Author Archives: Baba Tony or Baba "T"

About Baba Tony or Baba "T"

II am an Ifa Priest — an “Awo Ifa Ol’Obatala”. When addressed and respectfully referred to “Babalawo” (Father of Esoteric Knowledge), I humbly and graciously accept the title. I have a diverse experience and educational background. That means a strong foundation to be of service– as a Priest, Spiritual Counselor / Mentor and Educator. I am enthused about the provision of better service by upgrading my skill set in human relations and spiritual counseling with the specialized state of the art techniques in conflict resolution. Personally, I work on applying the “Golden Rule”. I love to teach, train, enlighten and provide additional insights / perspectives(s) ....all to help solve real problems with real, workable, practical solutions. Now, we all know that there are no quick fixes or magic pills for the human condition. However, every “problem” has the seed(s) of solution(s). I seek and find solutions. I’ve been actively training for 37 + years – on various levels of spiritual and self development study – actively providing Priestly services for over 30 years. By utilizing my services, you will take advantage of my 30+ years of Spiritual Counseling / Mentoring and teaching abilities AND the rich resources of diverse experiences as a secular professional. My goal is to help – individuals and organizations build up / edify / to “upgrade’ human relations and deal more pro-actively in the complex, challenge filled world we have here on Mother Earth. This process is akin to the constant "upgrades" we all do for our apps across all of our digital platforms. If we do it for our gadgets, we must do it for ourselves! To Learn / Re-learn — Apply — Review — Tweak + Upgrade – Re-apply - the loop of continuous learning and actively applying . To conclude, let us not forget the step by step , hands-on, personal high touch supported by our high tech. Yes -- it is the human condition! Let me know how I can be of service. Sincerely, Baba "T" Baba Antonio Mondesire

Ifá In Sync: Int’l Day of Peace! A Special Prayer Service

Date: Thursday, September 21, 2017

Time: 12 Noon ─ 2:00 pm

Location: Sockman Lounge, ground floor, InterChurch Center, 475 Riverside Dr, NYC 10115  Subway 1 to 116 St-Columbia U Station, entrance at 61 Claremont Ave, between W 119 and 120 Streets

The Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY)  is happy to co-sponsor a special Ifá prayer service on International Peace Day.

There will be refreshments and an opportunity for socialization (1-2 pm) after the prayer service. 

For more info, contact:
Baba Antonio Mondesire, Awo Ifa Ol’Obatala
Board Member, Interfaith Center of New York
Interfaith Ambassador, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye at:

A flyer for this event is available here.





“The drum is the pulse of our culture, and it unites all of our people regardless of where we come from.” Manolo López, Founder of the Collective Cosa Nuestra 1

Cosa Nuestra celebrated Latin music and culture at La Factoria (The Factory), one of Greenpoint Brooklyn’s newest venues. The event was billed as “Pa La Ciudad!” (For the City) and it was hosted by the renowned “new gen,” Nuyorican poet and actor, Flaco Navaja, who guided the crowd through a transcultural history of El Tambor aka the drum – from Africa to Latin America and New York City.

The festivities featured crescendo building performances by ÊMINA, an all-female Latin Pop group with a Salsa tinge, ÌFÉ, ILU AYE (Drum of the World) a consummate Afro-Latino collaboration of young multi-talented percussionists, Pedro Adorno Irizarry and Cosa Nuestra’s “Salsa Dura” Conjunto led by Hommy Rivera. Also, a rich selection of tracks dosed with hearty “old school” salsa by DJ Christian Martire (Sociedad Records).

At La Factoria, the mood and the atmosphere was festive and the crowd – an eclectic mix of hipsters, island Puerto Ricans, Latin Americans, Nuyoricans, Pan Latinos and a sprinkling of Baby Boomers – were intent on an intergenerational celebration.

As xenophobic, anti-immigration politics and Puerto Rico’s crises sober us up, Cosa Nuestra seeks to use art, culture, and cuisine to bring Latino ethos to life and heal and transform the conversation around Latinidad. Proof of this event was the curative power of our Afro-Caribbean rhythms – celebrating Afro-Latinos!

