Friday, November 1, 2013

Yes I believe it; Racism is Alive

Yes I believe it; Racism is Alive

“Usted se parece a una, Reina India.’ ‘Gracias, pero yo soy una Reina Africana.’

I have been sitting with this Reflection for more than a week as I worked through my emotions from recent events and my trip to Santo Domingo.
My opening line was my exchange with the waiter at breakfast, my first morning in Santo Domingo. As I sat with other hermanas from the Red de Mujeres Afrolatinamericanas, Afrocaribeñas y de la Diaspora, with my African dress and head wrap, he looked at me and called me an Indian Queen and I had to correct him and say, Thank you, no, I am an African Queen.
In understanding what this exchange means to the country I was sitting in, I believe what is happening with the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court ruling and what happened to 7 year old Jakiyah McKoy, tells us, racism is alive.
Jakiyah McKoy, lost her crown in the Little Miss Hispanic Delaware contest when her parents could not provide proof that she was ‘at least one-quarter Latina.’  The family states that her grandparents were Dominican.
After seeing the picture of this beautiful young girl, most who know of the racial identity crisis in the Latino community, knew this happened because Jakiyah is visually an Afro Latina. I say visually because our work has taught us to not assume that those who are visually Afro Latinos identify themselves as such.
The Dominican Republic Constitutional Court ruled to “retroactively alter the criteria for citizenship under the constitution for those born to foreign parents between 1929 and 2009--a decision which could leave hundreds of thousands of Dominicans stateless.”

Both incidents bring to light an internal and external conflict that exists in the Latino community. If you know the Dominican Republic history and the use of words to identify self, then you understand why he reached for the word ‘India’ first. In 1937 Dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the killing of 20,000 Haitians in five days. This was his response to reports that Haitians were stealing cattle and crops.
These incidents highlight the Racial Identity Crisis we are facing, not only in the Dominican Republic. We are struggling with the question, how do you identify, culturally and racially? When I hear folks speaking on both these stories and they ask, can you believe it. I respond without hesitation, Yes, I believe it!
When a woman in the Dominican Republic, has to fight in the courts for her ID to say ‘Negra’ because the only option she has is Morena, Blanca or India, then you believe why the Dominican Republic courts ruled in such a deeply racist way.

When 7 year old, Jakiyah McKoy’s crown was stripped from her because she could not prove she was a Latina, the crisis hit a low point. One, marking this child for life and two, saying out loud, Black is not Beautiful or Latina enough.

In our trainings and presentations we stand before those who cannot see their Blackness or identify it because many have not had the conversation. For a long time, we have been naming our racial identity as our cultural and ethnic identity and doing everything to stay away from that sentence that I stand proud to say, Yo Soy Negra, I am Black.

These deeply rooted acts of racism continue to exist in our community, in our society, it is time for all to believe that racism is alive.
Now that we got that out of the way, what are we going to do about it?
I say WE because this is not a DR-Haiti problem. It is a problem of each Afrodescendent when a country plans to remove hundreds and thousands of CITIZENS, stating it is a migration issue when, based on the history of the country and its relationship with Haiti, racism is at the core of the decision.
We need to name it people! When those who chose to act on it in such violent ways, we need to name it, loud and clear.
I just got back from Santo Domingo to participate in the Forum of Feminist Organization, Assembly of the Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocaribeñas y de la Diaspora and the CEPAL XII Conference on Women.
On the first day of the Forum of Feminist Organizations, some of our sisters walked around with t-shirts that said, “Todos Somos Haiti, We are all Haiti.”

At the end of the Forum a statement was released supporting Dominicans of Haitian descent and the sisters in the struggle.

On the first day of the Assembly of the Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocaribenas y de la Diaspora, our hearts and minds where on this ruling that violates the human rights of Dominican citizens.
My Diaspora presentation was dedicated to Sonia Pierre who fought very hard for this ruling to never come to fruition. She knew what the numbers would be like and she knew the impact on a community that has only called Santo Domingo home. Sonia herself would be one those affected by this horrible ruling.
As we moved through the Assembly we knew it would be important to have our voices heard. The opening of the Declaration of RMAAD states; “CONDENAMOS por unanimidad,  la desnacionalización a miles de dominicanos y dominicanas emitida en la sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional en un documento que viola principios fundamentales de los derechos humanos establecidos internacionalmente.

