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NYS Lawmakers to make using noose symbol a felony

In the wake of the “Jena 6” case – and the strong international show of support for the six African American boys persecuted in Jena, Louisiana for having a fistfight with a young white boy – the number of noose incidences have been on the rise in the United States. 

This country’s history of Jim Crow and lynchings of Black people has made the noose a traditional symbol of intimidation for African Americans, – particularly since government officials never passed laws or made any kind of efforts to stop lynchings for more than 100 years. But following the outpouring of support, marches and demonstrations for the “Jena 6,” there has been a strong backlash as nooses have been found in cities and towns across the nation.

In states like Georgia, the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation is
Shakur_statue.jpgreporting that its’ Center for the Arts has been under attack.  The Center itself was vandalized and someone tied a noose around the neck of a statue of the late rapper, Tupac Shakur.


Photo of Tupac Shakur statue (Richard Halicks/AJC) 


New York has had a number of noose cases:  a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College found a noose on her door; nooses were found in the Hempstead, Long Island police station locker room and in various Hempstead operated garages; a noose was placed outside of a Manhattan post office; and a string, tied into the shape of a noose, was sent through the mail to a Black school principal in Brooklyn, New York.

The incidents may simply be examples of a copycat syndrome run amok, but on Monday October 22, 2007 lawmakers in New York’s State Senate passed legislation that would make the use of any likeness of a noose, a felony. 

The New York Senate’s anti-noose legislation (S6499) makes the use of a noose for harassment a class E felony:  it will update the state’s aggravated harassment statute (Penal Law Section 240.31) to make use of a noose a crime of aggravated harassment in the first degree. 

Anyone found guilty of the crime would be eligible for one to four years in prison.

“This legislation recognizes that a noose continues to be a powerful symbol of racism and intimidation towards African Americans, and that it is solely meant to harass and threaten another person or a group of people,” Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said in a statement following the Senate’s vote on the legislation.  “Today the Senate Majority took decisive action to protect all New Yorkers from the menacing and disturbing actions of a few.”

The bill is currently waiting for a final vote in the State Assembly.
“Displaying a noose can have a very real emotional effect on people,” notes New York State Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, who is sponsoring the anti-noose law in the state assembly: “The law should recognize that this is, without question, a hate crime and protect people from it.  It should also punish those who would choose to display something so motivated by hatred.”

11:54 pm edt          Comments

Work of former Miss Colombia Vanessa Mendoza profiled

There is a nice article in El Tiempo about the charitable work being done by Vanessa Alexandra Mendoza Bustos, the first ever Miss Colombia of African descent.

Mendoza established the non-profit Fundación Vanessa Mendoza which has helped build a school for 500 children and works to promote nutrition, along with other projects. 

Mendoza served as Miss Colombia from 2001-02.  In a nation of 40 million, with Indigenous, Europeans, and nearly 11 million Afro-descendants, Colombia had traditionally only chosen white Colombians as pageant winners, it had never had a Black person represent the country's concept of female beauty. 

But Mendoza won the nationwide title and represented Colombia in the 2002 Miss Universe contest where she won a special award for her national costume.


Mendoza took part in the Miss Colombia contest as a representative of the predominantly Afro-Colombian state of Chocó.  Born and raised in Ungia, Chocó, Mendoza now works as a fashion model.



Vanessa Mendoza with Ms Choco 2002.

(Karen Juanita Carrillo photo)

7:45 pm edt          Comments

Afro Colombian resolution set for vote in US Congress
A network of African Americans and Afro-Colombians is urging the community to call their congressional representatives and demand support for House Resolution 618, a resolution that would help stop human rights abuses and promote civil rights gains for Blacks in Colombia.

The resolution - the full text of which is below - is being supported by members of the Network for Advocacy in Solidarity with Grassroots Afro-Colombian Communities (NASGACC).

NASGACC - which includes activist organizations like TransAfrica Forum, Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians USA (AFRODES USA), American Friends Service Committee, The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Global Rights, Organizacion Un Día de Esperanza, Manuel Zapata Olivella Center for Human Development and Education, Afrocolombian Folkloric Group-Tangaré and others - has formally been lobbying members of Congress about the situation in Colombia since June of 2006, notes Charo Mina Rojas of AFRODES USA.

