News and Views by and about Black Latinos                         
Q&A with Yvette Modestin by Nivia Binett-Carroll

Afro-Latin American Women Unite to Change the World
Posted on on January 31, 2009

A  network of Afro-descendent women is working to transform the societies in which they live. The Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women (La Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocaribeñas y de la Diàspora)
is a space  that fights against racism, sexism and poverty. Among the Network’s leadership is Yvette Modestin, a Panamanian activist living in Boston.

Modestin is also a leader of the African Disapora community in Boston, where she founded of Encuentro Diaspora Afro. This grassroots organization advances racial equity and social inclusion by mobilizing and empowering people of African descent through community education, training, dialogue, and by building cross-racial alliances.

Modestin, a warrior for women and girls, recently took some time to talk to about the Network and her life as an Afro-Panamanian activist. Tell me about yourself:

Modestin: I am the middle child of three siblings, I was born and raised in Colón, Panama, and came to the United States to attend college.  I am fortunate to have grown up in a very strong and loving environment which gave me the tools to deal with the racism I would face here. I knew racism in Panama, but my experiences in this country were different. What is the Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women?

Modestin: It is an organization that helps to strengthen, support, empower and provide clarity and truth to Black women from Latin America the Caribbean and throughout the Diaspora. It has become my passion, my purpose. What is your role in the organization?

Modestine: I am the regional coordinator for the United States and Canada. It was a position that fell in my lap and I ran with it. I network with colleagues from Nicaragua, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Honduras just to name a few. The goal is to shed light and attention on what is happening to women all over the world. Issues [include] land displacement, racism, sexism, HIV/AIDS, human rights and domestic violence. What are some of the specific things that the organizations implements different than what is being offered by other organizations?

Modestine: Our entry point is different in addressing challenges faced by women of color, but through our workshops we take a holistic approach to address subject matters such as HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. Although our focus is to help women to reach collective success, there are times that we will also address the families and men in order to continue to have a global effect. Where do you get funding?

Modestine: A lot or our work is done on a volunteer basis. We do receive support from the Inter-American Foundation. Projects are done in the different countries to address to issues of racism, sexism, and domestic violence. We gladly welcome women who have the same interests to join us in addressing  these critically important issues. One of the areas that we would like to expand in 2009 is getting funding to continue to do our work and reach all of our sisters in different regions. Where do you get your strength and energy from?

Modestin: I get my energy and strength from the spirit and words of my ancestors, from my mother’s spirit that shines so bright, and from the unconditional love and support of my father and family. Also, from the wisdom, knowledge and character of all of the wonderful women and men that I have met and worked with throughout this journey. Physical activities—I love to run no matter where I am—and yoga are also special interests of mine. What are your feelings about President Obama, and how do you feel it will impact the Network?

Modestine: I am especially pleased that Obama has a strong Black woman at his side. Even though I wake up every day and hold my head up high, it was a held a little higher on Nov. 5. However, there are still many challenges that are present, we have not arrived yet. Until there is a vision of full justice and full inclusion, we need to continue to do our part. He cannot do it all.     

For information on how you can become involved in La Red de Mujeres Afro, visit and click on the Contactos page. There you will find contact information for leaders of La Red in the U.S., Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela and several other countries.

Nivia Binett-Carroll is a bilingual holistic health practitioner and occupational therapist. She is the founder and owner of Excel Wellness & Rehab in Pembroke Pines, Fla. For more information, contact Binett-Carrol at or visit

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