By Tracey Reavis
Music was the highlight of a Black History month event when Grammy and two-time Latin Grammy Award winner Aymée Nuviola performed a virtual concert for an audience of employee action, affinity, and resource groups from the Department of State and USAID and Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) troops at Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 24. The program, ‘Bridging Gaps, Bridging Cultures: Celebration of the Sounds and Rhythms of the African Diaspora,’ had listeners dancing to the tropical fusion rhythms in their desk chairs.
The event helped tell a story of shared ancestry and show the inter-agency team the vibrance, perseverance, and prevalence of African influence in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Too often, Afro-descendants are erased not only from American history but the history of Latin America as well,” said Jolisa Brooks, regional environmental officer for USAID/Dominican Republic. “Black History Month exists as a direct contradiction to the culture of invisibility and says boldly and proudly that the framing and evolution of the U.S. and other nations in the West are not attributed to a singular voice or people. This was a beautiful amalgamation of African, Black American, and Latin cultures, illustrating that Latinidad is not a monolith and that Afro/Black people cannot be erased from Latinidad.”
Nuviola’s bold voice, complemented by her warmth and infectious style, was pure entertainment. One of the most celebrated Cuban-American artists, she was born into a family of musicians and influenced by many kinds of music genres. Those influences paved the way to Nuviola’s style today—a ‘mezcla’ of the sounds from her youth and her Latin American and African roots.
Between songs, the program served as a forum to discuss race issues and social justice, with Nuviola sharing her experiences with racism. Those hurtful instances never detracted from her musical endeavors. Nuviola’s music is upbeat and energetic and full of positive messages that celebrate diversity, authenticity, and respect for all. The Cuban songstress participated in the Black History Month event to honor African and Spanish cultures.
“This is a time to commemorate our race, our culture, our heritage,” said Nuviola. “Issues of respect, equity, and justice are reflected in my music. And I hope to continue to enrich the culture with music.”
View a recording of the event online.
Tracey Reavis is a behavioral change and communications specialist with the Staff Care Center at USAID.