Colectivo Ilé Advocacy Antiracism & Affirming Black Identity in the US Census in Puerto Rico

Introduction: In today’s blog post, we want to shine a spotlight on an incredible organization in Puerto Rico called Colectivo Ilé. For over 25 years, this group of dedicated women has been at the forefront of anti-racist work on the island. In this post, we will delve into their mission, their impact on Puerto Rican society, their involvement in community engagement, and their efforts to shift cultural perspectives. Join us on this journey as we explore the work of Colectivo Ilé and the importance of amplifying Afro-descendant voices in Puerto Rico.

Colectivo Ilé: A Labor of Love for an Anti-Racist Future Colectivo Ilé, which directly translates to “Africa and me,” is an organization that is deeply committed to anti-racist community organizing and supporting Afro-descendant people, especially women, in Puerto Rico and beyond. Their central focus is to address the root causes of anti-black racist oppression and create systemic, institutional, and cultural changes in Puerto Rico. Through grassroots organizations and leadership development, Colectivo Ilé works tirelessly to combat anti-black racism and promote community organizing as a powerful tool for change.

Blackness in Puerto Rico: A Complex Identity

In Puerto Rico, the understanding and embrace of Afro-descendant identity have been complex due to historical and societal factors. The script highlights how the education system often emphasizes a mix of white, indigenous, and African heritage, but only in the context of cultural expressions such as dance and food. This cultural celebration often fails to acknowledge the intellectual contributions and agency of Afro-descendant individuals. The speakers, Myra and Kimberly, emphasize the need for self-love, as internalized racism and colorism are still prevalent in Puerto Rican society.

The Impact of Hurricane Maria: A Wake-Up Call

The catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017 was a turning point for Puerto Rico and its people. The storm revealed the unequal treatment and disregard Puerto Ricans faced from the United States. As Myra and Kimberly expressed, Puerto Ricans are often seen as second-class citizens, and the hurricane exposed the harsh reality of this unequal relationship. The devastating aftermath of the hurricane led to a renewed understanding of identity, sparked community engagement, and propelled collective action for justice and liberation. Building Communities and Empowering Women Colectivo Ilé has been instrumental in organizing community meetings and creating safe spaces for women, particularly black women, to come together, share their stories, and demand change. The script mentions the Calderos idea pot, a community circle that facilitates conversations about issues and solutions within communities. This initiative, involving over 18 community meetings and ending with a powerful women’s congress, demonstrated the immense power of collective dreaming and envisioning a more just future.

Shifting Culture and Advocating for Representation

One of the significant campaigns undertaken by Colectivo Ilé was the Campaña de Cara al Censo, or Facing the Census, to advocate for people to recognize and acknowledge their African ancestry on the US-based census. They aimed to raise awareness of the implications of racial impositions and the importance of political representation. By challenging the limited racial categories imposed by the census, Colectivo Ilé encouraged Puerto Ricans to affirm their identities and demand equitable treatment.

Conclusion: Colectivo Ilé’s tireless work has continuously transformed the narrative around blackness in Puerto Rico. Their dedication to community organizing, grassroots leadership development, and advocating for equitable representation has had a profound impact on the island and the lives of Afro-descendant individuals.

As we conclude this blog post, we encourage you to visit Colectivo Ilé’s website (colectivolle.org) to learn more about their work and join the movement towards a more inclusive and anti-racist Puerto Rico.

References: – Script provided by the Colectivo Ilé conversation featuring Myra and Kimberly.

For more information about Colectivo  Ilé  check out their website at https://www.colectivoile.org/

Listen to the Coletivo  Ilé  podcast called Negras here 

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