A celebration of Afro-Latinx culture takes over Brooklyn this weekend in the form of a festival highlighting diverse eats from DeKalb Market Hall’s 40-plus vendors and music by nearly a dozen international artists and DJs.
It’s a tradition that’s now seven years strong, brought to fruition by a pair of New Yorkers recognizing a lack of their culture’s representation in the city’s festival scene.
"There wasn’t really a platform for Afro-Latino artists and creators to perform," says Amilcar Priestley, 40, a festival co-founder. He credits his wife, Mai-Elka Prado Gil, as being the brainchild behind the two-day gathering.
With a theme of "#ReclaimingCulture+Spaces," the Afro-Latino Festival moves to a new, larger location for its seventh annual edition, thanks to growing interest. The first gathering — at Parkside Plaza outside the Parkside Avenue station in Flatbush — was merely a casual meetup. The 2018 festival, with only one performance stage, drew more than 1,500, leading to a move to BKLYN Studios Stage, Dekalb Stage and Albee Square Stage.
"This year is our biggest and most ambitious," says Priestley, a Flatbush native. The July 12-13 event, projected to attract 2,000, partners with City Point and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to provide three main stages for performances by Haitian, Dominican and African DJs, among others.
Following the debut gathering, Priestley says the response from locals was unanimous: "It’s about time."
"We knew we were onto something. The festival itself has become a driving force in a renewed conversation about Afro-Latino culture that has seen a resurgence in recent years," he adds, referencing notable names recently making headlines, like "Love and Hip-hop Miami" star Amara La Negra who uses her platform to break down Afro-Latinx stereotypes.
Though Priestley says he and his wife — both from Panama — grew up deeply rooted in their culture, they look to increase visibility for younger generations who may not have the same opportunities.
This year they launch their AfrolatinTalks podcast during the festival, which ties back to the event’s "reclaiming culture" theme. It’ll include a series of conversations with locals who look to help "affirm, celebrate and educate" youth on the Afro-Latinx experience.
Friday’s events include an opening party at BKLYN Studios at Albee Square with Haitian-American DJ Stakz, as well as appearances by poet-activist Felipe Luciano, Bobbito Garcia, aka "Kool Bob Love," and DJ Nina Vicious’ tribute to Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso, of Puerto Rico.
Day two features performances by Latin Grammy winner Jose Alberto “El Canario,” who’s known as the "Showman of Salsa," twin DJs Coco and Breezy and Panama’s Los Beachers, who are celebrating their 51st anniversary. It’ll also mark the launch of a Kids Zone, with crafts and activities geared toward families.
For tickets and more information, visit afrolatinofestny.com/tickets.