For Black History Month, Celebrate Afro-Latino Music With Smithsonian Folkways

-images-uploads-gallery-sfw40574_cover_1500_wide-6da431eed4aef700e0da33a5441d4fc1185839e2-s800-c85.jpgvia NPR’s Alt.Latino‘s Felix Contreras:

As part of our celebration of Black History Month and Afro-Latino culture, we turn this week to how the influence of Africa has been interpreted in various Latin and Caribbean cultures. The music of West Africa, where a majority of those enslaved in the Americas came from, was diffused through both an indigenous and Spanish filter to become the distinct sounds and rhythms that we know today.

Cumbia, bachata, mambo and son jarocho are all quite distinct from each other and are still very vibrant expressions of tradition. But, more importantly, they also inform and influence a tidal wave of new expression, mixing with hip-hop, electronic, rock and jazz to form the musical bedrock of Alt.Latino.

In this week’s show, we dive into the vaults of Smithsonian Folkways, the non-profit record label dedicated to American folk traditions of all kinds. Our guide is Folkways curator emeritus Dan Sheehy, who knows a thing or two about Afro-Latino music and culture: He has traveled extensively to produce many of the great recordings in the archive.


Sharing: feminism, women’s rights and heroines

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 11.05.14 AM.pngVia friend and amazing person behind Building Beats (an organization that provides DJ and music programs that teach entrepreneurial, leadership and life skills to underserved youth), Phi Pham. He sent this in an email and it’s too good not to share:

Welcome to the very first issue of Build Your Knowledge. I started this project mainly because I was inspired by all the books I read/listened to and wanted to motivate friends to always be learning. Each month, I’ll send reviews on 5 books on a specific theme or topic. If you want to unsubscribe, just click here.

This month’s theme is feminism, women’s rights and several heroines that have led the social progress of women in history.

I hope my reviews inspire you to read a book or dig deeper in your learning journey. And don’t forget to pass on the knowledge to a friend!


The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irina Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
The Notorious R.B.G. was a great beginner’s guide to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, our oldest Supreme Court Justice. The origins of the book came from a Tumblr account of the same name created by Shana Knizhnik who loved the R.B.G. Knizhnik and Carmon go through R.B.G.’s entire career progression up to her appointment as the 2nd ever female Supreme Court Justice. My favorite story interwoven throughout the book, is Ruth’s marriage/partnership with her husband Marty. They had a radical (at the time) relationship of 56-ish years. They shared career sacrifices as well as household duties to the benefit of one another. Marty was a well-known tax law expert who spent his later years as a master chef, giving up a lot of his own career goals as Ruth ascended the ranks. #realrelationshipgoals. The idea of a book about a Supreme Court Justice may not sound enticing to many, but The Notorious R.B.G. was great. (

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over again, it becomes normal.” – in reference to a boy chosen as a classroom monitor over 9-year-old Chimamanda. The teacher said the student with the highest test score would be monitor (which Chimamanda had acheieved). “If only boys are made class monitor, then at some point we will all think, even if unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy. If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem ‘natural’ only men should be heads of corporations.” Chimamanda describes many other examples of how we have normalized our youth on how to act that result in the impedance of equal rights for women. This was a quick short read (48 pages long) that’s a useful for someone who may not understand the importance of intersectional feminism. (

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies proclaims the rise of the independent, single woman in the 21st century. She explores how society has evolved from a “marriage as a mandatory part of life for women” to marriage as one of many options. Traister showcases the various relationships of today’s single woman through interviews & stories. My favorite example: Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow’s BFF female-to-female relationship. She also touches upon about the the diversity of women through the lens of race, economic status, and sexual orientation aka intersectional feminism. This book gives a positive perspective on the future of human relationships that doesn’t necessarily have to include marriage and also gives an encompassing overview of the history social progress of the American woman.(

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
The story of African-American women contributing to NASA’s space race is impressive and provoking. Hidden Figures, the book, was released in October, 2016 and the movie came out this past holiday season. I first listened to Hidden Figures in October and thought it was OK. Then I watched the movie and loved it. I immediately listened to the book again and loved it. The story revolves around three women who worked at NASA at the peak of the space race. Dorothy Vaughan was the leader of the West Computing Room for the African-American “computers”. Katherine Johnson was a mathematical whiz who gained the trust of John Glenn with her computing expertise. Her calculations and work played a pivotal role in Glenn’s first orbit around the earth. Mary Jackson was a teacher turned engineer after getting to take night classes at an all-white school. The film helped provide a context while the book went deep into each woman’s personal histories as well as tying in their impact on the larger civil rights movement. (

Cool fact I learned in the book: Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge trekkie and convinced Nichelle Nichols to continue her role as Lt. Nyota Uhura on Star Trek.
Bonus: Katherine Johnson receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2015:

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King as told to Barbara Reynolds
Coretta Scott King is always portrayed as the widow to a legacy, Martin Luther King Jr. Rarely is she given the appreciation or recognition that she deserves. This book is her perspective on an important era in American history. My Life, My Love, My Legacy is like a three part saga on Coretta’s various stages of life. Before meeting Martin, Coretta is a well-educated woman who dreams of being a musician. After graduating from Antioch College, Coretta receives a fellowship to attend the New England Conservatory of Music. Boston is where she meets Martin and so begins the journey of her next phase in life as Mrs. King. You can tell she has a very strong adoration for him through her stories of unwavering support during Martin’s peak events. I’ve always heard rumors on MLK’s infidelity to his wife, but several times in the book Coretta denies he was ever unfaithful. The final phase of the book is post-MLK’s assassination and Coretta’s impactful role building the MLK legacy. Her role in advocating for turning Martin’s birthday into a national holiday has institutionalized his legacy for society. It’s interesting to see her role transform from supporter to leader after Martin’s death. (

If you have comments, books to recommend or any feedback, hit me up! If you want to subscribe just sign up here or email me: