Looks like our very favourite regular, degular, shmegular girl from the Bronx is back with more visuals to accompany her chart topping debut album Invasion of Privacy. Just recently, the hip hop mogul gave us the gift of a striking, boldly colourful new video for her new bilingual single “I like it”. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it below. This video is pure, unfiltered, Afro-Latina black girl magic, to put it as simply as I can.
Now, if I threw you off with the word “Afro-Latina”, let me break it down for you one time. Afro-Latina/Latino refers to Latin American people of significant African ancestry, or in other words, Black Latin Americans. Yes, there is a name for it! The intersection of the Black and Latino identity is as old as time, yet representations of the Afro-Latinx cultural nuances remain almost completely invisible in popular media. This is why if you were in fact thrown by the terminology, you’re (almost) forgiven.
Alright, back to the video. From the very first frame, viewers are met with stunning Afro-Latina imagery dancing across our screens. Cardi really brought the heat with this one, and the authenticity was palpable – it’s no wonder, as the video was shot in the Little Havana section of Miami, Florida. Cardi is accompanied both on the song and in the video by Latin trap rapper Bad Bunny and reggaeton artist J. Balvin; the three of them collaborating to serve us summer vibes on summer vibes in front of unmistakably Latin backdrops, landscapes, and architecture. Some of Cardi’s vibrant and iconic video fits include gorgeous and seemingly infinite yellow and red gowns, beaded tops, satin head wraps, and my personal favorite: shiny oversized hoops.
If you don’t already know, Cardi B is the product of a Dominican father and Trinidadian mother. She spends what I would describe as more than her fair share of time explaining and defending a complex identity that people seem committed to misunderstanding, or worse, erasing completely. Ask yourself: how often do I see black women on my TV screen in Latina roles? How often is our textbook Latina caricature one with darker skin or of African roots? Not often. This erasure, rooted in anti-blackness and the unwillingness to acknowledge that the black diaspora is… well… complicated, are all factors in why we don’t see nearly enough celebration on our screens of Afro-Latinx people and their culture. But times are changing, and they are making space for themselves where they’ve been made to believe space didn’t exist. Bardi included. In this case, we know and love that Cardi B has found success in being herself unapologetically. Audiences (ahem, trolls…) initially pushed back against her overt sexuality and shock-value based humor before they embraced it, didn’t they? So too they will embrace the complexity of her race/ethnicity and culture.
Our desire and compulsion as a society to think in binary terms (black and white, this or that, yes or no) has turned Cardi B and all the other Afro-Latinas of the world into a sort of cultural enigma. These women cannot be placed into just one social category no matter how hard society tries (They are both Latina and Black simultaneously, as well as individually subscribing to a bunch of other social categories, like womanhood itself, that we won’t get into today). Society reacts to that in very strange ways – like a child trying to force a puzzle piece where it doesn’t belong, only to abandon the puzzle altogether. I empathize greatly with Cardi’s uphill battle of resistance, and as a die-hard member of the Bardi Gang (and a woman of mixed ancestry too), I’ve watched and related to her frustration constantly unfolding on Twitter and Instagram or wherever else people decide to try her. All of this is what makes Cardi’s “I Like It” video revolutionary by nature. To create your own spotlight and stand up and shine in it in all your cultural glory – in spite of a world which is constantly trying to keep you in its margins – is a revolutionary act. It is empowering for Cardi B, and for the millions of women and girls who look like her.
Let me make it clear that I am not Afro-Latina myself. However, as a black woman and feminist, I take note of when the more marginalized segments of our complex and magical sisterhood speak – and I listen. When this music video dropped, Afro-Latinas in all corners of the internet had A LOT to say. It seems that although we are making some progress, we have a long way to go. One of my favourite social justice bloggers, an artist and socio critic named Zahira Kelly (or @baddominicana as she is known across social media platforms), remarked that the video further proves that “afrolatinas are the only ones who can be trusted to accurately depict latin america’s racial makeup. It’s people of all colour in (the video). Put on a vid by an afrolatina man or non black latinos? They gonna act like negras don’t exist”(instagram.com/bad_dominicana).
So of course, what it comes down to is that representation matters. Let’s see real lives and real cultures represented on and off screen. Let’s amplify the voices of black women in all their complexities and all their glory. The “I Like It” video proves that these women tell their stories best, the way they’re meant to be told – in vivid technicolor. Another W for the good sis Cardi in her whirlwind year.