Arts & Culture

Black Heritage Series celebrates Cape Verdean women in Providence

Keynote speakers, local poets, performers, artists contribute to event on Cape Verdean identity

Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2016

Participants line up to share a meal at last year’s Black Heritage Series event celebrating local Cape Verdean residents and culture. This year’s celebration will take place March 19, featuring multiple performances.

The Black Heritage Series will host Força Di Kriola: A Celebration of Cape Verdean Women and Culture Saturday, March 19. The annual event will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Sayles Hall and will include talks from keynote speakers Terza Lima-Neves, assistant professor of political science at Johnson C. Smith University and Aminah Fernandez Pilgrim, assistant professor of Africana studies at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. The event will also include performances by a local Cape Verdean singer and the Baroneza Project, a spoken word poetry group of young Cape Verdean women. Visual artists will also do live paintings during the event.

Jacinta Lomba ’17, one of the event’s hosts, said the Black Heritage Series wanted to focus the event on Cape Verdean women since it is Women’s History Month.

“We will be talking about the political and social history of Cape Verdean women, as well as their contributions to the community both in Cape Verde and in the United States,” Lima-Neves said.

“We hope the audience will take away a better and richer understanding of the diversity of the African diaspora and the little-known contributions of the Cape Verdean community in particular,” Pilgrim said.

The choice of this year’s keynote speakers was a “no brainer,” Lomba said, adding that Pilgrim and Lima-Neves are “such powerful women in the Cape Verdean community.”

Saturday’s celebration will be a continuation of the Cape Verdean Women’s Conference that Pilgrim and Neves organized. The conference, which included three panels, took place March 5 at Providence College and was the first conference specifically about Cape Verdean women.

Pilgrim “and I organized it. We wanted to give the (Cape Verdean) community a voice,” Lima-Neves said.

Lima-Neves hopes the first panel, “The Women Who Pave the Way,” will stay permanently and honor “the most seasoned veterans of women’s issues and community activism.”

The second panel, “Cape Verdean Women and Representation,” discussed how women are portrayed in the media. Lima-Neves said it also included information about what being “a Cape Verdean woman really entails.”

The third, “Challenges Women Face in the Community,” talked about patriarchy, sexism, domestic violence and mental health.

A major theme at Força Di Kriola will be the character and legacy of Cape Verdean women, particularly in the Providence and Brown communities.

“We want to talk about the empowering nature of the Cape Verdean woman in terms of her agency, not as a victim of her circumstance as an immigrant or a Cape Verdean-American, but as a woman who makes strategic decisions about the life she lives,” Lima-Neves said. She added that it is important to reach the entire female community from young girls to older women.

Lima-Neves created a hashtag, #RebrandingTheCreola, which she said she hopes will help the image of Cape Verdean women move away from the “superficiality” of popular culture, in which many women are only known for their physique and outward appearances.

Pilgrim is also interested in “redefining the Cape Verdean youth and giving them a sense of identity connected to history,” she said. She added that she sees her work “speaking back to the (shallow) media representations, giving an alternative and more positive understanding of the roots of the (Cape Verdean) community in the United States.”

“This event is special because it targets Cape Verdeans who live around Brown, and it really serves the greater community,” Lomba said, adding that the event will spark conversation around Cape Verdean identity.

“I think it’s important for the University to recognize its role in supporting the local communities that surround the campus … helping make Brown the place it is,” Lomba said.

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