Amara La Negra Recounts Her Experiences With Racism as an Afro-Latina (Exclusive)
By Manuel Betancourt
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Amara la Negra’s stage name is a joyous reminder of the Love & Hip Hop: Miami star’s pride in her own skin. The name translates to “love Black” or “love Black women," but it’s also a reappropriation of a label that hasn’t always been positively lobbed her way.
ET recently spoke with the 29-year-old singer about her experiences with racism and colorism as an Afro-Latina, issues that have been at the forefront of her activism for years, but now feel particularly poignant.
“I am a Black woman in America. I am an Afro-Latina in America. I am a Latina in America,” she told ET’s Melicia Johnson, before outlining how those various identity markers inform her worldview.
“Sometimes you feel that you don't know where you belong,” she explained. “Because when you go to the Latin community, they're like, ‘Well, you know you’re too Black, you don't belong with us, you go over there.’ And then when you go to the African American side, they're like, ‘Well, you're Latin, you're Spanish, so you go over there.’ And then you just don't understand where it is that you belong.”
Belonging, as she learned early on, has a lot to do with how these communities are represented in the media, or whether they’re represented at all. Amara was raised in Miami by her Dominican mother and began acting at a young age in Spanish-language television shows. She made regular appearances on Univision’s Sabado Gigante.
“I grew up as a child star in the entertainment industry and I never saw people like myself,” she shared. “I want to point the finger out to all the producers, the writers and directors, to all the agents, every single person that has the power to make a difference, to make a change: I want to make you guys responsible because you are the reasons why we are in the situation that we’re in, especially in my case for the Afro-Latino community. It’s because you don't show any diversity.”
Roles perpetuated negative stereotypes and provided a limited view of what the Latinx community looks like. Those who didn’t fit the mold were cut out of the picture, but things are changing, Amara explained.
“We're not all blonde and we're not all white. And we don't all speak a certain type of way,” Amara said. “Like, the world is so full of culture, of diversity of race, of food, sounds, rhythm, body shapes. The world is full of so much and we're consistently just fed this little bit, so I just pray that we are able to continue to grow. I pray that this is only the beginning of many great things to come. The progress is coming. I am proud and honored to know that I've been able to inspire, motivate others to stand up as well.”
She points to the latest installment of HBO’s Habla documentary series, Habla Now, as an example of what a truly expansive vision of the Latinx community can look like, the kind that makes room for all sorts of life experiences. The documentary features Justina Machado, Chef Jose Andres, Diane Guerrero, and Laurie Hernandez among other notable figures.
“I'm always grateful to every single platform that allows me to continue my activism and just bring awareness,” she explained. “At the same time, I feel like why the hell should we be having this conversation? It's 2020. I shouldn't have to be grateful and thankful.”
Like Alberto Ferreras’ previous documentaries (which include Habla Men, Habla Women, Habla y Vota and Celebrity Habla), Habla Now gives Latinxs from all walks of life a platform to expound on their experiences living in the United States.
“Some of them were talking about immigration. Some of them were talking about the reasons and the necessity of why we should vote,” she explained. “In my case, I'm talking about colorism and the issues that happen in our community. And we have Native Americans -- we just had a little bit of everything. I feel like this is such an amazing and powerful documentary because it really shows you what we're about.”
Whether it's raising awareness about colorism, or calling for an end to racial inequality, activism has been an important part of Amara’s identity. After the death of George Floyd in May, Amara took to the streets of Miami to march in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. In July, she participated in the ‘Enough Is Enough’ protest calling for Justice for Edward Foster, a 35-year-old father killed by a police officer in 2015. The reality star also championed Miami-Dade State Attorney candidate Melba Pearson, and is using her platform to mobilize Black voters to participate in the upcoming presidential election.
Moving forward, Amara hopes these efforts, along with fuller Latinx representation on-screen, will bring about real change.
“Until I see some real real change in the entertainment industry -- until I see more people like myself -- I don't really feel like there's a difference,” she said. “I think that right now, we're trendy. I think we're popular right now. We are convenient. I think that right now, it is good to have that one Black person, so that you don't say that we're racist, so that you don't say that we don't have diversity. I think that right now, it's fine, let's bring Amara La Negra -- we have one Afro-Latina -- and talk about it. And I'm like, dude, there's a whole bunch of us. There's countries full of us. Let's give them a chance.”