As part of the 23rd annual Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC), artists Mabiland (Colombian rapper), La Dame Blanche (Cuban singer and musician), Akapellah (Venezuelan MC), Fidel Nadal (Argentine reggae/world artist) and Sergio George (Puerto Rican producer/pianist) joined forces to speak about their Afro-Latino identity.
The panel, presented by Facebook, was moderated by Puerto Rican guitarist, composer and arranger Carlos Alomar, best known for his work with David Bowie.
One part of the conversation touched upon what being Afro-Latino entails for each artist, personally. Below, check out their best quotes from the conference.
Akapellah: Blackness does not go in color. In Venezuela, there is no predominant race. Culturally, the music has a lot of Blackness but with so much diversity, you always find someone who is Black-skinned and does not have the pride or identity of being Afro. I feel very proud and I realized how special I am when I travel to other countries, such as Chile. I am a black Venezuelan. You learn to value who you are when you mix yourself with different cultures. Over time, I accepted my Blackness and I feel super proud.
Fidel Nadal: Argentina, for example, is a mystery, because compared to other countries, in Argentina you can say that there is a lower percentage of Blacks. It’s rare because, at the time of slavery, many Blacks arrived at the port of Buenos Aires. My family came from Africa as slaves. That’s why my father, from such an early age, was an advocate for social and racial struggles in the country. I was born in that environment, where the struggle was breathed. Racism hit me because it was obvious. That was what led me to create music and write my experiences without knowing that it was going to be my profession.
La Dame Blanche: The term corresponds to me because I’m Latina and I’m African. In Cuba, we have seen many battles that have been won but at the same time, there’s a lot of racism. However, I feel that Afro-Cubans are proud of being Black.
Mabiland: The word Afro-Latino is being used a lot lately and I feel that every time there are more and more labels. Being Black is a constant struggle since you are born. You have to recognize your roots, who gave you life, your ancestors, your culture. I am from Choco, where African music and culture live. I studied in Medellin, which has a smaller Afro population. That’s when I realized that being Black is different and that people don’t understand that. There’s a side of Medellin that embraces the Afro culture but I feel that each country has its struggle.
Sergio George: I was born in New York in the ‘60s, a time where there was a lot of discrimination. The Black community lived in 20 blocks. White people, the police, and racism were on the other side of those 20 blocks. So, my world was surrounded by African-Americans, Afro-Puerto Ricans, and Afro-Dominicans. There were some Jewish and Italian people who lived in our neighborhood and identified with us. On those 20 blocks is where artists such as Eddie Palmieri and salsa music were born.