“It is days like these when I stand with and before these amazing women, with the spirit of the ancestors, that my journey/purpose makes absolute sense.” 9/10/10
I shared that statement with friends at the end of the first day of the IV ONECA/CABO (Central American Black Organizations) Conference of Afro Central American Women. Our call for this conference was, “ La lucha con identidad de Mujer.”
Part of our work at this conference was to look closely at the UN documents such as CEDAW, CEPAL, Beijing, Durban and Belem do Para by posing some of the following question; do they speak to our reality? Are the governments responding to our needs as Women of African Descent?
Women of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean are faced on a daily basis with issues of gender, race and poverty. We are constantly addressing how it affects us as individuals and how it relates to our communities.
HIV/AIDS, Prostitution, Trafficking, Immigration and Education were a few of the topics on our agenda. Violence against us and towards our communities was a topic that brought about many emotions.
How many of us are faced with racial violence in our work place or as we walk down the street? Many times we think it is random so we leave one job to go to a “saver” environment. We then realize that there is a stigma, a label that is placed on us as Black women that dismisses our performance.
Afro descendent women need to begin naming Racial Violence which would lead us to have deeper conversation of the long term effect. Moving in that direction, we can then challenge these documents to truly represent what we face by speaking on the internal pain and impact on our self esteem.
I spoke at the conference as a Panamanian woman and a woman of the Diaspora. It was my first time speaking publicly of an incident that filled my family with sadness. I felt a heavy wave of tears coming and in that moment, I felt her spirit, the spirit of my young cousin Gisela Crawford, holding my hand telling me it was time to tell her story.
Gisela was raped and killed in my home town of Colon. I speak of her because the system victimized her all over again. One, by posting the picture of her naked body in the newspaper, two, by not doing a proper rape test because there was no one available during Fiestas Patrias and three, by not wanting to touch her because she could be HIV positive. The lack of process, of outrage and education, led to not having an investigation on this brutal incident.
We ask that our governments develop a process that would better respond to human rights violations. As women in our perspective regions, we need to stand with all women who are faced with any level of violence that affects her well being.
As we prepare for 2011 which has been named, the year of people of African descent, Afro Central American women will continue to speak our truth.
When we come together we work hard, hold each other with care as we carry the weight of our communities on our shoulders and the spirit of our ancestors in our hearts.
The last evening of the conference, we celebrated the spirit of the Garifuna Guerrera Barauda. Barauda was the wife of the great Garifuna leader Satuye. They are stories that speak to her courage while standing next to Satuye during Hondura’s time of war against the British.
That Guererra spirit lives deep in the women who fight for the visibility, recognition and empowerment of the Afro Central American community. You hear it in their voices, see it as they stand and speak their truth, when they walk with pride and hold you with love. I commend one of our guererras, Mirtha Colon, who leads the women’s division of ONECA/CABO for moving with that energy.
We, women of African descent, move to the beat of our ancestral drum. It does not matter how tired we are at these conferences, we always leave celebrating and dancing. When we dance you see grace, joy and an ability to get down low like no bodies business.
Guerrera Spirit moves with those women who fight hard, love hard and see the light that leads to justice for our communities.
La lucha continua,