On Wednesday, November 11, 2009, from 7:00 to 9:30pm Hostos Community College will host a tribute to Dr. Evelina López Antonetty (Salinas, Puerto Rico, 1922), also known as Mother of the South Bronx, to celebrate her life and work on the 25th anniversary of her death. This tribute will gather all those who were touched in some way by López Antonetty’s work and legacy. Participating speakers and performers include poet Tato LaViera and the music of Yomo Toro & Zon del Barrio. The Hostos Community College Theater is located at 475 Grand Concourse in Manhattan, New York (free tickets available at the box office). For more information, you may call (718) 993-0909.
At age ten, López Antonetty arrived alone in New York City in 1933 aboard the ship El Ponce. She went to live with her aunt in Spanish Harlem. Courageous and quick to note injustices, she soon “became a spokesperson for her neighbors, often helping them resolve problems with their landlords and city agencies.” She developed into a formidable activist and community leader.
She began as an organizer and job-developer for District 65, a militant union that organized small shops. She was instrumental in bringing in more than 4,000 Spanish-speaking members into the union and led its Spanish Affairs Committee. She lobbied for the development of the Head Start programs and later became the supervisor of the first Head Start center in New York. She organized the Bronx for the Lindsay administration under the Puerto Rican Community Development Project. There she found herself listening to the cries of confused parents whose children were tested in English, then placed in mental development classes for slow or impaired students. She helped change educational policies. Among her many projects, López Antonetty was the founder in 1965 of United Bronx Parents, Inc., a grassroots organization dedicated to community development in the South Bronx area with special emphasis on educational reform. She remained the UBP’s executive director until her death in 1984.
In a commemorative service in 1985, Aurora Flores summed up what López Antonetty meant to the community: Mujer, compañera, luchadora . . . ¡MADRE! Evelina López Antonetty sparked energy, strength, and courage into these words, standing out as woman, mother, and champion of the Puerto Rican community. She was the biological mother of three; the grandmother of five; the inspirational mother of the young Latino leadership; the mother of mothers who found themselves in a strange, cold land whose language was both harsh to their ears and confusing to their minds. She was the mother of the civil rights movement, huddling her diverse children of many hues in the bosom of her solidarity; the mother of the South Bronx, giving birth (after a long, hard labor) to United Bronx Parents, Inc.; the mother of our roots; and, with all the fury of a lioness protecting her young, Evelina López Antonetty was a mother to those who would oppose this frontline fighter for freedom, dignity and unity among all people.
[Information for this post came from Nélida Pérez´s encyclopedia entry in Latina in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume I (Vicki Ruiz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, eds.) and Aurora Flores’s commemoration speech (Aurora Communications, 1985).]
For more information, also see http://nyclatinopolitics.com/2008/11/23/thoughts-on-evelina/#more-76