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These Women At The Afro-Latino Fest Tell Us What Being Of African Descent Means To Them

This year’s Afro Latino Festival brought Latin American people of African descent from all over the northeast to New York to celebrate the contributions we make throughout the diaspora. The festival, which took place July 13 to July 15, creates a space for Afro-Latinx people to come together and share our music, food, culture, history and pride within a positive environment.

“Our mission is to provide a networking space to pay tribute to the African roots of people from Latin America and the Caribbean,” reads the festival’s website.

During the event, the sixth since it started in 2013, while the crowd enjoyed the sounds of Afro-Colombian music, spins from Puerto Rican-Haitian DJ Nina Azúcar and a headline from dominicana Amara La Negra, we asked attendees and artists how being afro-descendent shapes who they are.

This is what they had to say.

Juliana Pachè, Social Media Director for The Fader, Cuban-Dominican

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos / Juliana Pachè, Right)

“It shapes how I interact with the world and other people. Being part of the African diaspora feels like you have a community everywhere.”

Carmen Jocelyn Morillo, Freelance Dancer, Dominican

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos)

“Soy bailarina independiente, es una carerra que llevo [haciendo] desde que lleguè de Santo Domingo. Ser afro-descendiente me ha abierto muchas puertas para mi vida, me ha enseñado a tener mi propia personalidad y aprender como ser independiente en un paìs diferente.”

Amara La Negra, Singer and Love and Hip Hop: Miami Reality TV Star, Dominican-Italian

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos)

“Siempre he sido muy orgullosa de ser Dominicana y de ser afro-latina. Lo mas importante para mi que ha influenciado mi descendencia Africana son mis curvas naturales que vienen de mi raza negra. La comida, el sazòn, la sandunga y el saoco que yo tengo naturalmente en la sangre viene de ahì.”

Nina Azùcar, DJ, Puerto Rican-Haitian

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos)

“Being afro-latina has been a journey for me, I love my Latina culture and I celebrate it to the fullest. But at the same time, as I have grown I have learned to celebrate my roots more, the mother land more, while celebrating my colonizers less. To me its most important to connect with my African roots because that is where I am from and I am very proud to be able to be part of events like this.”

Antoinette Isama, Associate Editor at Okayafrica,

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos)

“When I think about that question I think about the art of storytelling and how much is passed down from generation to generation through how we live and preserve our legacy as afro-descendant people. In a lot of ways, the world has tried to bring us down and destroy that power, but we have been able to be resilient. That resilience is what keeps me going every day.”

Diva Green, Co-founder @IgotYourBlackFolk, Panamanian

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos / Diva Green, Left)

“You are part of a greater collective of people that have so much culture, vibrancy and history which is just a great feeling.”

Latasha, Independent Artist, Panamanian-Puerto Rican-Haitian-Jamaican

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos)

“Afro-descendance means everything to my magic. It really talks about my ancestry, the purity and authenticity that I create in my art and everyday life.”

Santana Caress Benitez, Chef and Actress, Puerto Rican

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos)

“Because I am a chef food is a huge part of my life, those influences of Caribbean and black American-style food, it really shapes what I do in terms of creating a dish. Afro descendance really determines my music, political views, the places that I live and the circles that I move in. It’s not even intentional it’s just how I live.”

Antombo Langangui, Singer and Songwriter for Profetas, Colombian

(Photo Credit: Ojos Nebulosos)

“Siendo afro-descendiente Para mi es un orgullo y privilegio. El poder unir a Africa y a Colombia demostrando la cara Afro-Colombiana que aùn muchas personas no identifican. Para nosotros es una missiòn mostrar que Colombia tiene dos Africas, el Caribe y el Pacifico a travès de nuestra mùsica.”

Read: In Yakari Gabriel’s First Poetry Book, The Afro-Dominicana Encourages Us To Own Our Truth

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls The Lack Of Black And Latinx Diversity At NYC’s Specialized Schools An “Injustice”


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls The Lack Of Black And Latinx Diversity At NYC’s Specialized Schools An “Injustice”

In New York, Black and Latinx youth make up 70 percent of public school students, yet just 10 percent are admitted to the city’s eight specialized high schools, the New York Times reports. The shamefully low, and decreasing, number of students of color in these prestigious institutions has picked up criticism, including from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who called it an “injustice.”

Just 4 percent ― or 190 students ― of the 4,800 youth invited to attend New York’s eight specialized schools this year are Black. This number is down from 207 last year, following an annual trend of decline. In fact, at Stuyvesant High School, the city’s most selective school, the number of Black students offered admission has dropped for three consecutive years. In the fall, just seven of the 895 spots will go to a Black student, down from 10 last year and 13 the year before. According to the Times, Stuyvesant, which has four Nobel Prize laureates among its alumni, now has the lowest percentage of Black and Latinx students than any other New York school, though it must be noted that the school accepted 33 Latinx students this year, up from 27 in 2018.

