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Afro-Latina Ilia Calderon discusses racism, journalism, and identity in new memoir

The first Afro-Latina weekday national news anchor reflected on her lived experiences around racism.

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In her newly released book is My Time to Speak: Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race, anchor Ilia Calderon explains how her upbringing and personal experiences around being discriminated against as an Afro Latina shaped her future. 

Calderon is from a town called Istmina, Colombia  in the country’s Choco region. Nothing was easy for Calderon, as her commute to school was a boat or canoe to cross the river l. She would also use a coal iron to press her uniform.

In  an article for The Americano Calderon wrote how every time she goes live on TV, she is reminded of both her journey to being in front of the camera, but also the work that still needs to be done to get more people like her there too.  

“Every time I face the cameras, I feel extremely proud of my accomplishment but, more important than that, I think that there needs to be more people like me,” she wrote. “The industry needs to be more inclusive and there should be an equal representation of the diversity of our audience and community.”

Calderon shared that at just 10 years old, she heard comments about her race. It came at a school in Medellin, where she went to continue her studies.. 

“Black? Not even my horse!” she recalled. 

If you grew up in a Latin household, you watched the evening news with your parents while your grandmother was making pollo guisado y arroz blanco. When Calderon would come on, you’d see the inclusivity that news companies started to proclaim. 

But even on camera, Calderon confronted racism head on, none more than in 2017 when she interviewed a Ku Klux Klan leader in what she called “one of the most challenging assignments I have received.”.

He called me the n-word and a “mongrel,” and threatened to burn me out of his property. His insults showed me just part of the racism that people of color put up with every day in this country, but not all racism is so evident. Some of it is more subtle, or so ingrained that we take it as business as usual,” she said.

“We must unlearn the racism that is still being taught as I write this,” Calderon closed.

The Pew Research Center says a quarter of U.S. Hispanics identify as Afro-Latino. That does not reflect Spanish-language media however, as newsrooms continue to not be as diverse as they so claim. 

Her book is now available through Amazon and Kindle. 

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