Hemos considerado que los acontecimientos ocurridos constituyen una gravísima violación de los derechos y un abuso a la población dominicana de ascendencia haitiana, la cual ha nacido y crecido en el país, no teniendo vínculos de vida con el hermano país de Haití, teniendo en cuenta que este grupo humano ha tenido que sufrir el impacto de la colonialidad, que se expresa en niveles de pobreza y fragilidad social, que afectan fundamentalmente a mujeres, la niñez y los jóvenes.”

“CONDEMN unanimously thousands of denationalization of Dominicans issued in the judgment of the Constitutional Court in a document that violates fundamental human rights established internationally.

We considered that the events constitute a serious violation of rights and an abuse of the Dominican population of Haitian descent which were born and raised in the country, having no living links with the neighboring country of Haiti, given that this group of people have suffered the impact of the colonialism, expressed in levels of poverty and social fragility, affecting mainly women, children and youth.”
During a down time, a few of us went to the supermarket. As we stood waiting for one of our colleagues we kept looking around. We all looked at each other with teary eyes because all we saw was Black people, beautiful Black people. All we kept saying on our way back was this is a Black Country.

This ruling is denying children an education and proper health care. This ruling is deporting a group of citizens who only know the Dominican Republic as home.

The Dominican Republic/Latino identity sentiment is also here in the US and creates a deep struggle of identity amongst our youth, who like Jakiyah, will face a hard and sad reality.

‘Negro’ is not a word used in Santo Domingo, unless in a negative way and only associated with Haitians. The other time you hear the word is by those Dominicans who are proud of their Black identity.

It is time to address this issue, time to sit and really work through the pain that we see on the faces of the young women and men that we work with in our HER and HIS Project. This issue has caused and continues to cause a deep level of pain in our community.

When one of the young girls in the HER Project shared, “Ms. It has taken me a long time to say I am black because I grew up feeling bad because it was associated with Haitians. My mother helped me when she said; there is nothing wrong with being black.”

I made a promise after Sonia made her transition that I would continue to speak up on the issues she fought so hard for. She fought for this one because this one would affect her and her children. She loved this country even though, it rejected her.

Black people everywhere should be standing with our Dominican brothers and sisters who are being treated like criminals for being Black. If we stand by without raising our voices then we are saying as a people, as a community, as a society, that we are allowing this pain to sit within and that we will turn the other cheek unless it is affecting us directly. This is about US so it is time to take care of US.

I am Haiti!!!

In peace and light,


Thursday, May 9, 2013


The Counter Narrative of an Afro Latina

The past few weeks have been a time of reflection of who we are as individuals and what role we play in a society plagued with violence.
I found myself in the area of the both of the bombing and the lock down.  As both painful, scary incidents took over the city and the country; I struggled with the energy that took over. Since then, I have been leaning on the words of MLK, I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
My attendance at the America Healing conference which is a racial equity initiative by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation was going to be a short escape from the intensity that was impossible to escape in Boston.
As I prepared to travel, I remembered a Bell hooks quote.  “To ‘travel’ I must always move through fear, confront terror. It helps to be able to link this individual experience to the collective journeying of Black people, to the Middle Passage.” It is always a reminder that no matter what is happening; I am a woman of color.
Security was very high in Boston and that was expected. I did my best to not have anything that would delay my process. I have gotten better at the clothes I wear and minimal jewelry etc.

I got through it all and when I went through the machine nothing beeped. I thought that was quick and good. As soon as I took a step to gather my things the TSA guard asked me to hold on and went on to yell, “I need female assistance.” I am thinking nothing beeped; everything cleared what could it be.

The TSA woman, a woman of color, looks at him and says, “For what?” He says, “Her Hair” She looks at him then at me and signals me to walk over to her. I am thinking I have braids in my hair you can see my scalp etc. She begins to put her gloves on and she is mumbling to herself as she seems just as shocked as I am at his request. She looks at my hair and she is about to touch my head and says, “My dear, you are fine. I don’t need to touch your hair.”

