Music and dance in Latin America has much of what is African. An example: the Tango.
In a country where an overwhelming majority identifies as white, and many say you have to cross the river into Uruguay to witness the influences of those from Africa, historians argue the Black minority played a major role in tango’s development during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Afro-Bolivians are descendants of Enslaved Africans that arrive during the Spanish Empire from the 16th to the 19th centuries to work in the mines of Potosi, a city in southwestern Bolivia. But most of the about half a million Enslaved that arrived in Bolivia (then the colonial territory of Upper Peru) could not adapt to the cold weather of Potosi.
So by the beginning of the 19th Century, they were relocated to the Yungas where it was warm to work on the Spanish-owned hacienda plantation estates. There, an unofficial kingdom was formed among a group of enslaved Afro-Bolivians in 1820. It would take decades before this kingdom would be officially recognized by the Bolivian Government
Mururata, a village, has been the “center of this kingdom”. And it is where Julio Bonifaz Pinedo lives and “rules” as the king of the Afro-Bolivians. Afro-Bolivians, numbering about 26,000, have over the years lost much of their history including their languages and religions but not their royal heritage. They still have their king, who is highly respected.
Living in the small village of Mururata, about a two-hour drive north of the capital La Paz, the 78-year-old king does not have a throne or a court, though he does have a cape with gold embroidery and a metallic crown. He doesn’t wear them all the time – only on special occasions like local festivals, according to AFP. In fact, one might not be aware of his presence among his community’s 2,000 residents. His home, where he lives with his wife, the queen Angélica Larrea and their son, doubles as a grocery store that sells oil, bananas, soft drinks and canned sardines.
Pinedo, who has mostly worked in agriculture, still goes out to the fields often to farm coffee, citrus fruits, and coca. His wife helps him manage the grocery store while their son and sole heir, Prince Rolando, is studying law at the Universidad de Los Andes in La Paz. “I would like to keep pushing forward to make the Afro-Bolivian community more recognized and visible, the way my father has done until now,” he told BBC.
His father Pinedo is the first king to be officially recognized by the Bolivian state. This was after Bolivia’s minority ethnic groups were acknowledged by the state in 2006. Pinedo, who inherited his title from his African ancestors and was crowned in 1992 by the community, was in 2007 crowned again by the government of La Paz. This helped raise awareness of Afro-Bolivian customs and traditions, including their kingdom, according to one account.
Pinedo’s title is mainly symbolic. He is not recognized as a political authority and does not collect taxes. “My title [as king] is mostly symbolic,” he was quoted by BBC. “I’m not like these rich kings of Europe, but I represent the Afro-Bolivian community, and this is a huge responsibility to me.”
How it all started for Pinedo
Pinedo is a descendant of Uchicho, a prince from the ancient Kingdom of Kongo who was brought to Bolivia as a slave by the Spaniards in 1820. Uchicho worked at the estate of the Marquis of Pinedo, whose name he adopted. In 1832, he was crowned by other enslaved people in the Yungas. He was succeeded by Bonifaz, next José and Bonifacio.
King Bonifacio, who was Pinedo’s grandfather, was crowned in 1932. “King Bonifacio only had daughters, so one generation was skipped, leaving the kingdom without a king for 38 years until Pinedo was crowned in 1992 by the community,” the BBC report explained.
Years after Pinedo’s official coronation ceremony in La Paz, his image has become “a strong source of cultural identity and belonging” for Afro-Bolivians, Jorge Medina, the country’s first black congressman, told AFP. Medina and the king however believe that there is still a lot of work to be done to tackle discrimination faced by indigenous people, including Afro Bolivians and other vulnerable groups.
The Aeta or Agta people are the indigenous black-skinned people who inhabit the remote and mountainous regions of Luzon, Philippines. The Aeta are under the bracket of Austronesians, groups in Southeast Asia, Oceania and East Africa that speak languages belonging to the Austronesian language family. Austronesians also reside in South Africa, Suriname, Mauritius and some portions of the Andaman.
