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Amara La Negra: "Everyone Doesn't Deserve The Love You Give"

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I first met Love and Hip Hop Miami's breakout star, Amara La Negra at the NAACP Image awards. Instantly, I thought she defined the phrase "Black Girl Magic." Draped in a stunning Arabic-inspired silver couture gown by Usuma Ishtay, Amara caught the press by surprise when she stepped onto the red carpet with her signature crown of natural hair. She was unapologetic, articulate, and proud. I saw so much of myself in her.

Both of us melanin-rich girls were rocking bold afros and we somehow stood out amongst the majority of people who opted for a more traditional Hollywood glamour look. After discussing English as our second language (I'm Zambian, she's Dominican) and the difference between ethnicity and race, we forged an instant connection.

It was a connection we would vibe off again some time later, this time over the phone as I conducted our interview for xoNecole. There, we talked her keys to success, the importance of self-love, and how she plans to use her platform to be a voice and a beacon to the reality of colorism.

"I am a proud Latina with African roots. I'm Black. I'm an Afro-Latina, I have dark skin, I have curves. I like the pattern of my natural hair and how it coils up. I love my complexion. It is beautiful! I am beautiful. I know there are people who may look at me and feel different but that's them."

Mike Pont/Getty Images

"I don't know their experiences and I can't buy into another person's perception of beauty that isn't true to how I feel or see beauty. When I look at myself and see little girls and women who look just like me, I see nothing but beauty!" Amara exclaimed proudly during our chat.

Amara La Negra is as eccentric as Celia Cruz, as vibrant as Selena, and perhaps even as ambitious as Evita Peron. Although she is just now getting mainstream recognition through the latest installment of the Love and Hip Hop franchise, in the Latin entertainment sector, Amara is a household name with an enormous following. She has been in the business since she was three, and has worked as a television host, dancer, actress, as well as in radio.

In her crossover success, she is taking the world by storm on a global level, having recently signed a multi-album record deal, as well as some acting gigs and a contract with top global booking agency UTA.

The glow up is real.

The Afro-Latina beauty also credits her mother for her motivation, citing her mother, Ana Maria Oleaga, as her biggest inspiration. Her motto, "Success belongs to those who never give up," has fueled Amara to continue her path of greatness no matter how hard the grind gets.

"We have to have a solid reason for what we do, a purpose. Everything I do, I do for my mother. My mother works in a kitchen and when I see her come home with burns on her arms and chest, I am motivated to keep going. She always acts like it doesn't hurt to stay strong for me so I don't feel bad. But I know how much she has sacrificed for me, so no matter what, I have to keep reaching for the stars and not get discouraged."

To Amara, "success is no accident" and that drive is arguably one of the reasons for the wins her career has been attributed with recently. "It is hard work and perseverance," she explained. "It's learning, studying, and most of all, being in love with what you are doing. You can't get around those things!"

Her hard work in investing in herself has paid off and paved the way for the bronze goddess who is absolutely in demand. From red carpets to shoots to bookings, Amara is truly shining in the light of her moment.

Mike Pont/Getty Images

It's a moment that she takes seriously with a platform that she does not take for granted.

Still, like anyone else, she has had her moments in which she could have very well been discouraged. The premiere episode of Love and Hip Hop Miami captured one of these moments. When Amara La Negra graced the screen on the highly buzzed-about Mona Scott-Young franchise, it was evident that a social seismic shift was occurring.

With her immaculate chocolate-dipped skin tone, obvious curves, and Pam Grier-esque Afro, the accomplished Caribbean and Spanish songstress was nothing close to the women we have become accustomed to seeing on reality television and, for her cast-mate and producer, Young Hollywood, her affinity and love of her culture, natural beauty, and hair was not acceptable. "You could be more Beyonce and less Macy Gray," he was quoted saying in the much talked-about episode.

Perhaps he thought Amara was supposed to feel shame about the characteristics that lent themselves to her physicality. Perhaps he thought she would shrink beneath the weight of his obvious disrespect, but instead Amara responded to Young Hollywood with a tsunami of reads with an intensity, and pride, and a knowingness of who she is. "I was very frustrated at that point and it wasn't the first time that I had encountered this issue with racism and colorism," Amara recalled of the moment in our interview.

