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the Decade for People of African Descent

At its 2016 General Assembly, the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the Plan of Action for the Decade of Afro-Descendants in the Americas (2016-2025), in recognizing that people of African descent in the Americas are descendants of millions of Africans who were forcibly enslaved and transported as part of the inhumane transatlantic slave trade between the 15th and 19th centuries.

The Plan of Action outlines a series of key activities to promote awareness of the situation of people of African descent in the Americas and to ensure their full participation in social, economic and political life.

In celebration of the International Decade for Persons of African Descent in the Americas, the OAS is highlighting the influence of Afro-descendants in shaping our societies by profiling historically renowned figures who have excelled in their national or hemispheric contribution to Arts and Culture, Sports, Politics, Human Rights, and Science or who through their labor have made a significant contribution to their nations or their region.

The celebration takes place within the framework of the United Nations General Assembly resolution, which proclaimed 2015-2024 as the Decade of People of African Descent, citing "the need to strengthen national, regional and international cooperation in relation to the Full economic, social, cultural, civil and civil rights enjoyment of Afro-descendants and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society."

 

Abdias do Nascimiento

Abdias do Nascimiento

Place of Birth: Franca, São Paulo
Date of Birth:
March 14, 1914

Abdias do Nascimento was a playwright, poet, painter, representative, and senator. Author of several books such as “Sortilégio”, “Dramas para Negro” and “O Negro Revoltado.” In these books he described the reality of the residents of “quilombos” - settlements established by escaped slaves in Brazil. He raised themes such as the history of African diaspora, fight against racism, promotion of racial democracy and the study of Afro-American religions.

In 1944, he founded the Black Experimental Theater, which sponsored the Negro National Convention in 1945 and 1946. In 1988, Abdias became responsible for establishing the Commission on the Centennial of Abolition.

As the first Afro descendant federal representative (1983-1987) of the Brazilian republic and as senator (1991, 1996-1999) he dedicated his mandates to the fight against prejudice. He was responsible for a law that defined racism as a crime and for creating compensatory action mechanisms. In 2001, he won the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights and Culture of Peace.

 

Adalberto Ortiz Quiñonez

Adalberto Ortiz Quiñonez

Place of Birth: Esmeraldas, Ecuador
Date of Birth:
February 9, 1914

Storyteller, poet and painter, representative of Ecuadorian black ethnicity, his works explore the world, culture and problems of this country's ethnic minority. He completed his studies at the Normal Juan Montalvo, where he graduated as a Normalista Professor in 1937.

In 1938, after reading the "Mapa de la Poesía Negra Americana” by the Cuban, Emilio Ballagas, Adalberto exclaimed "I have also been a poet". Immediately, he composed his first poetry, "Jolgorio", letting flourish the rhythms and black cadences that he had always had within him. After digging into the Afro American literature, Adalberto Ortiz developed the idea of writing about the Afro Ecuadorian people. He started writing Juyungo in 1939 and finished it in 1941. In 1942 he won the National Novel Competition with his work “Juyungo.”

He held diplomatic positions in Mexico, Paraguay and Argentina, where in 1951 he was appointed Secretary of the Guayas Nucleus of the House of Ecuadorian Culture. In 1954, he began making oil paintings; and in 1959, he obtained the First Honorary Mention in the "Salón de Octubre" in Guayaquil.

He worked as a Cultural Counselor for the Embassy of Ecuador in Paris, and as an Ambassador in Panama and the Dominican Republic. He died on February 1, 2003; by then he had concluded the collection "La Niebla encendida".

 

Alex Curling Delisser

Alex Curling Delisser

Place of Birth: San Jose, Costa Rica
Date of Birth:
September 3, 1908

Alex Curling was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. He was the descendant of Jamaican immigrants. During times of discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, he became a defender of human rights, fighting for Afro-Costa Ricans to obtain their citizenship.

Some of his most important struggles include the confrontation against the political class that promoted Law No. 10 of 31.12.24 prohibiting the direct hiring of black workers in the banana fields of the pacific. They had ignored the protest of more than 100 black workers. Thanks to Curling’s effort, the Founding Assembly of the Second Republic abolished the law.

He became a congressman and promoted the Curling Law which gave nationality to afro descendants and their offspring born inside Costa Rica. Due to his work, the Legislative Assembly declared him Distinguished of the Homeland and the Afro-descendent community “Father of Legal Equality.”

 

Alonso de Illescas

Alonso de Illescas

Place of Birth: West Africa, currently the Republic of Senegal
Date of Birth:
Circa 1528

Considered the greatest hero of the Afro Ecuadorian freedom, Alonso de Illescas led the creation of the "Republic of the Zambos" against a long resistance of the Spanish power. He was born circa 1528 in West Africa, captured at age 10, he came to serve in Spain as a slave of the merchant, Alonso de Illescas; this experience equipped him with the knowledge and skills that made him the leader of a large region. At age 25, he survived, along with 23 other slaves, a shipwreck on the coasts of Peru, allowing him to establish alliances, with the natives, against the Spanish conquerors. He overcame rivalries to assume a leadership role, moving towards the conservation of a territory free of imperial control and the machinations of tribes dissatisfied with their leadership. The resulting cohesion between black people, Indians and Zambians concluded in a multiethnic society free of colonial control, in which the authority of Illescas eminently arose.