Calling all food enthusiasts, especially those who love learning about the impact Black and African food ways made on the cuisine in the United States. Netflix will soon release a new 4-part docuseries, High on the Hog, celebrating and highlighting the culinary contributions of Black and African people, and how we shaped American cuisine as a whole.
The series, set to release May 26, is hosted by popular Black food writer Stephan Satterfield who takes viewers on a multi-continent journey of how our food traditions actually reached the United States, and how some cities are still holding on to said traditions.
According to a press release, the series takes viewers on a culinary journey that ventures from Africa to the deep south. The immersive four-episode docu-series part culinary show, part travelogue follows food writer Stephen Satterfield as he meets the chefs, historians, and activists who are keeping centuries-old traditions alive. Over Western African stews, soul food, barbecue, and fine dining, the series, directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams, reveals an expansive, eclectic culinary history shaped by slavery, the Civil War, Juneteenth, and present day. It’s a story of Black America’s resilience, enduring creativity, and vital contribution to America’s kitchen.
“It’s the story of Black people in America. It all feels very much part of the racial reckoning going on in America and the world right now. Reclaiming our contribution to this country is also about reclaiming our culinary contribution. Because what is food? It brings people together,” Director Roger Ross Williams said.
An adaption of the book penned by food historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris, each episode of High On The Hog travels to destinations like Benin and Charleston, South Carolina, while unpacking the deep connection of enslavement and the way in which we as Black/African Americans eat— ultimately laying out the map of how certain culinary customs appeared in US culture.
“It’s bringing context to food history and the resilience, artistry, and impact that African Americans have had on the American kitchen. Food is a great connector, the more that people can come together and break bread, the more we can celebrate our commonalities as opposed to our differences’ Executive Producer Adrienne Tobak said in a statement.
Watch the trailer below:
On April 27, the island of Hawaii passed legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth as a day of acknowledgment and commemoration for the end of enslavement in the United States.
On June 19, 1865, Union Soldiers alerted enslaved Black Americans that the Civil War was over and that they can now be free. 156 years later and there are still two states in the United States that don’t recognise June 19 as an official state holiday.
The complicated history Hawaii has with its Black locals may prove to be why the island nation is still considering the Juneteenth legislation. Black people only make up 3.6% of the island’s population of over 1 million residents. In 1852, the kingdom of Hawaii signed their Constitution that outlawed slavery on the island.
Although, this is a major historical event that showcases progress towards racial equity, Black people still feel like outsiders on the island.
Earlier this year, South Dakota’s Senate passed a measure that would do just that, but the bill didn’t make it through the House. In North Dakota, the governor signed legislation on April 12 making Juneteenth a ceremonial holiday.
Dr. Akeimi Glenn is a Black expat on Oahu and has experienced the small but mighty force of the Black population that inhabits the most populated island. She explains how racism still exists in Hawaii, although it has been previously seen and debunked as a paradisaical escape from the prejudiced history of the United States.
Glenn founded the Popolo Project, a nonprofit based around building visibility for Black people in Hawaii. Through her community engagements, she can get a sense of how the culture is shifting and how it can be propelled forward.
Juneteenth has become a popular annual acknowledgment within recent years because of the countless acts of police brutality that has left the United States even more divided. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have marked a pivotal moment in history where unlawful police officers are finally being charged for their misconduct. There will most likely be a push for Juneteenth to be recognized countrywide when Hawaii passes their bill entirely and the lasting pressure will be on South Dakota.
Source: Travel Noire
When it comes to Black History, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Muhammad Ali are often mentioned and rightfully so. But what do you know about other Black history heroes across the diaspora like Yaksuke of Japan or Jamaica’s Queen Nanny and David Fagen from the Philippines? If their names don’t immediately ring a bell, you’re not alone. There are several global Black figures that made their mark in this world, and their stories are only now coming to light.
Here Are 6 Black History Figures Across the Diaspora that you should know.
Did you know Afro-Bolivians are still around today?
