Posts tagged with "Aida Rodriguez"

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21 in 21

21 Afro-Latinxs to celebrate in 2021 and beyond! 

By: Javier Pedroza

It’s Black History Month, which gives the planet time to reflect on how African American achievements have contributed to US history and how African achievements have contributed to the world. Although, don’t forget it is important to highlight and celebrate Black accomplishments year around. Due to the current global climate, it’s important to become more knowledgeable and celebrate the Afro-Latinx population for its contributions to US history and the world.

After 2020, it is an especially important time to embolden the community to take part in the celebration of Black culture. This year, the Black History Month theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” which explores the African diaspora and their contributions.

To really understand the African diaspora it is essential to acknowledge that there were more African slaves to Latin America than to the United States. “There were 11.2 million Africans who came to the New World in the slave trade and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States,” Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. said in a discussion about his PBS documentary series Black In Latin America. He added, “The real black experience, in terms of numbers, is all throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.”

Today, Latinx should understand their roots, which have an undoubtedly long history of African heritage. Hispanics & Latinx identities are beautifully complex, multifaceted and multidimensional. A Pew Research Center survey of Latinx, adults shows that one-quarter of all U.S. Latinx self-identify as Afro-Latinx, Afro-Caribbean, or of African descent with roots in Latin America. This is the first time a nationally representative survey in the U.S. has asked the Latinx population directly whether they considered themselves Afro-Latinx.

Many Latinos identify with their ancestral countries of origin – Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Peru, the Dominican Republic, etc. Others may also identify with their Indigenous roots and all of these experiences made contributions to Black History. A goal to have moving forward is to celebrate global Black History and continue to recognize the contributions African-Americans have made to the world, including achievements made by Afro-Latinxs & Afro-Indigenous people. It’s imperative for Latinxs to acknowledge their African & Indigenous heritage given that history and cultures are inextricably linked to slave trade in the Americas, genocide and the African Diaspora. 

Here’s a growing list of amazing Afro-Latino (a,x) heroes and their contributions. 

1. Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

(January 24, 1874 – June 10, 1938)

Place of birth: Santurce, Puerto Rico 

Contributions: Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, born to a Black mother and father of German descent, was a historian. Mr. Schomburg is considered to be one of the Fathers of Black History & a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Schomburg’s lifework consisted of research and preservation—work that would lead him to become one of the world’s premier collectors of Black literature, slave narratives, artwork, and diasporic materials. 

2. Dr. Marta Moreno-Vega 

(January 3, 1942)

Place of birth: East Harlem, New York

Contributions: Dr. Marta Moreno-Vega is an Afro-Boricua who established the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI). Dr. Moreno Vega has been an advocate for cultural equity, cultural studies and education. As the second director of El Museo del Barrio, one of the founders of the Association of Hispanic Arts, Network of Centers of Color and the Roundtable of Institutions of Color, Dr. Moreno Vega has contributed to assuring that the contributions of African and African descendants are integral to the lives of civil society in the Americas. 

3. Celia Cruz 

(October 21, 1925 – July 16, 2003)

Place of birth: Havana, Cuba

Contributions: Celia Cruz was a singer & recording artist born and raised in Havana, Cuba. She was one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century. Her many honors included three Grammy Awards and four Latin Grammys for recordings such as Ritmo en el corazón (1988; with Ray Barretto) and Siempre viviré (2000).

4. Dr. José Celso Barbosa 

(July 27, 1857 – September 21, 1921)

Place of birth: Bayamón, Puerto Rico 

Contributions: Dr. José Celso Barbosa was a Physician, Sociologist and Politician.  Known as the father of the Statehood for Puerto Rico movement, Barbosa was the first Puerto Rican, and one of the first persons of African descent to earn a medical degree in the United States.

5. Ruth Fernández (Ruth Noemi Fernández Cortada) 

(May 23, 1919 – January 9, 2012)

Place of birth: Ponce, Puerto Rico

Contributions: Ruth Fernández, “El Alma de Puerto Rico Hecha Canción” (“The Soul of Puerto Rico Turned Song”) was a Puerto Rican contralto, actress, and a member of the Puerto Rican Senate. She was the first and only singer ever elected to the Senate of Puerto Rico. She was considered by many to be the Rosa Parks of Puerto Rico when she refused to enter the Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan through its back entrance because she was a woman of color. The owners of the hotel stated that blacks had to enter through the rear of the building, but during one evening where she was set to perform at the hotel’s ballroom, she marched into the hotel via its front entrance. After this event, the hotel changed its policy.