Despite conflicts between Illescas and the Mangache community, also descendants from the enslaved circa 1553, they managed to overcome their differences to consolidate dominions and extend the possession of other specific spaces: the Illescas in Cabo Pasado, to the south, and the Mangache in the bay from San Mateo, to the north. The Spanish did not stop trying to retake control of these lands, and despite their initial resistance, Illescas sought alliances with the Crown concerning the maintenance of autonomy and leadership in their territories. In 1577 Miguel Cabello Balboa was commissioned to christianize the afro descendants, Indians and Zambos of that region and to open a road between Quito and Esmeraldas. Cabello arrived at the head of the Atacames River in September at the historic meeting where he delivered to Illescas the document with the royal provisions, through which he was granted the king's pardon, thus recognizing his freedom and naming him governor of those lands. In 1997, the Parliament of Ecuador designated October 2 as the National Day of Afro Ecuadorians and officially declared Alonso de Illescas a national hero.

 

Ana Yency Lemus Chávez

Ana Yency Lemus Chávez

Place of Birth: Atiquizaya, El Salvador
Date of Birth:
4 de julio de 1994

Ana Yency Lemus Chávez se denomina Afrodescendiente por sus raíces. Durante su niñez sufrió discriminación, “Le decían que los Negros no tenían derecho a opinar”. A sus 14 años decidió pertenecer a movimientos sociales, y organizaciones. Estudió Relaciones Internacionales con una especialización en Formulación, Gestión y Cooperación de proyectos Internacionales.

Trabaja el tema Afrodescendiente desde el 2011 cuando decide ser parte de APOKAM, organización en la cual años después se convertiría en Co-Directora y abanderaría el tema Afrodescendiente a nivel país. En el 2017 junto a la comunidad de Afrodescendientes de Atiquizaya, presento la pieza de correspondencia a la Asamblea Legislativa para la reforma del art. 63 para el reconocimiento de los Pueblos Afrodescendientes.

En el 2017 se convirtió a través de APOKAM en la coordinadora Nacional del Concurso Flores de la Diáspora Africana y Otras culturas, de la Fundación Arte y Cultura de Costa Rica, cual ha logrado posicionar el tema Afrodescendiente en El Salvador. Ha participado en las Asambleas de Juventud de la Organización Negra Centroamericana (ONECA), y foros del Sistema de Integración Centroamericana (SICA).

En el 2018 estudio un Diplomado en Políticas Públicas en Harvard e inspirada por el Movimiento Black Lives Matter, creo AFROOS (Afrodescendientes Organizados de El Salvador), conformada por personas que se identifican Afrodescendientes, investigadores, antropólogos, representantes de Universidades, Ministerio de Cultura, Educación y Empresas. Trabajan para lograr que el congreso reconozca los pueblos Afrodescendientes.

 

Barrington Braithwaite

Barrington Braithwaite

Place of Birth: Guyana
Date of Birth:
November 16, 1956

He was trained as a Scientific Illustrator and researches using Social Anthropological models. Braithwaite works with the understanding that the world around him was constructed with falsifications based on racist stereotypes. He has written and illustrated many books including, Voyage Book of Poetry, Drums of Freedom, The Saga of the Haitian Revolution, Adventures of Turnaround Village and Illustrated History of the Pork Knockers.

He has also published comic strips in the daily newspapers including, Shrouded Legacy and Shadow of the Jaguar. Among the published comic books are, The Adventures of Brer Anancy, Journey to the New World (tribal Ashanti mythology), and Legend of the Silk Cotton Tree evolved into Guyana’s signature play for CARIFESTA X.

Illustrations on Commission include: A Man Called Garvey; A Documentary History of Slavery in Berbice 1796-1834; Historical Iconography and illustrated features for Free Press- Emancipation Magazine; Historical comics- Kwamina 1823, and Kofi 1763; 1834 Abolition Story; and The Damon Story

 

Betty Garcés Bedoya

Betty Garcés Bedoya

Place of Birth: Buenaventura, Colombia
Date of Birth:

She began her music and singing studies at the Antonio Maria Valencia Conservatory in Cali. Later, she studied at the Superior School of Music in Cologne, Germany, where she obtained a Master of Arts degree with a specialization in Opera and Lied in 2012. In the same year, she made her first national tour with the renowned Colombian pianist Alejandro Roca.

She played the roles of Cleopatra in the Opera "Giulio Cesare" by Händel, Violetta, in the Opera "La Traviate" by Verdi and Fiordiligi, in the Opera "Cosi fan tutte" by Mozart, among others. Within her operatic repertoire, she has performed the roles of the Countess in Las Bodas de Figaro, Mimi in the Boheme, Liú in Turandot, Sour Angelica, Micaela in Carmen, Antonia in the stories of Hoffmann, Amelia in Simón Bocanegra and Elisabeth in Tannhauser.

