On August 15-17 of this year, CARECEN SF joined La Organización Negra Centroamericana (ONECA), the Central American Black Organization (CABO) and Houndarun Wuritian Lamidan Meriga (HOWULAME) in celebrating the XV Encuentro de la Juventud Afro Centro-Americana y de la Diaspora / 15th Annual Congress of Central American Afro-Youth and Diaspora, held at the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast (URACCAN) in Bluefields, Nicaragua.
This annual gathering was attended by youth representatives from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Diaspora in the United States. More than 100 youth, elders, academics and Afro elected officials gathered to affirm youth’s critical role in the future of black communities in the region. The theme of this year’s Congress was “Liderazgo Jóven Afro para el Cambio Social” (Afro-youth Leadership for Social Change).
The congress focused on imparting and identifying tools both legal, political, social and others to advance the Afro-Central American equity agenda in the region. Various sessions included a detailed review of regional Constitutions, Treaties and other legal instruments that youth must be familiar with, in order to affirm their communities right to land, language, natural resources, cultural and linguistic preservation. The Nicaraguan Constitution, is the only one in all of Central America with language that not only recognizes afro-descendant communities, but also the racial, linguistic and cultural diversity that makes up the nation. It established two autonomous regions: Región Autonoma Atlántico Norte y Región Autonoma Atlántico Sur (RAAN & RAAS), which grants not only land rights, but affirms regional, Indigenous and communal governments, as well control of local natural resources, educational curricula, and the overall right of regional indigenous and afro-descendant communities to self-govern.
Various workshops focused on health promotion, higher education, microenterprise, linguistic and cultural preservation, religious ceremonies and traditional healing, community development, use of social media to advance demands, racism and other “isms”, gender equity and migration.
CARECEN SF’s Executive Director gave a presentation on the current state of migration policy in the U.S., and focused on “myths and realities of migration”. The space provided both CARECEN SF as well as youth the opportunity to identify the messaging and information communities and youth in the region have about the current exodus of Central Americans, the reality on the journey and at the U.S.- Mexico border.
We are incredibly appreciative of the invitation by Doña Mirtha Colon, Garifuna leader from Honduras and President of ONECA. We learned a lot and had the opportunity to affirm our commitment to lifting the voices of ALL Central Americans, especially youth, afro, indigenous, queer, women, migrants forcefully returned to countries of origin, and those systemically excluded, yet consistently exploited in our countries of origin by weak institutions, corruption, institutional violence, impunity and extreme poverty.