By Alicia Evans
The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) will celebrate a new era on Saturday, April 25, via its First Annual Spring Gala, which will feature the internationally acclaimed Mambo Legends Orchestra, featuring guest artist Latin vocalist Cita Rodriquez giving a tribute to Graciela, known as the First Lady of Latin Jazz. Music from the Big Band 50′s era will also be played in celebration of “Graciela.” The Gala is to be held at the Alhambra Ballroom, located at 2116 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. in Harlem.
With plans underway to renovate a local firehouse at 120 East 125th Street in East Harlem, the Firehouse is to serve as the new home for the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute. As CCCADI moves into a new stage it continues to be a integral part of the community. A crucial segment of the community since 1976, CCCADI plans to celebrate its next chapter via hosting its First Annual Spring Gala in Harlem’s historic Alhambra Ballroom on April 25, 2015, with a reception at 7:00 p.m. and dinner and Program at 8:00 p.m. The Center’s gala will also honor the contributions of several highly esteemed community members which include: Lorraine Cortes Vazquez, Vice President of Multi-Cultural Markets and Engagement at AARP; Eugene Giscombe, President and chief executive of The Giscombe Realty Group in Harlem; Mario Baeza, Esq. Founder, Baeza & Co.; and Chairman, TCW/Latin America Partners, L.L.C.; Lucky Rivera, Community organizer and founder of Positive Workforce in El Barrio.
While Harlem continues to experience an ever expanding demographic shift, the CCCADI has maintained a foundation which honors the artistic, intellectual and cultural brilliance of the African Diaspora. Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, President and Founder of CCCADI, has diligently worked to spearhead programming which produces culturally-grounded, purpose-driven and activist-oriented works. For nearly four decades, CCCADI’s has acted as an incubator and springboard for artistic and intellectual brilliance, community-building initiatives and cutting-edge academic works.
Over the decades, CCADI has presented transcendent talent including: Celia Cruz, Max Roach, Amiri Baraka, Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson, Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In addition, CCCADI has hosted international gatherings and curated countless groundbreaking shows, such as Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain, 1966-1996 (1996), which amassed more than 100 works into an exhibition that was simultaneously on-view at CCCADI, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The landmark exhibition became a model for institutional collaboration.
CCCADI is an organization that values, connects and advocates for the traditions, history, culture and advancement of the African Diaspora through the dual tenants of arts and advocacy. The Center aims to create a paradigm shift within the global community toward cultural equity and social justice via new standards, policies and language. It acts as an accessible community resource which produces culturally grounded, purpose-driven and activist-oriented works, while simultaneously serving as a beacon of motivation and inspiration for many. CCCADI is excited by their upcoming move to the renovated firehouse at 120 E. 125th Street in El Barrio. Renovations will begin April, 2015 and is expected to end in late 2016.
“We’ve established a solid footprint in the community,” says Moreno Vega. “This move places us strategically amidst the communities we serve and extends the rich cultural throughway of 125th Street eastward. Our forthcoming gala celebrates our forward move…it will centralize the programs in the heart of the community.”
The gala in April celebrates 39 years of serving the community and expects to fill the Alhambra ballroom with nearly 300 supporters, community members, those from well-established Caribbean and Latino families, as well as philanthropists, corporate and financial executives, educators and young professionals. Proceeds from the event help mount CCCADI’s new chapter as it moves into the state-of- the-art renovated firehouse. It initiates a new phase which will further solidify CCCADI as a major cultural landscape stakeholder.
“Crafting a momentous symbolic bridge, this new location will allow CCCADI to connect the African and African American communities of West and Central Harlem with the Latino populations historically residing east of 5th Avenue,” notes Moreno Vega.
The President and Founder of CCCADI, Dr. Moreno Vega has conducted research in Yoruba belief systems in the African Diaspora and has organized international conferences uniting scholars and leading traditional experts focused on expanding the knowledge and importance of sacred African Diaspora traditions. Moreno Vega is co-founder of the Global Afro Latino and Caribbean Initiative (GALCI), a former program of Hunter College/Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program. She is chief editor ofWomen Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora (Arte Publico Press) and author of The Altar of My Soul (One World/Ballantine, 2001). She is director and co-producer of the documentary When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio and has written a personal memoir by the same name (Three Rivers Press, 2003). Dr. Moreno Vega also co-edited Actualidad de las Tradiciones Espirituales y Culturales Africanas en el Caribe y Latinoamerica with Maria Elba Torres Munoz and A SNAP SHOT: Landmarking Community Cultural Arts Organizations Nationally with Dr. Sonia Bassheva Manjon.
Through her organization, Dr. Vega has presented transcendent talent over the years including: Celia Cruz, Max Roach, Amiri Baraka, Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson, Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In addition, CCCADI has hosted international gatherings and curated countless groundbreaking shows, such as Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain, 1966-1996 (1996), which amassed more than 100 works into an exhibition that was simultaneously on-view at CCCADI, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The landmark exhibition became a model for institutional collaboration.
A former professor at El Centro de Estudios Avanzados Puertorriquenos de Puerto Rico y El Caribe in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dr. Moreno Vega is an adjunct professor at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico and an adjunct professor at New York University’s Department of Arts and Public Policy. Previously, she was an adjunct professor of Afro-Caribbean Religions and Afro Latinos in New York City at Hunter College, City University of New York where she was acting director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.
Enthusiastic about the move to the East Harlem Firehouse, Vega stated, “We’ve established a solid footprint in the community. This move places us strategically amidst the communities we serve and extends the rich cultural throughway of 125th Street eastward. Our forthcoming gala celebrates our forward move…it will centralize the programs in the heart of the community.” She continued, “Our gala promises an array of sharing, celebration and source of energy for the next leg of our journey.”