6. Cardi B (Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar)

(October 11, 1992)

Place of birth: Manhattan, New York

Contributions: Afro-Latina Cardi B is a Dominican & Trinidadian rapper, songwriter, and actress raised in the Bronx, New York. Recognized by Forbes as one of the most influential female rappers of all time, Cardi B is known for her aggressive flow and candid lyrics, which have received widespread media coverage. She is the highest certified female rapper of all time on the RIAA’s Top Artists (Digital Singles) ranking, also appearing among the ten highest-certified female artists and having the two top-certified songs by a female rap artist.

She is the only female rapper with multiple billion-streams on Spotify and became the first artist to top the inaugural Billboard Global 200. Her accolades include a Grammy Award, eight Billboard Music Awards, five Guinness World Records, five American Music Awards, eleven BET Hip Hop Awards and two ASCAP Songwriter of the Year awards. In 2018 Time magazine included her on their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and in 2020, Billboard honored her as Woman of the Year. 

7. Rosa Alicia Clemente 

(April 18, 1972)

Place of birth: Bronx, New York

Contributions: Afro-Boricua Rosa Alicia Clemente is the 2008 United States Vice-Presidential Candidate, Producer, Journalist, Political Commentator & Scholar-Activist. Rosa is a graduate of the University of Albany and Cornell University. She is currently a doctoral student in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies of University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

8. Congressman Ritchie John Torres 

(March 12, 1988)

Place of birth: Bronx, New York

Contributions: Ritchie Torres is an Afro-Boricua politician who is a member of the Democratic party. He is the US representative for New York’s 15th congressional district. Torres was the first openly gay candidate to be elected to legislative office in the Bronx, and the youngest member of the city council. Torres won the November 2020 general election and assumed office on January 3, 2021. This makes him one of the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress (along with Mondaire Jones). This also made Torres the first openly gay Afro Latino elected to Congress. As such, he is one of the nine co-chairs of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus in the 117th United States Congress. 

9. Zoe Saldana (Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario) *Trending Now

(June 19, 1978)

Place of birth: Passaic, New Jersey

Contributions: Zoe Saldaña is of mixed ethnic heritage, with her mother being of Puerto Rican descent and her father hailing from the Dominican Republic. Zoe is the only performer to get star billing in more than one movie that grossed over $2 billion worldwide with Avatar and Avengers: Infinity War. 

10. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos 

(September 12, 1891 – April 21, 1965)

Place of birth: Ponce, Puerto Rico 

Contributions: Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was a Puerto Rican attorney, social activist, nationalist and the son of a mixed-race mother who was the daughter of slaves and a Basque father from a farming and landowning family. The latter not only provided no financial support but also did not legally recognize his son until he was 19, and Albizu Campos grew up in poverty. In 1912 he was awarded a scholarship to study chemistry and engineering at the University of Vermont. He transferred a year later to Harvard University, majoring in chemistry and literature and becoming the first Puerto Rican Harvard graduate. Many people in Puerto Rico consider Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos the father of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. 

11. Carmelo Kyam Anthony

(May 29, 1984)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York

Contributions: Carmelo Anthony is an Afro-Latino professional basketball player. He has been named an NBA All-Star ten times and an All-NBA Team member six-time Anthony also played in the 2016 Olympic Games, his fourth straight stint in the Olympics, which was a record for a US male basketball player, breaking the old record of having played in three Olympiads he shared with James and Robinson. He has celebrated his roots by giving back to Puerto Rico, remodeling basketball courts in a poor neighborhood 3 years in a row now. 

12. La La Anthony (Alani Nicole Vázquez) 

(June 25, 1981)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York

Contributions: La La Anthony is an Afro-Puerto Rican actress, host, producer and New York Times best-selling author. La La Anthony has supported charities such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Gabrielle’s, Angel Foundation, GLAAD and Voto Latino. 