“To only have 7 Black students accepted into Stuyvesant (a *public* high school) tells us that this is a system failure,” the congressional freshman, who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens, wrote in a tweet.

Eight of the elite specialized high schools use the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as part of their admission process, a measure of success that has received increased disapproval. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has advocated for abolishing the test, which he has referred to as a “roadblock to justice.”

“Can anyone look the parent of a [Latinx] or black child in the eye and tell them their precious daughter or son has an equal chance to get into one of their city’s best high schools,” the Democratic mayor wrote in an op-ed for Chalkbeat in 2018. “You can’t write a single test that captures the full reality of a person.” However, the Times reported that any push to get rid of the test have stalled out.

For Ocasio-Cortez, the system has the potential of deepening inequality for years to come.

“Education inequity is a major factor in the racial wealth gap,” she said. “This is what injustice looks like.”

While the number of Black and Latinx students accepted in New York’s elite public schools dwindle — Latinx invitees dropped from 320 to 316 overall — among all eight schools, the acceptance rate for white students has increased.

Read: Her Mom Cleaned Houses To Pay For Her Education After Her School Learned She Was Undocumented And Took Her Scholarship

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The NAACP Is Demanding That A New York Middle School Take Action After Four Girls Of Color Were Strip-Searched

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The NAACP Is Demanding That A New York Middle School Take Action After Four Girls Of Color Were Strip-Searched

Last month, four Black and Latina girls were allegedly strip-searched at a middle school in Binghamton, New York, and the events, and inaction surrounding it, has impacted their wellbeing.

According to Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow, a local advocacy group, the students were suspected of using drugs because they were “hyper and giddy” during lunch at East Middle School on Jan. 15. They were then reportedly strip-searched by the nurse and assistant principal.

The searches were done without the consent of the girls’ parents, who were made aware of the incident when their daughters arrived home.

“The children had their clothing removed and felt shamed, humiliated, and traumatized by [the] experience,” the group wrote on Facebook. “While they were being searched, the nurse made disparaging comments about the eczema of one girl and the size of another’s breasts.”

The group continued: “They, as well as their parents, believe the heinous and excessive actions implemented by the school were racially motivated.”

In an interview with ESSENCE, one of the girl’s mother’s called the school’s behavior “incorrect” and said her daughter and her friends were targeted for being low-income girls of color.

“I feel it was based off of the color of their skin, because they were females, and classism. We’re not higher class. So, I just feel like they were just being judged all around the board,” Chanderlia Silva told the publication.

Silva added that assumptions that the girls were on drugs because they were excited during lunch time were ridiculous, noting that “a child is in school, and it’s eight or nine periods in a day, and so when lunchtime comes, it’s a relief for kids.”

“So once lunchtime comes you actually get to connect with your friends, and talk, and laugh, and just be yourself,” she said.

These days, Silva says her 12-year-old daughter isn’t laughing as much. The girl, who her mother described as loving music, dancing, laughing and playing with makeup, has lost interest in the activities that used to bring her joy. Instead, she often sleeps in all day, behaviors that have her mother concerned.

“I felt like she was going into a stage of depression,” she said. “She was displaying behaviors of wanting to hurt herself, which definitely put me in a bad space because you never want to see your child go through that. Then, as a mom, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know exactly what to do. In those situations, you don’t want to put her in a more stressful space.”

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which is representing all the families and seeking justice on behalf of the girls, said that the patterns Silva’s daughter is displaying are common signs of trauma.

“The girls have been traumatized by what has occurred, and research – psychological research – is very clear that for a strip search to be conducted at school for adolescents, [it] can have immediate and long-term consequences for girls,” Cara McClellan, of the LDF, told ESSENCE. “When we talked to the mothers of the girls who were subjected to this really demeaning treatment, it’s clear that they’ve seen changes in their daughters as a result, that their dignity and their trust has been violated by school officials and as a result, first of all, they no longer feel safe at school.”

The Binghamton City School District denied allegations that staff administered a strip search.

“When conducting medical evaluation, it may require the removal of bulky outside clothing to expose an arm so that vitals like blood pressure and pulse can be assessed,” the district said. “This is not the same as a strip search.”

Hundreds of community members came together following the alleged incident questioning why no action has been taken against employees involved.

In January, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he asked the State Department of Education to step in and investigate the allegations. More recently, the LDF demanded that changes be made to Binghamton Schools, apologies be given to the girls and disciplinary action be taken against the principal, assistant principal and nurse East Middle School.

Read: 5 Things To Know About Latina Girls And The Sexual Abuse-To-Prison Pipeline

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