Award-winning web series Brooklyn. Blue. Sky., which debuted on BET.com last November, chronicles the story of two distant exes, Skylar (played by Jenelle Simone) and Blue (played by Michael Oloyede). The two reluctantly decide to come together to create a script for a Netflix and Chill TV Pilot competition. But before they submit, they have to untie the binds that held them captive to their youthful love.
We caught up with Simone to discuss our complex, yet important narratives, identity and navigating love.
The eight-episode series was created and written by filmmakers Rhavynn Drummer and Dui Jarrod, and executive produced by Jenya Meggs. It is the first acquisition of a web series for BET’s online interactive space, BET Digital.
Afro-Latinas made headlines in 2017. While Afro-Latinas, or Black Latinas, have been changing the game through activism, art, business and entertainment, among other spheres, for decades, the digital space has furthered the visibility and awareness for our community globally in 2017. Between Belcalis “Cardi B” Almanzar’s major wins to seasoned journalist Ilia Calderón becoming the first Afro-Latina to anchor a news desk on a major network in the United States, our narratives are reaching new heights.
With the year nearly over, it’s only right we celebrate how Afro-Latinas changed the narrative, created a space for greater visibility and did so unapologetically in ’17.
1. Cardi B Broke All Barriers
Who had a better year than Cardi B? I’ll wait.
We included the Bronx-bred rapper on last year’s list, but 2017 became her breakthrough year. The Dominican-Trinidadian artist earned a historic first on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart: She became the first woman to chart her first three entries (“Bodak Yellow (Money Moves),” “Motorsport,” a collab with Migos and Nicki Minaj, and “No Limit,” G-Eazy’s track) on the list in the top 10, simultaneously. Cardi became the first Dominican artist to reach No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 and the first woman since Lauryn Hill in 1998. She’s also graced the cover of Rolling Stone and New York Magazine; snagged a shoe collaboration with Steve Madden; got engaged to Migos’ Offset, and nominated for two Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.
Who’s working as hard as her?
(Image: ‘Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)’)
2. Ivy Queen and Cardi B Meet At Soulfrito Urban Latin Music Fest
Ivy Queen and Cardi B met for the first time, and we’re still gathering our edges. Iconic!
3. Amara La Negra Joins the Cast of ‘Love & Hip Hop Miami’
We’ve been huge fans of Amara La Negra since first hearing her song, “Asi,” in 2014. It’s why we included her in our 2015 roundup, but now la dominicana is reppin for Afro-Latinos on VH1’s reality series Love & Hip Hop. She revealed she’d be joining the cast in our interview with her:
We can’t wait to watch her on our screen!
4. Erica Buddington’s Geography Remix of ‘Bodak Yellow’ Goes Viral
Erica Buddington, a sixth-grade teacher at Capital Preparatory, Diddy’s school in Harlem, and her students went viral after she uploaded a clip to Twitter of her and her students rapping a Geography remix to Cardi B’s hit “Bodak Yellow.” “I was shocked that it went viral. I put it up before I went to sleep to get a few educator reactions, from folks that follow me, and woke up to it being viral,” said the poet, author and educator, who is of Cuban and Jamaican ancestry, to HuffPost Black Voices.
5. 4-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana Makes News for Reading More Than 1,000 Books
Daliyah Marie Arana, who is part-Mexican, part-African American, has read more than 1,000 books, including some college-level texts. “I like to check out books every day,” Daliyah told the Gainesville Times. You go, girl!
(Image: The Cut)
6. Ilia Calderón Becomes the First Afro-Latina to Anchor Major News Desk in U.S.
Journalist Ilia Calderón made history in November when she announced she will be taking the seat vacated by María Elena Salinas on Noticiero Univision in December. She’s the first Afro-Latina to anchor a news desk from Monday through Friday on a major network in the United States. “It’s a great responsibility knowing that I’m opening doors for other generations, not only for journalists, but for other girls and women who want to succeed at what they do,” said Calderón to People.com.
At the start of Latino Heritage Month, El Barrio Latin Jazz Festival hosted its 2nd annual festival honoring Latino music pioneer Tito Puente at Marcus Garvey Park. Attendees listened to the sounds of The Mambo Legends Orchestra, who headlined the festival. Originally known as The Tito Puente Orchestra, The ensemble of award-winning played with Puente for decades.
Ain’t I Latina? reporter Major Nesby spoke with Mambo Legends’ Mitch Frohman, break-out musician Jeremy Bosch and Casandra Rosario, event producer and CEO of The Rosario Group, about the origin of mambo, the role it plays within Latin music, and the importance of El Barrio Latin Jazz Festival.
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”.
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-descendantwomenshared, below:
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.”
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.
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:
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:
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 Bruja; Calma 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.