Afro-Latinos in New York City represented in a major way over the weekend.
The 4th Annual Afro-Latino Festival kicked off Friday with a series of panels that explored the nuances of Afro-Latino identity and continued throughout the weekend with a series of concerts, parties and festivities.
Co-founded and co-directed by Afro-Panamanian singer-songwriter Mai-Elka Prado Gil and her partner Amilcar Maceo Priestley, who is also Afro-Panamanian, the festival aimed to affirm, celebrate and educate people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds about Afro-Latino culture and identity. “Our objective is to educate ourselves as Afro-Latinos, as well as the broader community of Latinos, and everybody else about some of the issues that we are concerned about, but in solutions-driven manner,” Priestley told The Huffington Post Sunday.
The festival took place less than a week after two black men were shot and killed by law enforcement over the course of a week ― a fact that was not lost on many of the attendees and performers, many of whom wore shirts and held signs pledging solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“It was particularly poignant because these are issues that Latinos, particularly Afro-Latinos, face,”Priestley explained. “And when an Afro-Latino comes to the United States, they’re not considered Afro-Latino ― they’re just considered black, and so they’re faced with those issues on a daily basis. Afro-Latinos in their respective countries, they face those issues. I’ve been pulled over in Panama numerous times. I’ve been pulled over in Costa Rica numerous times. I know Colombians who have had that experience, Cubans who have had that experience, Brazilians who have had that experience, Afro-Mexicans that have had that experience. That’s an issue that is problematic throughout the Western Hemisphere.”
Many of the artists, including Maluca Mala, Nina Sky and Princess Nokia, who performed during the three-day festival showed their solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. “Yesterday’s show was extremely powerful not only for attendees at the festival but for myself and the crew,” shared Maluca on Instagram. “We came together in unity and solidarity for Black Lives. The significance of Afro-Latino is to claim our African roots. We are no longer in the shadows. Justice and Healing must happen.”
Priestley agrees. “I think the important thing is that people leave here feeling reinvigorated to continue to fight, but also with a new sense of enthusiasm and a new sense of focus as to what that’s going to take.”
He encourages Afro-Latinos to continue educating themselves and others about their culture, struggles and experiences. “Educating oneself and the community about who they are will go long way towards enabling people to really move the ball forward from a civil rights perspective,” he explains. “That will grow political representation, socioeconomic representation and empowerment. There are a number of components to it. There’s not any one thing that’s going to do the trick, as we’ve seen. My father [was] involved in this struggle for more than 40 years. Others have predated that. This is a conversation that we have to continue, and I hope that this festival will keep that going.”
Check out more photos from the 4th Annual Afro-Latino Festival below.