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Garifuna Day » The Unknown Survivors of Los Angeles
Apr 05, 2005

5th Annual Garífuna Day Street Festival


CONTACT: Patty Patchrint, Senior Program Coordinator
Institute for Communication Improvement
(213) 817 – 5308 ext. 238

The Unknown Survivors of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, California (March 25, 2005) – Within the Los Angeles community lives a group of survivors. A group that fought for their freedom from their aggressors, unwilling to accept enslavement as an option. A group who maintained their solidarity through forced dislocation and exile from their homeland of Yurumein, now known as St. Vincent. A group that survived through unwarranted upheaval, extreme poverty, and devastating trauma. A group that escaped to Central America in the hopes of preserving their dying culture only to suffer the wrath of discrimination. Through each of these events, this group of proud people has managed to remain strong, hold onto their cultural roots, and stay united against all odds. Who are these fearless survivors? Garífuna. The Garífuna are the only group from the African Diaspora who uphold the honor of having never been enslaved by their captors. Unwilling to succumb to the horrors of slavery, the Garífuna accepted castration and risked their lives to preserve the one thing that keeps them together: their culture.

Today, the Garinagu, which refers to people of the Garífuna culture, migrated from Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala to various cities in the United States including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Miami. This community of unknown survivors has brought with them their language, their art, their food, and their culture in an attempt to preserve that which many have sought to destroy. Here in Los Angeles, the Garinagu Empowerment Movement, a nonprofit organization in South Central better known as GEM, has worked to raise awareness about the Garífuna culture and produces an annual Garífuna Day Street Festival. The street festival always falls on the Saturday closest to April 12th because April 12th is officially sanctioned as “Garífuna Day? in the city of Los Angeles, thanks to the support of Councilwoman Jan Perry. The Garífuna Day Street Festival was created to celebrate the last time Garinagu were together as one on April 12, 1797, the day they arrived on the island of Roatan. This festival presents the best of the Garífuna community through the displays of art, music, dance, and cuisine.

Tomás Zuñiga, executive director of GEM, states that the organization seeks to promote cultural preservation, foster economic development, and advocate for the rights of the Garífuna people. Their mission has been tough, but not futile. The recognition of April 12th as Garífuna Day was a major accomplishment for GEM, but the battle is not nearly over.

This year’s festival is scheduled for Saturday, April 9 and will take place from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Avalon Boulevard between 41st and 43rd Streets. Admission is free for the public. The festival will have live musical performance of reggae, dance hall, world music and Punta rock. In addition, there will be traditional Garífuna dance performances and bands. For more information, call (888) 824 – 4424 or email geminaction@yahoo.com.

Institute for Communication Improvement
900 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 606  Los Angeles, California  90017
Phone: (213) 817 – 5308  Fax: (213) 817 – 5309  geminaction@yahoo.com

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