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    Trade/itions, Honoring Sacred Traditions of the African Diaspora

    On Saturday, September 23, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute held Trade/Itions: Honoring African Spiritual Traditions, a conference to celebrate the various African religions of the diaspora and build community around these different entities. Knowing the amazing dedication that the CCCADI has to empowering and preserving the knowledge and history of these spiritual communities, I knew this event would be genuine and interdisciplinary. As a first-generation, Latinx woman, it is important to me to learn and respect the history and culture of African religions and traditions that are embedded in our heritage but often erased and ostracized due to Anti-Blackness. Attending Trade/Itions was a way for me to honor the community that gave so much of itself to Latinx history and society.

    In June 2011, I, along with my Latin American and Caribbean Cultures class, had the privilege of studying abroad in Havana, Cuba. Dr. Alyssa Garcia’s class was where I learned about intersectional feminism, but, more importantly, I learned to question the narrative that whiteness had created of Latin America and the Caribbean. What has stayed with me since my academic trip to Cuba was the concept of syncretism of Catholicism and Yoruba-based religion of Santeria. As a class, we discussed how syncretism was a tool for the Spaniards to strip African and Indigenous people of their identities, forcing them to assimilate. But the African and Indigenous people also used this same tool as a way to preserve their traditions and culture, however, in secrecy. Although this trip was over six years ago, I go back to it to reiterate the experience of a Latin American country that is engrained in African culture, yet masks itself in a colonial identity. Because of this, Dr. Garcia was intentional on teaching her class from a bottom-up point of view, rather than using an “exploratory and Ivory tower” view.

    At Trade/Itions, we saw Summer of Gods, a film by Eliciana Nascimento. The film portrayed various Yoruba traditions without exposing too much about the process of initiation into Yoruba-based religions. It was absolutely beautiful and made me think of Cuba, especially considering that Nascimento was Brazilian born but initiated in Cuba. I had the chance to speak to Nascimento during Trade/Itions. Nascimento expressed that “syncretism was actually a form of survival for our ancestors”, where people “hid their orishas inside of Catholic statues”.

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    7 Afro-Boriquas Discuss Race, Identity & Culture

    The Annual Festival Santiago Apóstol de Loíza in El Barrio, better known as Loíza Festival in El Barrio, commemorated 50 years of infusing Afro-Boriqua flavor into New York City on July 28-30. The three-day cultural event included traditional African diaspora costumes, music, dance, handmade crafts and food.

    “This festival pays homage to our African ancestors and those forefathers and community leaders who paved the way and dedicated their lives to claiming their negritud so that we are able to preserve and celebrate today our Afro-Boricua roots,” said Dra. Marta Moreno Vega, founder and president of CCCADI, one of the festival’s organizers.“It is an important time to be an Afro-descendant, as our culture continues to provide safes paces, at a challenging moment when our Black and Latino communities are under attack. Spaces like the Loiza Festival connect us to our history of political resistance and struggles for civil rights. It strengthens our resolve to continue organizing as a community, defending our people, culture, and place in history.”

    That Sunday, the Ain’t I Latina? team hit the festival streets to talk culture, identity and race with Afro-Boriquas. Check out what these Afro-descendant women shared, below:

    Interviews by Major Nesby and Francis Carrero. 

    Important note: Hurrican Irma and Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4 hurricane, left Puerto Rico with no power, meaning there’s no water, limited food, fuel, and cell service. If you’re able to support current efforts, consider donating to organizations like CCADI, Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico, Caritas Puerto Rico and Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico, among others. Puerto Rico needs our support.


    Zahira Kelly On Accountability & Asserting Afro-Latina Existence In 2017

    If you frequent the digital space, there are several names that undoubtedly come to mind. For our community, online conversations surrounding identity, Black feminism and Afro-Latinidad are vital and one woman ensures that our visibility is always top of mind.

    Zahira Kelly, known as Bad Dominicana, is a straight shooter, beyond 140 characters. Her tell-it-like-it-is approach has garnered extreme love and support, but also criticism and attacks. And still, she persists.

    We had the chance to catch Zahira at this year’s Afro-Latino Festival in New York, which celebrated women of the Diaspora.

    Ain’t I Latina? reporter Major Nesby caught up with her before she hosted the festival. The conversation spanned from asserting the existence of Afro-Latinas and who uses the term to the inspiration for her art.  

    “It’s 2017 and just a week ago somebody tweeted that ‘Afro-Latina is a thing that Twitter made up a year ago,’” shares Zahira. “So people debate we exist in 2017, like right now, today.”

