Today, on 25 July, International Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women’s Day, Amnesty International is highlighting nine defenders and collectives who have devoted their lives to ending inequality and violence, advocating a dignified life for all people.
These are just a few examples of the thousands of Afro-Latina and Caribbean women who are leading and participating in different struggles for justice, freedom of expression, care for the earth, anti-racism, protection of refugees, non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and other just and necessary causes. Their work deserves the recognition, visibility, protection and resources necessary for it to continue to spread.
Find out more below with this fascinating list prepared by Amnesty International’s campaigner for the Caribbean, Cristhian Manuel Jiménez:
Rede Vozes Negras pelo Clima, Brazil
Rede Vozes Negras pelo Clima is an initiative of 11 Black Brazilian women who are working in their respective territories to protect human rights, confront climate racism and promote anti-racist socio-environmental justice. They belong to traditional, riverine quilombola communities. They are also activists and leaders of communities that live on the margins of large urban centres, communities that are being directly affected by the consequences of the climate crisis and development projects that fail to take into account the rights of local populations.
They understand that it is not possible to develop adaptation, mitigation, compensation and reparation policies for territories vulnerable to the climate crisis without involving those people most affected by the crisis. These voices need to be heard and their demands addressed if there is to be a fair and inclusive global response to climate change.
They are thus fighting for anti-racist adaptation policies and an energy transition that will guarantee the promotion of human rights and nature. Mitigation initiatives need to incorporate the ancestral knowledge and wisdom of traditional peoples and communities and ensure the participation of those people affected by extreme weather events when decisions are being made as to the investments that need to be made to repair losses and damage.
Dayana Blanco Acendra, Colombia
Dayana Blanco is a renowned Colombian lawyer who heads ILEX Acción Jurídica, an Afro-Colombian and Afro-LGBTQI+ organization committed to racial justice in Colombia, Latin America and the Caribbean. According to Blanco, “Racial justice in Colombia requires all of society to commit to combatting the historical inequality that has affected the Afro-descendant population. This means actions to address social and economic inequality.”
With an outstanding academic background and experience in different sectors, Dayana has promoted innovative research on racist police violence, statistical invisibility in the systematization of violence against Afro-descendant leaders and economic and social rights. In addition, together with her team and in coordination with other civil society organizations, she has obtained notable rulings in defence of Afro-Colombian midwifery, overcoming the statistical invisibility of the Afro-descendant population, among others, and demonstrating her dedication to the struggle for equality and justice.
Under her leadership, ILEX has – through legal mobilization, research and strategic communications – become a reference for promoting the rights of the Afro-descendant population. Dayana and her team highlight the importance of addressing social and economic inequality as a fundamental element of racial justice in Colombia, calling on the whole of society to unite in the struggle and build a more equitable future for all.
Donaida Pérez Paseiro, Cuba
Donaida Pérez Paseiro is a Black activist, religious leader and president of the Asociación Yorubas Libres de Cuba. Yoruba is a religion of the African diaspora that is practised in many countries, including Cuba. Donaida was arrested on 16 July 2021 and sentenced in February 2022 to eight years’ imprisonment by the Santa Clara Municipal People’s Court for “public disorder”, “contempt” and “attacking” an official. According to the information available to Amnesty International, Donaida should never have been charged with these crimes.
The charges of “contempt” and “public disorder” are frequently used in Cuba to limit the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Both she and her husband, Loreto Hernández García, were tried along with 14 other protesters in what appears to have been an unfair trial.
Donaida is the wife of Yoruba leader and activist Loreto Hernandez Garcia who was unjustly sentenced to seven years in prison for demanding respect for human rights in Cuba during the 11 July 2021 demonstrations.
Donaida is an example of courage and perseverance in the resistance against repression in Cuba. Her commitment has manifested itself in numerous peaceful marches and protests. According to her family, she was a freelance journalist and founded the Laurel Express press agency, where she gave visibility to the injustices and challenges faced by her community in the city of Placetas. Her activism spans multiple spheres, having been a member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo resistance front and the central opposition coalition. Donaida’s legacy transcends borders and leaves a profound inspiration for those who seek a Cuba without repression.
Guerline M. Jozef, Haiti
Guerline M. Jozef is the founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, the only Black and Haitian women-led organization serving migrants on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Named one of the most influential people in 2021 on racial issues by Politico, she is also co-founder of the Black Immigrants Bail Fund and the Cameroon Advocacy Network.
The Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), also known as “the Bridge,” is a grassroots community-based organization that advocates for just and humane immigration policies and provides migrants and immigrants with humanitarian, legal and social services, with a special focus on Black migrants, the Haitian community, women and girls, LGBTQIA+ people, and survivors of torture and other human rights abuses. HBA also seeks to highlight issues specific to Black migrants and encourages solidarity and collective action to bring about policy changes. Through her work, Guerline reminds us that together, Anpil men, chay pa lou! Many hands lighten the load!
Miriam Miranda, Honduras
Afro-Indigenous Garífuna leader from Honduras, Miriam Miranda stands out as a courageous defender of human and environmental rights. As coordinator of the Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH), she has carried out invaluable work to protect and defend the rights of the Garífuna people in Honduras. Her tireless work, lucidity and commitment have earned her the recognition of prestigious awards, such as that of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, as well as the Carlos Escaleras and Oscar Romero awards.
