Singer Amara La Negra and Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. talked about the importance of "paying it forward" at People en Español's Festival.

By Lena Hansen
October 06, 2019

Singer Amara La Negra took People en Español's Festival by storm this weekend at the Armory in NYC's Washington Heights, bringing her amazing energy on stage. The Dominican American star, along with Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., was part of a panel titled “Paying it Forward.” Moderated by digital executive editor Shirley Velasquez, the debate focused on how to give back to the Latinx community.

Amara revealed that her mother inspires her to succeed. “My mother is everything to me. Everyone that knows me knows that my relationship with my mother is very proud. My mom is the air I breathe, I thank her for everything I am,” she said. “She believed in my talent, she supported me and today she is still my number-one fan, so everything I do is for her. I want her to be proud of me, for her to realize that all the sacrifices she made for me were worth it.”

She also encouraged all moms in the audience to support their kids in following their dreams. “You don't know if your child is the next Michael Jordan, the next Beyoncé, the next big scientist,” she said. To which Díaz Jr. added, “Or the next Amara!”

The politician, of Puerto Rican descent, said he learned to give back to his community from his parents, Reverend Rubén Díaz and his mother, who was a kindergarten teacher. “My mom is the one who really instilled in me how to be nurturing, how to give back to the community, how to fight for the most marginalized,” he said. His parents taught him to value family and to show his faith in God by serving other people.

Amara recalled her beginning as a child star in Sábado Gigante. “It was a great platform for me to grow,” she said. The singer understands the responsibility that comes with fame. “I am an activist for the Afro-Latino community. I defend my black race,” she said. “For me, equality is very important.” Even though she is proud of her Dominican roots, the singer said that at castings where they look for Latinas that look like Jennifer Lopez, Sofía Vergara or Salma Hayek, she never fit in to that “prototype.” “That's where I come in as an activist of the Afro-Latino community, to defend us and say we need diversity. We need to see more people like me on the screen.”

Díaz Jr. agreed that Afro-Latinos need to be more visible. “We are beautiful, we are diverse and I'm so happy that Amara is representing that.” Amara admitted that her art is a way to pay it forward. “As an artist my job is to entertain, this is my way of giving back. God gave me the talent of being able to entertain, to change people's lives through music, through my acting. It's a blessing to be able to inspire and motivate other people with your talent. It's amazing how a song can change your moment. You may be depressed and you hear a merenguito and it goes away — you feel the power of music.”

She also spoke about the sacrifices of fame, like sleepless nights and being away from your family at times. “But at the end of the day. I'm more than blessed,” she recognized. Like Amara, Díaz Jr.'s mom also forced him to speak Spanish at home as a child, and they are both grateful to be bilingual and bicultural. The Bronx Borough President also said he feels blessed with his role in life. “What elected officials have to realize [about] giving it back is that the title doesn't make you, the title is not yours, the title that you get elected to belongs to the people,” he emphasized. “So we have to use that title to fight for justice, we have to fight for equality.”

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