We smiled and my first thought was, women of color are funny about anyone touching their hair so that was a plus and two she was sensible enough to know that what he was doing was not ok.
I got on the plane and gathered my thoughts that although leaving the intensity in Boston I was still facing the intensity of a society that finds it necessary to racially profile.

My short trip from Charlotte to Asheville was great. I saw familiar faces that I have met over the years being a part of this initiative. Then the most joyful thing happened. I sat next to this bundle of fire of a young woman. It was her first time attending. She was so excited and ready. We introduced ourselves and found out we were both from Panama, she identifies herself as an Afro Latina and she knew about the List. It was wonderful. We talked the entire flight. That was my gift from the ancestors that life goes on and things will be ok. I completely forgot about the airport incident while sharing with Siria.

I entered the conference space knowing that I would learn something and will be moved by someone. What I also knew is that this time I felt grounded in my internal journey to heal and that the Boston bombings and the airport incident confirmed that my spiritual journey has granted me a forgiving heart filled with unconditional love even in the face of pain.

The first full day of the conference began with an invocation by Myrlie Evers Williams. As I shared with friends, there is something very special, soothing, in the voice of civil rights leaders that make you want to stand up and say, Amen!

She makes me stand up and want to rise above it all. She shared, “We are a nation that stands in the need of prayer, in the need of healing. This is what we should be about. We need to reach out to those who know nothing about healing. One never knows what will happen in life. Today we say, make me responsible to build this to what we know it could be. It is important that we work with our young people and let them know that we are working for the common cause to heal. Healing is hard work.”

The theme this year was “Reclaiming the Narrative” this to me speaks to our self-worth as human beings. Part of reclaiming is to first say, I will not impose the level of hate on you that you have placed on me for years. I will love self and love others even those whose purpose is to hurt me. To reclaim it we need to counter the words and language used that has us stuck.

Valerie Davidson shared in her presentation, “Lead with love and if you lead with love you will not stand alone.”  She had this passion for community and love for self that was peaceful and strong. It was a good beginning.

Every year the first day is spent in healing circles where you share with others. It is always a powerful experience and this year was no different. This year I knew my humanity had been tested and I came out on the other side, still filled with love.

I attended the workshop Accountability for Progress that shared Data gathering tools. While listening I thought Encuentro’s work is not only about reclaiming but creating a counter narrative that addresses the misinformation both within the African American story and the Latino story. There is not much research that brings the two together so we are constantly in the position to use it in combination to speak to the need to expand the narrative.

Every year the anchor panel leaves me concerned and asking more questions. This year they touched on the need to expand the Immigration dialogue and make it more inclusive of all immigrants and not making it only a Latino issue. All the right things were said but my question was and still is, which one of you will be responsible for making this shift happen? Whose responsibility is it to create the counter narrative that invites Afro Latinos or other Africans of the diaspora to the Immigration dialogue? Whose responsibility is it to change the face of the Immigrant in the media that is not only Mexican?

One of the most fascinating panels each year is the one with Dr. John Powell. It always makes sense and validates that we are touching on some important and needed issues. He highlights the importance of identity formation and addressing the bias that exist. He gets it and my exchange with him later made it even more affirming. As he shared, “the world is far more segregated than we think.”

I had a pause from the conference to participate in a Story Corps interview. I was matched with someone I had never met.

This was a powerful experience that I will hold dear. I want to thank my partner in the interview and the staff from Story Corps for being fully present and for making what was a dialogue of our story of pain and resiliency carry so much hope.

Telling our story is about healing our internal self and the external being of our community.  That story, the truth in that story can help us understand and face each other in our most grounding self.

Many still do not know the Afro descendant from Latin America story so it is up to those who are in spaces like these to share it. Telling our story has allowed me to come close to what I know to be good, it has brought me to the soulfulness of our story.

As Gail Christopher shared in the closing of the conference, the current narrative carries the heavy weight of racism; it is time to begin changing minds and hearts.

On my return to Boston, I was asked, how does this impact the community? My response,  when we create spaces to look deep within and allow the shift to happen, then we walk in the streets of our community with adults and young people who are willing to unmask their full identity that begins to counter the narrative that black is bad and white is good.

The counter narrative has to bring to light that the Afro Panamanian experience becomes an African American experience in the US and it carries the weight of racism and segregation. The question then becomes, where do we fit in with the NAACP agenda? When does it become an African descendant dialogue and not just an American dialogue?