The personal magnet for this review was ÌFÉ. Their performance was a mind/heart sojourn of inter-dimensional quality with a “Ęlégbá” mindset (Divinity foremost in opening Pathways to Consciousness).

ÌFÉ is a collaborative team of devotee/artists who contribute their talent, soul, and spirit to a precedent-setting creation not seen since Lazaro Ros’s “Sintesis 1 and 2” (1990s) where Afro-Cuban, predominantly Yorùbá (Lùkùmí) infused religious music for Orisa was mixed with progressive electronic fusion rock jazz. Sintesis was cutting edge then. ÌFÉ is cutting edge now – carving a similar yet distinct path of their own – beyond clichés and “electro-rumba.”

Digitally enhanced melodies and rhythm synced with 2/3 clave on top of six-part electro-bata rhythmic conversations emulate primordial language subconsciously understood by humans and “grokked” logically by Orisa (Deities). The music moves you on multiple levels. Further, overlays of continuous flavorful “repicando” (percussive riffing) embellish these conversations.

The result? Joy and waves of Euphoria!

ÌFÉ: created by “Awo Ni Orunmila” (Ifá Preist) Otura Mun aka Mark Underwood, was created in Puerto Rico – our endeared enchanted island (Querida Isla del Encanto) with idiosyncrasies so unique, even Brazilian Percussionist Airto Moreira said, “Latino: Aqui Se Puede” (1986, Montuno) – “Here. One is able,” when he recorded in Puerto Rico with island based musicians.

ÌFÉ’s approach to Afro-Latino history is encoded and layered with highly nuanced creativity from multi-lingua-cultural reference points. Honey-like Al Capella “coro” (choruses) call and response vocal “hooks” that uplift and tasteful “Quintiando con Sabor” (intelligent and flavorful percussive conversations) thus encouraging close listening and reflective savoring.

Behind the scenes, the paternal mentor is veteran Akpon Ol’ Obàtálá Emilio Baretto (Master Devotional Singer to Òrìšà (The Divinities) – Yorùbá Deities – akin to a Jewish Cantor) graciously guiding ÌFÉ’s spirit filled team of musical Sky Walkers with Yoda like acumen. Decades of dedication to the craft of devotional song / cultural understanding of Orisa, is selflessly passed on.

With divinely sanctioned “Apoyo Fraternal” (fraternal support) by fellow Awo (Ifá Priest) Èjì Ogbè Rafael Maya and the first class team of dedicated musico-artistes present a formidable priestly presence onstage – which is somewhat unusual in venues of this sort. It was a breath of fresh air, ethereal yet grounded in a renewed approach to tradition. The supporting cast at this event was Anthony Sierra, Beto Torrens and Yarimir Caban where her voice – at modulated devotional invocations to Òrìšà (The Divinities) evoked heartfelt emotions and raised goose bumps.

Before a full house as on the new CD, ÌFÉ brings an organic, digital-enhanced Yorùbá-Lùkùmí inspired, creolized marinated Afro-Caribbean sensibility to the world. This event, dedicated to Africa and the drum, debuted their new production entitled “IIII+IIII.”

ÌFÉ began with Preludio (Èjì Ogbè, Track 1). Wisely syncing with the first Odu Ifá (Principal Chapter of God encoded wisdom), which initiated a brief yet powerful journey through primal creation. Al Capella chants of Ifá verse poetically state: “Horses we mount with Ifá as King of this world guiding our essence on our way to “ÌFÉ”…

The ascension prepared the audience to ground with ”Come Down (Umbo),” a digital-clave multi-lingual male lead followed by the sweet diva Yarimir Caban. Her vocals – at times digitally modulatated — flow like “guarapo de caña” (extracted sugar cane and syrupy juice) – suggesting a flattering call for Yemaya / Yęmōja (Mother of Children of Fish) descend and heal her children.

“YumaVision” – a savvy piece creatively uses unique Cuban colloquial “Yuma” (referring to mainland U.S.A). The multi-contextual delivery indicates a hipness of regional and cultural peculiarities.

