I was rejected for being Black

29th Feb 2024

This blog is part of our “We Are CPLC” series of letters from CPLC staff. We hope you are inspired by these stories of our community by our familia. When you donate to CPLC, you directly support their work.

Being rejected has been a common thread throughout my life. I’m different, I thought. 

My name is Andrea Martinez, and I am the Senior Vice President of Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programs at CPLC. I work with the many teachers, staff, and parents to educate children birth to five years old through our Head Start programs. 

I am both Black and Latina every day. And yet, unfortunately, the Brown and Black divide in our community endures. Before I was born, my mother was disowned by her Mexican American family for marrying a Black man. After my birth, she remarried a man whose family worked in the fields on farms across multiple states; a Mexican family. He is who adopted me and whom I would grow up to know as my papá, my father. 

As we reintegrated into our incredibly large family over time, words and experiences about my Blackness stuck with me. Nicknames for me were many and included “mi prietita.” The phrase loosely translates to “my little dark one.” It’s a term of endearment. But to me, it was a constant reminder of my difference. 

My skin was different. As an active athletic child, my knees and elbows would get darker than the rest of my body. I constantly got in trouble for this, and as much as I scrubbed, the color never lightened. 

My dominant hand was different. I did everything with my left hand, which is not common and the nuns at my Catholic school tried to “fix.” One time, my grandfather, my tata, sat me down for hours as he insisted I learn how to write with my right hand. 

My hair was different. My mother had to learn how to comb it, how to take care of it, how to protect it from damage. 

One day at school, I remember jumping in the pool and a circle of girls gathering around me as I came up from under water. “What’s going on?” they asked. “Your hair, it’s not wet.” They had never seen my hair wet. They just sat there and stared at me. It made me feel like an alien. 

I was different. Others didn’t understand my skin, my hands, my hair, me. 

But I didn’t understand me either. Why was I so different? And why was it so difficult? 

I was Black. I was left-handed. As I got older, I realized I was gay. 

The people around me tried to change each one of these things about me. 

Since I had no family ties to my Black identity, I looked to my friends. Thankfully, they welcomed me into their homes and shared their families and their cultures with me. Through them, I learned more about my Black identity and filled in the gaps. 

Little by little, I learned about me. And I learned to accept who I am. 

Today, I am proud to be a gay Afro-Latina woman. 

For so much of my childhood, I felt different. I felt misunderstood. I felt rejected. 

But I still have hope. I know the next generations are the change little Andrea yearned for. 

Prejudice is not something we are born with. It’s taught. 

And the same way we teach it, we can decide to not teach it in our families and in our classrooms. 

As James Baldwin said, YOU could be that person. That oppressor. That monster. That authority figure who abuses their power. 

You have to decide not to be. 

WE can decide to teach acceptance instead. 

Together, we can build a place where all of us can be different, yet none of that matters. 

Like Toni Morrison wrote, “I want to inhabit, walk around, a site clear of racist detritus; a place where race both matters and is rendered impotent; a place ‘already made for me, both snug and wide open.’” 

I wish this place for both you and me. 

With love and kindness, 

Andrea Martinez Signature

Andrea Martinez 

Senior Vice President, Early Childhood Education 


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