Mirtha Colón is a Honduran born Garifuna transnational activist, community organizer and social worker who assists Caribbean migrants in The Bronx and Central America.
Colón was born in Trujillo, Honduras and has lived in New York for over 50 years, during that time she has worked to raise the quality of life for Garifunas and Black Central American communities, and defended the human rights of immigrants and their families.
Colón is President of the Black Central American Organization (CABO), a transnational nongovernmental organizationcreated with the objective of strengthening the social, political, economic, cultural life of Afro-Central Americans in the region and the Afro-Central American Diaspora. It has member organizations in the countries of; Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the United States.
In 2018, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) organized the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas to participate at the 48th Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), and designated Mirtha Colon, President of the Central-American Black Organization (ONECA), as its spokesperson.
As spokesperson of the coalition, Mrs. Mirtha Colon began by congratulating distinguished Costa Rica Vice-President Epsy Campbell – present in the session – for becoming the first Afro-descendant Vice-President in the Americas, and the first Afro-descendant woman head of Costa Rica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Afterwards, she presented the coalition’s report, which informed those present of the negative implications that corruption has on the Afro-descendant population, and the prevalence of racial discrimination and structural racism in the Americas, which encompasses women, men, children, adolescents, senior citizens, people with disabilities, migrants, stateless citizens, LGBTI, and others.
The coalition stressed the importance and necessity of implementing the goals of the International Decade of People of African Descent and urged states to sign and ratify the Inter-American Convention Against Racism – something they had also actively promoted at this years’ VIII Summit of the Americas, held in Lima, Peru.
In addition, the coalition spoke out against systematic violence and the criminalization of social leaders and Afro-descendant activists, who are continuously killed, threatened and persecuted for their community work, in countries such as Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, etc. They also raised concern for States which ignore these acts.
During the session days, the Afro-descendant Coalition also took part in conversations with members of other coalitions as well as engaging with different State representatives, all the while informing them of the difficult reality that Afro-descendants live in. The coalition stressed the importance of making use of the information presented at the session to further advocacy work with their respective governments, international aid organizations, and within the OAS, so that these reports may promote positive changes within their countries.
Ms. Colon is also a founding member and president of Alianza Americas, a network of Latin American and Caribbean immigrant organizations in the United States. Earlier this year, she was one of distinguished women leaders in a delegation of Alianza Americas representatives at the Quito summit, for the XII Global Forum on Migration and Development Summit in Quito, Ecuador.
Alianza Americas is the only national organization in the U.S. that is rooted in Latino immigrant communities and works both domestically and transnationally to create an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way of life.
Alianza combines its deep community roots and highly respected transnational experience with its advocacy policy work to protect the dignity and promote the well- being of all people across the Americas.
Alianza Americas represents a critical voice on issues that have an impact on the lives of immigrants and all families throughout the Americas. Its 45 organizational members represent more than 100,000 families across 12 states in the United States.
Alianza works with civil society partners, government agencies, and communities of faith and organized labor, to shape and influence public policies that promote social, political, and economic justice across the Americas.
Mirtha Colon also serves as President of Hondurans Against AIDS, a nonprofit organization she founded that promotes healthy practices and HIV/AIDS education in both the city of New York and in Central America. The organization operates Casa Yurumein a center for Garifuna–descendants, with the mission to pass on the Garifuna culture to those who live in the New York area, where the pressures of assimilation are strong. The center offers courses in Garifuna language, history, art, Garifuna spirituality, cooking, and needlework. According to Colon, “It seeks to help expatriates to preserve their roots.”
The center promotes cultural events to create networks for improving communication among different Garifuna communities. Among the events, is the Miss Garifuna Pageant, which will be presenting its fourteenth edition this year. The cultural pageant educates the youth on Garifunaduaü, the practice and maintenance of the customs, rites, and beliefs that promote identity, as well as Garifuna Culture, History, Customs and Traditions. Last April, Casa Yurumein partnership with Alianza Americas organized a delegation of Garifuna (Afro-Central American) youth leaders from New York City, who visited members of Congress, in Washington, DC. The young leaders represented The Black Central America Organization and Casa Yurumein in the Bronx,
Colon has participated in many international conferences focused on combating racial discrimination and related forms of intolerance, participated in global social forums, and conferences on migration and HIV among some to be highlighted; (Montevideo Uruguay, Santiago de Chile, Geneva Switzerland, Durham South Africa, Porto Alegre Brazil, Caracas Venezuela, Morelia Michoacán, Mexico City, Quito Ecuador, Stockholm Sweden, Addis Ababa Ethiopia) Also participated in OAS Assemblies, Dominican Republic, Cancun Mexico), recently participated in the SICA Assembly in Costa Rica June 28 and 29, 2017
Mirtha holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Fordham University in New York City and has more than 30 years of experience working with children and adolescents in mental health and psychotherapy.
In 2019, Mirtha was among the Local Female Trailblazers honored by Congressman Jose Serrano at his annual Women’s History Month Celebration. She was also honored during Hispanic Heritage Celebration organized by the New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
Mirtha Colón is listed in the 2016 edition of the Most Influential Contemporary African Diaspora Leaders
Sources: Wikipedia, Alianza Americas, https://www.alianzaamericas.org/about/board-page/
Central American Black Organization www.onecainfo.org