And one main result of their lobbying efforts is H. RES. 618, a resolution that recognizes the needs of Afro Colombian communities - and the fact that pressure from the United States can push the Colombian government to see to it those needs are met.

"What is important for us to remember is that the U.S. government has a heavy influence on Colombia," says Nicole Lee, executive director of TransAfrica Forum. "So it is imperative that we speak out about the paramilitary and rebel activities - and the racial discrimination - that affects Afro Colombians. And which our government can do something about."

In a letter sent to U.S. representatives this past October 12, the human rights group Proceso de Comunidades Negras/Black Communities Process (PCN) spoke about Black life in Colombia today:

"In general, the situation of Afro-Colombians is characterized by exclusion and marginalization that are a direct result of institutional racism and racial discrimination, the adverse affects of the internal armed conflict, the anti-narcotics policies that are being jointly implemented by the U.S. and Colombia through ‘Plan Colombia,' the implementation of large scale development projects and an aggressive legislative reform effort that includes the formulation of a series of laws that seriously undermine the rights of Afro-Colombians. These laws include the Forestry law, Rural Development law, and changes in the Mining Code. These laws that negatively impact the cultural integrity, territorial rights and resources belonging to Afro-Colombians were expedited without the required previous consultation process with our communities.

"In an effort to obtain the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. the Colombian government has taken some steps to show that it is addressing Afro-Colombian issues," PCN noted. "Such steps include the naming of an Afro-Colombian Minister and Afro-Colombian Vice Minister and visits with Members of the Afro-Colombian Congressional Caucus to the U.S. These steps raise the following question: Has the situation of Afro-Colombians improved? The opinion of the Colombian Government, some analysts including Members of the Congressional Black Caucus is that the situation for Afro-Colombians is improving. Our point of view is that it has not improved and that on the contrary there are indications that in many areas the situation of our communities is deteriorating."

A U.S. resolution that recognizes the declining situation of Afro Colombians would push the matter to the forefront in Colombia, activists added. That's why they are urging U.S. citizens to call their representatives and make certain that they are willing to sign on to HR 618.

TransAfrica Forum has posted a summary of the resolution and a sample of the kind of questions you should ask your representative about, concerning HR 618, while WOLA summarizes the resolution and is maintaining a list of its current co-sponsors. HR 618 was introduced by Rep. Donald Payne during the August recess, and is expected to come up for a vote some time in November 2007.

"The resolution is a tool for us," adds Mina Rojas, "it's going to be a mechanism we can use on the international level to make more demands on the Colombian government to do the things it's supposed to do to help us.

"For us, this is really, really important."

12:25 pm edt          Comments

9:26 am edt          Comments

A new Bellavista, Bojayá for Chocó
Chocó's new Bellavista, Bojayá is finally receiving its first residents.

Back on May 2, 2002 some 119 Afro Colombians were killed when Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas dropped a homemade mortar bomb onto the San Pablo Apóstol church in Bojayá. The majority of those killed were women, along with some 50 children; 98 others were injured.

Although there had been ample warnings to the Colombian government that any attempts by the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and the military to root out the FARC's guerrilla armies would lead to battles being waged dangerously close to where civilians live, a four-day clash between Marxist-oriented FARC guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries - who tend to have government support in defeating the FARC - led directly to the massacre in Bojayá.

As many as 450 people had taken refuge in San Pablo Apóstol, believing they'd be safest from area fighting if sequestered in a church.

Later, an official United Nations investigation noted that the fighting began that morning after AUC paramilitaries set up near the church, and attempted to use its walls as shields to protect themselves. As the FARC launched bombs at the AUC position, one bomb hit the church.

Bojayá's 11,000 residents found themselves caught in the crossfire, and ended up having to flee their homes in May of 2002.

For five years now, residents have had to wait for a government-promised rebuilding of their town. Bojayá was situated along the Atrato river, which was the main reason both the guerrillas and paramilitary forces wanted to control it: the town's water access made for easy transport of arms, goods and troops. But being alongside the Atrato also made Bojayá's residents constantly susceptible to flooding. After the May 2002 massacre, which the government could have done more to prevent, federal authorities promised to rebuild the town.

Some Bojayá residents gave up waiting for the new town long ago, and returned to the area, trying to reconstruct their lives on their own. But now, an official site has been set aside for their homes, but it is in a renamed Bojayá, now called  Severá about a mile away from the original town.

