Amongst a time where tragedy has been at an all time high (i.e. #BlackLivesMatter), leave it up to a remarkable group of dedicated professionals to provide a form of solace to the tri-state area. The much anticipated New York City Afro-Latino Festival was not only a creative outlet to educate, but to provide an understanding of the very nature and duality of being Afro-Latino. July 8th 2016 was the official kick-off to the festival hosted at the Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture. The entire day was jam packed with panel discussions by experts in a multitudes of fields. Anywhere from published and renowned authors, to documentarians, to musicians, to social activists/anthropologists working with the Afro-Colombian Peace Council in search of ceasefire within the confines of their homeland.

Hardcore subjects were on hand (i.e. #AltonSterling, #PhliandoCastile, #EricGarner) and that sadly brought the audience (myself included) to tears. During the “What does A BlackLatinx Feminism Look Like?” panelist Uva Coles (VP of institutional advancement and strategic partnerships at Peirce College) mentioned how this had been her first time in New York with her family; but unfortunately, due to the latest reportings of senseless acts of violence, she felt almost conflicted to come into the city. You could sense her mental anguish and how worrisome it could be for a mother of two African American/Afro-Latino boys coming into the city for a visit. As she shared her stories of her upbringing and how it compares to the present, we see a portrait of a “modern society” under severe racial tension with no easy resolution. And although these issues are nothing new, what is new is the documentation of it – perhaps making us more self-aware of what truly lies in the underbelly under the guise of patriotism. Forums such as this one (in my humble opinion) is what’s needed to at least consider the dialogue that keeps getting pushed under the rug. Will it provide a universal solution? perhaps not; but what it will provide is the opportunity to foster change – and from this standpoint, is where one can build.

Midday was the New York City debut and screening of “Nana Said: Irresolute Radiography of Black Consciousness.”  The 40min film touched upon the whitewashing in Latin American history – providing a different context to the embedded complexities interwoven into the Afro-Latino experience. The film is a collaborative project by director Bocafloja and Cambiowashere. The film was made to document the historical registry. “Places visited include Mexico, Honduras, Uruguay, Argentina and the United States, which opens a crucial platform of analysis about race relations by transgressing beyond the parameters of “safe discourses” imposed by culturalist agendas. The narrative sewed into “Nana Said” grows out from the body of the oppressed as an auto-cartographic experience that trespasses the borders created by nation-states. ‘Nana Said’ is the black experience, often hidden in the colonized psyche, which goes out for a walk each Sunday through the vernacular experience of our grandmothers.” Directors of “Nana Said” are currently seeking distribution and theaters to screen their film. Currently they have an indiegogo campaign accompanied by the docs trailer to help educate the masses. If you’d like to help in providing a donation, please click here. To view trailer, scroll down below.

Open air festivities continued post conference and ran for two consecutive days at Restoration Plaza in Brooklyn, New York. Talent coordinators were savvy in picking an eclectic mix of up-and-coming and established artists to provide a well-rounded representation of the diaspora. The sounds that enveloped the space were met with jubilation from the festive crowd. Saturday’s lineup included “Bullerengue” – a style of Colombian music that encompasses folkloric sounds originating from the Caribbean coast of Colombia. “The music is deep rooted in African culture and consists mostly of drummers and female singers – it possesses a mesmerizing, trance-like quality.”– Source: Pioneer Works, July 12, 2015

Bulla en Barrio is a New York-based collective established to create a space for the practice and learning of “Bullerengue,”,  The collective’s goals are to teach communities the traditional cultural and artistic practice of Bullerengue, to harvest communal spaces for people to meet and exchange culturally, and to encourage individuals to pursue and strengthen their own artistic and social talents and skills. Source: Lower Manhattan Cultural Council 

For patrons desiring to unleash their inhibitions, they were treated to the musical stylings of El Freaky Colectivo. This exuberant bunch comes from Bogota, Colombia; and bring dancehall music (reminiscent of the 1990s) meshed with contemporary visuals sure to dance your cares away. To get a a sense of what we mean, take a listen below:

Saturday’s headliners were the ladies we’ve all grown to love for well-over a decade now. #YourFavoriteTwins aka Nina Sky were in attendance and were successful at pulling at our nostalgic heartstrings with their hit single “Move Ya Body.” They then kept the crowd jumping with a taste of what’s to come – they perfumed live their most recent ensemble titled “Champion Lover.” Below, peep the latest remix by DJ Lady Bee and tell us if this ain’t your summer – drop the top down – kinda jammy jam. Thank you ladies for always encouraging us to move to yo’ slammin’ tunes.

Sunday consisted of more traditional sounds for the entire family to enjoy. It was a nod for those who came before, and a brilliant way to usher in those who are on the uprise. Sounds from Aurello Martinez, to the jazzy and spiritual Oshun, to the outspoken Princess Nokia, to the out-of-this world mix from the rising starlet Sango, to the night’s headliners scaling up the charts, aka Los Rakas. In the press room, I got a few minutes to speak to Los Rakas and asked them what it meant to be apart of this festival. They both expressed their deepest of pride and encourage organizers to continue promoting positivity and education amongst the masses. I also asked the fellas about their recent visit to the White House to meet President Obama, and both gentlemen appeared to have been in awe having been bestowed that honor. Raka Dun (who is one half of Los Rakas. His cousin Raka Rich is the other) is one of ten children and was raised in the barrio of Nuevo Veranillo, Panama. Raka Dun expressed his extraordinary experience, being an immigrant and having had that priveldge to have walked through hallways encompassing both painful and yet triumphant history. It was a true pleasure having met them both before they gave the most kick-ass performance that this here editor will not soon forget. Y desde ahora y adelante, “Soy Raka” fellas…much respect.

And lastly, is the return of Bulla En El Barrio who gave a phenomenal performance last night at the Colombian Consulate, 10 East 46th Street New York, NY 10017. Bullerengue Universal Afro-Colombian traditional was present in all its folkloric beauty. Tambores, maracas, harmonious melodies, gorgeous head wraps and beads – everything about their performance was perfection. If you’d like to do a little more research, peep their bio: “The Bullerengue Universal project developed by Colombian producer and ethnomusicologist Manuel Garcia-Orozco and sponsored by the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation and Chaco World Music, is a bilingual education platform that highlights the unification of African diaspora and Latin American cultural heritage. This groundbreaking project studies the rich recordings of Petrona Martinez, recognized performer and two-times Latin GRAMMY nominee, with well-researched and first hand scholarly and musical material on the historical, structural and creative framework of Bullerengue.” 

Also, Snkrbst.com would like give a special shout-out the Afro-Latino Festival team Co-founders Mai-Elka Prado Gil, Amilcar Priestley, sponsors, and all those who took the initiative to put this incredible festival together. A true labor of love that we’re certain we’ll be enjoying for years to come. Also, all gorgeous captures were made possible by the hardworking team known as the New Visual Collective.

Addendum: also to keep in the summer loving mood, Event Producer/Latin Marketing Strategist for Que Bajo?! and the Afro-Latino Festival Geko Jones coupled with his partner in crime, Uproot Andy, are back with some hot new tunes to quench your summer thirst. Peep it down below and download these new tracks today. Keep it locked here on Snkrbst.com for all the latest and greatest. And don’t forget to #ThinkLikeUs. Happy #FBF y’all.

By Roz Baron
Editor-in-Chief of Snkrbst.com
T: RozB33

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