CARLOS RUSSELL, un panameño universal

Partió uno de los panameños afrodescendientes más destacados


Por Cecilio E. Simon E.

Carlos ya no está con nosotros fue el lacónico mensaje de nuestra amiga mutua Norma Harris.  A las 11:57 PM del martes 11 de julio, mi hermano, el Dr. Carlos E. Russell, se fue de casa para estar con el Señor, comunicó  desde Nueva York su hermana Velma C. Armstrong.

Para sus amigos, es dolorosa la partida de un panameño universal, que siempre caminó al lado de la lucha de liberación nacional y social.  En las «entrañas del monstruo» como solía llamar a los Estados Unidos caminó y luchó por los derechos civiles junto a Martín Luther King, Medgar Evers y Malcon X.

En nuestra América apoyó a la revolución cubana y participó con Angela Davis en la histórica zafra de los 10 millones del año 1970 denominada por Fidel «Batalla Definitiva».

En la lucha de liberación nacional de su amada Panamá, fue un organizador de primera línea de la comunidad panameña, representó al país como Embajador en Naciones Unidas y la Organización de Estados Americanos.  Carlos fue galardonado por el gobierno nacional con la Orden Vasco Nuñez de Balboa.

Bayano digital celebra la vida de uno de los panameños afrodescendientes más destacados y en su honor compartimos su última presentación pública sobre la invasión del 20 de diciembre a Panamá y la nota de prensa (en ingles) emitida por la comunidad panameña en Nueva York

Dr. Carlos E. Russell, A Life of Dedication and Service to His People
NATIONAL- JULY 11, 2018 – Brooklyn Resident andPanamanian born activist; Ambassador Dr. Carlos E. Russell, founder of Black Solidarity Day (BSD), has passed at the age of 84 years old.
Dr. Carlos Enrique Russell, visionary activist, ambassador, historian, literary artisttransitioned in his sleep on July 10, 2018. He was born in the Republic of Panama on August 6, 1934.
A statement from the family:
«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. 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.»
The family will arrange a memorial to be held in New York City, the date and time to be announced once made available.
For more information, press only:
K. Russell
Facts about Dr. Carlos E. Russell
While serving as the Panamanian Ambassador for the United Nations, Dr. 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 is held annually on the Monday before Election Day in November, demonstrates the spirit of self-determination and collective responsibility for economic empowerment.  Black people are encouraged not to attend school or work and to abstain from shopping in white establishments.
Many of our present-day activists and luminaries benefit from the legacy Dr. Russell leaves behind. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Dr. Russell 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.  He was also one of the creators of «Bahiano» which is the first Black newspaper and Panamanian newspaper here in the USA written in both English and Spanish. [Other co-founders noted are Walter Livingston, George Priestly, Aguilla Jimenez and a few others.]
Dr. Russell was professor and Chair of Field Studies at SUNY Old Westbury and at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (BCCUNY) before becoming Dean of Contemporary Studies. He has also held the position of Acting Director of International of Urban Affairs at Medgar Evers College, CUNY in the late 1980’s- early 1990’s.
In the 1990’s he was a lead curriculum developer, educator, and trainer for the Ella Baker Academy (EBA) [later renamed Ella Baker/ Cleveland Robinson Academy, EBCRA], a program dedicated to create youth leadership using the methodology of «Kingian Nonviolent Conflict Resolution,» as part of the New York State Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and Institute in Albany, New York, under the funding and support of Governor Mario Cuomo.
Dr. Russell worked with numerous community organizations throughout his life time. He was a guiding light for many, leading some into successful careers in social justice, finance, and politics in both the US and Panama.
Activism & Creativity
Dr. Russell graduated from the National Institute in Panama and left Panama in 1955 on a student visa to 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 directly working with gang members. He eventually moved on to the Fort Greene Community Progress Center.
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. Around this time with Anesta Samuel and other cadres, he helped to establish the Panamanian-West Indian Heritage Association inspired by one of the first oral history conferences held in New York City. He also spent many years as a playwright and a producer of community theater, namely «Ode to Panama,» performed on stage at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
«It has been my honor and privilege to have known Dr. Carlos E. Russell as a personal friend for over 30 years. Dr. Russell is a brilliant, noble and brave scholar committed to the love of Black people and expresses this love in every aspect of his life. He is bold, dynamic and inspiring. His creation of Black Solidarity Day represents a source of pride for the vast number of Black people. We love you Dr. Russell and thank God for all you have done to enrich our lives as people of African Ancestry.»
-Cliff Frazier,  President, International Communications Association, Dwyer Center; Executive Director, NY Metropolitan Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolence; and Co-Founder of the Harriett Tubman Charter School
Sources and for more information on Dr. Carlos E. Russell:
Caribbean Life

Russell, Carlos, Oral history interview conducted by Morton Marks, August 10, 1988, Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories, 1989.004.11; Brooklyn Historical Society.
Old Westbury Oral History Project
The New York Times

Norma Brown Harris


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