Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Prominent Panameños: Yvette Modestin

Panamanian writer, poet, activist. Yvette Modestin, Founder and Director of Encuentro Diaspora Afro in Boston, which emerged as a response to the silence surrounding the complex existence of the Afro-Latino/a identity in the Americas and speaks to the commonalities of people of African descent. She is the Diaspora regional Co-ordinator for Red de mujeres afrolatinoamericanasafrocaribeñas y de la diáspora, in this role, she recently participated in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women with a focus on “eliminating discrimination and violence against girls.” Ms. Modestin is the co-founder of Proyecto Yo Soy Colón and is also one of the writers of Women Warriors of the AfroLatino Diaspora.

In October of 2006, Ms. Modestin was profiled in the Boston Globe article, “The Uniter” for her work in bringing the Latin American and African American community together and for her activism in building a voice for the Afro Latino community. Yvette is also the Trainer and Domestic Violence Consultant for Entre Nosotras, an HIV/AIDS Peer Education program for Latinas. She recently participated in the conference “The Status of Afrodescendents in the Americas” held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is the former Director of LEA-Latinas en Accion at HOPE Hispanic Office of Planning and Evaluation, which addressed leadership development and academic achievement among Latina youth aged 12-18. Yvette attended Emmanuel College and Boston University.
“It doesn’t help that despite the high-profile black Latinas making it in Hollywood and other industries, black Latinas are rarely seen as such in movies (many black Latina actresses play African Americans on screen) and in ads, which generally depict Latinos as light-brown hued. The effect on Afro-Latinas, Modestin says, is the creation of a “very schizophrenic world” in which many are not understood or accepted.
During workshops that Modestin puts on for Afro-Latino middle- and high-school students, kids are asked to walk around the room as Modestin asks them about themselves, including their racial makeup. “In all the years I’ve been doing this, there’s never a time when I’m not faced with a young Afro-Latina who stops her movement when asked if she’s of African descent,” Modestin says. “It’s ‘I don’t know,’ even if the child is visibly of African descent.”
The inspiration for the program was Modestin’s own experience adjusting to life in the United States as a freshman at Northeastern University who’d just moved from her native Panama. “I’d come from a strong, proud Afro-Panamanian family and once here, other Latinos absolutely rejected me,” she says. “I said to myself, ‘This needs to be talked about.’”
She began to speak at colleges, and then founded Encuentro as a place where Afro-Latinos and others of African descent could explore and celebrate their roots. Last month, she spoke in front of the Congressional Black Caucus about the challenges that Afro-Latinos face and the alliances that can be forged between Latinos and African Americans. Now in her 40s, Modestin wears natural hair and often sports African or Afro-Panamanian clothes—partly, she says, as a way of challenging Latinos’ preconceptions about what it means to be a Latina.”
Info from: Here

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