Beginning on Friday November 5th through 7th 2004, NALACC (National Alliance of Latin -American and Caribbean Communities) brought together over 40 different community leaders from Latin-America and the Caribbean. It took place in Los Angeles, California and it was hosted by CARECEN (Central American Refugee Center). The 3-day-seminar was geared towards the empowerment and the importance of community organization. I personally attended 2 out of the 3 days in which the seminar/workshop took place. I found the information to be very informative and useful. I also met a delegation of Garinagu from New York representing 3 different nations: Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. From the country of Honduras, I met Mr. Celeo Alvarez Casildo who is the president of ONECA (Organizacion Negra Centroamericana/Central American Black Organization) along with Ms. Mirtha Colon and Mr. Jorge Centeno. From Guatemala, Mr. Carlos Gotay, president and founder of Communidad Garifuna Guatemalteca/Guatemalan Garifuna Community). Also, I had the pleasure of meeting an intelligent woman Ms. Luz Francisca Soliz from Hamalali Wayunari. A very proud Garifuna, Mr. Pablo Gomez from Honduran and International Parade Committee. In addition, I also met an intellectual personality, Ms. Bartolome Guerrero from Raiz de Nuestros Ancestros – Buyei. I was also pleased to meet Ms. Anali Ramos who was representing the Garifuna youth.
On day one, as the Garifuna delegates came together, the discussion centered on important topics that ranged from the history of the Garifuna, the theory of our existence, our traditional values and the medicine we use. I felt absolutely honored to be in the presence of such insightful Garinagu leaders. On the other hand, the participation of the Garinagu from Los Angeles which was minimal because only 5 locals attended, became the concern to us all. We were expecting a lot more participation from the different Garifuna leaders in Los Angeles but it was disappointing when none of these members of our community bothered to show up. We also discussed the lack of solidarity and unity that the Garinagu in Los Angeles seem to lack. Furthermore, we discussed the separatism in existence among the different Garifuna Groups in Los Angeles. Instead of working together for a common goal, there seems to be a division of ideals and purpose. All of this needs to come to an end! Every time there is a need to help our people here in the States or abroad, there is never a united front to utilize our strength and resources towards a common solution or goal. For example, our Belizean Garifuna organizations are separated and detached from other organizations amongst themselves as well as other Garifuna groups from Honduras and Guatemala in Los Angeles. Another organization that is lacking representation is the Garifuna from Livingston – La Buga. There used to be, once upon a time, a very strong group of hard working leaders whom under the name of Hermandad Livingsteña pulled a number of successful events to benefit the people in La Buga, Guatemala. Where are they now? And what ever happened to SONHOCA (Sociedad Negra Hondureña de California/The Society of Black Hondurans of California). By far, they were the strongest Garifuna organization in Los Angeles less than 10 years ago.
The point is, that we need to re-group, re-direct our efforts and re-establish the connection that somehow got lost along the way. We need to set a positive example and give good guidance to the youth who tomorrow will be the future leaders of these organizations. There are individuals in New York who are committed and want the opportunity to come to Los Angeles to help re-establish and develop stronger Garifuna organizations and leaders. These organizations need to be empowered and dedicated to the common goal of helping to uplift, restore and better manage the image of Garinagu in Los Angeles. Instead of coming apart, we need to converge. Instead of having 2 separate Settlement Day masses for the 19th of November festivities, we need to have one with the participation of all the Garifuna organizations in Los Angeles. Instead of 2 separate picking of the Garifuna Queen events, have one. Basically, instead of this continued ridiculous separation that is causing our people to further divide, we need to come together as one and have one big, well-organized and happy celebration of our proud but endangered culture.
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