Melanin Madrid founder Traneka Southwell has lost count of the countries she has visited over the years. But she didn’t get her first passport until she was in college. And even then, she didn’t use it for three years.
“My family didn’t travel,” she shared about her early life growing up in Houston. “We didn’t go anywhere. I mean, we would go to places in Texas. I don’t even think I had ever been out of the state with my family. But when I went to college, that was really eye-opening for me because I was able to see a lot of international students. And I thought people from other countries were fascinating and I’d always wanted to learn about them, but I had no experience traveling. It wasn’t until I kind of got tired of doing the same thing. I was like, this is just not my life. I remember I graduated college and I was like, I still want to go abroad, but I’m too scared.”
Southwell joined a Facebook group called Brothers and Sisters of South Korea which inspired her first trip to the East Asian nation. After a successful first foray internationally to the country known for kimchi and K-pop, she returned home to work as a community liaison.
But travel remained on the periphery of her thoughts.
“Something was just telling me to go to Spain. And I had a friend there also, and she was like, you should really come. So I ended up going and I had the time of my life there. It really helped me expand my worldview because we know things from an American perspective. But to be able to look at your own country objectively and listen to what other people say about you, it’s not easy, you know?”
That trip birthed Melanin Madrid, an organization created to connect all the Black people and other people of color that Southwell had met.
“It was just kind of a celebration of all of my friendships that I had made that year, my second year in Madrid. And I wanted to bring all those people together. It’s been in existence for about five years now, which is cool.”
The organization now helps BIPOC relocate from their home country to Madrid through community, consulting, and digital resources. And now they’re debuting their biggest project yet.
Black in Madrid is a nine episode documentary series, directed and produced by Alexandra Dorante and Sidra Bing, that follows the lives of 10 Black people in Spain.
The stories are as diverse as the cast.
Popular Afro-Spanish journalist Lucía Mbomio, who grew up in Spain, gives the historical background of her homeland. British Nigerian dad Isiaka Amodu is in an interracial marriage and higher socio-economic status. He examines racism and class through the eyes of his three sons. Senegalese entrepreneur Papi shatters stereotypes about Africans in Spain. And British-American rap duo Ken Daniels, from London, and CJ Baker, from New Jersey provide a bit of levity. Rounding out the cast is entrepreneur Nicole Pearson, journalist Moha Gerehou, activist Malick Gueye, Afro-Latina mental health professional Paola Hurtado, and Rita Bosaho, the first Black person in Spanish Congress.
The docuseries premieres in March in Spanish and English. For more information, visit Melanin Madrid.