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Embracing diversity, not division.

What do a prominent member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, a television syndication mogul raised in the Bronx by Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, and a Major League Baseball star from the Dominican Republic have in common? Well, for one thing, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Mercado-Valdes, and Sammy Sosa are all Afro-Latinos. Yes, even Sammy Davis Jr.--his mother, Harlem vaudeville dancer Elvera "Baby" Sanchez, was Puerto Rican.

The growing diversity of our nation is changing--and challenging--our often stereotypical assumptions of what it means to be a black person, blowing away the notion that all Americans of African descent are alike. In fact, despite having a 90% black workforce, cultural diversity has always been a hallmark of BLACK ENTERPRISE, with employees speaking a variety of languages and claiming roots in countries ranging from Cuba to Ghana, and from Barbados to Guyana. This intragroup diversity, increasingly apparent within the black community, also applies to Latinos, Asians, and every other ethnic group. However, America's peculiar institution of race reduces most of us to human ropes in social, political, and economic tugs of war--most prominently in the arenas of entertainment, media, and politics--requiring us to pull for one aspect of our cultural identities while relinquishing all others. Afro-Latinos--who number an estimated 3.9 million in the United States alone--are among those in a unique position to appreciate this dilemma.

It's important to recognize that diversity--corporate or otherwise--is not just about respecting and honoring the differences between whites and ethnic minority groups. It also means recognizing the cultural variety that exists within and among those minority groups. Those differences can be (and, too often, are) used to divide and conquer along the boundaries of language, national heritage, or skin color. That same diversity can also be a source of power and unity, revealing strong connections and common ground shared by groups that, at first, glance, seem separate and distinct from one another.

I have long held that the latter option is the best one for both black and Latino communities. The growing influence of Latinos should not be viewed by African Americans as a source of competition, but of strength, for the mutual benefit of both groups--and ultimately all Americans. This is why it has been my pleasure, over the years, to work with such respected Latino leaders as Saul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza (Hispanic America's answer to the NAACP), to increase educational, employment, and economic opportunities for both blacks and Latinos. Afro-Latinos, including those featured in this issue of BE, can and should play a critical role in this effort. The organization of groups such as Cimarrones (a black student union at Howard University that includes Afro-Latinos) and the establishment of Websites such as www.lasculturas.com and www.mundoafrolatino.com are promising signs that this group is finding its voice.

The emergence of Latin Americans as America's largest minority, along with the long-established political and economic influence of African Americans, presents the opportunity for a potentially powerful alliance. Latinos of African descent can be sources of both energy and enlightenment in the effort to help both the black and Latino communities embrace diversity over division.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:Publisher's Page
Author:Graves, Earl G., Sr.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:528
Previous Article:The Afro-Latino connection.
Next Article:About this issue.
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