Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Earthquake Devastates Afro-Peruvian Towns

As the death toll mounts in Peru from earthquake which devastated the Southern province of Ica on August 15 and the days after, 100,000 people, including women and young children, are still without shelter. The catastrophe brings to mind familiar images from coastal communities around the world: Katrina, the South Indian farmers exposed by last year's monsoons, the Tsunami. It is the first time in memory that afro-Peruvian communities have been hit as hard as this. I hadn't seen any images and was shocked to hear about the devastation from amy friend Mónica Carrillo Zegarra, an activist and artist.
Monica is the Director of Centro de Estudios y Promocion Afroperuanos (LUNDU), an organization of Afro-Peruvian youth promoting recognition and respect for Peru’s African-descendant population, has appealed for assistance and support in the disaster relief. She writes:

"Dear Friends:

Many thanks for your messages of solidarity. As of this writing there are over 500 dead, but once the debris is cleared away there will be many more. There is a lack of water, light and telephone services in several districts and regions of the country. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Chincha located in the department of Ica and Callao, where the populations is mainly Afro-Peruvian.

There are also many Afro-Peruvian in El Carmen, a subdivision of Chincha, where 80 to 100 percent of the houses built during slavery have been destroyed, including our Centro Referencial de LUNDU.

Although the Afro-Peruvian Youth Network of LUNDU has been affected by the earthquake, its members are organizing help brigades to channel all of the donations that are being offered. They as well as their family have lost their homes and are currently sleeping outdoors in the cold weather.

Callao, located in Lima, is another area affected by the earthquake, particularly the poor who live in wooden and cardboard houses meters away from the sea.

In Lima many houses have been damaged and many more are at risk to collapse. People there are also sleeping outdoors and run the risk of a Tsunami. They cannot return to their homes, for these have also been destroyed. In Callao we are working with 25 children and adolescents in the marginalized zones.

In spite of the all the help these zones are receiving, there is a high level of exclusion and racism towards the inhabitants of our communities. Although we have a social responsibility with all people affected by the earthquake, it is imperative that we guarantee help for Afro-Peruvians and the poor, who neither receive priority treatment in good times nor in moments of disaster.

We are in the midst of a cold winter and the needs of the earthquake victims are many, so we would be thankful to receive the following items: foodstuff, winter clothes, blankets, mattresses, and money to support the housing reconstruction program, particularly pre-fabricated houses to replace the temporary canvas tents, which are not expected to last beyond one week. We will also distribute the donations to the affected communities to cover the urgent and immediate cost of food, medicine and other incidentals.

If we are unable to answer the telephone, please communicate with us via email.

We are grateful for your support. We will send a narrative and financial report to account for all resources received and expenditures incurred.

For donations in dollars please use:
Scotiabank, Account # 2082548,
San Felipe. Make check out to LUNDU.

Donations can also be made by international transfer by using one of the known services such as Moneygram. In these cases in order to expedite the transfer, please make the check payable to Monica Carrillo Zegarra (Lima).

Others may leave their donation in the offices of LUNDU.
Avenida Cuba 249, oficina C, Jesus Maria.
Our cellular telephone is (0511) 93530955, and the office telephone is (0511) 4727524

Monica Carrillo
Director, Centro de Estudios y Promocion Afroperuanos
Avenida Cuba 249, oficina C, Jesus Maria


Queridas compañera/os:

Muchas gracias por sus comunicaciones solidarias. Hasta el momento son cerca de 500 muertos pero se esperan muchos mas ya que se estan levantando escombros. En varios distritos y regiones no hay agua, luz ni adecuada comunicacion telefonica. El epicentro del terremoto fue en Chincha, que pertenece al departamento de Ica y Callao, con gran predominancia de poblacion afroperuana .

El Carmen esta ubicado en Chincha que tiene mas. Las casas - muchas de ellas construidas desde la epoca de la esclavitud - son muy precarias y se han destruido en un 80 o 100% , incluyendo el Centro Referencial de LUNDU.

Los jovenes de la Red de Jovenes Afroperuanos de LUNDU son parte de los afectados, pero estan organizandose para poder brindar ayuda y canalizar todas las donaciones que puedan ser ofrecidas. Ello/as, al igual que sus familias estan durmiendo a la interperie ya que sus viviendas estan destruidas.

El Callao, ubicado en Lima otro de los lugares más afectados, especialmente los habitantes de las zonas mas pobres, que viven a escasos metros frente al mar en casas de madera, o de carton.

En Lima también existen muchas casas resquebrajadas y con riesgo de devastación.

Ellos tambien estan durmiendo en la interprerie por el riesgo del Tsunami, y tampoco pueden volver a sus casas porque estan destruidas. En el Callao estamos trabajando con 25 niños y adolescentes de las zonas mas marginalizadas.

