Alba, who is 55 and has a multimedia art practice, identifies as both Black and Latino. She has roots in the Dominican Republic but culturally feels more aligned with African-American communities (“I prefer to listen to hip-hop than merengue,” she quips). And from the genesis of her supper club, she felt strongly that the dinners should welcome all people of color.
This inclusive emphasis is grounded in Alba’s commitment to finding commonalities between distinct communities, to “equalize those differences,” as she says. “Granted, the history of slavery is terrible here, but if we look at the history of, say, South Asians, they were oppressed by the British for a long, long time. People forget there were slaves in Latin America. And indigenous people [in the Americas] were oppressed. Land was taken away; they were killed by diseases.”
One supper discussion revolved around the idea that blackness tends to be seen through the lens of the United States. “The U.S. has a very imperialist mindset, and Britain does too,” says Alba. “Everything that we do feels bigger than everything else. That applies to race discussions sometimes.”
Alba notes that this was one of several suppers at which tension arose, with some feeling that the conversation represented an attack on African-Americans. “One artist felt that it was the Civil Rights movement in this country that had empowered people [everywhere] to push against the existing norms,” she says.
Alba admits that she was a little worried that some participants at that particular dinner would never speak to her again. But she is not one to avoid difficult subjects, or potential conflict. “My friends will tell you, sometimes I’m a little too idealistic,” she says with a smile.