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Rebembering Miriam Jiménez Román, Pioneer in Afro-Latinx Activism

We at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies mourn the passing of our former colleague Miriam Jiménez Román. She passed on August 7, 2020 after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Miriam was Executive Director of afrolatin@forum, a research and resource center that works to raise awareness of Latin@s of African descent in the United States. As an activist, she fought to bring about social and economic equity. She served as the Assistant Director of the Scholars-in-Residence Program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where she researched and curated socio-historical exhibitions. She also worked as researcher and editor of the Centro: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.

In 2012, Miriam was listed by Latina Magazine, as one of 6 Afro-Latinas Who Are Changing the World!, in recognition of her for work to expand Afro-Latino history and culture in profound waysIn 2017, Remezcla listed her as one of 8 Afro Latinos Who Made Important Contributions to US History. She was a professor and a writer. She taught courses on race, ethnicity, and gender at Hunter College, Binghamton, Brown, Columbia and New York universities. Miriam’s writings on the Afro-Latin@ experience and inter-ethnic relations can be found in both scholarly and popular publications.

She co-edited the critically acclaimed and 2011 American Book Award winner, The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, with her late husband, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and expert in Latin American and Nuyorican culture, Juan Flores. The book offered insight into Afro-Latin@ life and new ways to understand culture, ethnicity, nation, identity, and antiracist politics.

In an interview with Kim Haas for Los Afro-Latinos: A Blog Following the Afro-Latino Experience, Myriam shared her hopes for the book.

When we discussed how we would do this book, I said I wanted a book that addressed some of the concerns I felt when I was young. This kind of book should have been around when I was a kid because blackness was equated with being African American. This limited view left me concerned about my blackness because I grew up as a Black Puerto Rican and I’m very conscious how race and ethnicity have both impacted my life.

One of the strengths of the book is it’s an eclectic mix of materials, going from the personal essays to academic research, including statistical and historical data. The Afro-Latin@ Reader has a full range of essays that touch your heart and others that push your mind, giving you new ways of thinking of race and ethnicity. Its broad range explores the ways people think about and understand race.

Carlos Vargas, Director for Public Policy at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, expressed Centro’s sadness at this loss.

“Puerto Rican, Latines and American Studies have suffered a tremendous loss. Ever assertive and incisive, Miriam challenged us scholars, artists, students, and activists of all stripes to think critically and with awareness about the diversity of our societies—North American as well as Latin American—and to address and fight against the exclusionary treatment some of us perpetrate and inflict upon others on the basis of birthplace, gender, ethnicity and, unequivocally, race. Her contributions enriched the body of knowledge that we seek to influence. ¡Que en paz descanse!”

Visit Centro’s webpage to hear Miriam and Juan discuss their book, The Afro-Latin@ Reader  https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/events-news/events/forums/forum-understanding-afro-puerto-rican-and-other-afro-latin-cultures