From July 13th to the 15th, something beautiful was happening in New York City: the Afro-Latino Festival. From the AfroLatin Talks on Friday in the Harlem-based Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to the Liberación Film & Wine Festival on Saturday in the Abrons Arts Center to the Outdoor Concert on Sunday in the Brooklyn-based The Well, the Afro-Latino Festival provided awareness, community, and love.
If I had to describe the Afro-Latino Festival in one word it would be beautiful. Beautiful in the way it brings dialogue about issues pertinent to both AfroLatinos here in the U.S. and in Latin America. Beautiful in the way it brings artists and filmmakers from all over to showcase their work. Beautiful in the way it creates a sense of community for some who felt they never had one to begin with.
As I was sitting in the Schomburg Center auditorium listening to the panelists, speak I had this feeling in my gut that I didn’t understand. While I continued to listen, I realized what it was. It was the feeling that I was home.
As a Black Latina navigating between these two spaces, I have been forced to put away aspects of my identity when entering either space. In Black spaces, my Dominican identity is something that becomes background noise. You know it’s there but you’re not quite paying attention to it. In certain Latinx spaces, my Dominican heritage continues to be background noise while my Blackness makes me stand out like a sore thumb. But at the Afro-Latino Festival, I was just me. I didn’t have to feel out of place because someone wouldn’t understand my music choices or taste in food. For once, I did not feel isolated nor did I have to suppress some aspect of my identity. I was just existing and existing as my full self.
There’s no way to describe the feeling of being represented and affirmed. I couldn’t even if I tried. What I can do is note how important it is for a space like this to exist.
The Afro-Latino Festival was everything and more. (For an in-depth recap of the different days head to my YouTube channel and check out my video.) The space is necessary because it serves as a space of learning, a space of healing, and a space of love. The space is also a reminder of the very real implications of what it means to be AfroLatinx. To many, the dialogue around Afro-Latinos and AfroLatinidad seems like something that started within the last two years. In fact, this dialogue has been every present since enslaved people were brought over to the Americas. Since that moment AfroLatinxs have been actively resisting and declaring pride in their African roots.
I am grateful to Mai-Elka Prado, Amilcar Priestley, and the rest of the team for creating this space year after year. I am grateful to all the beautiful AfroLatinxs I have connected with. I am grateful to all the AfroLatinxs that have lost their lives doing this work and the ones who continue to dedicate themselves.
This festival serves as a reminder that AfroLatinxs are here and proud. AfroLatinxs aren’t new. Afrolatinidad is not a trend. It is an explicit movement within Latin American and its diaspora to proudly declare and affirm our Blackness. We are here. We are Black. We are proud.