Culture

This Journalist Started 'The Directory of Afro-Cuban Women'

Sandra Abd'Allah-Alvarez Ramirez is compiling the profiles of Afro-Cuban women who have contributed significantly to the creation of Cuba.

March is the month to celebrate women and, in Cuba, women are celebrated with a passion.

I got together with Sandra Abd'Allah-Alvarez Ramirez, the Afro-Cuban journalist and cyber-activist who manages and is responsible for the creation the Directory of Afro-Cuban Women. Sandra has relentlessly been doing some incredible work with those she calls 'sus negras' (her black women). Like Sandra, I too believe everyone should know who these women are and what they have done. Most importantly, I believe everyone should know about what they are doing today. Please join us in celebrating Afro-Cuban women, literally, from most walks of life.


For now still mostly in Spanish, the Directory of Afro-Cuban Women is a digital tool that compiles the profiles of those Afro-Cuban women who have contributed significantly in the creation of the island nation we all know as Cuba. Beyond skin colour, this opportune directory's criteria for selection has been the intellectual, scientific and overall cultural contribution these women have made and still provide to Cuba's national history. In each file, you will be able to find downloadable information and contacts in several formats: PDF, video, audio, and images.

We sat down with Sandra and to talk about her Afro-Cuban women directory below.

Who is Sandra Abdallah-Alvarez Ramírez, and what does she do?

I was born in Havana in 1973. In 1996, I received a degree in Psychology from the University of Havana and a Master's Degree in Gender Studies in 2008. I also have another postgraduate degree in Gender and Communication.

It was through all this training that one day I entered the world of social media networks and cyberfeminism and decided to start my blog Negra Cubana Tenia Que Ser. The space provided by the training I took in gender and communication studies held the seeds that later allowed me to harvest the current Directory of Afro-Cuban Women.

I worked for almost 10 years as editor of the Cuban literature website, Cubaliteraria. That position gave me the tools to become a journalist and a webmaster. I have to admit that doing journalism through a cultural website has moulded the type of attitude and the type of interests I share on my blog. I started Negra Cubana Tenia Que Ser in June of 2006, and it became the first ever Cuba-based blog oriented around the topic of race. It also turned into an outlet for all the questions I had about racism and racial discrimination in Cuba.

"I started Negra Cubana Tenía Que Ser in June of 2006, and it became the first ever Cuba-based blog oriented around the topic of race."

Since then, race is one of the topics most of my research is about; particularly, how black women are represented in the media and in the arts. And then, I also study other issues like the potential of social media for activism around sexual and reproductive rights for people with gender identities and sexual orientations that are non-heteronormative, women's empowerment through information and communication technologies, the racial variable in population censuses in Cuba, women in hip-hop, and other issues.

Since 2011, I have been part of Afrocubanas, a collective of women that has its headquarters in Havana. Afrocubanas brings together black and mixed-race women from various social backgrounds. We all admit to the fact that we are antiracism fighters. Many of these women have jobs in the arts and culture sector in Cuban society. The initial outcomes of the coming together of our group is the book, Afrocubanas: historia, pensamiento y practicas culturales (Afrocubanas: history, thought and cultural practices). It may be hard to understand, but actually, it was after the book was published that we felt the need to come together to celebrate it. That sparked the birth of our group.

I write for several online magazines including Pikara Magazine, Global Voices, Hablemos de sexo y amor. I also write for Oncuba Magazine. In March 2015, I founded the online magazine Azúcar & Kalt, which is all about Hannover, the city where I reside now; and is the city's first magazine in Spanish. Creating it has been very important in the definition of my identity as a migrant woman.

Sandra Abd'Allah-Alvarez Ramirez.

How did the Directory of Afro-Cuban women come about and what are its aims?

I have been working on the Directory of Afro-Cuban Women project for five years now. It is an attempt to give visibility to the lives and work of Cuban Afro-Descendant women through a digital tool that is accessible online. Usually, these women are excluded from literary anthologies, compilations, and encyclopedias; which is why I am so interested in concentrating all that information in a single place. It has been long sessions of data management, compiling, editing, etc.; all for the sake that those who out of love I call 'my black women' can achieve visibility on the internet.

"It is an attempt to give visibility to the lives and work of Cuban Afro-Descendant women through a digital tool that is accessible online."

A very important aspect about the Directory is that the files I have added about some of these women are based on requests for information that I have received on my blog. Usually, these requests come from people who need specific data or need to contact them for research purposes. I have received several requests for information on Soleida Rios. The number of CVs and bios I have received from Afro-Cuban women who have decided that they want to be included in the Directory is also surprising. I take it word has gotten out and that the very polemic term 'Afro-Cubana' is turning into something less frightening.

Is this not also an archive of the work and the legacy of Afro-Cuban women? How is this database a form of activism?

Well, it is cyber-activism, or better yet it is a form of cyber-feminism, meaning it departs from the consideration that there should be an environment online that is useful, pleasant and dignifying for women. A space free of violence, or harassment. The idea behind the Directory is the creation of a cyber-link in the shape of a cyber-community or a cyber-network, such is its practical contribution.