    Watch the entire interview, below:

    Photo, videography and editing by Francis Carrero.


    Singer-Songwriter Calma Carmona Discusses Her ‘Cosmic Soul Rockstar’ Sound & Upcoming Album

    Puerto Rican singer Calma Carmona‘s soulful-yet-eclectic sound and style places her in a category all her own. We had the chance to catch Carmona as she graced the stage at this year’s Afro-Latino Festival in New York, which celebrated women of the Diaspora.

    Ain’t I Latina? reporter Major Nesby caught up with the Bayamón-born singer before her performance where they discuss her “cosmic soul rockstar ” sound, the importance of the Afro-Latino Festival and her upcoming album.

    Watch our interview, below:

    [Photo by Francis Carrero]

    Click here to watch our previous interview with Nitty Scott!


    Nitty Scott On Embracing Her Identity & Women’s Empowerment Within Hip Hop

    Like many artists, Nitty Scott MC draws inspiration from her life experiences.  The Afro-Boricua emcee has used the mic both onstage and off to empower women, big up bisexuality and rep negras unapologetically.

    We had the chance to catch the New York-bred artist as she slayed the stage at this year’s Afro-Latino Festival in New York, which celebrated women of the Diaspora.

    Ain’t I Latina? reporter Major Nesby caught up with Nitty Scott after her performance. The powerful conversation went from how she p**sy pops on the patriarchy and women reclaiming their narratives to her experience as a homeless, LGBTQ runaway, to name a few things discussed.

    With her upcoming LP – “Creature!”– dropping July 21, watch our entire interview, below:

    [Photo by Francis Carrero]

    Click here to watch our previous interview with Amara La Negra!


    Singer Amara La Negra On Being Unapologetically Afro-Latina And Joining ‘Love & Hip Hop: Miami’

    When discussing Afro-Latinidad in the music industry, one name undoubtedly comes to mind: Amara La Negra.

    The Dominican-American singer, who hails from Miami, caught the attention of many with her twerk hit, “Asi,” in 2015. However, Dana Danelys De Los Santos (yes, Amara), has been in the industry since childhood, appearing on the world’s longest-running variety TV show, Sábado Gigante.

    The unapologetic Afro-Latina has become a prominent figure among Black Latinas, who often get little to no visibility in entertainment. From her dark-skin and tightly-coiled afro to agency, Amara is a physical symbol of Black pride and women’s empowerment.

    Amara blessed the stage on Saturday, July 8, for the Afro-Latino Festival in New York, which celebrated women of the Diaspora.

    Ain’t I Latina? reporter Major Nesby caught up with Amara after her performance. Watch the entire interview, below:

    [Photo by Francis Carrero]


    Singer Nina Rodriguez On Afro-Latinx Identity & Love for La Lupe

    Late singer La Lupe was one of a kind. And while La Reina de la Canción Latina (The Queen of Latin Soul) is no longer physically with us, her soul most definitely lives on.

    That was made clear at City College Center for the Arts on Friday, June 9, when three Latina divas took the stage to honor the Afro-Cubana songstress. Those singers included famed Bronx-born poet, actress and vocalist La BrujaCalma Carmona,  the singer-songwriter direct from Puerto Rico, and New York’s own Nina Rodriguez. The event was curated by the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, City College Center for the Arts and Pregones Theater.

    Ain’t I Latina? reporter Major Nesby caught up with Rodriguez at the concert.

    Watch the entire interview, below:


    Singer-Songwriter Calma Carmona On Afro-Latinidad, Music Career & Love For La Lupe

    Late singer La Lupe was one of a kind. And while La Reina de la Canción Latina (The Queen of Latin Soul) is no longer physically with us, her soul most definitely lives on.

    That was made clear at City College Center for the Arts last Friday night when three Latina divas took the stage to honor the Afro-Cubana songstress. Those singers included famed Bronx-born poet, actress and vocalist La Bruja; New York’s own Nina Rodriguez and Calma Carmona, the singer-songwriter direct from Puerto Rico. The event was curated by the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, City College Center for the Arts and Pregones Theater.

    Ain’t I Latina? reporter Major Nesby caught up with Carmona at the concert.

    “It’s part of who I am,” shares Carmona about her Afro-Latina identity. “It’s part of my culture and I’m just so proud, so proud to be able to express it within my music.”

    Watch the entire interview, below:

    You can follow Carmona on Twitter and Instagram @CalmaCarmona .


    What Does It Mean To Be Garifuna? 6 Women Open Up About Their Identity

    Garifuna (singular). Garinagu (plural). Have you heard those terms before?

