An Appeal for help from Katrina victims and African Peruvians

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Fundraising Appeal Letter from PHRF

 Please spread far and wide!
  September 24, 2007

 
 Friends:
 
Please share this letter with your friends, family and co-workers, so, like you, they will not forget the importance of supporting the people of New Orleans and the Gulf.
 
 It may seem like old news, but surviving the reality of the government’s deliberate abandonment is still a daily trial for the 200,000 low income Black New Orleanians who remain displaced. It is also an  ordeal for the 150,000 who have returned to New Orleans  which still lies mostly in ruins. In New Orleans, we see apartheid in action. About 20% of the City which has always been predominantly whiteincluding the famed French Quarter is “back in business”. The remaining 80% is a City without jobs, without housing, with no health care system, and with a school system that fails to meet minimum standards.
 
 Despite the valiant efforts of thousands of volunteers who came to New Orleans to rebuild, fewer than 20,000 of the 180,000 destroyed homes have been rebuilt. New Orleans’ housing stock, levees, hospitals and schools cannot be built with volunteer labor. The federal government must take responsibility for the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf.

 For this reason, we ask you to continue to support the work of Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF). > Our priority has always been to pressure the government to guarantee the right of return—especially for the poor Black people it abandoned. So far, only grassroots political  pressure has prevented developers from razing public housing and bulldozing the entire Lower 9th Ward so they can turn this once-thriving Black community into golf courses and industrial parks. For two years PHRF has persistently organized petition campaigns, demonstrations, marches and lobbied at the City, state and federal levels. We organized National Survivors’ Tours, maintain an informative website and most recently, the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to counter the national amnesia campaign perpetrated by the government and developers. We recognize that the displacement and destitution of New Orleans’ Black population is only the most obvious assault of a national system of gentrification, ethnic cleansing, militarization, mass incarceration and privatization that is laying siege to Black and other people of color in every US city. The struggle for the right to return and reconstruction is the challenge of all oppressed people. And it is going to be a long struggle
 
A dedicated staff and committed volunteers are essential to this work. Since September 15, when PHRF ‘s account ran dangerously  close to zero, a decision to stop paying all  salaries was made. But even if staff can continue to work on a volunteer basis, rent, phones, electricity and printing costs still must be paid. While other organizations in New Orleans do important work, PHRF is one of the only organizations that makes political struggle  its priority. Our strategic focus is the demand for  affordable housing both for the 49,000 displaced  residents of public housing and for New Orleans’  homeless population, which is at twice pre-Katrina levels. We also continue to pressure the Red  Cross a quasi-governmental agency to be accountable  for distributing millions of dollars that were  donated to assist hurricane survivors, not the Red  Cross bureaucracy. To those of you who understand the importance of this struggle, we appeal for your financial support of our on-going  work.
 Please visit our website, http://www.peopleshurricane.org/. "https://www.vanguardsf.org/index.php?s 

 We recognize that the displacement and destitution  of New Orleans’ Black population is only the most  obvious assault of a national system of  gentrification, ethnic cleansing, militarization, mass incarceration and privatization that is laying  siege to Black and other people of color in every US  city. The struggle for the right to return and reconstruction is the challenge of all oppressed people. And it is going to be a long struggle. A dedicated staff and committed volunteers are  essential to this work. Since September 15, when PHRF‘s account ran dangerously close to zero, a  decision to stop paying all salaries was made. But even if staff can continue to work on a volunteer
 basis, rent, phones, electricity and printing costs still must be paid.  While other organizations in New Orleans do important work, PHRF is one of the only  organizations that makes’ political struggle its priority. Our strategic focus is the demand for affordable housing—both for the 49,000 displaced residents of public housing and for New Orleans’  homeless population, which is at twice pre-Katrina levels. We also continue to pressure the Red Cross—a quasi-governmental agencto be accountable for distributing millions of dollars that were donated to assist hurricane survivors, not the Red Cross bureaucracy.
 
 To those of you who understand the importance of this struggle, we appeal for your financial support  of our on-going work. Please visit our website, www.peopleshurricane.org, for detailed information  about this work. Tax deductible donations can be made payable to PHRF in care of the Vanguard Public Foundation. Mail checks to 383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 301 San Francisco, CA 94103.
  
