A member of our community partner Ashanti Peru submitted this essay after participating in a communications workshop led by another of our partners, FICE (Institutional Strengthening in Strategic Communications). FICE is a capacity building program developed by Minga Peru in collaboration with the Inter-American Foundation. With an innovative approach, FICE seeks to answer the question: What if civil society organizations in Latin America had access to long-term training and coaching in strategic communications tailored to fit their needs and lift up their authentic voices?
Until the lions have their own historians,
tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter
I found myself as an Afro-descendant when I was 21 years old. Before that, I didn’t recognize myself as part of any particular culture, much less think of myself as a black woman. I constantly looked for ways to be “whiter” in order to feel accepted by my circle of friends and for ways to suppress memories of when my skin color made me sad.
That process of self-recognition and acceptance was magical. I remember talking to some friends who were telling me about their own experiences, and my eyes lit up because I finally felt understood by them. There were other people out there like me — people who went through the same thing and who accept me just the way I am.
Ashanti Perú made this process possible. The organization opened doors for me to gain knowledge and to work for a cause. People who know me used to see me as a typical youth — sometimes quiet, sometimes contemplative — but mostly as a young girl who goes unnoticed, as a young girl who doesn’t like to be in the spotlight…until I found the strength and power of my voice. Ashanti Perú showed me that it is possible to speak out, to take a stand, to express myself and be respected. The organization creates a space of enrichment where I can strengthen the skills I didn’t even know I had.
At a point when I thought I was already prepared for the world, the FICE program proposal arrived at our office. The communications workshop was developed by Minga Perú in partnership with the Inter-American Foundation. I naively wondered, “What else could I learn?”
FICE proposed ways to improve our communications to the public both as an organization and as Afro-descendant leaders. As young people and as Afro-descendants, we thought we needed to express ourselves to the outside world in a technical, formal, and academic way — and much of the time in a complicated way. We thought we had to create a formal image to protect ourselves and to show that we were responsible and understood what we were doing.The FICE program had the most impact in this area of communications.
We used to say, “We are an organization that struggles against racism and discrimination.” We changed our statement to: “We are the only organization of Afro-Peruvian young people who work to strengthen Afro-Peruvian identity and leadership.” Minga taught us how to take advantage of our shared experiences.
Some of the lessons we learned during this process include: formulate sentences in a positive manner, speak in a direct and simple way, send a specific message, and show power and confidence. Through great effort we finally pieced together our institutional identity. The constant support and advice from Minga’s team was invaluable in this process of growth for our organization.
Personally, the FICE program opened doors to a new perception about my work as a young Afro-Peruvian leader and woman. It taught me that the power of our voice, inherited from our ancestors, cannot be lost. This internal voice and strength should be expressed and, with it, we should bring together our sisters and brothers throughout the world.
I realized that I have a greater mission and that this story is no longer about me. It’s a story about my Afro-Peruvian sisters and brothers. It’s a story about my Afro-descendant community, about my grandmothers and great-grandmothers, about my great-great-grandmother who was, with absolute certainty, enslaved, and about our future daughters who will see a different society but still a racist one. In this process, I see myself as an essential tool that provides its energies and days to a struggle of great magnitude.
Now I can raise my voice with confidence and say, “I am Angie Campos, and I’m a proud Afro-descendant!”
Talk about community-led development!