Betty was a finalist at the auditions for the Young Artists Program 'Jette Parker Young Artists Program' of the Royal Opera House of London. She has been a guest singer for the reopening of the Colon Theater in Bogotá, for the ISPA Performing Arts Congress 2014 in Bogotá and for the closing concert of the Lied festival in the city of Hannover 'Neue Stimmen, Neues singen.'

She was a member of the Junges Ensemble of the Opera of Gelsenkirchen in the 2013/2014 season, where she played the role of Janus in the Opera "Jenufa" of Janacek, among others. That same year she sang as a soprano in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, accompanied by the Simón Bolívar Orchestra of Venezuela.

Currently Betty is part of the "Solo Klasse" program of the Higher School of Music, Theater and Media of the city of Hannover.

 

Brian Charles Lara

Brian Charles Lara

Place of Birth: Santa Cruz, Trinidad & Tobago
Date of Birth:
May 02, 1969

Brian Lara is a colossus of Test cricket who is regarded by many as the king of modern batsmen and embraced at home as the Prince of Port of Spain. It is a fi­tting tribute to this outstanding left-hander that the impressive array of records he has held over the years is unlikely ever to be broken by any one batsman. He was awarded the Nation’s highest award – the Trinity Cross, in 1994 and Order of the Caribbean Community in 2008.

Lara is widely regarded as one of the ­finest batsmen ever. He earned a place on the regional team just a few years before the fortunes of the world-beating West Indies squad of the late Seventies and Eighties began to wane. So outstanding were his individual achievements that Lara was inducted into the ICC’s Hall of Fame in 2012; received the prestigious BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year and earned himself the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World Award in 1994 and 1995.

 

Carol Britton Gonzalez

Carol Britton Gonzalez

Place of Birth: San José, Costa Rica
Date of Birth: July 10, 1964

Graduated from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil with a degree in music, as an instrumental performer and as an orchestra musician with a specialty in viola. She has a master's degree in Project Management from the University of International Cooperation of Costa Rica and studies in International Relations from the Estacio de Sá University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Her experience as a member of the Experimental Repertoire Orchestra of the Municipal Theater of Sao Paulo, Brasil and her diplomatic work in Brazil contributed to the foundation of the Festival “Flowers of the African Diaspora,” a pioneer celebration in Costa Rica which commemorates the African background legacy through art, culture and education, not only in Costa Rica but in the Central American region.

Carol is a researcher, human rights activist, cultural leader grounded on the Afro-descendant culture. She is the General Coordinator of the International Oratory Contest “Flowers of the African Diaspora and Other Cultures” held in 7 countries. In addition to this, she organizes the African Diaspora Film Festival-Costa Rica and the Afro Runway-Costa Rica. Annually, she coordinates art exhibitions, historical seminars and literary productions for Afro-descendant authors.

 

Doña Irinéia

Doña Irinéia

Place of Birth: União dos Palmares, Alagoas
Date of Birth: January 7, 1949

Irinéia Rosa Nunes da Silva (Dona Irinéia) hails from the Cimarron village of Muquém, where she began to work with pottery to supplement the family income. The artisan uses clay and firewood to reproduce real-life characters seen in the Cimarron community. Dona Irinéia was a finalist of the UNESCO Award of Excellence for Handicrafts and her sculptures were displayed at the Milan Expo.

The mud - main raw material of his work - comes from the Mundaú river. In 2010 the village was destroyed by a flood. Dona Irinéia lost approximately 2,000 sculptures, but after overcoming the natural disaster she produced one of her most significant works: “A jaqueira e a lenha.” In 2018, the Government of the State of Alagoas installed a replica of her work "The Kiss of Mistress Irinéia" on the border of Lagoa da Anta, in the State’s capital city, Maceió.

 

Dr. Edgar Adams

Dr. Edgar Adams

Place of Birth: St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Date of Birth: September 03, 1932

Dr. Edgar Adams, affectionately known as Doc, was a Vincentian optometrist and cultural stalwart who passed away on February 13, 2019.

Doc was instrumental in facilitating the creation and improvement of Vincentian artwork by providing both moral and financial support to local artists. Additionally, he was custodian of significant collections of local writings, including unpublished works of several local poets. His contribution as a businessman was also significant. Parts of the “Volcano Suite” were penned by his good friend Shake Kean at one of his restaurants. Vincentian Jazz piano player, Monk Waldon was another artist who frequented and composed in that space.

The life of Doc Adams will be remembered by many including the constant line of students who sought his knowledge, the cultural practitioners who sought his counsel, and his many friends who sought his company.

 

Ellsworth McGranahan “Shake” Keane

Ellsworth McGranahan “Shake” Keane

Place of Birth: Kingstownm, St Vincent
Date of Birth: May 30, 1927

Ellsworth McGranahan “Shake” Keane was born on May 30, 1927, and died on October 11, 1997. A musician from the age of six, he was taught to play musical instruments by his father. Eventually he rose to fame in international jazz circles as a trumpet and flugelhorn player. Born into a family of musicians in his native St. Vincent, he was a part of The Keane Brothers and also a member of one of the island’s leading dance bands, Ted Lawrence and His Silvertone Orchestra. He also became a pupil-teacher in the island’s grammar school in 1944, where he taught music and French.