For more information, to arrange a speaker and/or  video presentation, call us at 504-301-0215 or email info@peopleshurricane.org
 
Thank you in advance for your support,
Kali Akuno,
 Executive Director


Diaspora Black Perúvians Seek Aid
Juanita Carrillo
SeeingBlack.com Diaspora

Aug 31, 2007

More than $10 million in aid has poured into Perú since an 8.0 earthquake devastated the country on Aug.15. Agustín Haya de la Torre, director of the Agencia Peruviana de Cooperación Internacional (Perúvian Agency of International Cooperation) says that financial assistance is pouring in. And the nation’s president, Alan García Pérez, has vowed to quickly rebuild the fallen buildings and cracked roadways in cities and towns along the southern coast of Perú.  

But the relief effort has been slow and Afro Perúvians, in particular, are crying out for assistance. Many say the president and news media have visited and spoken about some communities hit by the quake but few are pointing to those suffering in poorer regions. And, in Perú, many of the poor are Black.

At this writing, the death toll from the quake is more than 540, with thousands wounded. Fallen buildings litter entire cities, leaving them looking like war zones. Many structures are so damaged that residents are now sleeping in tents and even on the street – and this during the months of August through October, which is Perú’s winter season.

The cities of Pisco, Ica, Cañete and Chincha Alta, have been featured in news reports as those hardest hit by the earthquake.“But you haven’t seen any news reports showing that many of our Black communitieswere destroyed by the earthquake,” notes Carlos O López Schmidt, head of the Afro Perúvian activist group CIMARRONES (www.cimarrones-Perú.org). “You haven’t read anything about the town of La Quebrada, which was completely destroyed, as were the towns of San Luis, Alto Larán, El Carmen and so many others. I tell you, you won’t see or read about these places, because our plight continues to be ignored."

Schmidt added that the ignored villages are old communities where many poor people live and where there are "hundreds of dead."A note left by a woman on the message board created by CIMMARONES points out that one person died of a heart attack in San Luís during the earthquake: “The local church fell to the ground, many Black families are now living in the streets because their homes of adobe and quincha [a combination of wood and cane covered by mud and plaster] could not sustain the quake, and the local government has only recently re-established water, light and electrical services.”The woman added that El Carmen – Chincha “looks like it was bombed; people have moved into the local sports stadium and into the central Plaza de Armas De el Carmen” to establish places to sleep.

Carlos and other Afro Perúvian activists have resorted to reaching out to the international Black community for help. Through phone calls, and especially emails, activists are pleading for assistance.“The situation for our Afro Perúvian communities following this earthquake is truly chaotic,” Jorge Ramirez Reyna, president of the Lima-based Asociación Negra de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (Association of Blacks in Defense and Promotion of Civil Rights/ASONEDH), complained in an email. “There are over 500 dead yet there is no aid for those who need it, there is no water, and their homes have crumbled, there’s no electricity, the markets and stores are all closed, and any assistance from the government is simply extremely slow and inefficient (although I’m certain if we were talking about a place that didn’t have so many Black residents, the aid would be much more effective -- at all levels).”

Afro Perúvian activist Mónica Carrillo, founder and director of the Centro de Estudios y Promocion Afro-Perúano (Center for Afro-Perúvian Studies and advancement LUNDU;www.racismonuncamas.com) in Lima, Perú, has been partnering with the international women's human rights group MADRE for years, to promote the civil rights struggles of Afro Perúvians.

MADRE sent out an “Urgent Aid Request,” to appeal for funds for LUNDU: “When we spoke with Mónica Carrillo, LUNDU's Director, she asked for immediate help. She told us that some families suffered the horrors of watching everything crumble around them. As parents opened the door of their house to rescue their children, the walls collapsed. This is a serious emergency,” the request stated.

MADRE notes that communities are in need of clothing, blankets, food, clean water and water purification tablets, medicines (broad spectrum antibiotics,anti-fungals, anti-diarrheals) and tents for temporaryhousing.

The lack of attention to the plight of Black neighborhoods has spurred some activists to form their own Comité de Solidaridad Afro, or Black Solidarity Committee. Carlos López Schmidt said the Comité. whichis also known as the Comisión de AyudaAfroPerúana/Afro Perúvian Aid Commission, will use its funds to help Afro Perúvians and indigenous people who live very close to each other and often share familial roots.

