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OAA Accomplishments

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OAA addresses the OAS (Organization of American States)

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Organization of Africans in the Americas

"We are people of African descent from various countries in the Western Hemisphere. Our purpose is to form links among the African peoples of the West: to get to know each other, to share our concerns and experiences, and we hope, to collectively fight the problems of racism and marginalization which afflict us no matter where we reside."

They have articles in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

The OAA Directors are described on:

Contact point:

Organization of Africans in the Americas (OAA)
1234 Mass Ave, NW, Suite C-1007
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 202-638-1662
Fax: 202-638-1667

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OAS Presentation

Michael Franklin, President of the OAA, has been asked to address the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on February 2, 1999. This is the first such address to the Council on the matter of Black Latin-Americans.

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OAA Accomplishments

OAA Accomplishments: Jan. to Sept. 1998

With the ultimate goal of bridging the gap in services to marginalized Black communities in Latin America, and to link these populations with organizations inthe western world, OAA has made ground-breaking progress within the last year.


OAA was instrumental in the creation of AFROAMERICA XXI. This is a process through which Afro-Latin-Americans in Spanish-speaking countries are organizing themselves. A majority of Black NGOs and elected officials in Latin America belong to this process. For example, all Black mayors in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Venezuela belong to the process. As a third party, OAA has been a catalyst, assisting with critical resolution to the conflicts, information and capacity building that made the formation of AFROAMERICA XXI possible. The process is also supported publicly by the Andean and Central American Parliaments, and several Latin American heads of state.

OAA and its Executive Director, Michael Franklin, were elected as the Executive Secretariat of AFROAMERICA XXI in March 1998 with a specific set of instructions. Among them: Afro-Latin Americans must make up 40 percent of OAA's Board; and OAA must be designated the intermediary for selected regional projects. These instructions are in keeping with the AFROAMERICA XXI intent to rebuild the bridges between North and South America that were destroyed during the days of slavery.

In describing the work of OAA, Jesus Garcia, publisher of the only Black-owned journal in Spanish-speaking Latin America declared in his journal this summer:

With the creation of the OAA comes the newly reactivated feeling of a coming together of African-Americans and Afro-Iberian-Americans. This goes much further than the mere academic plane, or the folkloric. It deals with the search for the connections, which has as its goal, facing the great limitations which harass our communities of African origin, and the possibilities of breaking those barriers of poverty, racism and discrimination -- looking for real alternatives without romanticizing the issue or encouraging beggary.

AFROAMERICA representatives from the eleven countries and OAA prepared a twenty-one year Plan of Action. The Action Plan was presented to international institutions, who use it as the criteria to support projects. AFROAMERICA XXI and the OAA use the plan to guide the priorities for action.


Inter-American Development Bank

A long-fought battle won OAA and AFROAMERICA XXI involvement in the meeting of the Board of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

As a result of the presence of OAA and AFROAMERICA XXI, the IDB stated that it would recommend to its Board of Governors that Blacks be designated a Priority Group for Poverty Alleviation. The Bank declared that the current socioeconomic situation of Blacks and Indigenous people was the most "dramatic problem for solution."

In fact, IDB Policy now recognizes Afro-Latin-Americans as a vulnerable group, and the responsibility has been given to the Indigenous Unit / Social Development Division of the IDB to provide research support and assurances that Black populations are included in Bank projects. Writing on behalf of President Iglesias, Waldemar Wirsig, manager for sustainable development, commented: "The Bank's strategy for poverty reduction …emphasize[s] the need to focalize efforts on the indigenous, Afro-American and other vulnerable ethnic communities." OAA will continue to monitor this unit.

Summit of the Americas

Many countries supported language to include Afro-Latin Americans in the development agenda of the Summit of the Americas. Although started late in the process, the language proposed by AFROAMERICA XXI, scored a major success in bringing visibility to Afro-Latin American issues. Former US Ambassador Brown, who was in charge of the summit, specifically commended OAA for its work. He was joined in this sentiment by several other governments. Opposed were Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina. 

The Summit of the Americas produced an emphasis on education, poverty alleviation and microenterprises. Among those targeted due to AFROAMERICA XXI lobbying were "minorities," "disadvantaged racial minorities" and "vulnerable" populations. Although this acknowledgement is a success, many Latin-American countries are uncomfortable in dealing with ethnic issues that retard their progress and development. Inevitably, these countries also have difficulties specifically identifying the largest minority in Latin America: Blacks. Some countries have already begun to deny that Blacks are part of the "disadvantaged racial minorities" group.

