For Dominican-Americans growing up in Philadelphia, the Dominican Parade and Festival has always been the one day we truly had to represent and celebrate our beautiful flag, music, and culture.
For the past 18 years, I witnessed how my community flourished in numbers and businesses. Each year an element to this festive day was added, whether it was food trucks, a stage for performances or mainstream artists.
Admittedly, this celebration is very much anticipated amongst the youth, the date always leans towards the end of the summer, and serves as a last “hoorah” before going back to school.
To feel the bass from the sound systems, different music performances, and the overall energy of a community filled with happiness is a sensation many of us never want to lose.
Early July I dedicated my trip to the Dominican Republic as a social experiment. Three topics circulated in my mind when observing or having conversations with people: Afro-textured hair and colorism, immigration, and the urban music industry as well as the intersectionality of it. This observation included paying attention to the most watched music videos.
To my amazement – NOT – the video models were predominantly white with straight hair, a false representation of a culture with different shades and forms of beauty like those found in the Dominican Republic.
In an industry in which most artists are clearly of Afro-descent, Eurocentric features are praised while women of a darker pigment are ignored, which to me, is quite ironic considering the beats of the very genre are Afro-centric.
The Small Giant and Festival
Known as the “small giant” of the Urban genre in the Dominican Republic, Chimbala knows exactly how to hype a crowd. He also stood out to me as one of the most inclusive when showcasing diversity in his videos.
As you can see, women of all shades and hair textures are seen in this colorful video.
“I feel super grateful to have been invited to the parade and festival in Philadelphia, not only because I’m Dominican but because coming here makes me feel like I’m in my own backyard with my people.”
When asked about his videos he explained his views on representation and love for one another.
“It’s important to me. We are all human beings, God created us in order to love one another no matter the color of one’s skin.
The “Maniqui” singer was awaited anxiously by many of the youth attendees, hoping to hear their favorite songs. He performed a plethora of hits from “Con Lo Pie” to “Tan Celoso.”
While lack of representation is seen in Latin American Media, Chimbala’s inclusivity is just a small step in an industry of different genres and countries. We ALL have a MAJOR social responsibility in decolonizing our minds and standards of beauty. From becoming aware of the narratives and aesthetic in the Telenovelas we watch to the influencers we support the most. It is up to us to create and support content that is truly representative of who we are.
Spanish Audio Track Of His Thoughts on Dembow, Representation, and Shaping the Genre