But poetry was equally his passion. L’Oubli, his first collection, was published in 1950, when he was 23 years old, followed by Ixion in 1952. He went on to publish three more collections, One a Week with Water: Rhymes and Notes and The Volcano Suite, both in 1979, and Palm and Octopus in1994.

Shake eventually moved to England where he began to consider himself a jazz musician. He played with the Joe Harriott Quintet, the Michael Garrick Quintet, and later, in a move to Germany, with bands led by Kurt Edel Hagen, Francy Boland, and Kenny Clarke.

In 1972, Shake took up an offer to return to St. Vincent as director of the National Department of Culture. He later returned to secondary school teaching and resumed his poetry. In 1979 he was awarded Cuba’s Casa de las Americas.

 

Elston Nero

Elston Nero (AKA King Ellie Matt)

Place of Birth: Newtown, St. Kitts
Date of Birth:
January 23, 1953

Ellie Matt began his musical career at the age of 8. He is a self-taught musician and has composed over 100 songs. He dominated the musical landscape of St. Kitts-Nevis for over two decades by winning the Senior Calypso competition ten times and the Road March title seven times. In 1973, his musical band, the GI’s Brass International, won the Caribbean Brass-O-Rama competition. He has taught music, wrote songs for many artistes, and produced several bands throughout the Caribbean. He was the Mighty Sparrow’s musical director during a tour of Japan and Europe.

His songs have inspired generations to uplift themselves and develop a sense of national pride. In 2008, he was inducted into the International Soca Awards (ISA) Hall of Fame, and was awarded the Medal of Honour by the Government of St. Kitts-Nevis for his outstanding contribution to music and culture. He has been described as one of the Caribbean’s most gifted and celebrated musical icons.

 

Eric Williams

Eric Williams

Place of Birth: Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
Date of Birth: September 25, 1911

Dr. Eric Williams wears the mantle of the Father of the Nation of modern Trinidad and Tobago. Over an unbroken period of 25 years, from 1956 until his death in 1981, he led the Government, ­first as Premier and subsequently as Prime Minister, guiding the country from colonialism into Independence in 1962 and to the status of Republic in 1976. Dr. Williams was a historian whose seminal work, Capitalism and Slavery (1944), challenged the prevailing orthodoxy by identifying the role of West Indian slavery in fi­nancing Europe’s Industrial Revolution and its economic development and progress. In 1948, Dr Williams made an impact on the colony’s political life, attracting huge crowds to his public lectures at the place he christened The University of Woodford Square.  Dr. Williams also played an instrumental role in the formation of CARICOM. In 2002 he was awarded the Nation’s highest award – the Trinity Cross. Dr. Williams led the People’s National Movement (PNM) until his passing.

 

Fernando Montaño

Fernando Montaño

Place of Birth: Buenaventura, Colombia
Date of Birth:

Ballet dancer, who at the age of 14 received a scholarship for the National Ballet School of Cuba, where he won several awards in the International Ballet Competition of Havana; later on, he got associated to the National Ballet of Cuba. In 2006 he joined the Royal Ballet of London; he is the first Colombian to dance with this company. In 2010, Montaño was promoted to main artist and since then, he has played more important roles each time.

In 2009, he received an Honor Mention in New York, for his outstanding work in the arts. In 2014 he was awarded with the Latin Personality of the Year Award, in The LUKAS Awards, from London. That same year he made his debut in the grand screen as the protagonist of the short film "Narciso", choreographed and produced by the Italian Giorgio Madia.

The Colombian / Puerto Rican film 'Fragmentos de Amor', directed by Fernando Vallejo, debuted in October 2015, in which Fernando played the character of a salsa dancer.

He has developed choreographic works in Colombia with the Latin Dance group of Cartagena and with the Swing Latino Company of Cali, in 2016.

In 2019 he presented 'Barroco Travel' at Teatro Colón. The play focuses on the vicissitudes of two western couples in crisis, both with opposite social and economic realities, facing the same problem that nowadays affects both hemispheres of the planet.

 

Frankétienne

Frankétienne

Place of Birth: Ravine-Sèche, Haiti
Date of Birth: April 12, 1936

"I am the blackest white man in Haiti", is a quote that perfectly defines this intellectual and cultural icon of Haiti. Teacher and multifaceted artist (writer, painter, musician) who despite his clear skin and green eyes is a faithful representation of the Haitian cosmovision and its African roots.

Famous not only for his great literary work that has earned him important and numerous recognitions both at home and abroad, including the Nobel Prize nomination, he writes in French and Creole. The latter language, he uses mainly in his theatrical production, which has earned him the recognition of the public of oral tradition. In the period of great social repression and cultural obscurantism, he did not abandon his country nor his principles.

UNESCO named him Artist for Peace as part of Haiti's cultural reconstruction program following the devastating effects of the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

 

Ian Ivor Thom

Ian Ivor Thom

Place of Birth: Guyana
Date of Birth: April 4, 1954

Administrator Burrowes School of Art: Sculptor/Lecturer in Sculpture, History of Art, Jewelry, and Drawing. Introduced artistic bronze casting to Guyana. Worked in Kenya to understand the use of their indigenous tools.

