Written by Marjua Estevez, Photos by Redens Desrosiers

Published July 18, 2019

Afro-Latino Fest 2019: Black Joy In The Diaspora On Display

In its seventh time running and biggest year yet, the Afro-Latino Fest 2019 descended upon Brooklyn, a culturally befitting destination as the borough is home to one of New York City’s richest Caribbean populations. Enjoy a stunning visual recap of this year’s jubilee, and see why it’s one of the most powerful movements of Black "affirmation, education and celebration" today. 

At the helm of every year’s celebration are Panamanian organizers Mai-Elka Prado and Amilcar Priestly, the founder/creative director and co-director, respectively. The pair, who set out to “affirm, educate and celebrate” Black culture throughout the Americas, also happen to be married. This year, they paired up with Latino Rebels/Futuro Media Group to power Brooklyn's City Point and Albee Square, a space that would hold over 1,500 attendees. 

The two-day event – equipped with indoor and outdoor stages – drew on the power of storytelling, historical memory, food and dance as a profound catalyst for "Reclaiming Culture+Spaces," a theme that simutaneously honored salsa music and the genre's inherent African roots. 

This year's lineup included Boricua poet and former Young Lord Felipe Luciano, Haitian and Puerto Rican artist DJ Nina Viscious and Nuyorican hip-hop legend Bobbito Garcia, all of whom joined forces to pay homage to salsa icon Ismael Rivera and master salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso

Special guests included appearances by rising artists like Panamanian singer-songwriter and acitvist DioMara, whose moving performance served as a precursor to the festival's denouement, a tribute to The Beachers who celebrated their 50th anniversary as one of Panamas most popular calypso bands. 

Fashion mavens and DJs Coco & Breezy put on one of the more culturally significant sets, as the fraternal twins spun renditions of Marc Anthony and the like, while blending elements of contemporary hip-hop and electronica. To honor their native Puerto Rico, the girls also featured their mother, Diana Aponte, who played the congas, an instrument that traces back to West African song and dance. 

The festival also empowered Afro-Latino children with a Kid Zone that featured Black vendors spanning paint, fashion, toys, comics and hand-made trinkets.

Outside stages offered open space for dancing, mouthwatering food by local Caribbean vendors, information about the festival and its components, and performances of traditional dance like in bomba, an Afro-Puerto Rican style of music and movement rooted in slavery. 

While in previous years the Afro-Latino Fest organization featured live interviews, this year they turned their AfroLatinTalks series into a podcast. With mass media fixed on Afrolatinidad more than ever, it was important to make available to the internet conversations like "Perspectives on Identity, Belonging and Culture" and "From Mixtapes to Streaming: The Power of Curation" which helped breakdown stereotypes and explore African-Caribbean culture through the power of music, respectively. 

Journalists and cultural critics like Janel Martinez, Zahira “Bad Dominicana” Kelly, Bobbito Garcia, Ashley "Venom" Solage, Raphael Espinal, Dantee Ramos, Arlene Pitterson and AJ El Kajellero presented on said conversations. 


In the end, the 2019 Afro-Latino Festival of NYC proved to be quite the timely revolutionary act, because what's more radical than Black people dancing, engaging and loving on one another in a society that wants to extinguish us?