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‘It’s All Love and Unity:’ Meet the Dancing Trio Unifying Black and Brown Communities One Quebradita At a Time

2:59 PM PDT on September 2, 2021

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he sound of “La Chona” blasting from a speaker descends Santa Monica Pier on a sunny Saturday afternoon: “Y la chona se mueve, y la gente le grita!” 

Dressed in all black, holding the speaker up in the air is Tiant Lewis, better known online as Chocolate Uno. Dancing down the pier next to him are his friends Ray Dobson and Andre Arnold. If you haven’t guessed by now, they are the trio named High Off Energy, whose videos dancing to Spanish music have gone viral on TikTok.

“Come on, let's go! Vamos!” said Lewis as he pointed to the crowd of people forming around them. Almost instantly, people recognized the dancing trio, “Look, babe, it’s the guys from TikTok,” said a woman passing by. 

Since high school, the three friends have known each other and said dancing has always been something they’ve enjoyed. “Anywhere there’s music, we just start dancing,” said Lewis. 

Although their dancing began way before they went viral on TikTok, Lewis said their purpose came to focus during the peak of the pandemic. He said it started when the Black Lives Matter protests began last summer, where people from all over the country were fighting against racism and police brutality. The three friends from South Central described how the Latino community in large part was standing next to them in solidarity throughout the multiple protests happening in Los Angeles. It was then that they all felt it was necessary to provide that same energy, support, and solidarity to their Latino neighbors. 

“We felt like we had to tap into our Latino community because we realized that they were having problems as well,” he said. “Both issues are important, and we wanted to let them know we are also here for them, so we decided to attend the La Raza protest for the kids in cages.”

And they didn’t stop there. They also attended a protest for Andres Guardado, the 18-year-old young man shot six times and killed by a deputy at Compton’s Sheriff’s Department last June. And since the high rise in street vendor attacks, they have also extended their support to vendors by attending local markets, buying from them, and promoting them on social media. 

“We said if we’re going to do this, there has to be a purpose, so we decided our purpose was to unify cultures. So from then on, it has been all about uniting Blacks and Latinos because we’re stronger together,” he said. “And we have a lot of things in common from our culture, to our problems, to our dancing.”

High Off Energy says that El Caballo Dorado is similar to the Electric Slide. Same with more traditional dances like Danza, they said they also practice a similar dance in the African culture. 

When asked if they have received any backlash from their dancing videos, they said yes, but they have learned to shut out the negativity. “We know our intentions are genuine, and it’s all love and unity coming from us,” said Dobson. “And it goes to both sides, other people dance to our music, and we dance to theirs, music is universal; it's meant to be enjoyed.”

They said they aren’t worried about “the haters” since they all grew up next to Latino neighbors who embraced them with love and respect. “My neighbors have always treated me like family,” said Lewis. He described how he would teach his neighbor’s grandmother English words for fun, and in return, they would teach him a few words in Spanish.  

They also aren’t necessarily new to listening to music in Spanish. All of them grew up listening to their neighbor’s music every weekend. The music was a reminder to the neighborhood that a party was about to go down.

The dancing trio "High Off Energy" performs at Santa Monica Pier on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
The dancing trio "High Off Energy" performs at Santa Monica Pier on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
High Off Energy members pose with one of the many street vendors who operate alongside Santa Monica Pier. Anytime they perform near vendors the three friends will buy drinks and snacks from any vendor who's around them.
High Off Energy members pose with one of the many street vendors who operate alongside Santa Monica Pier. Anytime they perform near vendors the three friends will buy drinks and snacks from any vendor who's around them. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Lewis said they make attempts to understand the music and the culture better, looking up music and lyrics to some of the songs to understand them. They all know a few words in Spanish but said they are learning more as they continue to uncover more Spanish music. 

With their smooth moves and slick vaquero outfits, complete with a tejana hat, they have won the hearts of many in the Latino community. Most recently, Lewis was invited to perform with none other than Los Tucanes De Tijuana, who asked him on stage to dance “La Chona.” 

“That was the craziest thing ever. It was a blessing to be on stage with legends. I’m never going to forget about that moment,” he said with a huge smile on his face. 

They have also been to Picolandia, a huge rodeo-style music festival at Pico Rivera Sports Arena. They all said they hope to continue dancing for as long as they can, and they also hope to perform with other legendary bands like Mi Banda El Mexicano, famously known for singing the song “La Bota,” among others, to keep unifying cultures. They all said although dancing is what is getting the attention, the mission is much bigger than that, and their one message to those who watch them is:

“Take care of the community you grew up in, do what you can to help, and bring positivity to your community,” they said. “We want unification because there’s no community without unity and like 2 Pac said, ‘It wouldn't be L.A. without Mexicans, Black love, Brown pride!’”

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