In Guyana erected the 1823 Monument depicting the 1823 East Coast Rebellion, and the Damon Monument in Anna Regina, Essequibo Coast. He also designed and built the tomb and the bronze panels on the Mausoleum housing the remains of the Late President of Guyana, Linden F.S. Burnham and a bronze bust in his honor.

Abroad, he sculpted Guyana’s permanent exhibit (depicting a run-away slave) which is housed in the Museum of the Non-Aligned Movement in the former Yugoslavia. He worked on one of the largest bronze sculptures done in Cuba depicting Antonio Maceo, a Cuban National Hero. Privately commissioned pieces can be found in Guyana, the Caribbean and the USA.

Mr. Thom has also worked with many organizations to promote African Culture in Guyana.

 

Joycelyn Sawyers Royal

Joycelyn Sawyers Royal

Place of Birth: Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
Date of Birth: October 1, 1940

Joycelyn Sawyers Royal grew up in very tough social and economic conditions in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.  She studied in Costa Rica and Mexico. She has been a teacher and a university professor, as well as founder of an ethnic orientation school. She won the Mauro Fernández Acuña National Award as distinguished teacher. As congresswoman she promoted the reform of the First Article of the Constitution in order to declare Costa Rica a multiethnic and multicultural country; she led the proposal to declare Alex Curling Distinguished of the Homeland. She also achieved the approval of the National Day for Ethnic and Linguistic Diversity. She endorsed the opening of a traveling ethno historic museum, which promoted the creation of the Museo de Limón.

 

Lida Melba Benavídez - Lágrima Ríos

Lida Melba Benavídez - Lágrima Ríos

Place of Birth: Durazno, Uruguay
Date of Birth: September 26, 1924

Lida Mela Benavidez is recognized for being one of the principal advocates for afro culture in Uruguay and as the only black singer of Rioplatense tango. She took an important representative role in the Afro-Uruguayan community as president of Mundo Afro.

She is known as Lágrima Ríos who stood out for her candombe chants. She is also known as “the black pearl of tango” and the “lady of candombe.” It is said that she “represents the noblest essence of mixed race and black singing.” She had a strong voice, as she herself stated: “we blacks have vocal chords a bit thicker than whites.”

She debuted as a singer in 1942, interpreting folklore and tango songs. She is recognized internationally for her excellent quality and musical strength, as well as her talent as an actress. She was also president of Mundo Afro organizations and she stands out for her efforts against racism, xenophobia, and intolerance.

 

Louise Bennett-Coverley

Louise Bennett-Coverley

Place of Birth: Kingston, Jamaica
Date of Birth: September 7, 1919

Louise Bennett had her first poetry published by the Sunday Gleaner in 1943. As Louise’s work began to be noticed, she became the first black student to be awarded a scholarship by the British Council to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. While in England, Bennett worked with different repertory companies, while hosting two radio shows on the BBC, “Caribbean Carnival” (1945-1946) and “West Indian Night” (1950). After returning to Jamaica, Bennett worked for the Jamaica Social Welfare Commission, teaching classes on folklore and drama at the University of the West Indies. She continued to share her talents both on radio and television, through “Miss Lou’s Views” and “Ring Ding.” Along with her performing talents, she also wrote many books and poetry in Jamaican Patois, which helped to bolster it as the “national language” which is accepted for literary expression. Bennett was praised for her ability to present the Jamaican language and culture to the wider world, while also portraying a unique perspective on the everyday life of working-class, postcolonial women.

 

Marcelle Taylo Brown

Marcelle Taylo Brown

Place of Birth: Puerto Limón, Costa Rica
Date of Birth: January 3, 1933

Nationally recognized for her contribution to the defense, rescue and strengthening of the Afro-Caribbean culture of Costa Rica and for her efforts towards the inclusion of women and girls from Limón in the education system, culture, sports and politics.

Along her political career, she became the first woman of black ethnicity to head a ballot of the Christian Social Unity Party for the Province of Limón, being elected as congresswoman during the period from 1986 to 1990. She had an important participation in the formulation of laws on education, sports and women's rights issues, an example of them was the Law Project for the Promotion of Women's Social Equality.

She has represented Costa Rica in countless assemblies and international meetings and has occupied high level positions in the public service, among them, President a.i. and Vice-president of the Port Administration and Economic Development of the Atlantic Coast Board, President of the Board of Directors of Banco de Crédito Agricola de Cartago, and Director of the Technical Support Department of the Regional Office of Education in Limón, among other key positions.

Recipient of several recognitions and acknowledgments from the Legislative Assembly of the Republic and public institutions of the country, Marcelle Taylor Brown currently serves as General Coordinator of the Cultural Civic Committee of the Black Ethnic Group of Limón (INAMU, 2019).

 

María Elena Moyano

María Elena Moyano

Place of Birth: Barranco, Peru
Date of Birth: November 23 1958

Afro-Peruvian, social fighter, and local leader of the district of Villa el Salvador. Known as “Mother courage”, she represented one of the most notorious personalities of opposition to the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, an organization that between 1980 and 2000 raised in armed conflict against the Peruvian State. From her role as president of the Women’s Federation of Villa El Salvador, she stood against Sendero, and in defense of human rights and the construction of a culture of peace, mobilizing the population of her district and having great influence in the rest of the country.

