African American Studies


Summary of José Francisco Ávila (Feb. 17th, 2022) Pt.2 Interview

Summarized by : Katherine Caperan

This is the second part of the José Francisco Ávila interview. In this one, he discusses the experiences that have shaped his efforts as a prominent Garifuna and Afro-Latino social justice activist for Garifuna communities in New York City, nationally, and internationally. As a Garifuna originally from Cristales, Honduras, Ávila notices that the Garifuna communities face the same issues in his country as in the United States. Ávila spent over thirty years researching and writing about the Garifuna Community. Collecting information from the news, television, and current events, he has tried to discern what were the problems affecting the Garifuna communities and what would be the best way to solve them. This process of researching and analyzing the Garifuna community, on top of connections that Ávila made between himself and other Garifuna communities, helped him envision the creation of a national Garifuna organization.

Ávila was able to help organize the first Intercontinental Summit at El Club Cubano in the Bronx in 1989 to bring Garifuna communities together, including Mujeres Garina en Marcha. Throughout the interview, Ávila notes that none of the progress in Garifuna community advocacy and expansion would have been possible without the tragic incident of the Happy Land Social Club Fire which occurred in the Bronx in 1990. A majority of the arson victims and those killed in the fire were members of the Garifuna community. As a result, Ávila describes a“boom” in Garifuna community organizing and coverage to make up for what was missing,

After the first two intercontinental summits happening in 1989 and 1991 (1990 did not occur because of the fire), Ávila and other community leaders began to form a national Garifuna organization which would eventually become the Garifuna Coalition USA (Est. 1998).

Working with the Garifuna Coalition gave Ávila the opportunity to develop relationships between Garifuna communities and sponsors of the organization to expand Garifuna presence and community throughout New York City and beyond on a national level, and even into Central America.

After Ávila took a step back from Garifuna community organizing, the Garifuna Coalition USA closed its doors in 2014. However, Ávila still remains involved in the continued push for a Garifuna community center and in general, to inform and advocate for his community.