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Afro-Latinos celebrate Black History Month at JCSU

Afro-Latino community leaders celebrate Black History Month with forum at JCSU.

On Feb. 27, Johnson C. Smith University’s Latinx student organization LAFA, together with JCSU's Metropolitan College and the Committee of National Holidays and Traditions in Charlotte, sponsored the event “Afro-Latinos in Charlotte.” An insightful panel of Afro-Latino leaders in business, education and the art world spoke about cultural matters and their impacts on the city. The celebration was in commemoration of Black History Month, and included a screening of the short film “Afrolatinos” in addition to a panel discussion about Afro-Latino experiences in the South.

The reason behind the event was simple: there's a lot of confusion about race in America. The panelists agreed that in the U.S., many people can't seem to reconcile the idea of being black AND being born in Latin America.

“Being Latino is not a race, it means to be born in a Latin American country,” said poet and panelist Kurma Murrain. “But being Black is! However, when people hear we have an accent they immediately say we are not Black!”

Kurman Murrain

Panelists and invited guests represented the diversity of the Afro-Latino experience: Wendy Mateo, executive director of the Centro Comunitario Camino (Dominican); Raquel Lynch, chief program officer of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont (Venezuelan); Murrain, an award-winning poet and Spanish instructor at the Mint Museum (Colombian); Everedith Landrau, theologist and dance professional (Puerto Rican); Jenny Ortega Chambon of CHS; Yisel Pomier Maren, co-director of the Latin American Coalition (Cuban); and Lincoln Fairweather, professor at Central Piedmont Community College (Honduran).

Brenda Montañez ’18, president of LAFA, was enthusiastic about amplifying these voices as JCSU celebrated Black History Month.

“Black History Month is a month to celebrate the rich contributions people of the African diaspora have made to our society, and that includes Afro-Latinos,” Montañez said. “The Afro-Latino community in Charlotte is growing, and it is imperative we understand, recognize, and honor these individuals and the footprints they leave. At the end of the day, we are all one community after all.”

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