The other is the counter narrative of the Latino experience. This narrative has to address the internal racism, definition of Latino that weighs heavily on a European framework and a countries history of claiming their African roots. If there is a struggle of acceptance from the country of birth then what does it do when they arrive to the US?

Within both these spaces I want to then pose the question, have you done your internal work that unmasked and embraces your full identity?

There is an urgent need for this darkness to be lifted. The light has to be placed on truth and love and it needs to land on all.

 If the light is not given the room to rise and you do not know about the young women and men that we work with, who move with a complex identity and are seeking clarity in each of these spaces then the question is, are you the one to be standing before them?

It is time for a counter narrative that is inclusive and truthful. This narrative would promote equity and open the door for a new expanded story.

I can’t help but close with another Martin Luther King Jr. quote, with the hope of you carrying it close to you today.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 


Sunday, March 17, 2013


Sitting with Truth- Dedicated to my Papa

We can only be true writers if we completely surrender to the coming together of the pen and paper in the deepest moments of pain.

This article was sent to me numerous times this week. All I kept thinking with a heavy heart, Did my Papa experience this?

In sharing this, I know I run the risk of creating more isolation from my white Zonian friends/classmates and also from my Black Zonian friends/classmates. Yet I truly believe that for us to really know each other and see each other without the blinders on, we need to know and acknowledge this truth. Those friends/classmates, who have been paying attention and have engaged, know the movement of my pen comes with good intentions, intentions to heal.

Being a “Zonian” carries a different meaning for me from that young carefree girl. Mi Papa, family and community mean the world to me.  To ignore their journey that allowed me to move in and through spaces, is, to not honor them. It would also mean not accepting, that who I am today is a product of these painful moments along the way.

They say, the truth will set you free. This truth brings us closer to saying, Privilege? Yes, but at what price? Today the answer is, the price of my grandfathers and the many others well-being?

I will take this moment to answer a question that keeps presenting itself. Yvette, will you go to the Canal Zone Reunion? Answer, Yes, I want to see my classmates, coaches, teachers that I care about dearly. No, because I do not want to spend days being reminded that my Canal Zone experience was not the same as yours. No, because the map of Rainbow City, Paraiso, Pedro Miguel and Gamboa are still not visible. When they are, then I will know that you will include our truth at the risk of seeing a painful truth of a mindset we elevate as paradise.

Thanks to The Silver People Heritage Foundation and Lydia Reid and to all who kept sending this to me.  It made me pause pay attention and take it in.

I took it in,I shared it and I close saying, thank you Papa, I love you!