“Aro” (ritmo electro-bata) for Yemaya / Yęmōja (Mother of Children of Fish): Crescendo building slow to rapid tempos set to blue lighting and white cloth. The tune transports the audience to an oceanic realm in preparation for what is to come.

“Prayer for Odùduwà” (Para Merceditas) – The first King of the ancient primordial Yorùbá city of Ile-”Ife” impresses with depth and somber respect as it segues to devotional honor to Obàtálá with “Baba Loroke” (Father of the mountain of wealth). Gently lead by Yarimir Caban.

Otura Mun’s heart touches hearts with “House of Love” (Ogbe Yekun”). Sonic-visuals envelop and transport the audience on a voyage via ÌFÉ – House Of Love (Ogbe Yekun – OFFICIAL VIDEO on YouTube provide the link).

Dedicated to “Ara Orun” / “Egun” (celestial / terrestrial relations), the piece evokes an intuitive feeling of sky walking.

ÌFÉ’s evening excursion closed with “Bangah” (Pico y Palo) with an invitation to liberate the audience from mental and spiritual slavery and is inspired by Puerto Rico’s liberation. From the opening inhale/exhale oxygenating intro to the honoring of warrior Father divinities Ògún (Yorùbá) and Sarabanda (Bantu / Ki-Kongo) this flow invigorates with electro-bata ChaCha Lodafun rhythm, creolized Bozal “Sia! Also, it announces the intentional use of “Nsalo Maleko,” a pre-Islamic creolized retention of ancient Central African greeting of PEACE. Universal then, universal now!

Performed in a festive secular venue, “ÌFÉ” succeeded in delivering a genius, heart touching sequence of sacred songs. A unique spiritual ambiance was created before our eyes and ears – unusual for a raucous nightclub and a healthy and much needed humanitarian message was delivered con Sabor Criollo (creolized flavor).

To close, from the outset, ÌFÉ’s stage presence establishes an ethereal yet firmly grounded en clave 2/3 time (meter structured and controlled) and delivers consistent and ageless advice to humanity: cultivate Iwa Pele, Iwa Suuru, Iwa Rere (a character that is gentle, patient, content). Their gentle, soothing sweet water, sonic signature is consistent with the IFÁ principle of developing gentle, patient and soft character as human virtues. And, ÌFÉ surprises when the flow intentionally morphs into a visceral and muscular staccato groove crafted to stimulate and ultimately unshackle the human heart towards Expansion + Love = Liberation. ÌFÉ excels with Ášé / Aché!

Quote from “Enclave”
Grokked – to understand thoroughly and intuitively.( Coined by Robert Heinlien in “Stranger in a Stranger Land.”
Melissa Isabel



By Babá António Mondesíre

On March 4, 2017, JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER (Frederick P. Rose Hall) presented the second of two performances entitled, EDDIE PALMIERI, CELEBRATING 80 YEARS.

The festivities were divided into two segments: Latin jazz aka “instrumental mambos,” and an “Afro-Caribbean dance-set” of Nuyoricanized Salsa Dura (Hard, solid clave with traditional flavor).

Palmieri opened with a solo-piece dedicated to his late wife, Iraida and continued in “honoring mode” with loving words about Mama Julia, his paternal grandmother, an enslaved African and the source of the rhythmic patterns that are his “life’s pulse.” Also, warm mention of his late elder brother and master musician (pianist) Charlie Palmieri; JALC’S Artistic Director, Wynton Marsalis and the late Frank “Machito” Grillo, Tito Puente and Thelonious Monk, all iconic figures in his musical matrix.

In tune with Ęlégbá and Ifá respectively (Yorùbá – Lukumi cosmic energies of “Opening Roads” and “Universal Wisdom embodied in select Palm Trees) El Maestro performed a savory, laid back rendition of “Palmas,” with the full orchestra. Afterward, he let it be known – with gusto – “This is the greatest band I’ve ever played with!”

