The Afro-Caribbean Diaspora in Panama

The Afro-Caribbean
Diaspora in Panama
Professor Ifeoma C.K. Nwankwo
Dept. of English and Center for Latin
American Studies
Session Overview
 Part 1
 Introducing VFOA
 CLAS-VFOA resources for educators
 Part 2
 Historical Background—Panamanian West Indians
 Case study—Women’s Voices
 Part 3
 Curriculum Development Activity
Voices from Our America™
 Description, Goals, and History
 Filling in gaps in existing source base
 Grandparents
 VU Center for Latin American Studies
 Teachers shaping the future
 New resources for teachers
 New perspectives on and from Latin America
 New departure point for teaching about the
African Diaspora in Latin America
Historical Background
 Origins of Panamanians of West Indian Descent
 Slavery and Emancipation in the Caribbean
 Haiti, Cuba, and the Caribbean Economy
 Legacies of British Colonialism
 U.S. Activity in Panama/Colombia
Historical Background
 West Indians involved in:
 Building the Panama Railway (1850-1855)
 Constructing the Panama Canal (1904-1914)
 Managing the Panama Canal (1914- Present)
 Growing the United Fruit Company (1899- )
Historical Background
 Cultural roots of Panamanians of West Indian
 Oral Traditions—Sayings, Onomatopoeia, History
 e.g. “Cockroach no bizniz a fowl yard”
 Rhetorical Jousting
 Victorian values
 Education—the three Rs
 Morality and Propriety
New Resources
from CLAS and VFOA
 Website
 Digital Library
 Educators’ Blog
Living Primary Sources
 Key issues addressed include:
Growing up in the Canal Zone
Working in the Canal Zone
Racial Pride
Racial Discrimination
Laws re: Citizenship
Political Activism (Stories and Silences)
Family Values and Traditions
Youth Not Interested in Their History
Bilingualism and Language-based Prejudice
Experiences in School; Key Teachers; Being a Teacher
Music–Jazz, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Reggae, Calypso, Christian, Hip
Hop, Reggae en español/Reggaeton
 Relationships with the USA (Music, Migration, School)
The Educators’ Blog
 Introduction
 Your comments and queries on
 “How I Became and Artist” lesson plan
 “Teachers’ Lounge”
 “Words of Wisdom”
 “Book of the Month”
The Noble Heroes of
 Ruben Blades, “West Indian Man”
Came from the sea to Panama
To work in the jungle and build the Canal
He got paid in silver, the white man in gold
And the yellow fever took everyone’s soul
West Indian Man, I want to recognize
your iron will, your sacrifice.
You gave your life to build a path
So oceans could meet inside the heart of Panama.
Perspectives on Women
 Calypso sung by Professor Leslie George
“I’m tired of living alone, I want a woman to call
my own,… I want a woman who knows how to
cook, knows how to wash, clean, and when I get
home from work kiss me and call me ‘papacito’.”
Perspectives on Women
 Poem by Dr. Carlos Russell, “Glamor Gal”
She put on she escudun
and walk with a lot of piquete.
When she stroll down the street
every boy she a deh meet
She bat she eyes
and sway she hips
and walk with a lot of piquete.
Women’s Voices and Views
 Excerpts from An Old Woman Remembers by
Carlos Russell
 .”The morning the boats sailed…/there was a lot of
bawling…all of the women folks them/as if in
chorus/just started to cry and cry”
 Now me have great grandchildren…/Some of
them I don’t understand…/they don’t want to
speak English…/they name is Griffith or
Blackman/and they don’t speak English/That’s
Women’s Voices and Views
 Clip from Interview with Grace Maynard Clark
“my grandmother was a person of, of very strong
character, a person with very good principles,
who, even though she didn’t study that much,
read a lot, and explained things to you, one of
the main things that we knew is that we should
study and become somebody, and that we
were important…”
Women’s Voices and Views
 From interview with Grace Maynard Clark
“one of the things when we were growing up,
there will always be this expression of, uh, the
Latins would call us chombo, and one of the
things that my grandmother always emphasized
is, yes, number one, they shouldn’t be calling you
Women’s Voices and Views
 From interview with Grace Maynard Clark
“another thing that she did unto me was very
important - i- in growing up, the kind of
integration of the blacks in the, in the community,
it was important for, for us to, to be bilingual, not
that we don’t speak English and only speak
Spanish, so when there was, will be the problems
of eh, if you are in trouble because you speak
English, that’s no problem, she says, you need to
dominate both.”
Women’s Voices and Views
Women’s Voices and Views
 From interview with Melva Lowe de Goodin
“Now that we have control of the Canal now
everybody’s seeing the need for English. And we
have the unfortunate thing that those of us of
Afro Caribbean descent who had parents or
grandparent who spoke English many of those
people didn’t give their grandchildren or great
grands the language and those people now are
at a disadvantage now at getting jobs and
doing well in school... Because at one time we
were so eager to fit in that we shied away from
using our mother tongue.”
Women’s Voices and Views
 From interview with Melva Lowe de Goodin
“I’d like to communicate [to the other
generations whether it’s the younger generations
or the older generations] that we should be
proud of who we are… I think we have to know a
little bit about ourselves to be proud about who
we are. It’s a struggle that you and a number of
people like myself are involved in... I think it’s also
important for us to never lose sight of the value of
education. I think many of our forefathers placed
a greater store on education than some of the
younger families that I see today.”
Women’s Voices and Views
Curriculum Development
 Identify and discuss one or more of the themes in
Melva Lowe de Goodin’s interview
 Discuss how you could integrate the material into
your own curriculum
 Outline a lesson plan, as time allows
 Share any suggestions on CLAS and VFOA can
help you do that
Curriculum Development
 Are there other women in your lives or in the literatures,
cultures, or histories you teach about whose voices
could be integrated into school curricula?
 How might you do that?

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