In peace and with the light of a Silverman,



The silver people heritage on back punch

This blog is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the little known but significant contribution of the West Indians in the culture and history of the Republic of Panama.
The “Back Punch”
February 2, 2010
The spinal tap as requirement for processing their retirement papers became known in Panama by the Black Westindians as "The Back Punch."
by Lydia M. Reid
Of the many practices carried out by the Panama Canal Zone administration in regards to the men of the Silver Roll probably one of the most questionable and the least investigated is the notorious “Back Punch.” It consisted of requiring the black Westindian men approaching retirement age- or 25 year service- to sign a release or consent form as, basically, a condition to processing their retirement applications from the Panama Canal Zone and submit to a dangerous spinal tap. It was one of these back-door types of policies that in no way was supposed to be “required” of the black workers but that in order for them to receive their long awaited pension, this medical procedure had to be “agreed to.”
The Back Punch, as it became known throughout the Westindian community of working people, was the process of drawing spinal fluid from these tough, hard working and loyal laborers who, despite institutional obstacles, Jim Crow hurdles thrown in their path, low pay and rigorous working conditions, were still strong in their sixties and seventies and many even in good health and vigor.
Apparently, the Canal Zone authorities were perplexed by the extraordinary vigor and virility of the Westindian men who in no way seemed to exhibit any problems with their vitality and sexual health. They wanted to probe the secret of this mysterious source of strength and somehow tap it for “scientific” reasons. That they turned a profit from uncovering this secret along the way never figured into any plans to improve the living conditions of the black Canal Zone population which made up the vast majority.
It turns out that the samples from these potentially risky and painful spinal taps were promptly sent from Panama to The Tuskegee Institute where they presumably underwent screening until they were re-sent to a laboratory in Switzerland- which one is still a mystery.
Right about this time Tuskegee was also the site of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, the longest lasting experiment testing the effects of untreated Syphilis on uninformed and non-consensual subjects which lasted from 1932 to 1972. By “non-consensual” in the case of the Westindian workers on the Pan Canal we refer to the implication that the workers were really not in agreement with this “requirement” but that if they wanted to receive their long awaited retirement pension they would have to submit.
The aftermath of these experiments is now common knowledge but the revelations point to the kind of “medical apartheid,” a term coined by author Harriet Washington in her revealing book “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present,” that was part and parcel of the Jim Crow system that prevailed in the Panama Canal Zone.
Since it was kept “under wraps,” we have yet to discover the exact dates this experiment was initiated and terminated but we have good reason to believe that the target population was the group of black workers nearing retirement during the late 30’s and 40’s.
In Switzerland the spinal fluid was processed into a high-priced serum to be sold on the international market to any man who could pay for this remedy for whatever sexual incapacity problem he might have. We are quite certain that the proceeds from this nefarious trade never trickled back to the Westindian laborers that unwittingly donated their life’s essence.
We have gathered from our sources that the “Back Punch” spinal taps were administered by GorgasHospital but that some “private” hospitals and clinics may have been involved as well. Again, exactly when these spinal taps were terminated is unknown at present but we are continuing our investigations.
These kinds of practices should not come as a surprise, however, in light of the historical fact that the Panama Canal Zone Administration used this institutional arm twisting with great frequency on the Black West Indian workers. We recall clearly the Panama Tribune front page article entitled:
“’No Strike Pledge’ or Get No Pay” which stated that“All P.C. (Panama Canal) and Railroad employees will be required to sign affidavits that they will not engage in strike against the United States government. – The third deficiency appropriation bill approved by President Truman.”
This was published in The Panama Tribune, Sunday, July 28, 1946 issue and it pointed to the P.C. Administration’s habitual use of intimidation and institutional bullying tactics to achieve their desired ends- total submission to unjust policies on the part of Black workers on the Canal Zone.
Knowing how important the retirement pension must have been to this large group of Black Westindian employees, it isn’t surprising that many, if not most, would sign a release permitting the good doctors at Gorgas Hospital to administer such an extreme medical procedure without the existence of a medical necessity.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Difference Breathes in Reality-Hope

Difference Breathes in Reality-Hope
Many say they cannot return home because things are so different. I see the difference. It is a painful yet hopeful difference. A difference in class that is very visible to the point that you ask yourself, Am I in the same country? A difference in where the progress “Progreso” of this country is seen in specific areas that does not come close to others.
Yet in the midst of this difference the people who are most affected, many who look like me, find a way to still smile, laugh and hope for something better.  

My heart feels all this reality but my eyes see beyond the broken buildings, the trash, the crime and the poverty. Hope sets in.
Every time I go home the first thing I do is visit the cemetery and place flowers on my uncles, aunts and my mother. After that happens my time home begins and in that moment I know I will learn something and feel something.

On my first Sunday home all Catholic Masses were dedicated to the sick. Daddy, Melsa, Tonio and I attended mass at my family church, San Jose Paulino. I feel so different about church when I am home. As I looked around at the faces of the elders, Mrs. Yearwood, Mrs. Juana, my cup feels full. Those faces, that church say, you are home Yvette.
The sermon was focused on love. It was speaking right to me, “El amor no tiene limites” Love has no boundaries. That is how I felt in that moment looking around the church where my family has been a member for many, many years.

As I moved through my lines for the film, I felt the energy of those warriors, Mandinga, Bayano and Mozambique come alive. I felt the pain of the women who faught for their children.
After a day of filming, I shared with Toshi and others that it takes me time to lift that energy not only because of the lines in the film but also because I feel the same energy when I walk in Colon, Dorchester or Roxbury. We are fighting and hoping everywhere.

I keep saying it but it is never enough, I am in love with Colon in the most unconditional way. The Buenos Dias nena, on my morning runs in Portobelo are priceless.

