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?
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!
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.
7. Photographer Linda Nieves-Powell Recreates 6 Iconic Afro-Latina Portraits For Black History Month
Linda Nieves-Powell, well-known New York playwright, filmmaker, and photographer, honored Afro-Latina musicians this Black History Month. Nieves-Powell launched Latina Icons last year, bringing back the popular photo series to highlight 7 Afro-Latina trailblazers during the annual celebration of Black identity and culture. The photo re-creations honor Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Irene Cara, Esperanza Spalding, Amara La Negra, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and La India.
8. Afro-Latinas Remind Actress Gina Rodriguez Latinidad Includes Blackness
Actresses Gina Rodriguez and America Ferrera hosted an intimate brunch on October 15. The intent, according to the Jane the Virgin star, was to celebrate and connect Latinas in Hollywood. However, her Fiercely Latina tweet and photo showed the exact opposite. It appeared that no Afro-Latinas (outside of Rosario Dawson) were invited. Naturally, Afro-Latinas on the social platform informed Rodriguez of the problem to which she responded with a less than acceptable reason. Let’s just say, Black Latinas came to educate and let sis know what was up.
— Gina Rodriguez (@HereIsGina) October 15, 2017
To use the tag #LatinaPower w/o including darker-skinned Latinas. That really hit me like, really?! Erasure is too real. Smh
— Janel Martinez (@janelmwrites) October 16, 2017
I am so sick and tired of having to ask other motherfucking Latinos to center BLACK Latinxs. We out here dying and shit. WTF?
— Carmen Mojica (@Nana_Negrita) October 17, 2017
[More on Twitter]
9. Carolina Contreras Untangles the Roots of Dominican Hair
Carolina Contreras continues to advocate and empower women in the DR to wear their natural hair with pride.
10. Brooklyn MC Latasha Alcindor Delivers ‘Teen Night at Empire’
I’ve been a fan of Latasha Alcindor’s since I caught her StyleLikeYou interview. This year, the Panamanian, Jamaican, Puerto Rican and Haitian artist released the project Teen Night at Empire, accompanied with visual art. Yasss to the videos for “Affirming Life,” “Ol’ BK Soul,” and “Don’t Be Mad.” She’s one to watch, if she’s not already on your radar.
11. Nitty Scott’s ‘Creature!’ Takes Listeners Through An Exploration of Afro-Diasporic Identity
Also another fave artist and album released this year. We spoke with Nitty Scott this past summer — catch the interview, below:
12. Princess Nokia Releases ‘1992 Deluxe’
This is yet another album that speaks to me. Princess Nokia merges skater girl, weirdo, high priestess/goddess, boss b*tch vibes into a masterpiece. Originally releasing 1992 in 2016, she released 1992 Deluxe with eight brand new songs.
13. Poet Elizabeth Acevedo Announces Debut Novel, ‘The Poet X’
Afro-Dominican slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo has blessed the world with her gift, but it’s been especially meaningful for Afro-Latinas. We’re excited for her debut novel, The Poet X, which tells the story of 15-year-old Xiomara Batista, an Afro-Dominican teen growing up in Harlem in a strict, religious household. The Poet X will be out in early 2018. This is part one of a two-book deal with HarperCollins Publishers.
14. La La Anthony Opens Up About Challenges She’s Faced Being Afro-Latina in Hollywood
The former MTV VJ-turned-actress-turned-entrepreneur spoke to Latina about Afro-Latina representation in Hollywood. “I definitely don’t feel like I’m what Hollywood thinks of when they think of a Latina actress at all,” La La told Latina, “They can’t wrap their minds around it. I actually speak Spanish fluently. The industry just hasn’t been thinking outside the box when it comes to Latina women.”
She also shared why she’s proud to be Afro-Latina with The Grio. Check it out!
15. AfroLatino Festival NYC Honored Women of the Diaspora
The Afro-Latino Festival is a must-attend festival that celebrates Afro-Latinidad. Better described as a family reunion, the two-day event includes panels, performances and vendors selling various cultural goods. This year’s festival honored women of the Diaspora. Take a look at The Root’s segment on how the festival acknowledges identity, according to four Afro-Latinas:
16. Monalysa Maria Alcântara Nascimento Became 3rd Ever Black Woman to Represent Brazil in Miss Universe Competition
Clap for her!
17. Lola Will Be the Afro-Latina Protagonist In Junot Diaz’s ‘Islandborn’
Junot Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, announced his next book will be a children’s book, Islandborn. Diaz is staying true to his promise to his goddaughters, writing about Dominican girls like them who lived in the Bronx. Meet the main character in the picture book, Islandborn, due out in spring of 2018.
18. Melina Matsoukas, Director Behind HBO’s ‘Insecure’, to direct Adaptation of ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings,’ by Marlon James
Melina Matsoukas will direct Amazon Studios’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, based on the Marlon James novel. “A Brief History of Seven Killings is a complex story that needs to be told, about a people whose voices need to be heard,” Matsoukas said in a statement. “It’s been my dream to bring this story to life onscreen since reading the first line of Marlon’s book. I am deeply honored to be entrusted with this tapestry of stories so entrenched in roots, reggae, race, mysticism and politics, while working alongside Marlon to ensure an authentic portrayal of his words.”
Oh, and she’s also the woman behind some of your favorite Beyonce videos!
19. Ibeyi Releases ‘Ash’
French-Cuban twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz (Ibeyi) don’t disappoint, gifting us with a soul-hitting second album, Ash.
20. Teen Kayla Robinson’s Political-Slanting T-Shirts Worn By Frank Ocean, Kehlani and Zendaya, Among Others
“To me, fashion is a valid way to express your opinions and desire for social change,” said Kayla Robinson,” Afro-Latina creator of Green Box Shop, to Teen Vogue. “I feel as though we can really make a difference with the things we put our money into.”
21. #PROnTheMap: Activist Rosa Clemente Gathers Journalists to Document the Untold Stories in Puerto Rico Post-Hurricane Maria
Rosa Clemente and her team’s efforts have led to their short-doc being featured on TIDAL!
We know there have been other defining Afro-Latina moments that have taken place this year, so please share with us, below. Also, let us know what’s been your favorite Afro-Latina moment in 2017!