Washington, D.C., July 25, 2021. – Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and diaspora women fight and resist everyday against systemic racism and gender-based violence in situations that in turn generate a series of human rights violations upon them and their communities. For this reason, on July 25, the region celebrates The International Day for Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women. The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) recognizes their struggles and resistance and calls upon States to adopt policies that contribute to improving the lives of these women.
The last year posed various challenges mainly due to the impact of COVID-19 in the Americas. This pandemic exposed the conditions of inequality faced by the Afro-descendant population, but mainly Afro-descendant women, including those who are heads of family households, who defend human rights, who lead social processes in their communities, who hold public office in the midst of machismo and discrimination, and those with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.
Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women’s Day has been celebrated every July 25 since 1992, the First Meeting of Afro-Latina and Afro-Caribbean women took place in the Dominican Republic. It was the starting point for the struggle in demanding their visibility and all their cultural and social contributions to the formation of States. Over the years, this date has also served to raise demands on public policies to recognize, guarantee and protect the rights of this population.
This date acquires greater relevance as we are in the middle of the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024, which was declared by the United Nations, and whose objective is to promote the eradication of all social injustices suffered by people of African descent, as well as to combat prejudice and racial discrimination, and to promote and protect the human rights of all.
Fighting and resisting using art.
The struggles and resistance of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and diaspora women are in every corner of the Americas and are manifested in various ways. One of them is art, so this year, Race and Equality set out to make visible and recognize women in the region who, through different artistic expressions, share their experiences, make their demands visible, demand justice and seek to contribute to improve the living conditions in their communities.
In Colombia, La Comadre is a process of Afro-Colombian women, victims of the armed conflict, which arose within the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES). Its objective is to make visible the disproportionate effects of the armed conflict from an intersectional approach, and thus demand from the State the design and implementation of public policies, with an approach that responds to the set of effects they have experienced— Afro-Colombian women in the context of the armed conflict.
Since La Comadre, its members have organized different strategies to make visible the struggles of black people, and especially the struggles of black women, as well as the contributions they have made to the construction and advancement of this country, says Luz Marina Becerra, President of this initiative. One of the strategies has been the creation of plays. “The purpose is to make visible all those issues that we have experienced as black women, especially sexual violence, and to that extent generate awareness, sensitize Colombian society to all these damages and the impacts that have caused war on our bodies, on our lives, on our culture, on our models of life,” she explained.
In Brazil, Virgínia Beatriz expresses her art through poetry, where she seeks answers about her descendance, she resists and denounces the collective reality of Afro-women living in the favelas. Beatriz is a historian and member of the Coletivo Resistência Lésbica da Maré, and as a black and pansexual woman, she reveals that her poems reflect her concern of the invisibility of Afro-Brazilians, but she also seeks collective victories in an attempt to reconstruct the narratives of those that were usurped by colonization.
“In this way, art has the power to give us prominence, to contribute with our voice and our body in the struggle for our rights, whether in a video on the internet where this narrative circulates to various places, or in a slam circle in the street, in some academic text or book of poetry, uniting our art in a manifestation, the protagonist is ours and this is our history,” declares the poetry slammer.
In Nicaragua, the Murals RACCS Foundation (Movimiento para la Unidad Regional del Arte Local y las Expresiones Socioculturales de la Región Autónoma del Costa Caribe Sur) works to strengthen artistic skills and creative capacities under a playful and educational method. Its Co-Director, Psychologist, Gay Sterling, considers that in an adverse context where racial discrimination prevails, “the art of muralism is an important tool to combat negative social phenomena,” to convey messages that illustrate the struggles and demands for a more equitable and just society for women of African descent.
Sterling reaffirms the cohesion and determination of people of African descent in the struggle to eradicate discrimination: “Whether we paint, dance, sculpt or make handicrafts, we shout that no matter which country or region we live in, or whether they call us Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, African-American, we are a single-origin diaspora because genes don’t lie.”
As an organization that defends and protects the human rights of people of African descent in several countries of the Americas, Race and Equality has been observing and documenting the inequalities and human rights violations faced by Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora women. For this reason, we take advantage of the fact that, in the framework of the Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women’s Day, hundreds of activists, leaders, groups and organizations advocate for this population, to make the following recommendations to the States:
– Create and/or strengthen the projects, programs, and mechanisms needed to combat violence and discrimination affecting women of African descent in the Americas.
– Adopt, within the framework of the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024, public policies that guarantee the rights of women of African descent in the region, with an intersectional approach that takes into account other determinants of their life experiences, such as sexual orientation and gender identity.
– Collect and disseminate statistics, also under an intersectional perspective, on the presence and situation of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and diaspora women in the Americas.
– Sign, ratify and implement the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance.