J Balvin called out online after accepting an ‘Afro-Latino Artist of the Year’ award

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The 7th annual African Entertainment Awards were held on Dec. 26 in New Jersey, but not everyone was celebrating J Balvin, who was chosen out of 10 recording artists to win the Afro-Latino Artist of the Year award. Now Balvin, who is of Colombian descent and was born in Medellínt, is facing backlash for accepting the award.

Afro–Latin or Black Latin heritage typically refers to Latin Americans who are of full or mainly African ancestry. However, J Balvin (whose real name is José Álvaro Osorio Balvín) is not actually Black, as many fans were quick to point out following Sunday night’s win.

“J Balvin won an award on Blackness by using Black Caribbean music, dialect, rhythms, and wardrobe,” tweeted Twitter user Nina Vázquez. “While actual Black folx who have higher streaming numbers, better lyricism, better everything and who are actually BLACK lost.”

Other users echoed that same sentiment, urging the AEA to do a better job of gatekeeping.

Jay-Ann Lopez, the founder of Black Girl Gamers, went so far as to compare Balvin to Rachel Dolezal.

PhillyMag journalist Ernest Owens likewise pointed out that J Balvin is no more Afro-Latino than Bruno Mars is a Black artist or Ariana Grande is racially ambiguous.

Balvin later took to social media to respond to the controversy, admitting on Instagram, “I am not Afro-Latino but thank you for giving me a place in the contribution of Afrobeat music and its movement.”

The African Entertainment Awards also addressed the criticism in an Instagram post by changing the name of the award to “Best Latin Artist of the Year.”

“The Best Latin Artist category is for any artist based in Latin America that is contributing to the African culture especially the Afro-beats sound globally,” the post explained. “It is not based on race but more importantly based on pushing the African culture forward on the world stage. This is the first year that we introduced this category to include our Latin brothers and sisters who have embraced Afrobeats music within their platforms. The winner of this category has demonstrated that and is deserving of this award based on the fans votes.”

This isn’t the first time J Balvin has faced backlash from the Black community. Earlier this year, he was forced to remove the music video for his single “Perra” from YouTube following outrage over its depictions of Black women as dogs on leashes.

“I want to say sorry to whomever felt offended, especially women and the Black community,” Balvin apologized at the time. “That’s not who I am. I’m about tolerance, love, and inclusivity.”