Touching moments abounded as Maestro EP paused between tunes to share powerful, reflective anecdotes and oral histories. Might we surmise the transformative power of his growl as he turns painful historical legacies into euphoric compositions? At one point, he noted, with intensity – Spain and Africa produced the “Mulato” (a person of mixed race). Despite the inhumanity that created him, the drum was re-created and brought happiness to the world with El Caribe as the epicenter.”

Borrowing from the historian of Afro-Atlantic Art, Professor Robert Farris Thompson’s thought process, Palmieri “unleashes specifically chosen ostinatos” (montunos/vamps that travel into, “unknown territories, deliberately attempting to capture the divine awkwardness of a world gone mad.”

MR. EP’s personnel included sixteen musicians, including him self, as sixteen is a sacred number with the Yoruba cosmology. In that context, the fraternal order of players “threw down” with universally encoded À ṣ e̩ (ah-shay or aché),  a West African metaphysical thought articulated through Yoruba – Lukumi culture that embraces, “the power to make things happen.”

All the musicians deserve honorable mention but a particular tip of the hat goes to Urban Jibaro/Cosmopolitan Guajiro Jimmy Bosch, whose “trombonic” phrasing and solos are invocations for cause for celebration; Bassist Luques Curtis’s intuitive interplay with Maestro EP’s piano work; authentic sonero Herman Olivera’s heartfelt pregones which honored the elders; masterful Tres work by Don Nelson Gonzalez Camilo Molina’s disciplined, classy approach to the timbales and trap-kit indicate inspiration from Ifá (Yorùbá – Lukumi cosmology). 

In all, there were consistent blasts from the unified brass section; musical warrior angels on trumpets, trombones and saxophones that raised eyebrows as they played in sync with a rock solid rhythm section marinated in signature Palmieri school of “Clave Afincao y Aguanto” (tension and release in 2/3 time, meter structured and controlled).

As the late science-fiction author, Robert Heinlein coined, we (the audience) “GROK” (understand something intuitively or by empathy) the full spectrum of Master EP’s musical messages.

 Music educates……Music empowers……..Music heals……contributes to good mental health………..creates well-being…

At the age of 80, Mr. Palmieri continues to “download” the latest solar sourced inspirations, edify his family, ancestral relations, his elders, his band, and the audience, indicating that he understand the formula. Eddie Palmieri “GROKS” and continues to rock.


Maestro EP’s Fraternal Order this performance: EDDIE PALMIERI, Leader, Piano; BRIAN LYNCH, Trumpet; CHARLIE SEPULVEDA, Trumpet JONATHAN POWELL, Trumpet; JIMMY BOSCH, Trombone; JOSEPH FIEDLER, Trombone ; LOUIS FOUCHE, Alto Saxophone; JEREMY POWELL, Tenor Saxophone; IVAN RENTA, Baritone Saxophone LUQUES CURTIS, Bass; VICENTE “LITTLE JOHNNY” RIVERO, Congas; CAMILO MOLINA, Timbales, Drums; NICHOLAS MARRERO, Bongo, Timbalitos; HERMAN OLIVERA, Lead Vocals; NELSON GONZALEZ, Tres Guitar, Vocals and JOSEPH GONZALEZ, Maracas, Vocals

Words of gratitude to Tomas Pena who invited me  to take his place in reviewing this performance of my music hero of over a half century – El Maestro Eddie Palmieri.  Thanks – Live and prosper, brother!

Tomas Pena’s website:  JazzDeLaPena:

Contained here are links to sample Maestro EP’s work with trimmed down core personnel of JALC’s March 3 + 4 2017 performance. Nothing like live! Enjoy and savor!

Eddie Palmieri – Estival Jazz Lugano 2013

Eddie Palmieri & Afro-Caribbean Jazz All Stars Festival De Jazz Latino Clazz 2013 (by Lucas Vazquez)

PHOTOS: Eddie Palmieri, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri by my cousin — Primo! –   Joe Conzo Jr.!

Joe Conzo’s websites:

Eddie Palmieri’s Website: :


A Perspective on the articles on “Public Safety in Today’s Multi-Faith New York”

Reflecting on currents events in the US — pre-Thanksgiving November 2016, both of my eyebrows are raised.  There is a lot of work to do to balance human society.