The Follow-up meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) with Civil Society organizations has resulted in statements from Ambassador Peter Boehm of Canada that Canadian policy will now address the issue of Black Latin-Americans. In addition, he stated that the process leading to the next summit must be "ecumenical," i.e. include minority groups. The issue of Afro-hemispheric peoples warrants further discussion, and Canada has stated its wish to do more about marginalized groups. Canadian representatives have criticized the language relating to minorities for not being significant enough, as it does not represent sufficient change.

The OAA has been commended by the Civil Society Task Force for its work in the Summit arena and its work with the OAS. This was reiterated verbally several times during the course of the recent meeting of the task force. Ambassador Arthur Thompson of Jamaica, who with the Dominican Republic shares hemispheric responsibility for Civil Society, spoke directly to the exclusion of Blacks, noting that in the international fora, the issue brought great embarrassment to those governments present. The concerns brought to light by AFROAMERICA XXI were also of concern to the advisor to the OAS Secretary General and head of the OAS Summit Board, Mr. Jaime Aparicio.

Organization of American States

Michael Franklin was elected from a pool of 300+ organizations from across the hemisphere. He now represents the interests of Non-Indigenous Minorities in the Summit Implementation Plan, Project Advisory Committee (ISP/PAC). His sector was one of seven that resulted from the Summit mandate, and was carved out through AFROAMERICA XXI actions and activities.

Mr. Franklin's work has impacted assessment of the legal framework through which civil society organizations function with their respective governments. He successfully convinced the ISP/PAC board represents the thirty-four governments and civil society organizations that sectoral analysis of law was critical. The recommendation requires that legal assessments serve the interests of the disenfranchised.

Another formal OAS support mandate to the Summit deals with the capacity building of municipalities. Anne Marie Blackman, who is of Barbadian ancestry, is a key specialist managing the project. OAA is involved in this process, promoting the issue of minorities and women as one of three target areas for analysis. As a result, AFROAMERICA XXI mayors and NGOs working with municipalities will be participating in upcoming training programs.

The OAS-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will be including Afro-Latinos as a policy area. It is commission's intention to include all peoples, and particularly Black Latin American peoples, in its wording of the future "American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

Inter-American Foundation

This institution has agreed to match grants of amounts up to US$300,000 per country to AFROAMERICA XXI groups in each Latin American country. The resulting amounts will create "endowment funds" to be used in community development. Brazil will be allowed several grants of amounts up to US$400,000. IAF has also hired two Black country representatives, but OAA will continue to monitor this institution's dedication to the issue of Afro-Latinos.

World Bank

The Bank has provided $30 million to Black and Indigenous organizations in Ecuador. They are also working with AFROAMERICA XXI to revise World Bank policy regarding Black Latin-Americans.


USAID has specifically designated Afro-Latinos as a target group. According to the agency, its new policy is to program for Blacks, not just poor communities. OAA will be monitoring USAID's commitment to this policy change.

United States Congress

OAA has been approached to participate in hearings relating to the negative and racist media portrayal of Blacks on Hispanic television. Through our lobbying, the original parameters have been increased to include an analysis of the treatment of Blacks in the region.



Brazil has proposed legislation to modernize laws relating to Organizations of Civil Society of Public Character, taking steps to include organizations oriented to the defense of the rights of specific groups of the population, including blacks.

In Venezuela, several political parties have made Black issues part of the campaign platform. Unfortunately, the leading presidential candidate Chavez, an Afro-Venezuelan, has yet to be convinced. However, his campaign has been discussing the matter, albeit vaguely, with AFROAMERICA XXI. Chavez leads in the current polls with 41% of the popular vote, outstripping his closest opponent by more than 23%.

We welcome several new Ecuadorian member organizations into the AFROAMERICA XXI process.

An upcoming workshop in El Salvador will be providing opportunities for Municipal training. Black mayors and NGOs from Central America will receive training to improve municipal participation and organization.

After acting as a program officer for OAA, Jeanette Sutherland has moved on to another position. Given her important and successful work with OAA/AFROAMERICA XXI, we thank her and congratulate her on her new job. Likewise, Matthew

McCombs is no longer a program officer with OAA. We commend him for his excellent and invaluable advocacy work and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. Of course, both Jeanette and Matt are still members of the OAA, and we continue to value their input.

AFROAMERICA XXI, has objected to the management and philosophy of UNESCO'S "Ruta de Esclavos" (Slave Route) project. Jesus Garcia, a former participant in the project, has been outspoken in his attempts to democratize the project and include Black academics and competent NGOs. In this hemisphere, the process has been controlled by a limited number of African American and white Latin American academics. Neither of these two groups is well respected by Afro-Latino populations.

Ironically, the process itself now purports to be seeking democratization, while excluding Afro Latin American academics and others who have fought hard to achieve the project's newly embraced goal. OAA has informally requested that, until further notice, the US Information Agency and others refrain from funding any future activities relating to UNESCO's project.

