Celebrating the International Year for People of African Descent

Posted by Julissa Reynoso
January 18, 2011
Young Afro-Brazilian Entrepreneurs Visit the Museum of African Diaspora

About the Author: Julissa Reynoso serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

The General Assemblies of the United Nations and the Organization of American States have declared 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent. During this momentous year, the U.S. Department of State will collaborate bilaterally and regionally to expand our efforts to promote full and equal participation of people of African descent in all aspects of political, economic, social, and cultural life in the countries of the Americas.

It is estimated that one third of the population in the Western Hemisphere is of African descent. They contribute to our culturally rich and racially diverse region. The largest populations are in Brazil, Colombia, and the United States. People of African descent comprise the majority racial group in the Caribbean, and are a large minority in most countries of the region. Yet they suffer deep inequalities and comprise one of the most historically excluded and vulnerable racial groups.

During the United Nations launch of the International Year for People of African Descent on December 10, 2010, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recognized that although “the international community has affirmed…the transatlantic slave trade [as] an appalling tragedy…even today, Africans and people of African descent continue to suffer the consequences of these acts.” Analyzing the origins of residual racial discrimination against people of African descent is part of our expanded efforts for 2011 and beyond to cultivate more advanced racial and social inclusion practices in the region.

Recently, Brazilian and United States law enforcement practitioners, members of civil society, and government officials toured the Word, Shout, Song exhibit at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum showcasing African historical, language, and cultural links among Afro-Brazilians and Gullah-Americans (African Americans off the Georgia and South Carolina coast with a strong preservation of their African cultural and historical heritage). The multi-ethnic group of Brazilians and Americans was captivated by the commonalities in the history of people of African descent. This kind of cross-cultural experience serves to strengthen our commitment to promote racial equality and equal access to justice through the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton affirmed that "Our nation's quest for freedom, justice, and opportunity must take place simultaneously here at home and around the world. Because our ability to stand for democracy in other countries depends, in part, on how well we fulfill the dream of democracy right here...And as we work to strengthen existing friendships, we have to demonstrate, by word and deed, our commitment to the full diversity of America, because that is one of our strongest strengths.”

In 2011, the Department of State will further explore our shared regional African Diaspora roots; create awareness of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture, and contributions of Afro-descendents; and participate in diverse forums to advance the rights of people of African descent. As we embark on the International Year for People of African Descent, we look forward to partnering with our diverse region to build a foundation for the integration of people of African descent in all political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of society.



West Virginia, USA
January 21, 2011

Pamela G. in West Virginia writes:

It is so sad that prejudice is still common practice in this world. Hopefully with the help of the UN, the next generation will not have to experience it.

mundia H.
April 25, 2011

Mundia H. in Zambia writes:

How does Africa get actively engaged in this process for instance most young people are determined to do so many great things but with a number of limitations to achieve objectives, for instance it's a serious challenge to get some organization get to sponsorship for an important organization such as The World Afrodescendant Youth Summit will take place within the framework of the International Year for Persons of African Descent, and the International Year of Youth, and will serve as the meeting ground for some 200 afrodescendant youth leaders from around the world; in order to review and analyze progress made so far, ongoing and emerging opportunities and challenges towards this important sector’s full enjoyment of the right to development, to strengthen their political articulation and to empower afrodescendant youth leaderships worldwid.

young people need a voice in Africa as there so many challenges in Africa we face, as President Obama says YES WE CAN, as young people we say YES YOUTH CAN!

August 29, 2011

Kevin in Canada writes:

Now August, I must admit I had no idea that 2011 was designated by the USA as the International Year for People of African Descent. Although I am not of black heritage, I ponder why main stream media in North America, as well as the UN, have not pursued this with greater vigour. A commemorative postage stamp would have been appropriate as well.


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