It was not until 2010 that African descendants in Argentina were included on the census. Until that point, essentially, they did not exist. In many ways they are still invisible. There are very few policies, laws or ordinances that protectrights, prohibit discriminatory practices or guarantee fair, equal treatment of Afro-Argentines in the country. It doesn’t matter that tens of thousands have beenliving in the cities and rural communities of Argentina for generations. Because they were not counted, they did not exist.
In March of 2011, the first Afro-Argentine Race Conference was held in Buenos Aires. Attendees traveled from all over the state to participate. Rashaad Byrdsong, Executive Director of the Community Empowerment Association was invited by the Argentine consult to serve as the keynote speaker. When Byrdsong was in Buenos Aires, he made several presentations, beginning at the capitol before moving to a college campus and then to an Afro-Argentine cultural center in Buenos Aires. The stories were the same in each venue. “We are invisible. We are treated as if we do not exist.” The saddest stories were those told by young students who were failing miserably or had dropped out of school. They complained that there was no mention of their experiences in any history books and no pictures of people of color in any of their books. The young men,with whom Byrdsong spoke, had no employment and no hope for a positive future.
On June 18, 2012,FedericoPita, the organizer of theconference on race in Argentina,is coming to Pittsburgh to meet with his compadre and fellow activist/nation-builder, Rashaad Byrdsong. Mr. Pita has been invited to the United States by the American embassy and will be participating in meetings in New York City. A reception will be held in his and his wife, Cecilia’s honor on the 18th. The next day a round table will be held where he will discuss the struggle for affordable, decent housing, quality education and equal opportunities for employment for Afro-Argentines.His quest to find proven strategies that can be effectively implemented in Buenos Aires to improve the social ills that plague people of color may not be found here, but at least he knows that he is not alone in the struggle.
Pita first learned of Byrdsong from Fulbright Scholar, Diane Ghoghomu, a Pittsburgher who has a residency in Buenos Aires.