AfroRazones ended in 2020 in order to make space for work that more precisely meets the current global moment. For decades, artists of the Global South, including Cuban artists, have been used by the U.S. State Department, both knowingly and unknowingly, in its quest to fuel instability in the name of "establishing Democracy" across the globe. In an effort to separate from this legacy, the project in its current form ended.
In some sense, what the organizers of the project sought out to do was demystify a convoluted terrain and to familiarize Cuban artists with best practices in the hopes that they would then be able to build their own presence within the current music industry and take their fates into their own hands. AfroRazones created educational workshops, taught software and platform tutorials, and produced curated showcases as well as two albums, the first of which was released in 2016 and received acclaim from established mainstream North American outlets. We also were able to funnel some resources into artists' hands and share access to electronic equipment. The spaces curated brought Cuban artists to learning communities that focused on understanding the current digital music landscape.
However, this 'teaching artists to fish' model, while well-intentioned, fell short of creating a genuinely progressive network because the organizers (including myself) lacked a coherent economic and political vision that is necessary when U.S. Americans engage with Cuba. Often, foreigners traveling and bringing resources to the island do so for the purpose of assisting in U.S. intervention or establishing personal financial investments. On the other side, because of isolation and lack of understanding of the global economic market and social media, the Cuban artists who engaged with AfroRazones sometimes had unrealistic views about the potential success of the music they made.
For these reasons, the interest in the tools was separated from the understanding of the bigger framework, and our explanations of both the range and limits of social media and clout seemed to feed into capitalist myths rather than puncture them. The stakes in 2020, with increasing sanctions and political turmoil directed towards Cuba, were too high to risk continuing in this uncertain direction.
In 2016, I wrote, "as we develop automation and fall deeper into social media algorithms, some of us become less human and more robotic. But some of us don't. AfroRazones acts as a reminder of the music and community that connects us." I still believe in this power of IRL connection and transnational solidarity, and I know that digital literacy is necessary for communities around the world, including my own in the U.S. However, not being specific and clear about why we invest resources into certain cultural communities can ultimately reproduce apolitical fascination that ultimately causes damage. Resource sharing is imperative, but so is the production of ideas that bring us towards a more democratic world.