In that scene, Amara was a sea of emotions, some suppressed since she was a young deep-hued Dominican child growing up in Miami. Instead of playing off Hollywood's obvious ignorance, Amara let it be known that his colorism would not be tolerated. Although anti-blackness towards people of darker skin is nothing new, it had rarely been challenged on such a platform. Amara seeks to be the change she wishes to see in the world.

"Colorism and xenophobia are very real. It's more addressed in America and it exists a lot in Latin culture but it's not talked about as much. It's in the shadows," Amara said. "I definitely feel like in America you have a lot of people who speak out against racism. There are entertainers, activists, and even people on social media that will stand up against discrimination. There are strong movements in America that aren't as visible in the Latin community. So I think sometimes a lot goes unchallenged and people don't speak up in the same manner as they do in the U.S."

"I think in Latin culture, they've become numb to it. That's the thing about why I am vocal about these things. There are so many young people and adults experiencing the same thing. Women and young girls come up to me at the airports and on the streets and they hug me and tell me I speak for them. It's bigger than me... it's really about shifting a cultural norm and mindset that really hurts and impacts a lot of people around the world."

Amara hopes that being a voice will one day decrease the disparities in representation among Latin women. "I feel honestly like God has given me the blessing to really bring to light a really important issue that has been in the shadows for a very long time not just for Afro-Latinas, but for African-Americans who have been dealing with it forever and Black people throughout the Diaspora. For me, it's about fairness, representation and creating a balance in entertainment that is reflected of our diverse population and various looks."

Mike Pont/Getty Images

"I know, especially in the Latina community, people have been taught to think a certain way about beauty and when you look on television, magazines, and the media and you don't see yourself being represented, you can question if you are beautiful or where you fit in and I'm here to show everybody that, yes, we are what beauty is too. People aren't always going to accept you. That can be in your work, in society, or in a relationship, but that means they don't deserve you. You have to move on and away from other people's thoughts and love yourself."

As we approach Valentine's Day with so many women getting caught up in feelings, Amara says this transcendant message of self-acceptance has to be applied in love too. "People always search for someone to love them but you have to be in love with yourself first and love yourself just as much as you would want someone else to love you. Self love is vital. It's embracing who you are and loving the person you see in the mirror with all your flaws. Self love is not letting anybody or anything make you change who you are. It's understanding that there is only one of you and you are special," she said.

"You alone are beautiful. You alone are art and that alone makes you beautiful. No one has to tell you that for it to be true. That's what self love is. For a very long time, I thought I needed other people's approval and another person's validation, but when I learned to love all of me, I let that go. If ever you want to change, do it because you want to not because someone made you feel like you had to."

Amara, in all her undeniable beauty, her sparkling talent, and her unapologetic nature is a queen in her own right, but with all her knowledge of self love and the relationship with self, we had to ask her what her relationship status was like. Briefly, she broached the topic of loving people who don't love you back, a common occurance among women. The message is still clear, love people who deserve you.

"Aye girl, l I've been there before, shoot. And it's painful. I've fallen in love hard with people who haven't loved me in the same way that I loved them and wouldn't give me the same energy I was giving to them but again when I began to understand self-love, I realized that not everyone deserves you. Not everyone deserves your energy and not everyone deserves the love you give."

She continued, "There may be instances where you may feel potential and you may think that you have the power to maybe bring that love out of someone but if someone doesn't love you...come on, you don't deserve to put yourself through that. More importantly, If someone puts you down ladies, please don't stick around and try to fix them. That's God's job, not yours. Don't waste your time. There's like 7.1 billion people in the world. If one person doesn't love you, keep it moving."

Outside of her activism and television, Amara is adding to her coins by working on her clothing line, touring, and her album of course. As she lays vocals to another track, she stops and shares a final message saying that it's important that every woman does what they love.

"From the time I was a young girl, I've known that everything that is happening is exactly what I wanted to do. I feel blessed. Music is everything to me. It's freedom. I think every woman knows what she wants to do in her life and I say to each of you, you must trust your instinct. You must pay attention to your energy and make choices based on energy. The process is not easy but if you stay true to yourself and put in the work, you will succeed."

Keep up with Amara La Negra @amaralanegraaln.

Featured image by Mike Pont/Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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