Caribbean Diaspora Activist and Founder of Black Solidarity Day Dies

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Dr. Carlos E. Russell (Photo – Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College)

NEW YORK (CMC) – The Caribbean Diaspora activist founder of Black Solidarity Day, Dr. Carlos E. Russell, has died at the age of 84.

Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College (MEC), in a statement on Tuesday, said that “the visionary activist, ambassador, historian, literary artist transitioned in his sleep on July 10.”

The family, in a statement, said, “It is with great sorrow that we mourn the passing of Dr. Carlos Enrique Coordington Russell. He was a beloved son, father, brother, uncle, cousin, teacher, and best friend to us and many in our community.”

“He has now at peace with our ancestors,” the family added. “His fervent desire was for us the community to continue the fight for social justice and equality for all.

“His intelligence, passion, wit and love for all mankind will be missed,” it continued.

During the 1990’s, MEC said Dr. Russell held the position of Acting Director of International and Urban Affairs, and taught as a professor in the departments of Social Science and Interdisciplinary Studies at the college.

According to Russell’s biography, while serving as the Panamanian Ambassador for the United Nations, Russell – inspired by Douglas Turner Ward’s fictional play “Day of Absence” in which a small town in the South is suddenly devoid of its Black population and is crippled by their absence – established Black Solidarity Day (BSD) in 1969.

BSD, held annually on the Monday before Election Day in the United States in November, “demonstrates the spirit of self-determination and collective responsibility for economic empowerment,” the biography says.

“Black people are encouraged not to attend school or work and to abstain from shopping in white establishments,” it adds.

“Many of our present-day activists and luminaries benefit from the legacy Russell leaves behind,” the biography continues.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Russell, who was born in Panama on August 6, 1934, was a primary organizer for the first national conference of Panamanians, “which was solidifying the movement of the unification of Black and Caribbean pushback on systematic oppression,” the biography says.

Russell was also one of the creators of “Bahiano”, which is the first Black newspaper and Panamanian newspaper in the US, written in both English and Spanish. Commission and Institute in Albany, New York under the funding and support of the Governor Mario Cuomo.

Russell worked with numerous community organizations throughout his life time, the biography says.

“He was a guiding light for many, leading some into successful careers in social justice, finance and politics in both the United States and Panama,” it says.

Russell graduated from the National Institute in Panama and left Panama in 1955 on a student visa for De Paul University in Chicago, Illinois.

He lived and worked on the South Side of Chicago, and worked at the Mary McDowell Settlement House.

He moved to New York in 1961 and worked at the Albany Community Center in Albany Projects, as a youth worker and direct worked with gang members, according to the biography. He eventually moved on to the Fort Greene Community Progress Center in Brooklyn.

As a creative individual, he published “Miss Anna’s Son Remembers,” which is known as the first book of Panamanian-West Indian poems outside of Panama.

The family said it will arrange “a memorial to be held in New York City – the date and time will be announced once made available. – CMC

 

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