Miriam’s struggle is deeply rooted in the Garífuna territory of Honduras and is manifested through the history of OFRANEH, an organization through which these people are building their dignity and their future. The land and the sea, as an indispensable part of their identity, determine an essential struggle to preserve the natural assets of their territory.
Miriam is a highly respected thinker and leader within the social movement. She has an enormous capacity to devour books and mobilize energies from all sides to defend her people. She is one of those people who make life possible, whose words always point forward and who finds strength in the deep roots of her origin, where her future of freedom was born. As the daughter of Barauda (representing Garífuna female strength, Barauda is an historical character who pushed the Garífuna hero Sathuye to continue the struggle for the liberation of his people), Miriam has turned her critical eye to the source of it all: the predatory civilization of consumerism.
Her tireless work and courage inspire others to keep fighting. Her contribution and leadership have already left an indelible mark on the history of Honduras and global struggles for territory.
Shackelia Jackson, Jamaica
The extrajudicial killing of her brother, Nakiea Jackson, in 2014 pushed Shackelia Jackson into a life of activism. Since then she has been healing, evolving, learning and gathering the tools with which to reconcile her conflicting realities. A political science scholar and communicator, Shackelia is the mother of an empathetic child, who longs with innocence to experience the world. Despite challenges and setbacks, Shackelia remains dedicated to the wider struggle, supporting causes that prevent the institutionalization and normalization of practices that violate human rights and erode the sanctity of life.
Through her grassroots organizing efforts in Jamaica, she has raised funds to support back-to-school initiatives and education programmes, recognizing the importance of empowering the younger generation. Shackelia’s work has gone far beyond her local community. She has become a global force, lending her voice and expertise to international platforms. As keynote speaker at an Amnesty International event in London, she captivated the audience with her powerful words, urging them to stand up and take action. In 2017, Shackelia also participated in roundtable discussions at Amnesty International events in Brazil and the United States, amplifying the voices of the oppressed and demanding accountability.
It was on this journey that Shackelia realized that change starts with each individual. She has encouraged others to join her in writing for rights, and to use their words as weapons against injustice. “Let us write until we are heard, let us write until justice is done,” she said.
Ivana C. Fred Millán, Puerto Rico
Ivana Fred is a prominent Black and transgender activist, writer and leader from Puerto Rico. She has dedicated her life to fighting for human rights and equality for transgender people in her country. Her passion for justice has made her an influential figure and a powerful voice in Puerto Rican society.
Since her first steps into activism in 1999, Ivana has formed part of pioneering projects aimed at trans people and has used her voice and pen to amplify the stories and needs of trans people.
As she says: “Life put me in a place where I could develop as a leader, the ‘Ponte el Sombrero’ project gave me the tools to empower and educate socially disadvantaged and discriminated populations. That was how I came to understand that to exist is to resist”.
Ivana has also made her mark in the media, writing for the Metro newspaper and participating in acclaimed documentaries and films such as “Mala Mala” and “Las Muchachas”. Her presence and perspective have helped generate greater visibility and understanding of transgender experiences in Puerto Rico.
Ivana Fred is currently one of the directors of the organization Trans Goofy Games, where she continues to lead and support initiatives that promote transgender inclusion and empowerment. With unwavering commitment, Ivana has remained a visible leader and loyal activist. From her early days of activism to the present day, her voice has been resolute in seeking dignity and respect for all transgender people.
With her courage and determination, Ivana has shown that to exist is to resist and has paved the way for a more inclusive and respectful future in Puerto Rico and beyond. Her legacy as a visible leader and her tireless activism inspire us all to continue fighting for a world where everyone can live with equality and dignity.
Elena Lorac, Dominican Republic
Elena Lorac is a prominent activist and advocate for human rights in the Dominican Republic, especially on the part of Dominicans of Haitian descent. As national coordinator of the Movimiento Reconoci.do, she has led the fight for the right to nationality and full integration of this community into Dominican society.
With more than 12 years’ experience, Elena has worked to strengthen community leadership and empower black women in the country’s bateyes [sugar mill settlements]. She also provides support to Haitian migrants and Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and is known for her community-based approach.
Elena is also a nationally and internationally renowned speaker, speaking on issues such as nationality, discrimination and racism, and raising awareness of policies that affect Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Her tireless work has been instrumental in promoting human rights and achieving the real inclusion of this community in Dominican society.
Aracelis Sánchez, Venezuela
Aracelis Sánchez, a human rights defender and the founder of Organización de Familiares de Víctimas de Violación de Derechos Humanos (Orfavideh), is promoting solidarity and demanding justice together with more than 200 mothers of victims of extrajudicial executions in Venezuela.
Aracelis, who lost her son Darwilson Sequera, has been fighting for more than 10 years to get cases of human rights violations committed by Venezuelan state security forces investigated. Orfavideh provides human rights training workshops for mothers, equipping them with tools with which to demand guarantees and use the mechanisms of justice in Venezuela.
Aracelis stresses that when victims are empowered and able to put pressure on prosecutors, their cases are investigated. She believes that support and empowerment are essential to transform grief into positive action and thus achieve justice for victims and their families.