The list of articles below highlighting the “Public Safety in Today’s Multi-Faith New York” event held at 1 Police Plaza in New York City the 17th of November 2016……


A collaborative effort by both ICNY —  Interfaith Center of New York and NYPD – New York Police Department.  Key word = collaborative..…………..

This event – and the larger, ongoing efforts – – was….and still is…..a needed initiatory process in this “balance” we need in our globalizing human society……….here in microcosm in New York City………….


It’s work.  ….. Sometimes thankless.  Sometimes filled with heartfelt satisfaction…………


It’s work…………  It’s got to be done……..


As a board member of the Interfaith Center of New York and a collaborative participant with the NYPD,  I am  in  the training video “Public Safety in Today’s Multi-Faith New York” and I was on the panel at the event’s screening………….In fact, ICNY’s Interim Director — Dr. Henry Goldschmidt was kind enough to highlight a statement I made in the film:

“Near the end of the video, Baba Antonio Mondesire (an Ifa priest, or Babalawo) reminds viewers that members of the city’s African diaspora faith communities “are very much participants in society . . . We’re your neighbors, and we help each other.”  To which we can only say Amen – and Asé.  This kind of human connection across faith lines can transform policing in New York City, and perhaps transform the city itself.”


I’m satisfied to say that ….this is a start………….for many  a needed conversations, ……………respectful dialogues and action to contribute to change / balancing several handfuls of issues that will help the human species “download the latest updates” from the heavenly realm..and “ground” that “knowledge, wisdom and understanding” firmly on Mother Earth’s sacred ground.


Mother Earth – we are “morphing” into a more improved species………Yes?

So,  review the articles and reflect on what you / we / us …can do…………..






ICNY is Improving Public Safety for all New Yorkers with a Religious Diversity Training Video for NYPD Officers

Policing in Today’s Multi-Faith New York:

Working with the NYPD to Improve Public Safety for All New Yorkers


by Dr. Henry Goldschmidt

Imagine you’re an officer in the New York City Police Department.  It’s Friday night, and you’re working on a block that’s closed for police activity.  A young woman wearing a long, modest skirt and full-sleeved blouse says she lives on the block, and needs to get past the police line.  You ask for identification to check her address, and she tells you bluntly, “I can’t carry ID on Shabbos – it’s against the Torah.”  Is she for real, or maybe up to something?  The next day, you’re providing first aid for a young man with a full beard and turban, when you discover a small knife worn in a sheath under his clothes – beautifully decorated, and seriously sharp.  He assures you it’s a religious object, never used as a weapon, but you’re not so sure.  Should you take the knife, or let him keep it?

NYPD officers find themselves in tough situations like these all the time, as they work to protect and serve religiously diverse New Yorkers.  How do they balance religious liberty and public safety?  How do they build effective partnerships with faith communities that may be unfamiliar to them?  How best to police the diverse city we all love?

ICNY is now helping to answer these important questions, with a religious diversity training video for NYPD officers.  Over the past year, we’ve been working with partners in the NYPD – as well as fantastic filmmakers and local faith leaders – and we are proud to share the results of our work.  Please click here to watch the full 20-minute video, Policing in Today’s Multi-Faith New York.  This remarkable new video can help all New Yorkers understand and appreciate the religious life of the city, but its most important audience will be the 35,000 uniformed officers of the NYPD.  Our colleagues in the Department will soon start using the video for training at all levels, from cadets to commanders.  ICNY will thus help the largest police department in the country work effectively and respectfully with people from all faith backgrounds and communities.

The video features the voices and perspectives of New York religious leaders, sharing insights into their faith traditions, as well as their experiences collaborating with the NYPD.  Through our conversations with these faith leaders, viewers will learn concrete, practical information about the religious beliefs and practices of their fellow New Yorkers.  It’s true, for example, that many Orthodox Jews don’t carry identification (or anything else for that matter) outdoors on the Sabbath, from about sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.  That young woman at the police line was being honest – it is against her interpretation of the Torah.  And it’s true that many Sikhs wear a small symbolic sword, called a kirpan, as an article of faith representing their tradition’s commitment to social justice.  In most situations, the young man you helped can keep his kirpan – as long as the blade is not too long, and he’s wearing it discreetly, out of public view.  Such practical insights will help NYPD officers strike the best possible balance between religious liberty and public safety.

