Afro Latinos Celebrate the Black Diaspora at Johnson C. Smith University

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018 a group of community members and leaders got together to discuss on an important topic that is fundamental to what it means to be Latino or Hispanic of black ancestry. This event was framed within the Black History Month and was organized by the Committee of National Holidays and Traditions in Charlotte (Comité de Fiestas Patrias de Charlotte). Johnson C. Smith University’s Metropolitan College of Professional Studies and Latino based student group L.A.F.A. (Latinos Aiming for Achievement) served as partners for the session.

The panel was composed of three leaders who have raised their voice for the black Latinos or Afro Latinos in Charlotte. Wendy Mateo Pascual, Founder and Former Executive Director of Camino Community Center, from Dominican Republic; Everedith Landreau, theologian, specialist in Afro Caribbean Dances and instructor at Collinswood Language Academy, from Puerto Rico; and Kurma Murraín, award-winner poet and Spanish instructor at the Mint Museum, from Colombia were the panelists. Yisel Pomiel Marin, from the Latin American Coalition and originally from Cuba, also shared her testimonial via video.

The four panelists agreed that their black heritage brings a new dimension to the construction of their identity. They all made reference to the need of being recognized not only as Latinas, but also as Afro-Caribbean or Afro-Cuban, Afro-Dominican, Afro-Puerto Rican and Afro-Colombian women. The panel shared with humor anecdotes of being taken by black Americans and then seeing people’s surprise when they started speaking English with an accent. “They look at me and they are not quite sure what to do or how to interpret what they are hearing. They wonder, well, she looks just like an African-American, but she is not… So they wonder, is she not black, then?” Wendy said.

Evie Landreau shared with the audience that she has been embraced by the African American community in Charlotte. “Here I have had the opportunity to teach and share my culture and my roots, which I enjoy so much, including my traditional afro-Caribbean dance called La Bomba”, she said. However, Evie confessed that it is exhausting for her to have to explain on a regular basis who she is and why she is black. “It is not always good to be considered an “exotic specimen”. I would rather be recognized by my compassion and humanity” she added.

Kurma also shared her experiences as an Afro-Colombian woman. Her journey has led her to become a prolific writer and educator. She shared with the audience extracts of her poems, which include quotes by the acclaimed African American author Maya Angelou. Kurma’s writing contains beautiful and nostalgic reminiscences of her childhood in her native Colombia and reveal her mixed feelings about having had to leave her home country as a young girl in the middle of an armed conflict.

The consensus in the room favored the need to vindicate the history, struggles and triumphs of the Latinos of black descent and celebrate the Black Diaspora and its many contributions to society.

Afro Latinos in Charlotte Panel Session: Wendy Mateo Pascual, Founder and Former Executive Director of Camino Community Center, from Dominican Republic; Everedith Landreau, Theologian, Specialist in Afro Caribbean Dances and Instructor at Collinswood Language Academy, from Puerto Rico; and Kurma Murraín, Award-winner poet and Spanish-English Instructor at the Mint Museum, from Colombia.

Afro Latinos in Charlotte Panel Session: Wendy Mateo Pascual, Founder and Former Executive Director of Camino Community Center, from Dominican Republic; Everedith Landreau, Theologian, Specialist in Afro Caribbean Dances and Instructor at Collinswood Language Academy, from Puerto Rico; and Kurma Murraín, Award-winner poet and Spanish-English Instructor at the Mint Museum, from Colombia.

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