If internet access is hard to come by, or so irregular in Cuba, for whom was the directory created?

The Directory was created precisely for those who have irregular access to the internet in Cuba; especially, for the group Afrocubanas. It also exists in an offline version. What is most crucial about it is the circulation of updated, reliable information about these women, and that those who may need that type of information know where to find it.

Culture

The Best African Memes of 2018

Laugh with us into 2019 with OkayAfrica's best African memes of 2018.

Meme culture has become a mainstay on these internet streets. It's essentially an alternate form of communicating, of commentary and of simple laughter. 2018 had its fair share of highs and lows, and young Africans continue to utilize memes to celebrate or to cope with the nonsense.

To reflect on the African memes that broke the internet this year, we tapped contributors and African meme tastemakers to list the best African memes of 2018.

Laugh away below.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

The Black Women Who Made Big Strides in France in 2018

Yes, this was a bad year for many reasons, but we can still celebrate the black women who rose to prominence

Back in 2015, a group of Black women activists appeared in the French media: les afrofems. They were and still are, fighting against police brutality, for better inclusion in the media and to destroy harmful sexual stereotypes surrounding black women among other worthy goals. Since then, more influential Black women have gained a bigger representation in the media. And, even better, some of the afrofems activists, like Laura Nsafou and Amandine Gay, have made films and written books to bring more diversity to the entertainment industry.

2018 has, in many ways, been a year where black women made strides in France, at least in terms of culture. From winning Nobel prizes, to having best selling books and being on top of the charts, Black French women have showed that, no matter how much France wants to keep them under the radar, they're making moves. And, no matter the tragedies and terrible events that have shaped the year, it is something worth celebrating.

France's New Queen of Pop Music

We begin with Aya Nakamura, France's new queen of pop music. Her song Djadja was a summer hit. Everyone from Rihanna, to the French football team who successfully won their second world cup, sang it. Her sophomore album "Nakamura" has been certified gold in France and is still on top of the charts. She is the first French singer to have a number one album in the Netherlands since Edith Piaf in 1961. The last time a black woman was as visible in pop music was in 2004, with Lynsha's single "Hommes...Femmes".

Nakamura has received a huge backlash, mostly due to misogynoir—misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles. From a French presenter butchering her African first name despite the fact that he can easily pronounce words like "Aliagas", to online trolls calling her ugly and manly when a picture of her wearing no makeup surfaced, to people complaining that she is bringing down the quality of the entire French pop music industry, Nakamura responds to her critics gracefully. Her music is not groundbreaking but her album is full of catchy songs with lyrics using French slang she masters so well that she came up with her own words like "en catchana" (aka doggy style sex). And most importantly, many black girls and women can finally see someone like them in the media getting the success she deserves.

The Nobel Prize Winner

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Another Black French woman has broken records this year: the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé who won the Alternative Nobel Prize, a prize meant to replace the Nobel Prize in Literature, after the scandal that the Swedish Academy of Literature faced last year. Condé wrote her first novel at only 11 years old and has been prolific ever since. A former professor of French literature at Columbia University, she has published more than 20 books since the 1970s, exploring the complex relationships within the African diaspora. "Segu", her most famous novel, is about the impact of the slave trade and Abrahamic religion on the Bambara empire in Mali in the 19th century. Condé's work is radical and she remains committed to writing feminist texts exploring the link between gender, race and class, as well as exploring the impact of colonialism. Condé is a pillar of Caribbean literature and it's taken long enough for her work has been acknowledged by the Nobel prize committee.

The Children's Books Writers

From Comme un Million de Papillon Noir

And finally, 2018 has been the year where France's children's literature industry has finally understood how important, for the public, writers and publishers, being inclusive and diverse was. From Laura Nsafou's Comme un Million de Papillon Noir, a best selling book about a young black girl learning to love her natural hair which sold more than 6000 copies, to Neiba Je-sais-tout: Un Portable dans le Cartable, the second book of Madina Guissé published this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign, there are more and more children's and young adult books with non white protagonists. In France, there are still no stats about how diversity is doing, but in America, in 2017, only 7 percent of writers of children's literature were either Black, Latino or Native American.

There's still much to accomplish in France for the Black community to have better representation in the media, politics and all walks of life, but important strides have been accomplished this year, and it make me hopeful for what 2019 and the following years have in store.

News

J Hus Has Been Sentenced to Eight Months in Jail for Knife Possession

The rapper has been convicted following an arrest in June.

Gambian-Biritish grime rapper J Hus has been sentenced to eight months in prison for knife possesion, reports BBC News.

The artist, neé Momodou Jallow, was arrested in Stratford London in June when police pulled him over near a shopping center, claming that they smelled cannabis. Police officers asked Hus if he was carrying anything illegal, to which the rapper admitted that he had a 10cm folding knife in his possession. When asked why, he responded: "You know, it's Westfield."

Hus pleaded guilty at a hearing in October after initially pleading not guilty.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.