Celebrating Garifuna heritage and culture

The 2012 Garifuna Heritage Awards & Cultural Night on Sept. 15 at Lehman College in the Bronx brought together an array of incredible Garifuna talent while recognizing strong contributors to the Garifuna community.

Evening performances began with the Afro-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble that often performs at its home base at the Biko Center in Brooklyn.

Dance by the Afro-Garifuna Dance Ensemble followed, bringing to life the spirit of Garifuna culture. Mariano Martinez and Felix Gamboa choreographed the Ensemble, which combined four Garifuna dance groups for energetic and virtuosic performances.

Starting off with the festive dance of the Garifuna-Culio, the Ensemble then performed a dance interpretation –the first time in dance form– of an oral tradition story of Garifuna history, the story of Baruada.

The finale dance number, “Amunegu” (meaning, In Times To Come) by Andy Palacio, speaks to the importance of passing culture on to the next generation.

“This was a condensed version of all the Garifuna music genres and dance,” said musician James Lovell, exhilarated by the evening. “It was uplifting to see these arts presented in such a professional manner, ” adding, “It is a renaissance of Garifuna pride.”

Also on the program, a Bronxnet video, produced at the public access studios at Lehman College, shared interviews by Garifuna youth from the Lirahunu Chatoyer Youth Leadership Development Program with members of the community.

The Leadership Program conducted by the Garifuna Coalition USA is for youth ages 15-19 and is a 15-week series that concentrates on culture, career development and helps provide internships. A recently awarded grant to the Garifuna Coalition from the Simon Bolivar Foundations’ Bronx Social Program and Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo will help fund the second cycle of the 15-week program.

Among those honored during the evening were attorney Martin Munitz, Bronxnet director Michael Max Knobbe, Garifuna app. Developer Jorge Garifuna and Arturo Martinez of La Voz de Honduras.

The production celebrated UNESCO’s proclamation of Garifuna language, dance and music as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangibles Heritage of Humanity” as well as “The Drama of King Shotaway,” a play by William Henry Brown, recognized as the first black drama of the American theatre, which has as its subject the 1795 Black Caribs defense of the island of St. Vincent by the Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer.

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