13. Rosie Perez (Rosa María Perez) 

(September 6, 1964)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York

Contributions: Rosie Perez is an Afro-Latina actress, choreographer and community activist. Rosie was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS by President Barack Obama in 2010. Among many honors, Rosie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Fearless as well as three Emmy Awards for her work as a choreographer on In Living Color (1990–1994).

Perez has also performed in stage plays on Broadway, such as The Ritz, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, and Fish in the Dark. In addition, she was a co-host on the ABC talk show The View during the series’ 18th season. 

14. MJ Rodriguez (Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez) 

(January 7, 1991)

Place of birth: Newark, New Jersey

Contributions: MJ Rodriguez is an African American and Puerto Rican actress who is among the largest cast of transgender actresses on the show Pose. MJ made history by becoming the first Trans woman to ever sign a beauty deal with Olay Body. MJ was awarded the Hispanic Heritage Special Trailblazer Award at the 31st Hispanic Heritage Awards in Washington D.C. 

15. Ramon E. Contreras 

(22-years-old)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York

Contributions: Ramon Contreras is a young political activist, advisor and filmmaker who is changing the nature of civic engagement by championing and encouraging minorities to participate in politics. Ramon is a fierce gun control enthusiast and founded YouthOverGuns, a platform advocating for change in underserved communities of color. He led a protest of thousands across the Brooklyn Bridge and is the National Strategist for the nation-wide organization, March for Our Lives. 

16. Laith Ashley De La Cruz 

(July 6, 1989)

Place of birth: Harlem, New York

Contributions:  Laith Ashley is a model, actor, singer-songwriter and entertainer of Dominican descent. He was the first transgender man to be featured in a Diesel campaign. Laith has been on the cover of countless magazines and has had featured stories published on countless others all around the world; ie, British GQ.

Laith was on the cast of the reality TV series, “Strut,” executive produced by Whoopi Goldberg, and raised the heart rates of viewers in his appearance on hit series, “Pose,” on FX. Ashley is also an activist, particularly in transgender issues. He worked with FLUX, a division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness and providing support to trans and gender-nonconforming people. 

17. Dianne Morales 

(June 21, 1967)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York 

Contributions: Double Ivy League graduate Dianne Morales is an Afro-Boricua with degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University. Dianne is the former CEO of several multi-million dollar social service nonprofits and is also the first Latina / Afro-Latina candidate for New York City Mayor. 

18. Johnny Pacheco 

(March 25, 1935 – February 15, 2021)

Place of birth: Santiago De Los Caballeros, Dominican Republic

Contributions: Johnny Pacheco was one of the most influential artists of Latin music. He was one of the creators of The Fania All-Stars and Fania Record (#latinmotown), the most successful record label in the history of Latin music. 

19. Aida Rodriguez (Aida Margarita Parada Rodriguez) 

(August 29, 1977)

Place of birth: Boston, Massachusetts

Contributions: Aida Rodriguez is a comedian, host, producer, actress and the first Latina / Afro-Latina (Puerto Rican & Dominican) to appear in two comedy specials airing in one month on both HBO and Showtime. Aida’s latest comedy special premiered on Netflix as part of the “They Ready” series hosted by Tiffany Haddish. Rodriguez has also appeared on Comedy Central’s This Week at the Comedy Cellar, The Nightly Show, five-time host of the PBS Imagen Awards, NBC Last Comic Standing’s finals, TRUtv’s Laff Tracks and is also a regular contributor for The Young Turks. 

20. Indya Moore 

(January 17, 1995)

Place of birth: Bronx, New York

Contributions: Indya Moore is of Haitian, Puerto Rican, and Dominican ancestry. They are an actor among the largest cast of transgender on the show Pose. Moore does not identify as a Latinx, and instead identifies as Afro-Taíno. In June 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade, Queerty named them among the fifty heroes “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people.” 

21. Gina Torres 

(April 25th, 1969)

Place of birth: Manhattan, New York 

Contributions: Gina Torres is an actress and the first Afro-Latina to create, produce and star in her own show, ‘Pearson’. Torres won the ALMA Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Syndicated Drama Series for her role in Cleopatra 2525. Gina also received the Best Supporting Actress award by The Imagen Foundation (Spanish for “image”) Awards, the only premier Latino entertainment awards program dedicated to honoring the positive portrayal and creative excellence of Latinos and Latino cultures on screen. 

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