultural heritage. Their work draws on how they were raised by their family members. Kau explores the search for stories that belong to their own diasporic ancestry and beyond as a way to keep alive heritage through oral traditions while remaining true to new imaginings for the future. They work in a variety of media, including photography, video, performance, and poetry.

We got the chance to chat about their work, “Dancing with Wala and all in Between”, “Portal x God Fruit”, and Kau’s perspectives on archiving ancestral history through visual art, fruits, and spirit-informed storytelling. Watch their video piece below and catch our live film screening here.

Essence the Herbalist

Herbalism from the Black African diaspora is the oldest form of medicine known to humankind, a practice consisting of using the healing properties of native African herbs. There is little doubt that medicinal plants were used prehistorically in Africa. It comes as no surprise how important it is for us as an herbal brand to explore Black herbalist perspectives.

photo of Essence the Herbalist
photo courtesy of Essence the Herbalist

We spoke to Essence, a Black herbalist from Georgia to help us explore and understand her herbal practice. Essence was first introduced to herbalism by her grandma at a very young age. Unbeknownst to her, these vignettes of learning about plant-medicine with her elder would ignite a passion to birth her own herbal brand, Essence Herbs. These experiences provide her with a direct connection with natural and diverse system herbs that are native to Georgia’s land. Moreover, her formal background in Biology helped her make the switch to studying herbalism.

Peep the IG LIVE chat we had about the significance of Black herbalism from a spirit, mind, and body approach here.