On May 21, Colombia’s National Afro-Colombian Day is commemorated. This day was established by Law 725 of 2001, in order for Colombians to remember Black people’s struggles and fights to achieve their liberty. On this day, we bring awareness to the roles Afro-Descendant, Black, Raizal, and Palenque peoples have in constructing Colombia as a country and recovering Colombians historical memory. Additionally, we must highlight how they have been able to build their own communities for developing their ancestral territories, and, above all, autonomously defend their own lives in all its dimensions.
Law 725 establishes that national municipalities are required to support Afro-descendent Colombians by granting them access to health services, education, and work, as well as provide them with equal social, political, and economic conditions. Nonetheless, after slavery was abolished in Colombia 168 years ago, there are still situations impeding real inclusion for the Afro population. This reality is worsened by the State’s evident neglect of territories which are mostly inhabited by Afro communities.
Historically, Afro leaders have had to fight to keep their territories, as well as to save their own lives. The importance of highlighting these efforts made by the Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenque population goes beyond having activities which recognize that Colombia has a long history of marginalizing and failing to meet the needs of the Afro-descendant population. Additionally, there must be State and community efforts to strengthen our social bonds, dignify the living conditions of Afro-Colombians, increase their opportunities for employment, and protect Afro human rights defenders, who are constantly working to defend people’s lives and territories.
The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race & Equality) will continue supporting, defending the rights of, and standing by Afro-Colombian people, communities, and organizations. Our call continues to be for the Colombian State to remember the international commitments made in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination for protecting the rights of Afro-descendant people. Likewise, we encourage the prompt enforcement of the proposed activities for the International Decade for People of African Descent in order to close social gaps between individuals by decreasing marginalization, discrimination, and racism in Colombia.
We urge the international community to continue analyzing the situation and experiences of Afro-Colombian people in the country. These groups are significantly affected by multiple forms of violence that, even after the signing of the Peace Accords, still threaten their lives and integrity. This reality is a thorn in the side of Colombians that inhibits the construction of a just and equal country, without any forms of racism and discrimination.