por Wendy Spence-Christie, traducido por Guillermo Márquez

Una mujer trenza el cabello de una joven en San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia. San Basilio de Palenque, una ciudad ubicada a 50 kilómetros de Cartagena, es considerada la primera comunidad en liberar oficialmente a las personas esclavizadas en América. Foto de Richard Cross.

Históricamente, el cabello afro ha sido un catalizador para la libertad y la autoexpresión de las comunidades afrodescendientes. Los peinados afro representan hoy en día un sistema de navegación anticuado que en su momento sirvió como un mapa hacia la libertad para la gente esclavizada. Los senderos eran enigmatizados e intricadamente tejidos dentro de las trenzas del cabello, las cuales también sirvieron como almacenes de comida durante los escapes. Por lo tanto, mientras observamos el Mes Internacional de la Mujer, es indispensable que subrayemos el papel desempeñado por la corona que adorna la cabeza de la mujer afrodescendiente.

Irónicamente, el…

by Guillermo Márquez

A group of men stand on the streets of Barranquilla, Colombia as they play a wide array of musical instruments during Carnaval de Barranquilla celebrations, a festival whose origins date back to the colonial era in Colombia. Photo by Richard Cross

The Carnaval de Barranquilla, like all other carnival celebrations across the Americas traces its origins to medieval Spain. However, to better understand the origins of carnavale, we must go back much farther, to the ancient European Saturnalia, the celebration of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. Each year, the enslaved were temporarily freed and all official functions postponed, allowing all to participate in all festivities, including usually prohibited forms of leisure.

The rise of Christianity throughout medieval Europe played witness to the Catholic Church’s inconsistency in its attempts to repress what it perceived as debauchery, which ultimately helped its institutionalization…

by Guillermo Márquez

Two young boys stand on a grassy hill as they enjoy a beautiful and expansive view of the Maria Mountains near San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia. San Basilio de Palenque, a town located 31 miles from Cartagena de Indias, is considered the first community to officially free enslaved people in the Americas. Photo by Richard Cross

Though not much is known about how Benkos Biohó, known as Domingo Biohó to his captors, arrived in the Americas, we know that he did so towards the end of the 1500s. He was captured in West Africa by Portuguese human traffickers and sold to one of the many Spanish business interests in Cartagena de Indias, the 16th century’s largest port and human trafficking market. …

by Marta Valier

This music/archival photos video mixes the music video Ma Kuagro by Kombilesa Mi with photographs by Richard Cross. The purpose of this video is to celebrate the Afro-Colombian community of Palenque de San Basilio using the contemporary art of this amazing group of Palenque’s musicians with photos of the community taken by photographer Richard Cross, who documented life in the community in the 1970s. The original sequence editing was done by Marta Valier. William Kwon did additional editing. We thank Kombilesa Mi for allowing us to use their music video. To watch the original video of Kombilesa Mi, visit their YouTube channel. To see more photos of Palenque by Richard Cross, visit the Bradley Center’s digital collection.

By Keith Rice

“Sweethearts of Rhythm” perform at the 4th annual Cavalcade of Jazz at Wrigley Field. Photo by Charles Williams.

Jazz music has been an integral part of the musical landscape in Los Angeles since the early twentieth century. The large influx of African Americans to Los Angeles during World War II provided audiences large enough to rival those of clubs in New York. Most of the jazz clubs were located along the Central Avenue corridor from Little Tokyo/Bronzeville to Watts. In 1945, Leon Heflin Sr. began producing the Cavalcade of Jazz, the first large outdoor jazz entertainment event of its kind at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. The Cavalcade shows featured some of the biggest names in entertainment such as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, and Roy Milton. Heflin produced the shows from 1945–1958.

by Wendy Christie

Harry Belafonte, the acclaimed activist, actor, and artist is known musically for his signature smooth-sounding, melodic island twang. He has captivated audiences with folk songs that take them on a musical journey with the “Coconut Woman” on a “Banana Boat (Day-O)” to “Islands in the Sun.” The famous Jamaican-American entertainer was once considered the king of Calypso (a genre of Caribbean music) and musically, bigger than Elvis Presley.

Yet, very little is known about Belafonte’s stint with the genre of Jazz. Belafonte’s journey with Jazz started in the mid-1940s when, as a struggling actor in New York, he was introduced…

by Guillermo Márquez

Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, Mexico City, 1981. Photo by Richard Cross. © CSUN Tom & Ethel Bradley Center

Human rights activist Rosario Ibarra de Piedra sits at a desk in her small Mexico City apartment in 1981. With tired, glassy eyes, she gently holds a portrait of her son Jesús Piedra Ibarra smiling, missing since April 15, 1975. He was violently arrested by Mexican government security forces in Monterrey, Nuevo León. He was identified as a member of the armed, left-wing communist group Liga Comunista 23 de Septiembre (September 23rd Communist League) and became another one of the many victims of Mexico’s Dirty War, a period of State-sponsored repression during the global Cold War. Another much larger portrait…

by Wendy Spence-Christie

A woman braids the hair of a young woman in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia. San Basilio de Palenque, a town located 31 miles from Cartagena, is considered the first community to officially free enslaved people in the Americas. Photo by Richard Cross © CSUN Tom & Ethel Bradley Center

The black hair has historically been a catalyst for freedom and self-expression. Black hairstyles represent now antiquated navigation systems that once served as roadmaps to freedom for enslaved people. Coded pathways were disguised and intricately woven between strands of braided hair that also served as a source for food on…

By José Luis Benavides

February 26, 2019—It is with great sadness that we learned about the passing of photographer Maxie Lee Floyd, Jr. last February 11. Floyd was born on January 12, 1934, in Temple, Texas. His family moved to Los Angeles, where he attended the 36thSt. Elementary, Foshay Jr. High, and Polytechnic High School. During that time, he developed a strong interest in football and track. After finishing high school, he attended Los Angeles City College and the University of Southern California. Floyd served in the United States Army as military police in Fort Lewis, Washington. …

CSUN’s Tom & Ethel Bradley Center and the Oviatt Library have put live Richard Cross’s digital collection site with the first group of 1,410 images of Central America (1979–1983). We will continue uploading new photos throughout the year.

El Centro Tom & Ethel Bradley de CSUN y la Biblioteca Oviatt han puesto en marcha el sitio de la colección digital de Richard Cross con el primer grupo de 1,410 imágenes de Centroamérica (1979–1983). Seguiremos subiendo nuevas fotos durante todo el año.



We collect, preserve, and disseminate the visual history of our region—Southern California—with an emphasis on ethnic communities.

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