Toshi’s film and all those who are part of it, our small familia, Sheila, Jose, Sandra and Tosha, is unbreakable. The people who without hesitation said yes, “yo quiero ayudar”, I want to help, will forever have my respect.

Difference brings awareness; it elevates your sense to be clear about who you are and where you fit in.
One of our evenings out having dinner in Portobelo, I met this bright young man, Geñito. He shared what he is focusing on at the university. We began speaking about the progress in Panama and the division or difference it is bringing about.

The people of Colon are keenly aware of the differences that separate them from the haves and the haves not. They move with what they have and make the best of it. Material gain becomes less of a priority while peace takes over.

When I am home I crave wanting to be one with the people. I don’t want and won’t become one that cannot spend time in Colon. I If I do that, then it would go against what I write and feel. I am so blessed that my father supports this feeling and comes along and shares all my spaces with me. It is then that I also realize that my sister, my brother and I are blessed to know that not only the family is there for him but the community is also.
The difference that some may see I have with my people comes with no judgment. In Portobelo speaking to Geñito and Antonio, I kept saying, why do we not hear about these two bright minds. Antonio is one of the leaders in the group for the Festival de Diablos y Congos. I found their energy refreshing because sadly, young black men in Colon are mostly labeled as gang members.

These two future stars are members of a large community that seeks inclusion in the progress of the country.
When I stood there with my cousin Tonio as the Brasileiros practiced in Calle 7, I felt safe, I felt like I never left. When he announced I wanted to take pictures and video tape them, they began playing an old favorite of many. I started singing and everyone looked at me with a smile saying, “ella se recuerda de la cancion. She remembers the song.” Yes, I do, those songs were a soundtrack to my childhood.

On Martes Carnival, I was dancing and sharing with the people. I shared with a group of youth who were fascinated with my fro. That fascination led to a wonderful conversation about their hopes and dreams and how to take care of natural hair. While having a good time, everything came to a horrible end due to a shooting close by.
I saw the pain in the youths faces as they said their goodbyes. I felt heavy yet a sense of realness came over me as we gathered ourselves and went home. The next morning we found out a young man was killed.

I felt the pain overcome the joy. I felt the reality, that this is what our streets have become.
The difference of getting permission from my parents to jump comparsa as a young girl with no worries and then standing there as an adult not knowing if we will have a Carnival is real. It screams, times have changed but I pause with a cleansing breath and say but there is HOPE.

I know the difference, you can’t escape it but the spirit of this young Colonense girls lives deep within and every time she is reminded of that difference, nothing but love takes over for Mi Colon.

On Wednesday which was also Ash Wednesday and the Day of Baptism for the Diablos, the streets were filled with whistles alerting the coming of the Diablos. I got excited and once again had a wonderful exchange with a Diablo and then entered church with Daddy and Melsa for my ashes.

For the people of Colon that I sit and share with or look for long periods of time in their faces, their difference, their reality allows them to acknowledge it and move on.

When I shared this mural on the Soulful Afro page I wrote, “This mural stood out for me as I moved through Colon, saw the joy in the faces of the people and felt the pain when the celebrations ended due to a shooting. I hope to share my reflections of this time at home with all of you. My heart is full of love and pride for my people for they continue to find something good in their surroundings.”

A high school classmate and dear friend Terry Flynn commented, “Beauty among  pain and suffering is somehow more beautiful. It looks like hope. I am sad to hear about the shooting. I keep my thoughts and wishes with that city.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My family always jokes that I think everyone one is good-looking and beautiful. That mindset has transferred into how I see the beauty in Colon.

The differences of my Colon have made me breathe in a reality that I never expected but I have learned to accept. In that acceptance I also chose to not get stuck in the past and gather new stories, new memories that continue to love this city that lives deep within me. Some may say it is naive I chose to say, optimistic and hopeful. The reality of Colon makes me breathe in HOPE that this too shall pass and hope will prevail.

May the ancestors continue to guide and protect my people.


Peace and blessings,





Tuesday, January 29, 2013

FINAL DAY-"Infuse our Spirits" Celebrating/Reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with You- I HAVE A DREAM‏

For a week leading into MLK Day and the Inauguration of President Obama, we celebrated and reflected on the I HAVE A DREAM speech. You can visit our facebook page to see the posting leading to this final post.

