Love & Hip Hop Miami’s Reunion Fight About Afro-Latino Identity Shows Some People Just Don’t Get It
Amara La Negra and Juju schooled Young Hollywood but a lot more people need an education on Afro-Latinidad.
Reality TV reunion showdowns are becoming the norm — they’re juicy, petty and great for ratings, but sometimes they’re not a good look for the culture.
But Love & Hip Hop Miami’s on-air clash between Dominican goddess Amara La Negra, Afro-Cuban queen Juju, and Young Hollywood actually was a conversation about Afro-LatinX identity the culture needed to have.
For folks new to the whole Afro-LatinX movement, the cliff notes version is —Afro-Latinos (men), Afro-Latinas (women), and/or Afro-LatinX (umbrella term) people are Latinos with African ancestry. Depending on where you live in the world, the term has different and evolving meanings (one of the best no-nonsense breakdowns of Afro-Latinx identity is on this Instagram thread.)
READ MORE: Amara La Negra talks about Black Americans embracing her: “They understand the struggles”
There are also Afro-Latinos who are multi-ethnic or have mixed heritage. This includes Afro-Latinas like Tatyana Ali (Panamanian and Trinidadian), Sunny Hostin (African-American and Puerto Rican), Miguel (Mexican and African-American) and Soledad O’Brien (Afro-Cuban, Irish and Scottish). And I’m one too (my dad is African-American and my mom is Puerto Rican).
But you don’t have to be “mixed” to be Afro-Latino. At the end of the day, Afro-Latinos are black. Period.
The problem is, we’re rarely sold an image of Latinos that includes the blackest among us. “Latina” always seems to equal light-skinned and Eurocentric. Many commercial and cultural messages reinforce that blackness is a problem.
It’s a struggle Amara La Negra has been talking about since before her days on Love and Hip Hop Miami and throughout the season— something she got criticized for when Young Hollywood asked her to consider being “a little less Macy Gray” and “more Beyonce” to make it in the music biz.
Amara La Negra and Young Hollywood’s bad blood finally spilled onstage this week when he sorta (kinda?) tried to apologize (but also insulted) Amara La Negra about her oversized Afro.
Amara: …The hair that grows out of my head is an Afro!
Young Hollywood: That’s not an Afro- it grows curly. [Afro?] is that the name of that?
(Yes sir, thick curls grow into Afros. From wavy to 4c texture. But I digress…)
Young Hollywood: I said it the wrong way and I apologize for that…I ain’t never heard of Afro-Latinos. And I’m not the only one who hasn’t.
This is where the conversation gets real. Young Hollywood — a Puerto Rican who says he has a black father and white mother— shows his ignorance that Afro-Latinos exist— a community he could very well be part of. He’s not alone.
Which is why this conversation on a national platform like Vh1’s Love & Hip Hop matters for changing the narrative about Latinx and Black identity.
Young Hollywood: You’re super Spanish [Amara La Negra]. You speak Spanish, you don’t hang out in the black community like that!
Juju: You can be both! I’m the same way. My parents are both black but they’re born in Cuba. They’re of African descent.
‘Afro-Latino’ means we’re of African descent!
African people weren’t just dropped off in America!
Here Juju checks the producer for separating the “black community” from Latinos— something that a lot of people do. He clearly thinks “black” exclusively means African-Americans— but it doesn’t.
Not only does “black” encompass people from the Caribbean and African countries, but it also includes Afro-Latinos— who experience life fully as black people. From discrimination to health disparities, Afro-Latinos know what it means to be treated differently too.
It’s what activists like Afro-Brazilian councilwoman Marielle Franco died fighting against. She was assassinated this month after speaking up for black Brazilians who faced police brutality.
The destructive effects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade still exist today, leaving black folks fighting racism no matter what language they speak.
Young Hollywood indirectly suggests that Amara “speaking Spanish” somehow makes her more “Latina” than black. But there are Latinos, including Afro-Latinos— who don’t speak Spanish. That doesn’t make them any less Latino.
And there are black people all over the world who speak Spanish (gasp!). Just see this video of Lupita Nyong’o to blow your mind.
The whole Love & Hip Hop Miami reunion argument shows there is still much to be learned when it comes Afro-Latinidad.
Even though Young Hollywood stormed off stage, angry and frustrated (the Latino version of white tears), the lessons he was taught can hopefully open up minds about what Afro-Latinx people face on the daily.
Juju summed the frustration up perfectly:
“Growing up I had the same situation. You’re too Hispanic to be black. You’re too black to be Hispanic.”
Maybe after Love & Hip Hop Miami, people will finally get it— Afro-Latinos don’t have to choose.
Natasha S. Alford is a digital host and Deputy Editor of theGrio. Follow her latest news updates on Twitter and Instagram at @natashasalford.