Announcing Afro-Peruvian Susana Baca's performance at the Organization of American States, the Peruvian government quoted Afro-Peruvian Ricardo Palma: "In eru, if you don't have a bit of Inca, you have some Mandinga." The Peruvian government added that the presence of Afro-Peruvians, "profoundly rooted in society and history, … [is] indispensable for understanding the country and its culture." Unfortunately, this attitude is not expressed domestically in the country's governmental documents, school curricula or general consciousness.

Recent problems with El Niño have devastated 50+ Black communities on Mexico's Pacific coast, as well as communities in Peru and Ecuador. In Mexico, OAA was able to bring some visibility to these by convincing the Microenterprise and Relief Services division of the IDB to visit the affected communities. Mexican Blacks are extremely isolated from the rest of society.


OAA has successfully negotiated with the IDB to provide 46 computers to three Black organizations in Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela. Other requests are still pending.


Brazilian lawyer and OAA intern Ajax d'Alcantara recently assessed the last five years of IDB expenditure. He found that, in Brazil, out of nearly sixty projects, Black communities only received two. Dubbed "placebo projects" by d'Alcantara, they targeted street children and favelas. The bulk of over $500 million in funding went to the predominantly white southern regions of the mega country.

Future Projects

The Pan-American Health Organization's (PAHO) is working with the OAA to develop a joint study on Black communities in the region. They view this as a very significant step in attempting to deal with health conditions of the poor in Latin-America.


OAA has established a small internship program. This year five interns have participated, from the countries of Brazil (2), Canada, Colombia, Trinidad, and the United States. The American intern assisted AFROAMERICA - Colombia, and taught in Bluefields, Nicaragua.

The United Negro College Fund has sent the first paid intern to work with OAA. This is a precursor to expanding relations between the two institutions. 

Five Year Plan of Action

Over the last year OAA has devoted a large amount of time to the development of a Five Year Plan of Action. Developed through community participation, involving thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations and groups, it is the culmination of the Afroamerica xxi process. The Plan outlines not only what the communities want, but also how and why it should be implemented. This is the first-ever attempt to develop a plan of action for black communities in Latin America. It represents a concrete step in laying free-market foundations in this population sector.

OAA five year economic development plan

The OAA Economic Development Plan for Black communities is multi-sectoral and utilizes the comparative advantages in existing Black communities. OAA seeks to strengthen this comparative advantage by seeking to support entrepreneurial activities which provide the greatest multiplier effects for income and employment generation in four key strategic sectors of Black communities. The plan recognizes the ethno-cultural variables and employs models that build self-esteem and generate permanent funding for its beneficiaries.

OAA five year plan for leadership training through communications and institutional Strengthening

The OAA five year leadership training plan carefully assesses the ethno-cultural reasons for conflict between institutions, the failure of Black leadership to mobilize support for their agenda, and corruption issues that have plagued Blacks in leadership roles.

Black communities appear to have an almost endemic mistrust of their leaders. A significant part of that answer rests on the absence of what IDB president Enrique Iglesias identifies as the twin pillars of community development: self-esteem and solidarity. IDB studies point out that these conditions are absent in Black communities because Blacks have very little knowledge about themselves or history. In addition, the media reinforces negative Black stereotypes that are then internalized by the Black community. All of this impacts Black leadership.

Besides looking at the ethno-cultural aspects of leadership behaviors and styles, one must also work in communications to undo the damage of negative ideas. In order to have multiplier effects in creating leaders and developing their agendas, one must also create the communication mechanisms that facilitate community dialogue and authentic leadership.

OAA five year plan to increase african american involvement in latin american trade/commerce, policy, diplomacy, and international development

OAA's plan seeks to bring knowledge and experience to young African-Americans who are under-represented in the above-mentioned areas. Globalization will impact Black communities in the United States through trade agreements such as NAFTA. If African-Americans hope to compete, they must be given access to training and experiences in Latin America, particularly to these Afro-Latin American groups who are their natural allies. Together this group, if given an opportunity, can foster its own "globalization" creating and expanding markets and alliances that directly benefit the economies of the United States and Latin America. These markets could also incorporate the Caribbean and Africa.

Such activities provide real mechanisms of fostering relations between the regions, which to date do not incorporate the 150 million people of Latin America who represent a tremendous untapped reserve of good will towards the United States and potential for mutual markets.

Reaction to the five year plan

The five year plan has been distributed by AFROAMERICA XXI to all Executive Directors of the IDB. The US Director, Larry Harrington, has assured that he will do all he can to make certain that Black communities in Latin America are designated a target group for poverty alleviation to ensure that they benefit from Bank funds.

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