Greetings familia,

“Auntie everything was moving” is what my 11 year old nephew Christiaan said when I asked him what stood out for him today.

What a wonderful day filled with promise.

I waited to send out today’s message and final posting later as we all soaked in the uplifting energy of President Barrack Obama’s Inauguration and the Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I sat with my notebook watching the Inauguration wanting to capture the essence of the day through words.

The theme of the Inauguration was“Faith in America’s future”

Sen. Schumer said, “Americans are optimistic, problem solving people. It is time to renew our collective faith in the future of America.”

I was moved by Myrlie Ever Williams words, presence and elegance. Her words were not just religious but spiritual. “As we sing the words of belief, ‘this is my country,’ let us act upon the meaning that everyone is included. May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy and girl be honored. May all your people, especially the least of these, flourish in our blessed nation. One hundred fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised [votes] to today’s expression of a more perfect union.”

She went on to say, “their spirit infuse our being to work together with respect, enabling us to continue to build this nation, and in so doing we send a message to the world that we are strong, fierce in our strength, and ever vigilant in our pursuit of freedom.”

Many things stood out from Presidents Obama speech. He had many Dr. Kinglike moments.

I reached for my notebook when he said, “Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”

The Presidents words carried the boldness and brightness of the fabric of this country when he said, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth”

My father called me after the speech to share his thoughts. He said, what word did he use over and over again? I said what word Dad? and he said “WE.”

I received an email from Veena, one of the key members of the Encuentro Diaspora Afro family, who shared, “The President's speech included ME.”

I felt that also when he said, “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”

Because my movement is both in and out of this country, I cannot help but hope that the energy that is uplifting our spirits today, the words of Dr. King and President Obama, will resonate in the waters of Panama.

This week, the UN highlighted Panama’s lack of recognition of history and rejection of its Afrodescendent community. As my friend Ruben Lorenzo shared, “Un gran Hombre es quien nunca se olvida de sus raices.”

We need to lift the energy of exclusion and hate in this country, in Panama and around the world. WE will know we are closer to that mountain top when we recognize our roots and are inclusive of all voices.

As we close out the celebration of the day, reflect on Dr. King’s words beyond today. Let us look to a future filled with promise. Let us all allow this fire to fuel our steps beginning tomorrow. I ask that WE continue on this road together and that we not give up hope.

Myrlie Evers Williams brought forth the energy of Dr. King's Dream. His light embraced her in a way that was moving and grounding. Her words continue to serenade me because they were filled with pain and hope.

Thank you all for joining us on this journey. May her words land on your heart. May we reach back for the energy of today as we take our next steps. May we see the promise of a just and inclusive future.

“There’s something within me that holds the reins. There’s something within me that banishes pain. There’s something within me I cannot explain. But all I know America, there is something within. There is something within.” Myrlie Evers Williams

In light,


Tuesday, January 1, 2013




Happy 2013 my beautiful People!!! Wishing you an abundance of love, health and prosperity in this New Year.

I hope you began this New Year with a smile on your face. Today our Kwanzaa celebration comes to an end but I hope that the principles move with us throughout the year. In each of the blogs the case was made for IMANI- FAITH in YOU and I hope you found inspiration in the people I shared along the way.

I look to a year where I will learn more from you, share more with you and grow in my unconditional love for you. IMANI-FAITH in you will always be present because I believe we are a great people.

Two words came to me while I moved through the first day of 2013, Searching and Reaching. I would like us to search beyond the words written in the books that do not speak our truth. We need to ask more question and we should not stop asking until we get the answers that moves our community forward. Let us not leave it up to others to define us. Reach for the best in ourselves and in each other. Let us step into our righteous light and know that we deserve good things.

IMANI- FAITH in you does not only come through good times. It is during the bad times that our IMANI-FAITH in each other, in our community, gets tested and it is at that time that we should reach for that unconditional love for each other and community.

I learned this year that nothing happens by accident and the search to find the meaning is beautiful, challenging and loving.

Every victory however small that allows us to look at each other and say, thank you my brother, thank you my sister is a collective victory.

May we continue to grow as a community. May we stand on the side of LOVE. Happy New Year familia!!! May the ancestors continue to guide us on our road to victory.

In light,