On February 15th 1992, while going to an activity of the club “Vaso de Leche”, she was assassinated by a command of annihilation of Sendero. Moyano represents the rise of Peruvian women to positions of leadership and political power that until then, had been few or non-existent.

 

Maria Firmina dos Reis

Maria Firmina dos Reis

Place of Birth: São Luís, Maranhão
Date of Birth: March 11, 1822

Maria Firmina dos Reis, author of "Úrsula" (1859) was the first Brazilian novelist to highlight Afro-Brazilian characters. Its literary production is marked by the great humanist ideal of the 19th century - the struggle for the end of slavery. Her work came before other well-known books by more established Brazilian writers such as Castro Alves' poem "Navio Negreiro" (1869), and the novel "Escrava Isaura" (1875), written by Bernardo Guimarães.

Like many other Afro-descendant authors, she was only recognized by the academy in 1962, through the work of the historian Horacio de Almeida. As part of the process of “memory erasure,” Maria Firmina was several times presented as a white woman, which can be considered as a racist form of "whitening" - as they did with another icon of Brazilian literature, Machado de Assis.

 

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

Place of Birth: Kansas City, Missouri
Date of Birth: September 10, 1982

Born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the age of 13 at the San Pedro City Ballet. In September 2000, Copeland joined American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Studio Company. In August 2015, Misty Copeland was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to hold the position in ABT’s 75-year history.

In 2015, Copeland was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. She also traveled to Rwanda with MindLeaps to establish The Misty Copeland Scholarship. Misty’s passion is giving back, including work with youth organizations. Copeland is the author of the best-selling memoir, Life in Motion, children’s book Firebird; and her newest book Ballerina Body. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford in 2014 for her contributions to classical ballet, and is recognized as an outspoken advocate for diversify in the art form.

 

Nicomedes Santa Cruz

Nicomedes Santa Cruz

Place of Birth: La Victoria, Peru
Date of Birth: June 4, 1925

Nicomedes Santa Cruz was one of the most notable Afro-Peruvian intellectuals, whose presence transcended the artistic sphere and was projected onto the terrain of social criticism and politics. He was one of the most active Peruvian intellectuals of his generation: he published hundreds of articles in newspapers and magazines over several decades, and academic articles on different aspects of history, culture, religion, poetry and oral traditions of the afro-descendant community. He also recorded a dozen albums, directed radio and television programs, represented Peru at various international festivals and lectures at home and abroad, and offered recitals of poetry at solidarity festivals and literary events in several countries, among many other Artistic activities that honored the Peruvian nation.

In honor of his birth, our country commemorates the 4th of June of each year, as the “Afro-Peruvian Culture Day”.

 

Papá Roncón

Papá Roncón

Place of Birth: Borbón Esmeraldas, Ecuador
Date of Birth:
September 10, 1930

Guillermo Ayoví Erazo known as "Papá Roncón", has demonstrated during his artistic career a strong and deep sense of belonging to his people and his traditions. Roncón represents a source of cultural energy and his activity evidences a conscious obedience to the ancestral mandates and to his status as a guardian of the marimbera tradition, since him and the marimba are part of the cultural identity of Afro Ecuadorians.

He is aware of his enslaved descendants and that in that context the marimba fulfills a social function; that is why his music is an expression of joy, happiness, a loud cry of freedom and cultural resistance.

In 1981, Papá Roncón founded the marimba school called "La Catanga", which for over fifty years has taught the children and young people of Esmeraldas how to build and play instruments and how to dance. In 2011, he was awarded the "Eugenio Espejo National Culture Award" for his work in preserving Afro-Ecuadorian culture, through the practice and teaching of the Marimba.

 

Philip Akin

Philip Akin

Place of Birth: Kingston, Jamaica (Canadian Citizen)
Date of Birth: 1950

Philip Akin is a Canadian Citizen born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1950. He has been acting and directing for over 40 years. In 2000, he was a founding member of Obsidian Theatre, Canada’s leading black theatre company, and has served as its Artistic Director since 2006. In this role, he has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities and guidance for emerging artists. In 2002, he was part of the team that launched the Obsidian Mentor/Apprentice Program, a one-of-a-kind program that has so far helped 61 black artists embark on exciting careers as directors, dramaturges, producers, production managers, lighting, set and costume designers with some of the most established performing arts companies nationwide.

 

Quince Duncan

Quince Duncan

Place of Birth: San José, Costa Rica
Date of Birth: December 5, 1940

Doctor Honoris Causa, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.  Writer and educator with a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies, Literature and Linguistics.

He is a state and retired professor at the National University and visiting professor at Alabama, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Purdue Universities.

Duncan authored more than 50 books on history, literary criticism, ethnic issues, and a dialogic essay on black history, the afro-descendant community, as well as manuals on education and fictional writings.

He has been awarded Costa Rica’s Editorial Prize in 1978, and the National Literature Prize in 1979.

Duncan is a researcher and activist on human and ethnic rights, he has been part of international programs focused on fighting racism and promote knowledge on African culture and afro-descendants. Duncan has also presented literary and ethno-racial topics on Africa, Australia, Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean.

