Raquel Cepeda was born in Harlem, New York to parents from the Dominican Republic. She is an author, film-maker, producer, and outspoken supporter for sociopolitical change in society. The award-winning journalist is well known for her work with the urban hip-hop community, as well as her passion to create cultural awareness. As an editor, she won the Folio Award with the re-design of One World Magazine. The Russell Simmons digest’s overhaul had great success which helped make a new mark in her career between 2001 and 2004.
However, her work does not stop there, as a writer, she has been recognized for being the first Dominican American to write a memoir. The publication by Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster called The Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina received strong reviews. It is the story of Raquel’s quest for identity, a journey of self-discovery that she shares with her readers. She searches for her true self in spite of the pressures of trying to fit a mold that did not belong to her.
Unsure of what to expect when I began writing this article, I read what I could on this talented woman’s biography. It was inspiring to learn of a fellow Dominican writer that explored her background looking for answers on ancestry. She draws readers into her history in a relatable and honest way. Her parent’s broken relationship leads Raquel to live with her mother and abusive boyfriend in San Francisco. Some years later, she is shipped back to stay with her father in New York after her mother’s relationship falls apart. Her father, married to a European woman offers Raquel an opportunity for Catholic school education and tennis lessons forcing her to repress her Dominican roots into a vacuum. It wasn’t until she found hip hop culture on the Uptown side of Manhattan that she reconnected with her urban Latina vibes, again.
As a film-maker, her contributions reflect a dedication to educating Latinos and others on hard topics such as teen suicide, race, culture, and acceptance of identity. Her endless accomplishments over the past 20 years span a wide spectrum of challenging issues that need to be more openly discussed by all. The work has been a topic of discussion on MSNBC, Huffington Post, Latina, Latino Studies Journal, among other media sources. The now-discontinued podcast, The Show About Race provided Raquel and company a platform to have the difficult conversations helping listeners find a voice and an ear at the same time.
Raquel Cepeda has made great strides in various areas. She uses her power of creativity as a vehicle bringing awareness to the men and women who are not completely in the know of the strength in owning your identity. She set out to document her path to find out who she was and what it meant to help others do the same. While many may never question their truths. People like Raquel are determined to move forward with knowledge. The journey to becoming who you are meant to be; starts with knowing where you come from because it sets the foundation for building a pillar for the community. Understanding your roots is essential to shaping your self-worth and pride, it can also encourage us to grasp the importance of respecting others’ history and the significance it has in their own lives.