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."
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
Place of Birth: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Date of Birth: July 6, 1914
On November 8, 1946, Viola Davis Desmond was forcibly removed from a cinema in New Glasgow for refusing to sit in the balcony designated exclusively for Blacks, and instead of sitting on the ‘whites only’ ground floor.
She was arrested, and after a trial which focused on the issue of tax evasion rather than on the discriminatory practices of the theatre, she was found guilty of non-payment of the one-cent difference in tax on the ticket, sentenced to 30 days in jail, and fined $26. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia upheld the conviction.
On April 15, 2010, the province of Nova Scotia granted her an official apology and Lieutenant-Governor Mayann Francis, the first black Queen’s representative to that province exercised the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to grant a free pardon.
In 2016 it was announced that Viola Desmond would become the first Canadian woman to be featured on a Canadian banknote.