By Thomas Bunn
Over the weekend, the City of Inglewood offered the community a rare treat that had residents and guests moving and shaking all Saturday afternoon well into the evening. The City of Inglewood and the good people of the Inglewood Cultural Arts Organization co-sponsored the inaugural Afro Latin Festival of Music and Dance.
As the sun reached its highest point in the sky, groups of families and friends made their way to the Ed Vincent Jr. Park Amphitheater and found seats in the shade, while others laid out blankets to bathe in the warmth of the weekend sun.
The show featured a variety of musical ensembles representative of music from the African Diaspora that still lives on in Los Angeles. The brainchild of Inglewood Cultural Arts Board Member Beto Gonzalez, the festival was “an idea that I brought to the table when I first became a board member. My colleagues, they were all for it.”
Some of the ensembles that took the stage were: Dana Maman & Batuque People, Mexico 68, Conjunto Jardin, Atabey, Kati Hernandez, Lazaro Galarraga, Rachel Hernandez & Iju Emi, and local percussion ensemble, Batala.
According to Gonzalez, “the idea of “Afro Latin” refers the enormous amounts of enslaved peoples the Americas received during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The countries where indigenous peoples of Africa settled were both North and South America, Mexico, Central America, and what we now consider the Caribbean or West Indies.
“And in some of those countries like Central America and Mexico, the African heritage is actually a little bit downplayed and a little bit more obscure than it is in places like Brazil, where you have a huge population of African descended peoples. So, Afro Latin is about connecting African culture in the diaspora of Latin America and beyond.
Our community couldn’t be a more prime piece of real estate to host an event of this magnitude. In Los Angeles, historically, the narrative has been the “Blacks vs. Browns.” Crime statistics from the LA County Human Relations Commission show that 34% of Latino-on-Black crimes were gang related, and in contrast 42% of Black-on-Latino crimes were gang related. Symbolically, this event represents the much larger, and historical view that each ethnicity shares through the universal language of the world—music. We witness first-hand how our cultures merge and compliment each other in brotherhood. Inglewood is a near even split between Hispanic and Black residents, how’s that for irony?
The things we do as a community define us. The more emphasis we place on tradition and building a strong community culture, the longer our community will remain the City the world has grown to know and love throughout popular culture. Events like the Afro Latin Festival of Dance and Music, Earth Day, and our MLK Celebration, are just a few of the events that informs the world where we stand as a community, and what matters to us. It attracts families, guests, and developers who in theory support the values we covet, and want to engage and do business with us because our interests are aligned. It dispels the cultural myths and stereotypes that plague communities of color throughout the country, and redefines us as strong and united. I hate to beat a dead horse, but, we’re on the right track. Salute, Inglewood.