Meeting Dorothy Bell Ferrer, aka Insurgent Prieta, I had no idea who or what to expect. Though I must admit, her twitter handle reflects the kind of life experience that warrants a name both strong and controversial. Yet here I was picking her up at the university because she’s still an undergrad. Regardless, I was taught early on that “Prieta” was una palabra mala, a bad word, and when I asked Dorothy how she felt being referred to as “Insurgent Prieta,” a name she picked out for herself, she already knew the beauty and power of her skin and culture. As an afro-latina she sees nothing bad about referencing su piel negra. Nothing to shy away from. That journey to complete self-love is something she documents on the daily through social media. She’s part of an online generation that makes no qualms of who she is, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
A little background on our first encounter: It’s August. In Puerto Rico. There’s a drought. She’s a college student studying abroad for the first time in the land she calls her ancestral home. She’s an independista and activist. But that doesn’t mean I know what she’s like in person. Oh, and our only correspondence at this point has been through e-mail.
BTW, this was my first visit to Puerto Rico, as well as Dorothy’s.
As I wait to greet her by the school entrance I see a bunch of students coming in and out of the building enjoying the sweet island weather and atmosphere that only a college dorm can provide. When Dorothy finally appears she tells me about the hassle of having limited access to water. (I should thank my airnb host for letting me take a long shower.) So of course we head to the beach, Piñones to be exact. At first there’s that awkward silence when you first meet someone, but then she says something that let me read her vibe a little better: “I’m not doing anything today. I can hang out with you the whole day.” That’s a lot to commit to, but that’s exactly what we did. We grabbed local grub and beer and headed to the beach where we realized we share similar interests and I quickly learned that her twitter personality isn’t completely telling of who she truly is.
Never judge a person by their twitter handle. – 21st century proverb.
There’s a lot to admire from Dorothy, such as her strong stance on Puerto Rican independence and her style of writing filled with strong wit and the smarts to back it up. But she’s also in a stage of learning about her roots, what it means to be Puerto Rican with a Dominican accent all the while self-defining the sort of woman she wants to be. She attracts thousands of twitter followers, a platform she uses to voice injustice against women and her own experience as an afro latina growing up in Cleveland. She’s using her study abroad time to introduce herself to the culture of the island, the food, people, politics and her ancestral homeland.
Watch the interview below to learn how she identifies her feminism, independence and owning her truth. @InsurgentPrieta