30th Anniversary of Garifuna Advocacy and Giving Back!

30th Anniversary of Garifuna Advocacy and Giving Back!

By José Francisco Ávila
We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” Cesar Chavez

It was August 1988, during a business trip to Los Angeles, that I felt a strong inner impulse toward serving my own community. I returned to my home in Dallas, Texas and decided to answer my calling! I shared the experience with my twin brother Tomas Alberto who decided to join me in the cause. A few weeks later I met Leslie-Avila Reyes, who was in Dallas attending a conference. We hit it off and started sharing ideas about the Garifuna community and agreed to work together. That conversation led to an organizing meeting on Sunday February 5th, 1989 at Club Cubano Interamericano Social Club at 671 Prospect Avenue Bronx, NY 10455.

In 1991 along with Tomas and other local Garifunas, we organized the First Garifuna Summit Meeting in New York City with the theme, “Don’t Be Ashamed, We Are Garifunas”, and the Second in Los Angeles in 1992 with the theme or “Separation, Dispersion, Reunification”.   The Garifuna Summit Meetingsserved as the catalyst for the grassroots movement that organized the Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Garifunas to Honduras on April 12th, 1997, known as The Garifuna Bicentennial, which laid the foundation for the modern Garifuna advocacy and the Latin American Afrodescendiente movements.

In January 1998, I relocated from Dallas Texas to New York City!  During that time I have contributed and spearheaded the advancement of the Garifuna-American Community through the following achievements :

  1. Cofounder of the Garifuna Coalition USA
  2. Produced the 1998 Garifuna World Music Awards,
  3. Founded New Horizon Investment Club .
  4. Drafted and Submitted the proposal for Garifuna-American Heritage Month, which uplifted  NYC’s Garifuna Community from obscurity to the Pinnacle of recognition!
  5. Developed the Garifuna-American Legislative Advocacy Day in Albany, NY .
  6. Organized the Garifuna Reunion in St Vincent and the Grenadines, that  launched the Renaissance of the Garifuna Heritage and Culture in “Yurumein” the Ancestral Homeland of the Garifuna people.
  7. Organized the 2010 Garifuna Census Campaign, which led to recognition by the New Yorkcity Mayor Michael Bloomberg
  8. Organized the Town hall meeting with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
  9. Develop the Bronx Immigrant Entrepreneurship Initiative Program to help immigrant entrepreneurs which led to the creation of Afro-Latin Publishing; motivated other Garifunas to pursue entrepreneurship.
  10. Was the only Garifuna delegate at the First Regional Reparations Conference, held in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
  11. Founded the Garifuna Afro-Latino Entertainment, LLC (GALENT).
  12. Produced the Musical Tribute to Aurelio Martinez,
  13. Produced the 2016 Garifuna Music Awards  and the  2017 Garifuna Music Awards,
  14. Founded the Garifuna Political Action Committee 
  15. Organized the 2017 New York Council District 18 Candidate Forum in partnership with the NAACP Parchester Chapter!
  16. In June 2018, I was appointed by New York City’s Mayor Bill Deblasio to the City’s first-ever Nightlife Advisory Board.
  17. In April 2018, I was appointed to the Bronx Music Heritage Center’s board of advisors.

These achievements serve as  a solid base to continue to pursue the progress and prosperity of the New York City Garifuna Community by leading the charge to conquer the last frontier, Economic Development, by launching the Renaissance of the Garifuna Arts and Culture in New York City!

As I begin my third decade in the “Cultural Capital of the World” and fourth decade of Garifuna Advocacy, I thank God for giving me the courage and tenacity to persevere and remain standing and that  “my ambitions have been broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for my own!”

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