A pesar de que la atencion esta siendo canalizada hacia estas zonas, existe un gran nivel de exclusion y racismo hacia nuestras comunidades, por ende se hace necesario tener responsabilidad social hacia todos los afectados, pero garantizando que la ayuda tambien pueda ser alcanzada por las comunidades afroperuanas y mas pobres, que no prioritarias ni siquiera en epocas de desastre.

Estamos en un crudo invierno, las necesidades son muchas pero agradeceremos tener atencion a lo siguiente:

-Viveres ( alimentos)
-Ropa de invierno
-Dinero para apoyar la reconstruccion de casas. En este punto la idea es proveer de casas prefabricadas ya que las carpas son temporales y las personas no podrian soportar mas de una semana.
Tambien para trasladar las donaciones recibidas hacia las comunidades.
Quienes tengan las posibilidades de enviar dinero seria muy importante ya que nos permitiria tomar decisiones y poder utilizarlo prontamente en las necesidades urgentes de comida, medicinas y otros.

Si no podemos contestar el telefono, por favor envien un correo ya que las comunicaciones no son del todo buenas

Enviaremos un reporte narrativo y financiero sobre la canalizacion de los recursos, esperamos su apoyo

Para donaciones:
en dolares
Banco: Scotiabank
Numero de cuenta 2082548
Direccion de Banco: San Felipe
Nombre: LUNDU

tambien pueden enviar como giro internacional a traves de servicios como
Money Grant, a nombre de Monica Carrillo Zegarra (Lima) ya que puede ser una manera más rapida de recibir los fondos.

Pueden dejar sus donaciones en las oficinas de LUNDU. Avenida Cuba 249, oficina C, Jesus Maria. El numero de celular es (0511) 93530955, numero de oficina (0511) 4727524."

I also note that one of the areas hit hardest by the earthquake is the city of El Carmen, which has been called the cradle of Afro-Peruvian culture and music. The earthquake destroyed more than 80 percent of El Carmen’s housing stock (houses first built during slavery). Other towns closest to the epicenter, such as Chincha Alta and Cañete, are also home to much of Peru’s black population.

Because it is currently winter in Peru and the temperature continues to drop, the loss of homes is particularly devastating for its citizens. People are sleeping on the street with no protection, the wounded lay on hospital floors, the electricity supply is out, and the highway infrastructure is destroyed. Hospitals are understaffed and overwhelmed.

Please do what you can to support Monica, LUNDU, and her community outside of Lima. Also, I'll send info soon on a fundraising event featuring Monica's spoken word poetry here in NYC soon, and I look forward to seeing you.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Remnants of An Artist We Loved

I went to Wingate Park in Brooklyn yesterday, curious, more than anything, about whether young Jamaican pop star Sean Kingston had anything in him besides a pop frenzy induced big head. He didn't. Sean's performance of Beautiful for the crowd (over 10,000) was about the worst thing I've ever seen live at any concert, paid or free. Shouted rather than sang, and couldn't even remember the lyrics to Beautiful, jumped up and down in a sloppy T-Shirt with little stage presence or rhythm, jumped into the crowd as if it were a mosh pit, was even interested in reaching out to grab him.

I can't say, unfortunately, that Lauren Hill was an even bigger disappointment that Sean Kingston, because I in fact had pretty low expectations. When she finally graced the stage with her presence after a one-hour-wait to greet the standing room crowd in a brown leather knee length vest, the murmor of everyone around me was the same: "What the hell is she wearing? What's up with her hair? Does she think she's Oprah?" I don't think these were just the petty reactions of a mean-spirited crowd. The men and women around me, young and old, were still hopefull that she'd somehow give a decent performance. They seemed to love Lauren like a sister. Only, they sensed something seriously gone wrong in the sister's walk, her voice, her vibe. I think we wondered what diva spirit had possessed L-Boogie, known for her simple flair and grace, for never being too overdone or flashy, but always, through the drama of stardom, being able to come across as just herself.

The mysterious outlandish outfit told me that there was a deeper crisis within. As loud and as passionate as she seemed, it seemed she had had withdrawn from the world. She didn't even try - as Sean Kingston had, and failed - to connect with the crowd. She seemed to be saying, simply, this is Lauren's world.

Even though I hadn't expected much more, it was for me a sad dose of reality about the hopelessness of finding a place in the music industry for R&B, hip hop, and dance hall artists with true soul. I was among the folks who walked out on Lauren with a sad pout on my face. Even though I hadn't paid for a ticket, I felt as cheated as anyone, my expectations reduced to the memory of a true artists who have, over the years, been able with the simplicity of song and grace to touch so many folks.