Caribbean institute celebrates with its first gala

A woman of vision and perseverance, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega established the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in 1976 to create an international organization to promote and link communites of African descent.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) is working hard on the next chapter of the institute’s direction — its move to the renovated firehouse at 120 E. 125th St. in El Barrio. Renovations will begin this month and are expected to end in late 2016. CCCADI left its W. 58th St. location in 2012.

Not far from its new home — the firehouse, CCCADI held its First Annual Spring Gala at the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem, situated in a building with its own historical legacy.

The building has been reconfigured over the years, but the now upper floor venue where the gala took place harbors remnants of The Harlem Alhambra theatre past. Its mezzanine looks and feels like the balcony seating, it once was.

Politicos, folklorists, scholars, culture activists, business community members, well-established Caribbean and Latino families, Harlem residents and those interested in the history and traditions of the African Diaspora as well as philanthropists packed the ballroom to support CCCADI. On April 25, the overflowing crowd paid tribute to the honorees, later dancing to the 19-piece Mambo Legends Orchestra.

Dr. Marta Moreno, president and founder, established the center in 1976, to create an international organization to promote and link communities of African descent. She is a strong advocate for cultural equity and cultural studies and education. Through her numerous cultural institution affiliations she assures that contributions of African and African descendants are integral to the lives of civil society in the Americas.

The new location of CCCADI is both a symbolic and physical bridge connecting the African and African American communities of West and Central Harlem and the Latino populations historically residing east of 5th Avenue.

Even while waiting for their home to be finished, CCCADI partners with local cultural organizations for upcoming events and continues its educational program for a K-12 audience as well as adults.

CCCADI honored at the gala: Lorraine Cortes Vazquez, VP of Multi-Cultural Markets at AARP, Eugene Giscombe, president of Harlem’s The Giscombe Realty Group, Mario Baeza, Esq. founder and chair Baeza & Co., and Lucky Rivera, community organizer and founder of Positive Workforce in El Barrio.

Manhattan Boro President Gale Brewer stopped by to offer her good wishes. Among the many notables spotted mingling were former editor of Essence Magazine, now with her own mentoring initiative, Susan Taylor, City Council Member from District 35 in Brooklyn, Laurie Cumbo, C. Daniel Dawson, curator, lecturer and scholar of African Diaspora and its impact on American culture, and Yale Professor Robert Ferris Thompson, authority on African Diaspora arts in the United States, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and several Caribbean islands and hip hop culture.

The dance floor filled with guests once the Mambo Legends Orchestra, who were paying tribute to Latin singer Graciela, began performing. Many of the Gala celebrants were expert dancers in their own right.

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