First West Coast Garifuna Festival Triumphs in Cali

The Garifuna are descendants of Carib, Arawak, and West African people. The Garifuna music was proclaimed by UNESCO one of the masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001.
Kike Calvo via Associated Press, File

The inaugural Garifuna festival in Long Beach, California proved to be an ideal launch-port for what will now be an annual spring celebration of Black Caribbean and Central Americans from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Held at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) thousands participated to flaunt the culture, arts, music and language of Black Caribs- Garifuna people of Central America.

Organized in collaboration with the Garifuna American Foundation United, the free, day long festival featured art workshops, face painting, children’s story time, Garifuna drumming and dancing.

Costumed women displayed the unique typical fashions that distinguish the Garifuna people whose colors are black, white and yellow.

A family atmosphere prevailed with the language of the people tempering a myriad of displays from craft vendors, culinary ambassadors and artisans who travelled from the east coast, Midwest and as far away as the homelands that comprise the specialized indigenous nationals.

Welcomed by the infectious dance beats by DJ Fuego of Matralleta de Oro, celebrants were treated by a multitude of talented traditional performers and demonstrators.

Following on the success of the first festival in 2011, later this month from May 21-27, the sixth annual Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival (GIIFF) will be held in Venice, California.

Although a burgeoning calendar addition, the GIIFF is already acclaimed as one of the nation’s most prestigious film festivals celebrating Garifuna, Caribbean and indigenous cultures from around the world.

“We are happy to take audiences and moviegoers on a global journey celebrating culture through art and film,” the organizers said.

Since its launch the GIIFF has showcased a variety of films and created by Garifuna filmmakers — as well as many other indigenous people — and has hosted panel discussions, workshops, cultural presentations and award ceremonies.

Opening night events includes a Black carpet arrival interview session, live music, performances and recognitions.

Engraved plaques will be issued to winning entries and a Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival Award will be presented. The latter is a humanitarian award presented for a film or documentary that embodies change in the world that teaches and brings awareness to the causes of the indigenous populace.

According to the GIFF mission statement: “It is in essence a venue that reconciles, entertains and portrays the very diverse and brilliant cultures to participants and attendees of the festival.” Organizers issued a call for any film or documentary that is relevant to the mission statement of the Garifuna International Film Festival.

“We will accept preview DVDs that are works-in-progress as well as films with temporary soundtracks or digital outputs.”

Feature films that have had commercial, theatrical, television or internet play in the US are eligible.

“We encourage all cultures to indigenous groups with a film / documentary will have the opportunity to qualify for scholarship funding”

“We believe in supporting and encouraging young filmmakers — especially those who are from indigenous cultures — With this in mind, last year we began accepting submissions from filmmakers in accredited university / cllege filmmaking programs.”

A professional panel of judges from the entertainment industry will decide award winners in categories ranging from a Jury Award, Visionary Award, Best Documentary, Best Narrative Garifuna Heritage Award, Garifuna International Indigenous Awareness Award, Animation Awareness of Culture Award, Humanitarian, Indigenous preservation, Folklore and Comedy.

Eligibility requirements demand that world premieres of feature-length films and shorts are a high priority and feature films must have been completed prior to April 3, 2017.

However, if relevant material is submitted, films and documentaries that have had prior screenings will be considered.

Films that have been submitted for consideration in previous years are eligible for re-submission. Feature films in a language other than English must be subtitled in English for festival consideration and presentation.

Feature-length fiction and documentary films must be between 75 to 90 minutes in running time.

Short films should be between 20 and 30 minutes long. And mid-length short films 45 to 60 minutes.

Filmmakers must deliver final projects in DVD format.

Visit for more information.

Trayvon Martin Will Receive Posthumous College Degree

Half a decade after Trayvon Martin’s death, the Florida, teenager — who captured the attention of a national audience divided by reaction to his shooting death — will be posthumously awarded a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science from Florida Memorial University (FMU).

The announcement was made recently on the university’s Facebook page.

According to the social media post, the aeronautics degree is “In honor of the steps he took during his young life toward becoming a pilot,” the fact he attended aviation classes in high school; “had an obvious love of flying,” and had he lived would be 22, the age of many of the graduates.

His parents Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin will accept the degree during a commencement ceremony slated for May 13.

Fulton, Martin’s mother is an alumnus of the school, a historically Black institution in Miami Gardens, Florida.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in English.

Martin’s older brother Jahvaris graduated from Florida International University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in information technology.

Reports of Martin’s shooting-death, stunned the nation in 2012 after news surfaced that George Zimmerman, a community volunteer security guard cited a state-endorsed stand your ground law as his reason for killing the youth he said looked “suspicious.”

Critics claimed the true reason was racial profiling and the fact Martin wore a hooded sweater when he walked through a gated-community contributed to the brutal shooting of an innocent teen.

Zimmerman maintained prior to shooting the then 17-year-old, he called the police department in Sanford, Florida saying he had spotted a youth acting “suspicious.”

Although the unprofessional was reportedly advised by the police not to proceed with any activity, the licensed gun-owner pursued the youth resulting with an altercation that resulted in the fatality caused by shots to his chest. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder.

However, a year later in July 2013 he was acquitted.

The case sparked a national debate about racial profiling and police brutality and has been attributed to the launch of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

For weeks, thousands demonstrated throughout the nation wearing hooded tops and T-shirts declaring “I Am Trayvon”

Here, Rev. Al Sharpton mobilized a huge protest march from Harlem to the NYPD headquarters. Attended by the grieving parents along with brother Jahvaris, local unions, activists and school children in solidarity with the cause, celebrities Beyonce and Jay-Z, politicians and acquitted defendants of the Central Park Jogger Case poured into the lower Manhattan landmark.

A statement from the highest authority in government poignantly stated “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon,” President Barack Obama said.

Martin’s degree will specify a concentration in flight education.

FMU maintains a designated Cessna pilot training center.

The school also houses the Trayvon Martin Foundation — “a social justice organization committed to ending senseless gun violence, strengthening families through holistic support, S.T.E.A.M. education for women and minorities, and mentoring.”

In addition to making the announcement the FMU praised Fulton’s advocacy and social justice work in the wake of her son’s death.

In response the mother of the slain teen used Twitter to thank the university for honoring her son.

Following the university’s commencement on the eve of Mothers Day, FMU will hold a reception and fundraiser in support of the foundation.

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