Digame is a monthly series featuring prominent Latinx leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, and public figures uplifting the community and making a difference.
First-gen Afro-Latina Dr. Angel Jones is an educator, activist, and critical race scholar whose research explores the impact of racism on the mental health of Black students with a focus on racial microaggressions, Racial Battle Fatigue, and gendered-racism. She recently released Street Scholar, a book that challenges academia to engage in public scholarship. The concept of a “street scholar” is someone who is rooted in activism and uplifting their community. She also shares her own journey as an Afro-Latina scholar and how she uses social media as an educational and advocacy tool.
Which Latina(s) have had the greatest impact on your life and why?
Mi vieja, aka my mom. She has been a beautiful example of what it means to serve the people you love.
If you could meet a Latina icon who is no longer alive, who would it be and why?
Celia Cruz. She was the first Latina I saw on TV that looked like me and that helped me feel seen in a way that I needed even more than I realized at the time.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Although Audre Lorde never spoke to me directly, her words always have. One of her quotes that I think of often is “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Being a Black woman in this world, and doing the type of work I do, can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, so it is crucial for me to have a reminder of the importance of taking care of myself.
If you could pursue a career in an industry other than your own, what would it be and why?
I would love to be a full-time writer because I want to share our stories as well as create ones that instill hope and bring joy to the community.
Who was the first person to believe in your dreams/goals?
I think that person has changed over the years just as my dreams and goals have. At this stage of my life, that person is Dr. Chris Emdin. He saw potential in me that I didn’t myself and he continues to believe in me in a way that makes it impossible not to believe in myself.
What do you wish more people understood about what you do?
That I am a work in progress.
What motivates you?
My ancestors, my community, and my students. I am where I am because of those who came before me. I am able to keep going because of those who stand beside me. And I believe in a better future because of those who will come after me.
How did you end up on the professional path you’re on now?
I had no idea where my path was leading me, but I decided to walk in my purpose anyway and have experienced the fruits of my faith. Being an educator wasn’t my plan but it was always THE plan.
What is your greatest professional achievement so far? What is your greatest personal achievement?
My greatest professional achievement is being in a profession that doesn’t feel like work. Being an educator is a privilege and an honor. My greatest personal accomplishment is being willing to do things scared. I have been frightened by several of my goals – getting my Ph.D., writing a book, being a public scholar – but I have gone after them anyway.
What is a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet and what are you doing to get closer to accomplishing it?
A consistent goal of mine is to love myself unconditionally. This is something I have always struggled with but I am working on it every day by showing myself the same grace and care that I show others.
What pop culture moment made you feel seen?
Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET Awards in 2016 where he showed appreciation for the sacrifice Black women make for our community.
How do you practice self care?
Therapy. Therapy. And more therapy.
Shoutout an Instagram account that could use more love and tell us why you’re a fan: @YarbibelMercedes Yaribel is the epitome of love and she is doing amazing things for our community.
Shoutout your favorite Latina-owned business and why: Yo Soy AfroLatina because I love what they do to celebrate the beauty of our Blackness