Just as important as any practical information, the video will also introduce officers to the human faces of city’s religious diversity.  Through our conversations with Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Yoruba-Lucumi community leaders – as well as fantastic footage of the city’s religious life – viewers will learn to look past the stereotypes that all too often stand in the way of a human connection with our diverse neighbors.  Near the end of the video, Baba Antonio Mondesire (an Ifa priest, or Babalawo) reminds viewers that members of the city’s African diaspora faith communities “are very much participants in society . . . We’re your neighbors, and we help each other.”  To which we can only say Amen – and Asé.  This kind of human connection across faith lines can transform policing in New York City, and perhaps transform the city itself.

ICNY has been honored to work towards this goal with our partners in the NYPD, and we hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Click here to watch the full 20-minute video, Policing in Today’s Multi-Faith New York, and let us know what you think of it!






Dr. Henry Goldschmidt is the Director of Programs at The Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY).  Dr. Goldschmidt is a cultural anthropologist, community educator, interfaith organizer, and scholar of American religious diversity. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and has taught religious studies and cultural anthropology at Wesleyan University and elsewhere. He is the author of Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights (Rutgers U. Press, 2006) and the coeditor of Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas (Oxford U. Press, 2004).



Idea Seeds

The ideas I share are like seeds of majestic trees.

Some seeds fall onto craggily rocks, some are consumed by birds, others are

Blown onto asphalt and concrete in urban zones.

And then…..some fall into rich fertile earth.

That’s the way it is.

I suggest that the seeds I shared be stored in a safe place for future planting.


Early Fall 2016 Reflexiones

The fall equinox is past …., autumnal cycle is upon us…… Are we encouraged to reflect on change? — upgrading — downsizing — rebuilding those relationships that we perhaps were remiss in maintaining?


What is this journey all about? is it Building / rebuilding relationships?


We still see green……

Even as the leaves turn bright colors wither and die ….to another birth… they fall……to become Mother Earth’s top layer…..

Who is on our top layer of human contact?


Ah……Reflect… is good to do — present… the now ….for — before we realize –it will be about rebirthing — another cycle – in 6 months….

May we be so blessed ……



FEBRUARY 08,2016
It’s “El Barrio” / Spanish Harlem — winter 2016. Two Afro-NuYoRican Brothers — Papo109 and Tumbao Willie — meet and greet on SE corner of 110th Street / Lexington Ave by uptown #6 station. Maturing baby-boomers with clean shaved heads, whitening goatees and sage like swag, they still front adolescent nicknames from back in the day. Slapping five, they stroll down Lex to order lunch in a down home restaurant drenched in “Barrio” flavor. The day’s special: Mofongo, a quintessentially Puerto Rican soul food — fried green plantains crushed in a pilón (wooden mortar and pestle) with fresh garlic cloves, fried pork rinds and sazón criollo / creole seasoning. Mofongo’s etymology: Ki-Kongo / Ba-Kongo of África Centrál — created by enslaved African descended women on Boriquen’s (Puerto Rico’s indigenous name) coastal plantations during “tiempo España’ – Spanish colonial times.

T. Willie laughs and orders Vegan Mofongo sans chicharrón (fried pork skin). “My diet”, he says winking slyly. This is still comfort food for real, Pa. He listens intently as Papo expresses heartfelt sentiment of hard earned pride “de nuestra sangre Africana” (our African blood).

Bro, Black History Month is here, man………Coño, Pa – I’d like to hear, feel and learn of Afro-Latinos in the mix, y’ know what I mean?

T. Willie nods and gestures in “I feel you” concurrence. Papo continues: Yo, It’s beyond conga drums / barríles de bomba (Barrel shaped Bomba drums), dance and jazzed up salsa. And…. its way beyond our athletic prowess!

