When Evelyne Laurent-Perrault was planning the first Arturo Schomburg Symposium, she didn’t realize the annual event would reach its 16th year. Hosted by Taller Puertorriqueno, this year’s symposium has two parts: a film screening and a discussion panel. The theme, Afro-Latino film, was inspired by a PBS series called Black in Latin America by Henry Louis Gates. In the four-part series, Gates, a Harvard professor, attempts to dissect the history of blacks in Latin America.
Laurent-Perrault said, “There is a stigma attached to blackness.”
She said she believes the Afro-Latino community is not highly recognized within the Latino community
“Being Latino doesn’t exclude being black,” Laurent-Perrault said.
Taller Puertorriqueno attempts to bring about an awareness of the Afro-Latino community through the symposium. The committee that determines the theme saw this as an opportunity to reclaim and bring to the forefront the contributions of Afro-Latinos just as Arturo Schomburg, a Puerto Rican activist, was determined to do. Schomburg spent his life chronicling black history.
Laurent-Perrault will be giving an introduction to the panel, which will discuss the perspectives, challenge and strategies of contemporary Afro-Latino media. The panel will consist of five people, all of whom have different ties to the Afro-Latino film community.
Sandra Andino, the education director of Taller Puertorriqueno, said, “This event shows the community how it acknowledges the presence of the African diaspora in general.”
Laurent-Perrault said that Africans were the bottom rung of society and that racism still exists over the issue of Afro-Latinos.
“[The symposium] brings out a truth,” Laurent-Perrault said. “Even those that may not accept or recognize the African heritage, it’s very hard to deny it.”
Laurent-Perrault said the audience in the past has been eclectic and ranges from university professors to residents of Philadelphia who are interested in the issues. The audience even draws from areas outside of the city.
“It’s really beautiful because it’s a place where people convene and discuss,” Andino said.
After this year’s theme was decided, the committee searched for ties to Philadelphia. Scribe Video Center, a Philadelphia non-profit organization that documents diverse cultural differences through film, will have its founder, Louis Massiah, on the panel. When there appeared to be few other ties to the city and Afro-Latino film, the search expanded into the surrounding areas like New Jersey and New York.
Andino said that funding the symposium every year is difficult. Taller Puertorriqueno relies on fundraising to host the event. Even though money is a challenge, it will not stop the organization from holding the event.
Andino said, “We lose more than we gain, but that shows the commitment of Taller.”
The film screening is Friday followed by the panel on Feb. 25. For more information about the symposium, click here.