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North Philly’s Taller Puertorriqueño looks back on the experiences of Black Latinos

The all-day virtual event, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. will be transmitted live in Spanish and English. The focus will be on the successes, challenges and the future of Black Latinos.

The 24th Arturo Schomburg Symposium was the last of its kind held both in-person and virtually at Taller Puertorriqueño on February 29, 2020, before the pandemic hit.
The 24th Arturo Schomburg Symposium was the last of its kind held both in-person and virtually at Taller Puertorriqueño on February 29, 2020, before the pandemic hit.Read moreCourtesy of Taller Puertorriqueño

If you haven’t made it to Taller Puertorriqueño’s Arturo Schomburg Symposium or it has been some time since the last one you attended, this might be a good year to grab a seat. The Puerto Rican and Latinx cultural hub in North Philadelphia will host its 26th annual event with an all-day virtual discussion that will reflect on the successes and challenges that Black Latinos have had over the last quarter century in the U.S. and Latin America.

On Saturday, the Schomburg Symposium will bring scholars, social workers, and activists together once again for thought-provoking discussions about the African presence and contributions to the lives, history, and culture of Latinos and Blacks. The event will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and transmitted live in Spanish and English.

Evelyne Laurent-Perrault, an assistant professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, founder and long-term member of the symposium’s organizing committee, said none of the founding members thought the event would have such engagement 25 years later.

“These discussions around structural racism and the healing process that comes with these conversations have brought us here today: to a moment when the Schomburg symposium is a grown adult, now.”

Last year’s event focused on the social, economic, and health inequities that Blacks, Latinos, and Black Latinxs experience, highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Laurent-Perrault said Saturday’s discussion will explore what has changed and what lies ahead.

Laurent-Perrault, a Ph.D. in the history of African diasporas in Latin America and the Caribbean, will open with a presentation about Haiti as a microcosm of African contributions to Latino Americans called “Invoking Améfrica Ladina.”

She will be joined by Edison Viera-Calderón, a Ph.D. scholar who will talk about Black history in “Breaking the Wall of Silence: Oral Narrative of Afro-Caribbean life in Santurce, Puerto Rico.” Melanie Maldonado, a bomba music performer, researcher, and activist, will present her findings on how textiles and dresses spur memories and have become declarations of liberation of Puerto Rican bomba.

The discussions will be followed by Q and A sessions and archival multimedia presentations of previous Schomburg symposiums. General admission costs $25. Students have a discount at $12.50.

Elena Marie DiLapi, board president for Taller Puertorriqueño, said this is the “right time” to take a look back at Black Latinidad, when the cultural organization is transitioning its executive direction and societies are having broader conversations around marginalized communities affected by structural racism and white supremacy.

“By understanding the power of conversation and the importance of intersectionality, this is the right time to look back and put a spotlight on these particular communities in a racist society while creating a space for the people who identify as Afrolatinxs to come as a whole person, find belonging, and talk about moving forward.”