Name: Natasha S. Alford
Occupation: Vice president of digital content at The Grio and CNN political analyst
Motivator: Amplifying overlooked stories
NYC neighborhood: Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
Tu país: My mother is from the Bronx; she’s Nuyorican. My grandmother is from Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
Natasha Alford might have grown up in Syracuse, New York, but her story originates in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Her grandmother immigrated to New York City in the 1950s and settled in the Bronx, where Alford’s mother was born. Her mother, the eldest child, would ultimately head upstate to seek a slower pace and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. However, the colorful stories of her mother’s experiences in New York City were never far behind for Alford: “She always told me about growing up in New York City and the culture, you know? Going to dance salsa, going to Coney Island, eating piraguas and just that New York City was really a place where Puerto Rican culture came alive.”
Like her mother, Alford is relentless in her pursuit of purpose. After attending Harvard undergrad, she started a career in consulting, found it unfulfilling and became a teacher in Washington Heights. She wanted more, saying, “I can affect these kids at the school; how do I affect thousands? So I went into education policy and learned about the politics of how you create laws to shape education.” She impressed her team with her interviewing skills, and that rekindled another interest.
She secretly applied to journalism school, and has since become an award-winning journalist, host, political analyst and media executive. Read on to hear more of her story.
What makes NYC home? My mother always told me I would end up here, and I didn’t believe her. What makes it home is that you can find a slice of your culture anywhere in the City. I’ve lived in Harlem. I’ve lived in Brooklyn. I’ve lived in Midtown. And I always know that I’m a train ride away from comfort food and culture.
Favorite spot in NYC for inspiration: I like at the 110th Street stop. You have the murals, the bomba music and the piragua guy who comes around. I also really like the . It’s just great. And Arturo Schomburg is an inspiration to me.
Go-to Latino-owned spot: The place that gave me comfort when I lived in Spanish Harlem is . Live music, and they make the best tostones—so light and crispy and flaky with just enough salt on it. And a special little ketchup mix [katchumayo]. And I love their chicharrones de pollo and white rice. It’s just the presentation—you know, presentation is everything. So the music, the atmosphere, the food—it just makes me feel at home.
Describe Latino culture in NYC: It’s vibrant and it’s essential. There’s no New York City without the various Latino cultures. We are in the art. We are in the music. We are in the food and the vendors. We’re just essential.
Favorite saying: “Everything that glitters isn’t gold” (No todo lo que brilla es oro). And that is reflected in my life because I went after so many different things, chasing success and trying to find myself. And at every stage, I learned what really mattered and what didn’t.
What’s next? Check out my documentary, Afro-Latinx Revolution: Puerto Rico, and my series for the Pulitzer Center, A Revolution for Puerto Rico’s Afro-Latinos. I try to create the media that I want to see. Media that I feel doesn’t exist. Media that amplifies the overlooked stories.