The Comité is a union of various Black Perúvian groups, including CEDET, Todas Las Sangres, Makungu, Mujer Negra y Desarrollo, REFIAP, CIMARRONES and others. “We formed this Comité because we not only need to get food to our people, we also need to begin to help burying the dead, getting medical aid for the wounded, reconstructing homes brick by brick so that people will have some place to sleep, and building schools so that our children can study," Schmidt said.

"We have to do all of this ourselves because the aid organizations and the other institutions that are supposed to help us, which are receiving the national and international aid funds, as always, are only to be found in the major cities," he added. "They forget about the poorest of the poor who don’t live in the central cities and who don’t own expensive properties We Afro Perúvians are always on the periphery here, our people only live in poorly made houses. They are the real reason we’ve formed this Comité. We pray toGod that you can help us.”

To send donations in care of the Afro Perúvian organizations mentioned in this article, contact them below:
ASONEDH, Jr. Nazca 179 Lima, Perú 11. Email:
asonedh@asonedh.com or asonedh@infonegocio.net.pe. To donate directly to ASONEDH’s earthquake aid account, send to: Banco Scotiabank, c/o Jr. Garzón, Jesús María. Account name: Asociación Negra de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Account no.
001-0226004, IBAN, BIC/SWIFT Code BSUDPEPL

LUNDU - Centro de Estudios y Promoción AfroPerúano, Av. Cuba 249 interior C, Jesus Maria, Lima, Perú 511. Email: cartas@racismonuncamas.com. To donate to LUNDU with a credit card, please visit:
http://www.iwhc.org/getinvolved/action/peruearthquake.cfm.

To donate through MADRE, please visit: http://madre.org/articles/lat /Perúearthquake.html Comisión de Ayuda AfroPerúana, ONG Centro de Desarrollo Etnico [CEDET], Av. Bolivia 569, Lima, Perú 05; Telephone: (511) 330-2653. Email: cimarrones1@gmail.com. Funds can be donated via the
Banco de Credito del Perú to account number 191-1581362-1-62.
 
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In Peru, Afro-descendants Fight Ingrained Racism, Invisibility:

Forwarded by Hamara Holt

CHINCHA, Peru * There is a saying in Peru that everyone has a bit of either "Inga" or "Mandinga" in them, meaning that all Peruvians have some indigenous (Inca) or African blood.

But the descendants of the tens of thousands of black slaves brought by ship to this coastal city south of Lima in the 16th and 17th centuries point out that this oft-quoted proverb is not reflected in the country's political and social life.  "If it's true that we all have some Inga or Mandinga in us, then why has there never been an Afro-descendant president in Peru in the 184 years since it became an independent republic? Why has someone of our color never been the head of the navy? Why are there no television programs made by descendants of the Mandingas and aimed at them exclusively?" asked the director of Peru's Centre for Ethnic Development, Osvaldo Bilbao.

Bilbao was a participant in the Regional Workshop for the Americas on Strategies for the Inclusion of People of African Descent in Poverty Reduction Programs, heldin the picturesque Pacific coast city of Chincha, which was the center of the slave trade in Peru when it was still a Spanish colony.

The Nov. 2-4 meeting was organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and attended by representatives of Afro-descendant organizations from throughout Latin America. Bilbao took part to speak about the situation in Peru, and was struck by the evidence of how far his country lags behind when compared to the advances made by Afro-descendants in other nations in the region. He believes that the underlying problem is that Peruvians are extremely racist. Which is ironic, given that the most popular football club, Alianza Lima, has traditionally been comprised of black players; the most widely attended religious event, the procession of Our Lord of Miracles, was founded by Afro-Peruvians; and the country's music isheavily influenced by African rhythms.

Nonetheless, a black person can be barred from entering a discotheque in a fashionable neighborhood, unless he or she is accompanied by a wealthy white person. Racial discrimination is structural, not an anecdotal or isolated phenomenon," Bilbao said in an interview with IPS in Chincha, where his ancestors were brought to Peru as slaves to replace the decimated indigenous labor force. "And the proof of this can be seen not only in the lack of real participation and representation of Afro-Peruvian communities, but also in their invisibility. Here in Peru, a black person is a friend only up to a certain point," he added. To address this problem, President Alejandro Toledo designated his wife, Belgian-born anthropologist Eliane Karp, to direct the National Commission on Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples (CONAPA).