12:05 am edt          Comments

Escuela de Formación de Líderes Afrodescendientes en Derechos Humanos

Celeo Alvarez Casildo, president of the Organización Negra Centroamericana/Central American Black Organization (ONECA), notes that on October 19, 2007 ONECA held the second session of its School for the Formation of AfroDescendant Human Rights leaders in La Ceiba, Honduras.

With lectures by Dr. Marco Antonio Sagastume Gemmell, this session focused on the principals of human rights and the varied international agreements, pacts, treaties and laws that protect human rights.

ONECA is the largest umbrella organization for Black communities in Central America and the Caribbean, and its members have worked to promote their community and culture by focusing on human rights issues. 

Just last year, ONECA members sat down with Honduras' new president, José Manuel "Mel" Zelaya Rosales, to sign an accord with the Garífuna community -- the largest community of Blacks in Honduras. The accord was a formal promise that President Zelaya would fulfill the campaign promises he made to Afro Hondurans -- and, with whose votes he won the presidency. 

Following the day of human rights classes, the school's participants spent the evening at the Centro Cultural Satuye.CIMG3988.JPG

11:03 pm edt          Comments

Day of Afro Peruvian Friendship/Día de la Amistad Peruano-Africana

Since 1986, Perú has set aside a day in mid-October to celebrate the Day of African-Peruvian Friendship/Día de la Amistad Peruano Africana.

The nation's president, Alan García Pérez, established the day as a way of commemorating the life of Patrice Émery Lumumba, the famed African anti-colonialist who served as the first Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo.

This year, the most advertised event for the Día de la Amistad Peruano Africana was the roundtable discussion on the Black presence in Peruvian literature ("Presencia Afro en la Literatura Peruana") held at Perú's Centro Cultural de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos

The event featured a message from the South African Ambassador to Perú, Chris Streeter; discussions by local professors; and, an address by congressional president, Luis Gonzales Posada.

Take a look at these two videos, which showcase the music and images of Afro Peruvians: "Zamba Malató" - Land and Zambo Cavero - Contigo Perú.


10:08 pm edt          Comments

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In partnership with:
LUNDU Center for Afro-Peruvian Advancement 



By Lisa Scott


Interviews with over 30 Jamaican immigrants on their pre-migratory perceptions of New York and England

 Click here to view and purchase the book.



by Miriam Jimenéz Román  (Editor), Juan Flores (Editor) 


The book focuses attention on a large, vibrant, yet oddly invisible community in the United States: people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean. The presence of Afro-Latin@s in the United States (and throughout the Americas) belies the notion that Blacks and Latin@s are two distinct categories or cultures. Afro-Latin@s are uniquely situated to bridge the widening social divide between Latin@s and African Americans. At the same time, their experiences reveal pervasive racism among Latin@s and ethnocentrism among African Americans. Offering insight into Afro-Latin@ life and new ways to understand culture, ethnicity, nation, identity, and antiracist politics, The Afro-Latin@ Reader presents a kaleidoscopic view of Black Latin@s in the United States. It addresses history, music, gender, class, and media representations in more than sixty selections, including scholarly essays, memoirs, newspaper and magazine articles, poetry, short stories, and interviews.

 Click here to view and purchase the book.



By Karen Juanita Carrillo



The proof of any group's importance to history is in the detail, a fact made plain by this informative book's day-by-day documentation of the impact of African Americans on life in the United States.  One of the easiest ways to grasp any aspect of history is to look at it as a continuum. African American History Day by Day: A Reference Guide to Events provides just such an opportunity.

 Click here to view and purchase the book.



by Karen Juanita Carrillo


The View from Chocó: The Afro-Colombian past, their lives in the present, and their hopes for the future is an introduction to the lives of Blacks in Colombia. Afro-Colombians live in a resource-rich yet remote region of Colombia. They only recently won recognition as one of that nation's distinct ethnic groups. But Colombia's on-going civil war has led many Afro-Colombians to reach even farther than their nation's borders for recognition: many have made their way to the United States as refugees and as political activists working for peace in their homeland. The View from Chocó introduces the lives and struggles of a too-long neglected community of Colombian Blacks. 

 Click here to view and purchase the book.





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