While the folks in the U.S.A. are celebrating Memorial Day this weekend, here in Panamá we are celebrating Día Etnia Negra (Black Ethnicity Day). The actual holiday is May 30, but we've been celebrating during the entire month of May. On Saturday, May 24, Martha Productions held a Forum at the Bishop Hayes Gymnatorium at Instituto Episcopal San Cristóbal. The subject of the Forum was La Presencia Africana y su Influencia en Panamá (African Presence and Influence in Panama) and the speakers were Profesora Aminta Nuñez from la Universidad de Panamá (The Arrival of Africans and their Contributions to Panama); Profesor Leslie George from la Universidad de la Américas (UDELAS) (An Enthno-Musicological Focus on the Black Contribution to Panamanian Identity); Magister Ethelbert Mapp (How to be an Entreprenuer - Empowering Youths and Adults); and Hyacinth Bovell, MBA (Poetry; A Form of Communication and Expression). The Forum was well attended, especially by the Youth of the Río Abajo/Parque Lefevre community.
Last night the Lovely Mona and I attended Martha's Eighth Annual Festival Etnia Negra Panameño: Celebración de la Comunidad Afro Descendiente Panameña held at the Paradise Banquet Hall downtown. This year the celebration is dedicated in recognition of Panamanian Women of African Descent. The Lovely Mona and I really enjoy this celebration, especially the lovely African-style clothing worn by most folks attending. As in the past, the program had lots of dancing. The Speaker was Profesora Grace Ann Maynard de Clark, who spoke on "Edificando Puentes (Building Bridges). She is a very inspirational and charismatic speaker; she really worked up the crowd! The priest who was to perform the Invocation didn't show, so I was given the honor. My colleague and predesessor at San Cristóbal, the Rev. Canon Dennis Josiah, gave the Benediction, so San Cristóbal clergy opened and closed the program! The food was great, too: coco rice with peas, Pescado de escoviche, pollo al curry, ensaldas de papas y repollo, platano, and green banana dumplins, great stuff!
We've had many visitors over the past week looking for Día Etnica Negra photos, so here are some from this year's celebration.
Ms. Crystal Thomas. She is a member of our Youth Group and was one of the M.C.s for the evening. She did an excellent job, especially translating texts from Español to English and explaining the dances for the visiting Architecture students from Virginia.
The Rev. Canon Dennis Josiah
Ricky Staple (World Famous Drummer)
Patricia and Yolanda
Martha Fairclough Olton, our Hostess
Mrs. Barbara Smith and Crystal Thomas, co-M.C.s (Barbara did a great job, too!)
Padre giving the Invocation
Profesora Grace Maynard de Clark
Afro-Panamanian Folklore Dancers from Instituto Episcopal San Cristóbal
Yvette Weir-Gladstone and Gabrielle Gladstone Celebration Dance
Calypso by Lord Sugar (or as it is correctly pronounced Lawd Shugah). Here the Beachers are helping him set-up.
Lord Sugar sang some of my favorite songs: Rum, Neighbor, Neighbor, and My Commanding Wife
St. Vincent Quadrille Group (Quadrille is the West Indian version of Square Dancing but they sure dress better than U.S. square dancers!)
Vincente Afro Dancing Company. I'll be honest: I have my doubts about the authenticity of this dance. It reminded me of the kind of dancing Africans do on the kind of movies which appear on Mystery Science Theatre 3000, if you know what I mean and I think you do. However, it was entertaining!
Kabir, one heck of an R&B and Soul singer. He was great! Everybody including Padre and the Lovely Mona, were singing along.
Kabir's fans react!
Martha Olton receiving an award from the Panamanian Consulate in New York City.
Martha responds to her award
The Rev. Canon Josiah speaking before the Benediction