Millennial on a Mission: Janel Martinez

Happy Friday, ladies and gents!

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing today’s ‘Millennial on a Mission’ for quite some time, and have always admired her tenacity and professionalism in the world of journalism since our days in undergrad. She is a self-proclaimed “blerd” (black nerd) who loves technology, travel and social media. Formerly Technology Editor at Black Enterprise, she is an expert in the digital space that works diligently to report the stories of men and women of color excelling in areas of entrepreneurship and social enterprise. Her newest endeavorAin’t I Latina?” is an online destination for Afro-Latinas to get the latest celebrity news, career advice, and lifestyle coverage, all the while celebrating their diversity.

I’d like for you to meet Janel Martinez.

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[Photo courtesy of NPR.]

A proud Bronx, New York native, Janel is technically the first generation in her family to this country, with both of her parents hailing from Honduras in Central America. “We’re Afro-Latino — Garifuna to be exact — and not for a second do I take that for granted,” Janel says. “If my grandparents and parents had not come to this country, my life would be very different.” Janel attended Syracuse University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “Writing is my passion, so I feel extremely blessed to have a career that’s rooted in something I truly love.”

On what inspired her to become a writer, and how past experience prepared her for now:

I grew up watching great journalists like Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Sandra Bookman of ABC 7 in NYC, and they all inspired me to want to explore journalism. I watched the nightly news every single night; my mom felt it was important that my brother and I know what was happening both nationally and internationally, so the news was on between dinner and homework time. When I started writing for The Black Voice on campus, it all made sense. I knew at that point print journalism was what I wanted to do, and magazine was a perfect fit. After graduating from ‘Cuse, I landed an internship at Latina Magazine, which then morphed into an opportunity to work at Black Enterprise once the internship was over. I started my career at BE as a general reporter (almost even as an assistant of sorts) and worked my way up to a channel editor and ultimately Technology Editor across all platforms. To have those opportunities before my 25th birthday is mind blowing, but hard work does pay off. I love what I do and I think it shows forth in my work. In the tech space, there’s no one covering it like the way we were covering it—TechCrunch, Mashable, you name it, they’re not highlighting African-American and Latino tech entrepreneurs, but that’s where BE comes in. My role forced me to be an expert in this space, which has been awesome, and I’ve been tapped to speak on technology and the word of digital as it pertains to this demographic. (I hate the word expert, but I use it for lack of a better word.) I now work for a technology company based in Silicon Valley (loving it!) and write for a few publications on the topics of technology and entrepreneurship.

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Growing up, Janel knew that she was Black and Latina, but found it difficult to explain her heritage to her peers. “When I told classmates or friends where my family was from—yes, we’re Black and speak Spanish—it was as if I said I was from Mars or something.” This lack of Latina representation in the media has inspired Janel to change the conversation, and amplify the voice of millennial Latinas.

On what inspired her to begin ‘Ain’t I Latina?':

It confused me that not only was there no representation in Spanish-speaking TV or mainstream media, no one understood my identity. It bothered me and I felt like I constantly had to choose between being Black and Latina, because at home, it wasn’t an issue. It was when I was out and about, people just couldn’t wrap their heads around it. To top it off, they immediately thought I was Puerto Rican or Dominican. (No, we’re not all from those two countries — there are others out there.) *laughs*

I couldn’t wait for Latina or Essence to tackle these topics, I decided to create my own thing. Hence, “Ain’t I Latina?” was born. It’s not on the same level as those outlets yet, but we’ll get there.  I’m changing the narrative by sharing my own story and using my platform to share the story of Afro-Latinas across the globe that I feel isn’t being told or shared on Univision, ABC or BET. I have so many ideas for AIL, so 2014 is going to be a good year.

To Janel, being a ‘Millennial on a Mission’ means to ultimately, to walk in your passion. While there will be challenges and times we’re hesitant in taking that next step, they will only lead to personal and professional growth. “Millennials get a bad wrap sometimes, but we have a fearlessness about us that I don’t think generations before us exuded when it came to careers and entrepreneurship,” she says. For our generation, Janel believes that we can’t wait until an opportunity comes knocking, we have to be willing to create the door, the knob, the step, whatever and move forward. “Don’t let anyone shortchange you, and that includes yourself. Whether it’s an opportunity or pay, seek out what you deserve and move forward methodically.” 

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