 

Rafael Palacios

Rafael Palacios

Place of Birth:
Date of Birth:

Choreographer, professor and Afro-Colombian dancer, researcher of Afro traditional, contemporary and urban dance. His experience as a dancer in Africa and Europe has been the basis for the creation of the company Sankofa; founded by him in 1997 as a space dedicated to training, research and artistic creation.

“Sankofa”, meaning, “to return to the root”, is more than a word, it’s an African philosophy that proposes that the past is a keyhole through which to view the present, and to be able to consider the future. Rafael have won important awards such as the National Dance Award 2008, for the work San Pacho ... Bendito; the National Arts Award 2017, awarded by the University of Antioquia and the Ministry of Culture; and, Sankofa received mention from United Nations for its “Good practice of Afro-descendant social inclusion in Latin America 2010”, for the company’s project “Steps in the Earth.”, developed with the dance communities in the Pacific regions of Chocó, Urabá, and San Andrés and Providencia islands, in agreement with the 2008-2016 of the Ministry of Culture programs “Training for Trainers” and “Danza Viva”.

His choreographies have a wide repertoire and a scenic trajectory, which includes countries such as France, Spain, Jamaica, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Uruguay, Canada, China, Peru and the United States.

Palacios holds a degree in basic education in Dance from the University of Antioquia. Specialist in Epistemologies of the South from the Latin American Council of Social Sciences, and is currently working towards a Master's Degree in Education and Human Rights, at the Universidad Autónoma Latinoamericana.

 

Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley

Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley

Place of Birth: St Ann, Jamaica
Date of Birth: February 6, 1945

Robert “Bob” Marley is recognized as one of the world’s greatest singer-songwriters/musicians. In the mid-1960s Marley joined “the Wailers” with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. The original Wailers broke up in the early 1970s and Marley continued recording under the name “Bob Marley & The Wailers.” In 1975, Marley began to make his mark internationally with his hit “No Woman, No Cry,” followed by his breakthrough album “Rastaman Vibration”. He not only had personal professional success but also made the Jamaican music form, Reggae, world famous. His songs were of social consciousness, human rights and justice. He used his music to advocate for racial equality, freedom from oppression, decolonization and the decriminalization of marijuana (a religious rite of Rastafarians). Despite an attempt on his life in 1976, Marley continued to create hit music until his death in 1981. His last studio album, released posthumously, included hits such as “Redemption Song” and “Forever Loving Jah.” Bob Marley’s legacy lives on, including his belief in rastafarianism and pan Africanism.

 

Rose McCartha Linda Sandy Lewis (AKA Calypso Rose)

Rose McCartha Linda Sandy Lewis (AKA Calypso Rose)

Place of Birth: Bethel Village, Trinidad & Tobago
Date of Birth: April 27, 1940

Calypso Rose began her career at 15 in the then male dominated arena of Calypso emerging to win the national carnival Road March title in 1977 and first Calypso Monarch title in 1978 after holding the Calypso Queen title for five years. In a class by herself, Calypso Rose holds awards both nationally and internationally having most recently been awarded Best Album in the World at the Victoires de la Musique (French ‘Grammys’) in February 2017.

Included in her volumes of music are varied themes from political commentaries to jammin’ party songs and rhythms while also raising our awareness of current conditions and taking a stand on women’s rights.  Calypso Rose is still expanding her horizons, fusing the rhythms and melodies of Africa, Central America, and the Caribbean. Besides being a vibrant and exciting performer and composer, Rose’s world-wide recognition has made her one of the most awarded and honored figures of the Caribbean music scene.

 

Ruth E. Carter

Ruth E. Carter

Place of Birth: Springfield, MA
Date of Birth:
April 10, 1960

Ruth E. Carter’s unparalleled ability to develop an authentic story through costume and character has made her one of the most sought after and renowned costume designers today. She garnered two Academy Award (Oscar) nominations for “Best Costume Design,” for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1993) and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1998) and an Emmy nomination in 2016 for the reboot of ROOTS. Ruth has worked in the industry for over three decades, credited with over forty films. Carter is known for her research and diligence to the craft, specifically for her outstanding work for period ensemble films like Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Aca Duvernay’s Selma. Her most recent work in Black Panther garnered her first Oscar win for Best Costume Design in 2019, making her the first African-American woman to do so.

She was honored this year with a Career Achievement Award at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards (CDGA).

 

Tom Dalgetty

Tom Dalgetty

Place of Birth: Guyana
Date of Birth:
November 24, 1939

Tom Dalgety's ancestry included farmers and teachers. His mother won the Dr. J. A Trotman Prize in 1934 at the Negro Progress Convention. Tom was athletics Captain at Queen's College and held office in both the West Indian and African Students Associations at the University of Aberdeen. He studied Chemistry and Geology. He is Pan-African like his parents.

Mr. Dalgety embraced Rastafari during the 1980s. In Guyana, he produced Music from Africa on radio during 1972 - 1980s, and Dalgety's Africa on television from 1999 to the present. His presentations at Appropriate Technology conferences in Africa widened his influence. He is presently setting up maize mills in Namibia. During 2017, he brought KInyua Ngige of Kenya to advice on hydroelectricity using micro falls. He is President of the Confederation of African Nationals and Descendants (Guyana Branch) and is actively involved in initiatives aimed at improving the lives of Afro -Guyanese.

