Afro Latinx (noun): Afro-Latinx Americans or Black Latin Americans refers to Latin American people of significant African ancestry-- most commonly pertains to folks who are visually Black, and therefore have a Black experience.
The AfroLatino Festival in New York City this year was life giving--the melamine, the textured hair, the movement, the music, la Magia. I've been fortunate enough to have attended the melanin filled spaces created by Essence and AfroLatino Festivals this year, and both experiences have served to renew, refocus, and remind. The opportunities to take off the masks we navigate the world with on a daily basis and just exist within the beauty of our intersections are necessary and healthy AF! People of the African diaspora need more spaces to exist unapologetically without the white gaze or the cirque of our community members living with internal racism.
2017's AfroLatino Fest was a celebration of the Women of La Diaspora, centering on our spirituality and consciousness. From the host, to the artists, to the attendees, the festival truly managed to embody this year's mission. Although I truly attempted to leave my phone alone, I took a few the photos to capture the beautiful gente and moments that inspired me most.
Zahira Kelly was the host of this year's AfroLatino Fest. She is a self proclaimed artist, social critic, and Latinegra. In my book, she is the verdadera madrina of the Afro-Latina/ Latinegra movement of our time. Zahira calls attention to the fact that the Afro-Latinx identity is much more than the whole, "I'm Black, too" rhetoric; in order for Afro-Latinidad to help us ALL get free the identity must be tied to actively dismantling capitalism, white supremacy in Latin America, and the ongoing trend of machismo in our Black and Brown communities. Sometimes we forget...
That is why Zahira's act of dragging in the most necessary (and loving) of ways on Friday's education portion of the festival was necessary. The moment created the framework not only for the festival, but for the Afro-Latinx movement at large: you're either here for ALL of this or you're a problem.
An audience member, who linked herself to a platform that many Latinx folks turn to educate themselves on AfroLatinidad and/ or to invigorate their pride, asked the second question of the day, something along the lines of: how can AfroLatinx use their money to own their neighborhoods and not be pushed out? This person added that other people of color, like Chinese- Americans, have already proved the effectiveness of this tactic; they own entire neighborhoods (Chinatown) and never get displaced. Zahira's face was already talking, but she parted her red lips and waved her hand sparkling in turquoise to say, "Na, you need to reframe that." She went on to do the schooling- after white folks, Asian- Americans hold the most economic and social power in the country. (See: GETOUT) An older Dominican- American attempted to salvage the dragee to no avail due to the fact that comparing those in higher places to those who are historically disadvantaged will always translate to being problematic. Afro-Latinx cannot simultaneously push for racial equities within Latinx communities, and low-key judge the culture for not spending "right". It's a problem, and one that I'm glad Zahira spoke to cause, like she said, at the moment we just out here making money to survive and send back home. We don't have money to play these fields yet--unless you Jay-Z, and you "Take your drug money and buy the neighborhood."
CULTIVATE DE ADENTRO PA FUERA
Carolina Camacho had plenty of lines in her performance that stood out--specifically in the context of the festival. One line that had me singing along a little louder and dancing a lot faster was the repetition of, "Cultivate de adentro pa fuera". Cultivate yourself from the inside out. This message is specifically relevant right now. There has been some talk in Afro-Latinx communities about folks becoming "woke," and having that awareness be the end of the work they do. What does it mean to cultivate the self? What does the work we do for our individuals minds, bodies, and spirits lend our gente? Does Afro-Latinidad have to be connected to conciousness work? These are all questions that line bought up. The collective and potential answers to these questions can help us move the work forward.
BRUJERIA--I COULD HEAL YOUR SOUL, OR I COULD SNATCH IT
As always Nitty Scott managed to shake our souls in the most gangsta of ways. One of my favorite lines she spit was, "Brujeria--I could heal your soul, or I could snatch it." The line calls attention to the stigmatized practice of witchcraft. Despite the abundant spiritual practices in the majority of Latinx communities, Latinx view Afro-Latinx communities practices and rituals as strictly dique "black magic" or something heavy and/ or negatively charged. Nitty Scott plays into the stigma while speaking the damn truth-our ancestors have passed on ways for us to heal, and it is our responsibility to heal those around us, but si te metes con nosotras, we will do best by us by any means necessary >;]
***AFROLATINO FEST NYC 2018 is supposed to be 3 days! If you indentify as Afro-Latinx, please support. If you are down with the cause, please support. If you recognize that the African diaspora should be celebrated by us all, please support :)