T. Willie gulps, swallows and interjects laughing,”Yeah mén, b’ball in USA north w/brothers up here and biesból south of Miami with our first and second cousins, Pa!

Papo shaking his head in approval, ”Listen bro, I feel you! Óye….it’s all good, B! It’s in our DNA! But you know what? They missing our stories! At least we use Boricua instead of Puerto Rican – honoring Taino name (Indigenous Arawak nation) of inhabitants of the island Boriquen.

I’d like to hear of our stories and our histories de lo Africano (of our African) in the mix, you know? It’s a spiritual thing, Pa……a spiritual thing.

And, it is about an education thing. Actually, active participants in this “Afro-Latino Matrix” are dedicated educators. Here is a taste / a shortened list – for this article – of just a few Afro-Puerto Rican leaders who have been educators — who have been figuratively “machacando este ajo en el pilón — “crushing these garlic cloves in the wooden mortar for decades — promoting African and Afro-diasporic pride.

In recent conversations:

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega founder of the “ Caribbean Culture Center African Diaspora Institute / CCCADI“ — has been integral in defining an Afro-Latino and a global African Diasporal Consciousness shares: “We have to stand our ground and form a new narratives, frame our own discussions to create new ground that truly reflects our value, our own experiences and our histories.”

Dr. Georgina Falu, Educator and President, Falu Foundation, Spanish Translator of “The Black Man of the Nile and His Family” and other seminal works by Dr. Ben (Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan) concurs – in the visionary tradition of Arturo Schomburg. She advises that “Afro-Latinos dedicate energies to inform ourselveso of our real history / real heritage…..then, convinced of self-value / worth and of our positive global contributions in many fields — work on our pride of being Afro Descendants”. She continues, “Then organize… demand for economic opportunities, housing, medicine, political participation and education – especially for our children”. She concludes with “become conscious of Africa….Africa wants us to participate in it’s development….we need to visit, invest and work to own resources / build institutions”.

Resonant on this same frequency is Felipe Luciano – poet, community activist, journalist, media personality, politician, founding member of the Original Last Poets and co-founded / chairperson of the New York chapter of the Young Lords – acting as its chair. He has personified with pride and lucidity Afro-Puerto Rican male leadership since the late 60s when it was cognitively dissonant — in many areas — to do so. He emphatically concurs with the aforementioned insights and adds ”we need to create our own that will stand the test of time….institutions / write / produce / sculpt / create our own history……”

It’s clear. There is a buzz in the air. Recent headlines and broadcasts are manifestations. For example, on Friday February 5, 2016, WBAI FM presented Howard Jordan’s “A Jordan Journal Tribute to Afro-Puerto Ricans” where a premium was offered “To coincide with Black heritage month and last year’s designation of the next decade as the “International Decade for People of African Descent”, by the United Nations. This special Tribute to Afro-Puerto Rican heritage encompasses a decade of programs of interviews with Afro-Puerto Ricans legends that have led the struggle for racial justice in and out of African communities.”

Another recent headline – Atlanta Black Star reports “Mexico Officially Recognizes 1.38 Million Afro-Mexicans in the National Census, as Black People Fight against Racism and Invisibility throughout Latin America”. This raises questions: Why now? What classification system determines Afro-Mexican? One drop / two drops? One drop of “white” blood gives some “white privilege”. In USA, it’s the inverse. In that context, might there be an undercount? Is this based on self-identification? What are the benefits of self-identity as Afro-Descendant after centuries of denial and marginalization?

Other examples of trending pivotal conversations and budding narratives being expressed online via Latino Rebels blog:

”Blackface, Brown face and Black Lives Matter in Latin America” and “10 Gregarious Uses of Black Face in Spanish Language Television.

