Affirm. Educate. Celebrate. At a time when police violence and the menace of white supremacy continue to rattle our society, the slogan of the Afro-Latino Festival of New York provides some measure of relief. Rather than feeling helpless, overcome with grief, or confused by this “senseless violence” – which is really just part of a longstanding cycle of racism embedded in American values – this past weekend’s Afro-Latino Festival of New York offered the promise of action and resistance. Instead of letting ourselves succumb to that oppression, the fest allows us to affirm our blackness, educate our family members about our identities, and celebrate our African roots, a welcome respite from the harrowing violence that seems to have commanded our social media timelines.
And that’s exactly what happened over the course of the three-day event, which wasn’t pure celebration, but rather a thoughtful reflection of the diversity of black experiences. Surrounded by colorful dashikis and T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Las Vidas Negras Importan,” artists like Afro-Cuban DJ Jigue and shapeshifting rap goddess Princess Nokia rocked the crowd of families, club kids, and Brooklynites. With a lineup that featured performances boasting everything from live conga drums to 5-inch platform heels to Papa Roach and Public Enemy remixes, the Afro-Latino Festival of New York’s fourth edition was more than successful; it was necessary.
A standout performance from Dominican club princess Maluca, who was flanked by dancers in #BlackLivesMatter T-shirts onstage, reminded me of the importance of celebrating black and brown eccentricity. Seattle-born beatmaker Sango, whose hyper-speed set hopped from Fuego’s Drake remixes to old school samba to baile funk in the blink of an eye, brought much-needed heat to Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Restoration Plaza. But the most powerful lesson of the weekend was Princess Nokia’s defiant declaration on Sunday afternoon, when, after taking off her bra in the scorching heat, she declared: “Remember: you’re loved. You’re valued. You’re respected.”
Check out photos from all three days below:
Photos by Itzel Alejandra Martinez & Mai Nolasco