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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”

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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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10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself

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10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself

It’s Black History Month, a time to uplift and celebrate the historic events and people of African descent who have contributed to culture, achieved excellence and sparked social and political change. But it’s also a moment for reflection, of honestly evaluating how much — and how little — has changed for the African diaspora throughout the US, Latin America and beyond.

Confronting the everyday violence, discrimination, disadvantages and inequality Black individuals have and continue to endure, while necessary, could be enraging and upsetting, and makes self-care practices all the more necessary.

This year, whether you’re celebrating the beauty, resilience and magia of blackness with a Black History Month party or well-deserved care day, music can always add to the occasion. Here, a mix of Spanish and English songs by Afro-Latinas and for Black women that unapologetically declare self-love and engage in self-worship to add to any Black joy playlist for the month of February and all the days that follow it.

1. Celebrate being a daughter of “La Diaspora” with Nitty Scott.

When the Afro-Boricua rapper dropped Creature in 2017, she gifted Black women, particularly Black Latinx femmes, with a full project that saw, understood and exalted their existence. None of the bangers on the LP did this as intentionally as the song and short film “La Diaspora.”

2. Make your voice and joy heard with Christina Milian’s “Say I”

When the cubana teamed with Young Jeezy to drop this 2009 bop, she encouraged women to “do what you want to do. Don’t let nobody tell you what you’re supposed to do.” And that’s some pretty liberating ishh.

3. Some might call you “CRZY,” but Kehlani wants you to embrace the term.

Confidently dancing to the beat of your own drum, especially as a woman of color, is neither expected nor welcomed, largely because it makes it more difficult for white supremacy to thrive. With “CRZY,” the part-Mexican R&B songstress encourages femmes to embrace and reclaim the slights people throw at you for being a radiant, go-getting mami.

4. And Calma Carmona’s “I Got Life” shows that there is so much to be joyous about.

In her Spanglish rendition of Nina Simone’s “I Ain’t Got No … I Got Life,” the Puerto Rican soul singer declares all the beauty she has, from her voice, to her hair, to her smile to her life, in a world that told her she has nothing.

5. Something else you have: “Tumbao.”

In la reina de salsa’s multi-generational hit “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” the late cubana Celia Cruz reminds Black women of that unfading, indescribable, swing and swag that Black women carry with them in every space they occupy.

6. Prefer an English joint? Cardi B will also remind you how “Bad” you are.

With “She Bad,” featuring YG, the Dominican-Trinidadian rapper engages in self-worship and encourages other Black women to feel themselves and own their sexuality without apprehension or apologies.

7. ‘Cause Like Maluca told you, you’re “la mami del block.”

In the Dominican singer-rapper’s mega bop “El Tigeraso,” Maluca makes the indisputable claim that Afro-Latinas have it all: “tengo fly, tengo party, tengo una sabrosura.”

8. And like Farina says, not everyone is deserving of your greatness.

In “la nena fina’s” urbano-pop jam “Mucho Pa’ Ti,” the colombiana raps what everyone knows: She, and you, are too much — too poppin’, too powerful, too radiant — for the unworthy.

9. Now that you’re reminded of who you are, enter every space like Melii walked into the club in her music video for “Icey.”

With sparkly, high-heeled white boots, a laced v-neck bodysuit, some tiny red shades and confidence that entraps you, dominicana-cubana Melii knows her value — as a woman and an artist — and watching or listening to how self-assured she is will undoubtedly rub off on you.

10. ‘Cause at the end of the day, you’re a “Million Dollar Girl” like Trina.

Like the Dominican-Bahamian rapper, alongside Keri Hilson and Diddy, told you in 2010: “Baby if I want it, I got it / ‘Cause I’ll be gettin’ some more / ‘Cause I’m a million dollar girl, for sure.”

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