 

Usain St. Leo Bolt

Usain St. Leo Bolt

Place of Birth: Trelawny, Jamaica
Date of Birth:
August 21, 1986

Usain Bolt holds the title of “Fastest Man in the World” and became the first track & field athlete to achieve the “Triple Treble,” which is the winning of three gold medals in three different Olympic Games. On his rise to stardom, the world renowned athlete’s talent made an impression at different youth competitions and on the track & field world, which led to his shining moment at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. These Olympic games set the stage for Usain’s historic legacy, as he set the world record for the 100m with a time of 9.69 seconds, for the 200m with a record time of 19.3 seconds and was a part of the 4x100 meters world record Jamaican men’s relay team with a time of 37.1 seconds. At the 2009 World Championships, Bolt was able to once again break his world records in the 100m and 200m, with times of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds, respectively. Bolt defended his undefeated records at the 2012 London Olympics, the 2016 Rio Olympics, and many World Championships in between. Usain Bolt is recognized across the world as the “Greatest Sprinter of all Time.”

 

Winston Anthony Eddy

Winston Anthony Eddy

Place of Birth: Basseterre, St. Kitts
Date of Birth: July 16, 1969

Born and raised in the little twin island paradise of St. Kitts & Nevis, Winston Eddy always had big dreams. Being the eldest of four maternal children, his mission was to set a positive example for his younger siblings. A lover of sports from a tender age, he was a member of local soccer teams and various athletic clubs, which enhanced his love for sports. Although he participated in several sporting events, track & field was his all-time favorite and ‘Eddy’ later became a trail blazer in athletics in his beloved country. He represented St. Kitts and Nevis at several CARIFTA and OECS Games and is a former OECS/Leewards Islands 100m and 200m record holder. He also earned a record 3 gold medals at the OECS Texaco championships held in St. Kitts in the year 1990 and was awarded a full athletic scholarship the same year for his athletic prowess.

 

Yohalmo Cabrera

Yohalmo Cabrera

Place of Birth: Atiquizaya, El Salvador
Date of Birth: August 7, 1957

Yohalmo Cabrera, is a living testimony of the African presence in his country with ancestors from the Panunes group, who came from the Banunes region in Senegambia, West Africa.

In school, he suffered discrimination manifested in indifference, nicknames or pejorative phrases such as "negro", "negrito" or other more offensive mockery phrases, even used by teachers. During his childhood and adolescence, he learned the work of a blacksmith. Graduating as a Primary School Teacher in 1978.

In 2017, along with the Atiquizaya Afro descendants’ community, he promoted the constitutional reform initiative aimed to incorporate the right of the Afro-descendant people of El Salvador in the article 63 of the Constitution, which is currently under discussion in the Legislation and Constitutional Points Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

Through APOKAM and in cooperation with of Costa Rica´s Art and Culture Foundation, he has promoted the International Competition "Flowers of the African Diaspora and other cultures" among high school students in El Salvador.

Since 2009, he has promoted the study of the presence of Afro-descendant population and has been an advocate of the organization and the efforts made for the recognition of their rights through law initiatives, research works, forums, lectures and competitions.

 

Zab Maboungou

Zab Maboungou

Place of Birth: Paris, France (Canadian Citizen)
Date of Birth: April 6 (unknown year)

A choreographer, dancer, philosopher and writer of French and Congolese origin, Zab Maboungou is the artistic director of Zab Maboungou/Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata, a contemporary dance company founded in 1987 and based in Montreal. Zab continues her studies in philosophy, a discipline that she teaches and aims to provide theoretical dimension to her reflections on dance, arts and culture.  She has written several articles on dance as well as a book, Heya Danse! Historique, poétique et didactique de la danse africaine (2005).  Her professional and artistic achievements have inspired the African Affairs committee at Harvard University, where she was a keynote speaker at the conference entitled African Dance Diaspora: A Symposium on Embodied Knowledge.

She was the 2013 recipient of the Charles Biddle Award and, in 2014, of the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award bestowed by Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop.  In February 2014, Zab Maboungou/Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata received the 30th Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal dance award for Mozongi, remounted to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary.

 

Zoe Saldaña

Zoe Saldaña

Place of Birth: Passaic, NJ
Date of Birth: June 19, 1978

Zoe Yadira Saldaña was born in New Jersey in 1978 to a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father. She began studying ballet at the age of 10 in the Dominican Republic. Upon returning to New York at 17, Saldaña began to involve herself in theatre groups such as Faces and the New York Youth Theatre. Her ballet training helped land her first on screen part as Eva in Center Stage (2000). The actress' career flourished with roles in Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), The Terminal (2004), and Guess Who (2005).

Saldaña's career climbed to new heights in 2009 when she played Uhura in Star Trek. She officially joined the A-list with her groundbreaking role in James Cameron's Avatar (2009) and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2018, she launched the media company BeSe to bring greater diversity to Hollywood and share the real stories of Latin Americans.