Afro-Bolivians are descendants of the enslaved West Africans brought by the Spanish between the 16th and 19th Centuries to work in the mines of Potosí, a city in south-western Bolivia that was more populated than London in the early 17th Century. According to Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, the mines are notorious for claiming the lives of roughly 8 million enslaved indigenous South Americans and Africans over a 300-year period – many of whom died as a result of being overworked, underfed and suffering in the region’s extreme cold.
It is believed that the natives thought that darker skin was more attractive, which is why they were impressed with the skin of the Africans when they first began arriving to Bolivia. For this reason, it is no surprise that many of the Afro-Bolivians would intermarry with the Aymara, adopt many of their cultural elements such as their style of dressing, and even become an Aymaran speaking subculture.
According to the latest Bolivian census in 2012, more than 23,000 people identify as Afro-Bolivians and most of their roots and even King Pinedo are in the Yungas.
The Afro-Bolivian Royal House is referred to as a ceremonial monarchy. It wasn’t until 2007 that the tribe was officially recognized by the Bolivian state as a kingdom and Piñedo was finally acknowledged as king— despite a history that spans more than 500 years.
Piñedo discovered that he was a descendant of Bonifaz, a tribal king from Senegal. Before Bonifaz was Prince Uchicho, who is regarded as the founder of the Afro-Bolivian monarchy.
The trajectory of Prince Uchicho’s life changed after he was enslaved by the Spanish. He was a prince of the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, a kingdom that has a history from the early 1300s and survived until 1914. When the kingdom came in contact with Portuguese traders, it became a source of African slaves.
Prince Uchicho became enslaved in Bolivia after a struggle for the throne with competing sons and chiefs. When he arrived, he was quickly recognized by other slaves because of his body decoration. The royalty of the Kongo Kingdom was known for their royal tribal markings on their torso to set them apart from others.
Uchicho was chosen as the leader among Enslaved Africans and recognized as a king in their new home of Bolivia in 1823, which ultimately, began the lineage of the Afro-Bolivian monarchy. He was succeeded by his son, Bonifaz Pinedo: a name he took from the plantation owner. It’s the name still used by the Afro-Bolivian royalty today.
Julio Piñedo is a different kind of king. He isn’t dressed in a silk robe giving out orders. In fact, he’s a farmer and like so many others in Mururata, you will find him tending to his crops.
King Piñedo and Queen Larrea have a son, Prince Rolando— a law student at the Universidad de Los Andes in La Paz. His major is reportedly influenced by his father’s impact and potential role as the future king.
“I would like to keep pushing forward to make the Afro-Bolivian community more recognized and visible, the way my father has done until now,” he said in a statement.
From a Yoruba family in Lagos State, Nigeria, Babatunde Olatunji, while living in the U.S. after winning a scholarship to study at Morehouse College in Atlanta, wanted to become a diplomat. Thus, after graduating from Morehouse in 1954, he enrolled in the Graduate School of Public Administration and International Relations at New York University.
But two things later moved him towards a career in music. The first was his visit to Ghana as a delegate to the All African People’s Conference organized by Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, who told him he thinks he should be a cultural ambassador. The second was his meeting with Columbia Records producer John Hammond after a concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Hammond would help Olatunji produce his 1959 debut Drums of Passion album which some say may have been the first African music release recorded in a modern U.S. studio.
That album became a major hit, selling millions of copies globally and helping introduce Americans to world music. Olatunji would go on to promote African music, earning a Grammy nomination, being behind compositions for Broadway and Hollywood, as well as appearing on programs including the Tonight Show, the Mike Douglas Show and the Bell Telephone Hour.
In 1964, after performing at the New York World Fair’s African Pavilion, he used the proceeds to open his own Olatunji Center for African Culture in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, where he offered classes in African dance, music, language, folklore, and history. Soon, Olatunji became highly recognized as a pioneer in the fusion of African music and jazz. “…We were playing ‘Afro-jazz’ before anybody called it that,” the recording artiste, who grew up in a fishing village in Nigeria where drumming accompanied every celebration, recalled in an interview.
But while his contribution to music is well known, his commitment to social activism is rarely talked about. “He really deserves to be remembered more for his role as a political activist in the US civil rights movement – before it was even a movement,” Robert Atkinson, who collaborated with Olatunji on his autobiography The Beat of My Drum, was quoted by the BBC in a report.
