In response to the United Nations Resolution that proclaims 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent (resolution 68/237) the ALARI has launched an ambitious program of consultations where activists from the Afrodescendant movement in Latin America, representatives of international agencies and foundations, government officials, and scholars come together to articulate concrete goals for the Decennial. This collaboration between academics, activists, international agencies, and government officials should contribute significantly to the second objective of the Decennial: “Promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies,” particularly in Latin America.

A first meeting, the Symposium “Afrodescendants: Fifteen Years after Santiago. Achievements and Challenges,” took place at Harvard University on December 4-5, 2015. A second meeting will take place at the University of Cartagena, Colombia, on December 9-10, 2016.

En respuesta a la Resolución de la Organización de Naciones Unidas que proclama el periodo 2015-2024 como el Decenio Internacional para los Afrodescendientes (resolución 68/237) el ALARI ha iniciado un ambicioso programa de consultas en el que activistas del movimiento Afrodescendiente en América Latina, representantes de organizaciones internacionales y fundaciones, funcionarios gubernamentales y académicos, se reúnen para definir objetivos concretos de cara al Decenio. Esta colaboración entre académicos, activistas, agencias internacionales y funcionarios gubernamentales debe contribuir significativamente al segundo objetivo del Decenio: “Promover un mayor conocimiento y respeto de la diversidad de la herencia y la cultura de los afrodescendientes y de su contribución al desarrollo de las sociedades,” especialmente en América Latina.

Una primera reunión, el Simposio “Afrodescendientes: quince años después de Santiago. Logros y desafíos,” se celebró en la Universidad de Harvard el 4-5 de diciembre, 2015. Una segunda reunión tendrá lugar en la Universidad de Cartagena, Colombia, el 9-10 de diciembre, 2016.



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Afro-Cuban Activists at Harvard

A group of over thirty activists from the Afro-Cuban movement visited Harvard on April 14-15 to attend a gathering sponsored by the Afro-Latin American Research Institute (ALARI), Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. Titled,  “The Afro-Cuban Movement: Activism and Research, Accomplishments and Challenges,” this event represents the first time that Cuban antiracist activists—writers, cultural producers, hip hop musicians, filmmakers, popular educators, neighborhood leaders, bloggers, LGTBQ activists, and lawyers—come together to assess the state of the antiracist agenda in that country and to identify new challenges. The event also hosted a group of Afro-Cuban entrepreneurs who have managed to create successful private businesses in what is otherwise an overwhelmingly white sector.

Deemed “historic” by some of the participants, the event provided a space for self-recognition and critical reflection that many of these activists had not experienced before. They noted that in the last twenty years, thanks to their disparate and mostly uncoordinated efforts, race has ceased to be a taboo in Cuban public discourse and become a legitimate subject for discussion. But they also lamented the lack of institutional bases to monitor cases of racial discrimination and to promote Afro-Cuban history and culture. They complained about an educational system in which black themes are utterly absent and called for a thorough reexamination of school curricula in Cuba. The activists also highlighted the need to regulate the emerging private sector, where racial discrimination is rampant, and discussed strategies to counter racist representations by the media.

The event is part of an ongoing conversation between academics and activists from the Afrodescendant movement in Latin America sponsored by the Afro-Latin American Research Institute. As ALARI works to promote the new field of Afro-Latin American Studies, it has invited activists to inject their own experiences, questions, lessons and demands into academic discussions and the classroom. The event was capped by a concert of Afro-Cuban bàtá musical tradition, under the direction of Harvard’s Director of Jazz Bands, Yosvany Terry.

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