"Are you sure this is Black owned? The store name is Spanish."
"Why would a Black person name their business Cafe con Libros?
What does that even mean?"
"Wow, this place is nice. Your wife must be white."
These are literal quotes from folx my husband and I have interacted with. I literally listened as a book group debated for 10 minutes if they were in the right place. I watched as they all pulled up the group text to verify the address. And when it was finally confirmed, someone wondered out loud "why would a Black person name their business Cafe con Libros? What does that even mean?" Imagine the look of mass confusion then shock when one of the members realized they were looking at the same face in the article they we reading - obviously for the first time.
For the past three years, for some, I've been all things except who I really am. I have been Black with no mention of my Latinx ethnicity. I have been white. And when I assert my true identity as I see it, I have been anti-Black.
Fam, none of this is surprising to me. I live in the shadows of my Mom and Tia who have countless stories of standing in elevators as lighter skinned Latinx womxn talked about them in Spanish. They would patiently wait for the right time to enter the conversation, then respond in Spanish - Colón style. My mom and Tia would laugh as they describe the range of emotions that spread across those womxn faces: shock, embarrassment, whatever the look is of being fully gathered on what they once thought was their own turf.
My dad; an Army Veteran, always recounts walking through the bays lined with Latinx men who called him "negativo" until he opened his mouth. He would then be welcomed into their tribe, nicknamed "Panama" and later referred to as "Primo."
As Afro-Latinx, we have always lived in the grips of racial animus. We are familiar with being made invisible by the very people who, if the branches were parted on their entire family tree, would have cousins, grandmas and uncles who look just like us. And now, in the American context, where Black is strictly defined and limited to one persuasion: American Southern Black, we find ourselves on different yet, strangely neighborly land.
So, as we welcome 2021, 30k followers on Instagram and 6k subscribers to the website, I'm feeling a bit Jay-Zish..."allow me to reintroduce myself." My name is Kalima DeSuze. I am the owner of Cafe con Libros, an Intersectional Feminist Bookstore and Coffee Shop in Brooklyn. I am the daughter of immigrants from Colón, República de Panamá. I am the mother of an Afro-Latinx-Caribbean 2.5 year old human, Kaleb Emiliano. The wife of a Jamaican immigrant, Ryan. A United States Army Veteran. Proud social worker = social change maker. Political Identity: Black Feminist who happens to vote Democrat. I am a lover of words with an unabashed predilection toward Black Feminist stories first and foremost -followed by all stories by womxn across the globe.
Cafe con Libros; Coffee with Books, is an ode to my culture. It is an intentional play on words: Cafe con Leche; Coffee with Milk. Choosing "Cafe con Libros" as the namesake of my first child, is one of many ways that I am choosing to lay claim to my identity as I see, live and breathe it. It is also a reminder that neither books or coffee are the province of the privileged; many cultures around the world have deep roots in the coffee industry including Latinx countries. And for the record folx, me representing these truths is not anti-Black.