Indeed, Olatunji’s social activism work started right from his days at Morehouse, where he debunked common myths about Africa.
“They [classmates] had no concept of Africa,” he recalled. “They asked all kinds of questions: ‘Do lions really roam the streets? Do people sleep in trees?’ They even asked me if Africans had tails! They thought Africa was like the Tarzan movies. Ignorance is bliss, but it is a dangerous bliss.
“Africa had given so much to world culture, but they didn’t know it.”
Thus, Olatunji started educating his colleagues about Africa, including its cultural traditions and music. He then went ahead to play African music at university social gatherings while organizing and performing at concerts featuring African and African-American students. These activities were during the height of Jim Crow, and soon, Olatunji was organizing students to challenge the status quo in the south.
Even before Rosa Parks would spark the Montgomery bus boycott, Olatunji was already staging protests on public buses with some of his fellow students.
As president of the Morehouse student body in the 1950s, he was able to meet scores of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. As a matter of fact, when King delivered his historic I Have a Dream speech in August 1963 during the March on Washington, Olatunji was among the over 200,000 people at the event. The percussionist, social activist and educator performed many times for the NAACP and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
And at many civil rights rallies, Malcolm X would request him to drum. The man, who is to date described as “the father of African drumming in the U.S.”, was also on the civil rights jazz album We Insist! with playwright Oscar Brown Jr and Max Roach. Back home in Africa, Olatunji was also a part of the anti-colonial resistance movements that had risen across the continent, attending the All African People’s Conference organized by Nkrumah.
The conference, attended by delegates from African countries, prominent African Americans and liberation movements, held discussions on how to achieve continental freedom. Nkrumah had argued that Ghana’s independence would be meaningless if other African states are still colonized by the European powers, and Olatunji couldn’t agree more.
As stated in a report, his involvement in the civil rights movement in the U.S. was largely inspired by the several forms of resistance to colonialism that was occurring in Africa. “He saw himself as a pan-Africanist who always reached out to unify Africans and African Americans,” his wife, Iyafin Ammiebelle Olatunji, told BBC in an interview.
Olatunji in his last years continued to perform while teaching others about African culture and drumming. Before he passed away in 2003 aged 76, he had become known for recordings such as “Celebrate Freedom, Justice and Peace”, “Healing Rhythms, Songs and Chants”, as well as the 1998 Grammy-nominated release, on Chesky Records of “Love Drum Talk”.
Source: Face2face Africa
Tobago-born actor Winston Duke is set to play celebrated Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey in an upcoming movie for Amazon Studios that will also see Nigerian filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu on the director’s chair, Deadline reported.
Marcus Garvey, Jamaica’s first national hero, advocated for Black nationalism in his native country as well as the United States. While alive, he spearheaded a Pan-African philosophy which galvanized a global mass movement known as Garveyism .
Garvey died at the age of 52 in London in 1940 from complications brought on by two strokes.
Titled Marked Man, the upcoming project – which is reportedly set in the 1920s – will focus on a young Black man who joins the then J. Edgar Hoover-led FBI and then goes ahead to infiltrate Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The character’s loyalty to his race and country is tested during his assignment as he “grows weary of both men’s actions,” according to Deadline
The upcoming project was inspired by a 2008 biography titled Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey. The book is written by Colin Grant. The script for Marked Man is also written by seasoned British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah.
In an Instagram post on Friday, Duke shared his excitement about the project and how he is honored to portray an icon whose ideology was very instrumental in shaping his development.
“As a Caribbean immigrant, activist, and global citizen, one of the most seminal stories in my development has been the words and works of Marcus Garvey,” the 34-year-old posted. “Today I am blessed to announce that I have the opportunity to bring his story to life, along with a kick ass crew of collaborators.”
Duke added: “It’s not lost on me how important and meaningful this is, not only for the generations that already know his contributions to the Black liberation landscape but for those who have yet to know and embrace him and what he stood for. Can’t wait to step into this one and bring you all along for the amazing journey.