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During the month of February, we will be celebrating the ongoing efforts of Afro- Latinos and African-Americans who have paved the way for Latin music, art, and dance. Check out our website and the St Louis International Salsa Congress website for dance artists who are making their mark in history.

Eric Velasquez

Eric Velasquez was born in Spanish Harlem and grew up in Harlem. He earned his BFA from the School of Visual Arts. Eric has been illustrating for over 30 years and has illustrated over 30 children's books. His first picture book, The Piano Man by Debbie Chocolate, published by Bloomsbury, won the Coretta-Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. In 2010, Eric was awarded an NAACP Image Award for his work in Our Children Can Soar, which he collaborated on with 12 notable illustrators of children's literature. Eric also wrote and illustrated Grandma's Records and its follow up, Grandma's Gift, which won the 2011 Pura Belpre' Award for illustration and was also nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award. Eric wrote and illustrated Looking for Bongo, which has gathered rave reviews, and his latest book Octopus Stew is sure to be a classic. He also illustrated Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, which garnered great reviews and won the 2018 Walter Award from the WNDB organization and the SCBWI's The Golden Kite Award and The International Latino Award Honor. Eric lives and works in New York. He teaches book illustration at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) in NYC. For more information please visit his web site

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Amara La Negra

Diana Danelys De Los Santos, known professionally as Amara La Negra, is an American singer, actress, dancer, and author. Diana is an Afro-Latina of Dominican descent and is most known for her role on the VH1 reality TV show Love & Hip Hop: Miami. De Los Santos grew up in Miami, FL, as the only child of a single mother who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. She started her musical career at the age of 4 on the Spanish language television program Sabado Gigante as a regular cast member. Diana was the only dark skin girl on the cast that the show has ever had in over 50 years. After her 6-year run on Sabado Gigante, Diana became a back-up dancer for major Latin artists such as Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. During her teenage years, Diana joined an all-girl group named Amara. The group struggled to stay together and eventually split up. However, Diana wanted to keep the name Amara and added the "La Negra", meaning "black girl" in Spanish, after the question was repeatedly asked, "Who's the black girl of the group?" She has experienced difficulties being accepted in the industry of her home country due to her dark skin and afro. In 2018, De Los Santos became one of the main cast members on VH1's Love & Hip-Hop Miami. Her storyline explores colorism and eurocentrism within the Latin community, which garnered significant media attention. In the same year, La Negra landed a multi-album deal with BMG and then went on to release two singles, "Insecure" and "What A Bam Bam", which was the song that went on to hit the number 8 spot on Billboard's Latin Pop Digital Song Sales chart in March. With the release of her debut studio album "Unstoppable" in 2019, Diana performed at numerous venues across the United States and Latin America. In the same year, De Los Santos appeared as lead role in the BET movie Fall Girls in addition to acting in the Spanish language movie Bendecidas. In 2020, De los Santos started a weekly Instagram show where, together with her mother, she co-hosts a show called “Grind Pretty, My Mom is the Bomb” that highlights female entrepreneurs who have both small and big businesses and come together and exchange ideas and help motivate each other and encourage collaboration. Also in 2020, she teamed with tennis superstar Serena Williams in an online campaign to promote women. (adapted from Wikipedia)

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