By Akira Kyles
The School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University welcomed Gisela Arandia Covarrubias, scholar and journalist, to speak to the journalism students on race relations and her experiences in Cuba.
Covarrubias speaks internationally about her experiences with Afro-Cubans after the Revolution. Her studies focus on the relationship between Afro-Cubans and African-Americans. Covarrubias visited MSU to not only share her studies but also to share stories about herself as an Afro-Cuban.
Her studies on Afro-Cubans came from her work as a journalist.
“Journalism gave me a huge, extraordinary experience,” said Covarrubias, through a translator. “It gave me an experience that the academic world doesn’t often provide; because journalism gives you a particular opportunity and perspective to observe the world in a different kind of way. Journalism gives you free will.”
Covarrubias discussed the challenges people in Cuba face with the construction of racial stereotypes. She gives an example of soap operas that instead of casting a Latina/Latino actor they will cast someone that looks white.
“It’s the search for whiteness; it’s the push to not appear black,” said Covarrubias through her translator. “To continue to not look or appear part of the indigenous culture.”
SGJC student, Rachel Felton, attended the event and liked Covarrubias’ conversation.
“The information she gave was good about how the Latino people come here [to the United States] and realized they aren’t white,” said Felton. “I didn’t know that they went through the same things Black people go through here.”
Periodically as Covarrubias spoke, her translator, Rosa Grillo, would pause and laugh or ask her questions. At one point she stopped, laughed and said “She’s deep” before she could finish translating. Just as students and faculty would sit and listen, the translator would get caught up in the story herself.
Before the event ended, Covarrubias explained how she felt as an Afro-Cuban.
“I am Cuban and that’s efficient,” said Covarrubias through a translator. “In my own personal opinion, I’m black first and then Cuban.”
Before leaving the building, Covarrubias and Grillo, took pictures with SGJC staff and ended their day at MSU talking to BEAR-TV.