    Used to describe both a language and group of people that reside in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua, Garifuna people are the descendants of West Africa, Nigeria specifically, who were enroute to be enslaved but survived a shipwreck, landing on the shores of St. Vincent. We were never enslaved, intermixing and intermarrying, resulting in the creation of the Garinagu. Wars between the French and British resulted in the Garinagu having to leave St. Vincent, leading our people to their current locations. There are pockets of Garinagu across the U.S. in places like New York, New Orleans, Miami and Los Angeles, to name a few.

    Garifuna women hold a special place in the preservation of the culture. Here, on, 6 women discuss the moment they realized they were Garifuna and what this unique heritage means to them:

    Isha-Sumner-AintILatinaIsha Sumner, founder of Weiga/Let’s Eat, @weigaletseat

    On what it means to be Garifuna:

    Our history informs us of the hardships we suffered at the hands of the English in 1797 on the island of St. Vincent simply because they wanted ownership of our fertile lands for sugar. We were exiled, left to die, but by the grace of God we are here today, fighting the same battles against different people, for the same reasons: land. Based on these facts I will say that being Garifuna means to be an overcomer. It means to be a fighter for the cause of life. Being Garifuna means to be resilient, strong and resolved. In our DNA runs the blood of a free people, the only Blacks that were never enslaved.

    On her earliest memory of identifying as Garifuna:

    My earliest memory identifying as Garifuna was when [my] Mom moved back from the city of San Pedro to the village of San Juan, where I was born. Everyone around me spoke a language I wasn’t familiar with, I grew up speaking Spanish in the city. But now that I was in the village, I felt lost. That’s when my mom explained to me that I had to learn to speak Garifuna. That’s when I realized that the mean people in the city that called me Black rather than by my name, saw that I was different than them. I became Garifuna then.


    yenory-pouncil-aintilatinaYenory Pouncil, creator of iAmHealthyFit, @iamhealthyfit

    On what it means to be Garifuna:

    Being Garifuna means that I can dance punta, cook machuca and speak Garifuna, and still stand for the injustices that face my people. Both in the United States and in the countries where we reside.

    Being Garifuna means that you not only identify yourself with the customs and traditions, you also actively advocate and open doors for members of our communities. Garifuna people are in a constant state of persecution due to our lands. We cannot afford not to fight back in any way we can.

    On her earliest memory of identifying as Garifuna:

    I cannot remember a time when I did not identify myself as Garifuna. From a very young age, I think five years old, I have known I am Garifuna. My mother, who was a dancer for the Ballet Folklorico de Honduras, always spoke to my brother and me about who we are as a people and what makes us different.

    My family’s lineage goes back to the founding members of the community of Santa Rosa de Aguan, which has always been a source of pride and motivation for our family. While my mother traveled the world as a dancer, I lived with my aunts in Aguan, learning the language, the customs and traditions.

    As I reflect on her decision, it shaped the person I’ve become. Everything I found out in Aguan connected me to food. I started cooking at five, and learned all about food preparation, the healing properties of food, the growing of food, what food looks like in its raw state. These are all key pieces of my project iAmHealthyFit. Food is our medicine.

    Garifuna is who I am, I’ve never been anything else. While I might use the term Afro-Latina to identify myself, I still check the other box and write Garifuna in. It is my way of saying, I am here, we are here, and we are not going anywhere.

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    REVIEW: Belize In You Marine & Body Care Seaweed Soap

    A few years ago I had a conversation that shifted the way I thought about the products I was using. My friend, who is really conscious about the foods and products she buys, began discussing just how many chemicals go into our lotions, perfumes, soaps and overall skincare items.

    I didn’t give it much thought until that conversation.

    That coupled with a cancer diagnosis (not me, but a close family member) led me to research the hell out of what I was putting on my skin. The same can be said about what I eat, however, that’s an ongoing process.

    Over the last two years, I’ve tried different all-natural brands. Some have smelled amazing and resulted in breakouts (not fun!), while others left my skin feeling extremely dry or chalky. However, I’ve found a few keepers in this trial process.

    Founded by Raquel Battle, Belize In You is a new favorite of mine. I used Belize In You’s Seaweed Soap ‘til the very end. My skin was left feeling clean, moisturized and refreshed after each use thanks to its nourishing ingredients, which include shea butter, seaweed, anatto seeds; coconut and castor oils, as well as a proprietary blend of essential oils. Yes, all the good stuff! I love the ocean, so the seaweed soap bar brought a bit of la mar back into my life during the winter months. Belize In You specializes in producing, high-quality seaweed soaps made from Gracilaria seaweed, as noted on their website.

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