Less than three years later, the commission, financedby the World Bank, was shut down amidst allegations of the misuse of funds, for which Karp is now under investigation. CONAPA was replaced by the National Institute for the Development of Andean, Amazonian and Afro-PeruvianPeoples (INDEPA), although there is little faith inany real results being achieved by the new agency. Silvia Villa, president of Peru's Margarita Black Association, said she is doubtful that INDEPA will make a difference.

"We make up almost 40 percent of the total population of Peru, and the majority of us live at or below the poverty line, yet there are only two Afro-descendant representatives in INDEPA," Villa told IPS. (According to statistics, people of African descent comprise a much smaller proportion of the population than 40 percent).

"In Brazil, the government works with black communities, and there are ministers who are Afro-Brazilian. In Ecuador, there is a law for Afro-descendant communities, but here in Peru, we are still fighting for visibility," she remarked. On TV comedy programs in Peru, the most frequently occurring themes fall into two categories: jokes about homosexuals, and jokes about the skin color of blacks.Peruvians of African descent are not the only ones who recognize the discrimination they face.

"Based on the experiences we've heard about, there is still a great deal to be done in Peru," noted Deise Benedito from the Brazilian non-governmental organization Fala Preta! (Speak Out, Black Women). "The state is not addressing the situation. Afro-Peruvians are a very poor sector of the population that is fighting to become visible, while in other countries, like mine, there are concrete policies for people of African descent."

The first Africans arrived in Peru as slaves brought in to replace the indigenous labor force in the mines. However, when they too began dying off as a result of the severe weather conditions in the Andes mountains coupled with the inhuman working conditions, they were sent to cotton and sugar cane plantations along the Pacific coast. In Chincha, where last week's workshop was held, there was once a plantation so large that it eventually came to house 30,000 slaves. Today it is home to one of Peru's largest black communities and a major cultural centre.

Ruins of the old plantation still remain, such as the dungeons where the slaves were confined, and the punishment cells with their chains and shackles. The foreign participants in the workshop were taken on a tour of this grim reminder of a shameful period in Peruvian history. In Peru, the only avenues to advancement open to black women are the fields of entertainment and sports. They are largely shut out from the big foreign-owned chains of retail clothing stores and fast food restaurants.

"In the area around Chincha there are two towns with a large percentage of Afro-descendants, El Guayabo and El Carmen. Neither of them has a public telephone. But people come from all over to see the musicians who live there," remarked Cecilia Ramírez of the Centre for the Development of Black Peruvian Women. "There is a lot of racism. We don't exist on the political agenda. If we compare ourselves with other countries in the region, including those with smaller percentages of Afro-descendants, practically nothing has been achieved here. If at least the fact that we exist were recognized, that would be a huge step forward," Ramírez told IPS.

"The worst part is that Peruvians don't admit that they are racist," said Bilbao. "There is a policy of hidden racism." The workshop in Chincha was held as a follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which took place in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The Conference concluded with a series of recommendations to governments, such as including Afro-descendant communities in policies on health, education and the fight against poverty. "It is sad and disheartening to say so, but in our country none of this has been done," said Bilbao.

Joe Frans, with the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, noted that in his country, Sweden, the government included a commitment to combat discrimination and racism in its national labor program, while agreeing to earmark one percent of gross domestic product to development programs. "Racism has two related elements, power and difference. There is a mentality that makes us seeothers as different, and that becomes a motive to use power to treat others in the worst way possible," said Frans. U.N. special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène of Senegal, said that the nations of Latin America had been built on structures that discriminate against indigenous and black communities.

"The Latin American countries have not managed to express multiculturalism in power and in government," Diène commented to IPS. "The case of Peru is particularly striking in comparison with other countries. Here there is not even any legal or political strategy to fight racism. There is an enormous amount to be done." And although the recent week's workshop was devoted specifically to the challenges faced by Afro-descendants, the scourge of discrimination is suffered by both the "Inga" and "Mandinga" descendants of Peru.
 
 
 

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