To amplify the buzz, presented here are four possible sources for creating new narratives to frame further conversations:

First possible source: More conversations about the 96 / 4 ratio. Roughly 96% of all kidnapped / enslaved Africans were distributed throughout points south of present day southern border USA. The lion share of those points south were colonial possessions of Iberian Spain and Portugal. Conversely, roughly 4% of kidnapped and enslaved Africans were distributed within USA borders. In a Q&A for his 2011 PBS documentary “Black In Latin America,” Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. said:

There were 11.2 million Africans that we can count who survived the Middle Passage and landed in the New World, and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States. That’s amazing. All the rest went south of Miami as it were.

Second possible source: More conversations promoting the “Afro Latino Matrix”. Like our two Afro-NuYoRican brothers, deeper, more reflective and healing on-going dialogue expressing visceral and intellectual content is needed. This promotes more opportunities to use concept of “matrix”. Like the 1999 movie, matrix suggests a simulated reality created to control and oppress. Conversely, as is evidence by the evolution of the African-American identity, “matrices” can be created as unsimulated supportive realities to heal, empower and make whole. This is a valuable model / template for emulation for an Afro-Latino matrix.

Third possible source: Creative narratives by Afro-Latinos as an ongoing process — The giant is awakening. The onus is on us. Why wait till Black History month every February? New voices embracing African essence are becoming a more pro-actively assertive. And for good reason.

Fourth possible source: Rising consciousness – across the board. Like the colors of the spectrum – this could have seven levels:

First level: Afro-Latino narratives on social media and blogs influencing mass media. This article is a contribution to this process.

Second level: Acceptance and promotion of an “Afro-Latino matrix” — a reality of viscerally charged / looped collective of sentiments seeking creating expression that contributes positively to the larger diasporic narrative. As an example, Beyoncé audacious surprise release of video ‘Formation’ prior to Super Bowl Performance and her collaborative execution of same with Bruno Mar’s during event’s half time is a clearly working a global matrix with African-American socio-historic and political content intended to jolt and raise consciousness.

Third Level: Process of an identity formation complementary to African-American identity. Key word is complementary. As this author has witnessed and participated in — as a USA born Afro Descendant of Latino heritage, African –American dedication to this process — from colored to Negro to Black to Afro-American to African-American – provides inspiration and is an example of perseverance for Afro-Latinos.

Fourth level: Reinforce these created narratives as antidotes to the psychic and psychological scars from negative portrayal of AfroDesendants by dominant Eurocentric Spanish language media. This process should fulfill a latent demand amongst Afro-Latino/a’s for positive self-images, self-love and acceptance of our common African ancestry. Telemundo’s telenovela seems to be a start with Afro-Boricuas Jeimy Osorio playing the majestic Celia Cruz and Modesto Lacén playing her husband Pedro Knight.

Fifth level: Surface the subverted and withheld historical contributions of Afro-Latinos or Afro Descendants in Latin America.

Sixth level: Nurture what has been planted / what is growing. From Arturo Schomburg to Mario Grillo’s radically named “Machito and his Afro-Cubans” Orquestra in the 1940s to Queenly Celia Cruz — just some heroes who personified pride. More research reveals more of these histories – grist for the narrative mill.

Seventh level: Positive response to the ancestral call – many incarnated Afro Diasporic inspired souls and spirits — regardless of melanin content or traceable percentages of identifiable African ancestry – are responded to this inclusive ancestral call. Beyond color, facial features and hair texture. Souls who came to transgress and live through the Iberophonic side of the Americas – consciously or unconsciously — yearn to learn and to edify our common legacy from “La Mádre” Africa. It’s a spiritual thing.

To conclude, With the aforementioned five sources of missing stories in mind and — like the colors of the spectrum the seven levels of rising consciousness, the time is now for more open conversations and narratives that span the Anglophonic / Iberophonic linguistic divide and the resultant colonial legacies of divergent worldviews.

Now is the time for respectful dialogue to heal the “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” – concept coined by Dr. Joyce Degruy — that has produced intensely emotionalized identity dynamics — where “race” vs. “national origin” of African descendants in the Americas is a highly contentious topic.

As the International Decade for People of African Descent progresses until 2024, proposed here is extending this conversation far beyond this and future Black History Months. Madre Africa is calling all of her children to converse, heal and coalesce.

It’s a spiritual thing.