[PHOTOS] Third Annual Afro-Latino Festival of New York Opening Gala

It's been a long time coming for Afro-Latinos to make a BIG statement and stir up some conversation. This past weekend, we did just that at the 3rd annual Afro-Latino Festival of NYC, a celebration of Afrolatinidad that affirms, educates and celebrates Afrolatino cultures. The opening reception was held in Madiba Harlem at Mist and recognized Robert J. Rodriguez, New York State Assemblyman 68th District; New York Times Bureau Chief for Mexico, Randal Archibold; Founder and Director of the Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diaspora Institute, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega; award-winning poet Willie Perdomo; and Tech Journalist/CEO,Janel Martinez for their achievements and contributions to the Afro-Latino community. Other notable guests at the gala were Congresswoman Yvette Clarke; Manhattan Borough President, Gale BrewerNatasha Williams, Executive Director of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, NYS Assembly; singer Irka Mateo, members of the band Cúltura Profética, Kafu Banton, Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, and Les Nubians.

This gala was very special to me as I share personal memories with Janel Martinez from our undergraduate days at Syracuse University. Last year, Janel decided to challenge traditional Latino media outlets with the launch of AintILatina.com. Her "Digital Empowerment Award" was very well-earned I couldn't be more excited for Janel and the rest of the honorees to continue their work in this space.

The best part of the gala was learning the sounds of traditional Afro-Panamanian music by Conjunto Nuevo Milenio and being able to dance to live Palo and Gaga music with Kalunga Neg Mawon who represented Haiti/Dominican Republic. The evening was concluded with the announcement of the official proclamation by the New York State Assembly recognizing the U.N. International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).

Let's heal and continue to learn more about the African diaspora.

Photo Credit: Mario Carrión