Culture Sessions in Houston

Culture Sessions in Houston

updated 12Oct2023
Houston, TX - October 9, 2023
Cadenza Arthouse Staff writer

In a heartwarming gathering of community leaders, activists, and individuals passionate about creating a better future, Aisha Shahid, All Neighborhoods Powerfully United (ANPU), hosted a remarkable event on October 9th, 2023, that brought together the Afro-Latin American community in a spirited celebration of unity, culture, and progress. The event, aptly named "Afrolatino Culture Sessions," showcased the incredible strength of collaboration and the power of community. As Honduran tamales simmered in a pot and homemade sangria flowed, attendees came together to celebrate their shared heritage and shared future.

Opening the event, Aisha Shahid shared her personal journey of self-discovery while living in Mexico and connecting with her Mexican heritage in a message of unity, "Through so much media and conditioning, we have seen so much separation and disconnect amongst our people when we have so much in common." Aisha's words highlighted the prevailing issue of division and served as a compelling call to bring diverse communities together. In a world where differences are often emphasized, her words inspired hope for a future built on commonality.  She highlighted the importance of unity among communities and the need to break down the barriers of misinformation and division. She emphasized the event's goal of fostering solidarity among the Afro-Latino community and bringing different cultures together.

The evening commenced with an invocation led by Shahid, where she poured libations to honor ancestors and recognize the importance of history and heritage. Then, she invited everyone in the room to share their connections and speak.  As individuals recounted their stories, a common thread emerged. The room was filled with artists, educators, dancers, and community activists, all striving to serve the interests of their people. They expressed the importance of preserving their culture and history while forging a brighter future. The responses were filled with a desire for growth and unity, with participants realizing that they are not the minority but, together, form the majority in their communities.

Sharieka Hall, a passionate dancer and educator, shared her unique journey and heartfelt passions noting, "I'm a dancer first.  I love to move my body. I feel like God sent me down here with the light and said, 'Show it to the people by dancing!'" Hall's story exemplified the fusion of art, culture, and identity. Her commitment to using dance as a form of expression embodied the spirit of the event.  She highlighted her diverse roles, from yoga instructor to U.S. Army veteran, demonstrating that embracing one's culture is about embracing the entirety of who you are.

A vibrant array of vendors, each representing the rich tapestry of the Afro-Latino community were there adding a piece of the culture for us all to share. From exquisite handcrafted jewelry that encapsulated the essence of both African and Latin American traditions to authentic culinary delights that tantalized the taste bud - All coming from within the community here in Houston - These vendors were a testament to the cultural fusion and entrepreneurial spirit of the community. Their presence not only added a sensory dimension to the event but also showcased the diverse talents and contributions of Afro-Latino entrepreneurs, reinforcing the celebration of unity and culture that defined the evening.

The evening's absolute joy was found in the vibrant dance instruction led by the dynamic duo of Mwaikazi Lajas and Hall, igniting a fervor that breathed life into the gathering. Lajas' journey is one that seamlessly blends art, culture, and identity. His deep connection to the Afro-Latino community transcends borders and exemplifies the spirit of unity that the event aimed to foster. He is not merely a dancer and educator but a cultural ambassador who uses his talents to bridge gaps and build connections. With his profound knowledge of traditional dances and their historical importance, Lajas was the perfect guide through the rhythms and movements that define Afro-Latino culture.


Chef Anthony, the official chef of the evening brought more than just delicious food to the table; he brought a story of community and resilience. Chef Anthony described his journey, which was deeply rooted in the shared support and communal spirit of the Afro-Latino community. His story began with humble origins, as he recounted watching relatives receive boxes of food from the community, offering a testament to the collective strength of the people. He highlighted how he embraced this spirit of unity to become an entrepreneur and a culinary artist through the mentorship of his aunt. His unique role in the event was about more than just food; it was about carrying forward a tradition of mutual aid and solidarity, a theme that resonated with every dish he prepared.

Mohammed delivered a powerful and thought-provoking message that transcended both art and activism. His background as a first-generation American with roots in Honduras and Trinidad imbued his message with a powerful sense of cultural richness and diversity. Mohammed eloquently expressed the sanctity of nourishing others, drawing a parallel between the care that goes into cooking and the creation of art. He gleefully shared his experience of blending Honduran and Trinidadian cuisine, humorously referring to it as his "American responsibility" to fuse both culinary worlds. The audience was left with food for thought – recognizing that the act of preparing and sharing a meal is, in essence, a profoundly human endeavor that transcends cultural boundaries.

Shahid then led a panel discussion with the main participants: Hall, Lajas, and Mohammed. Each of these individuals shared a common commitment to serving the interests of the people.

Mohammed also addressed the pressing issue of race relations in the United States and the enduring contributions of people of color throughout the nation's history. His call to seize opportunities and work together for a brighter future was a reminder that every act, be it in the kitchen or in the studio, holds the power to shape the world in a positive way.

While celebrating the progress made in recent decades, the event recognized the enduring challenges, such as racial prejudice, discrimination, and disparities in various aspects of life.  He delivered a powerful call to action, emphasizing the need to appreciate and seize opportunities: "Don't lose these bigger lessons and things that we have, an opportunity to come together and see."

Mohammed called for unity and collaboration among people of color, highlighting the importance of working together to create a better future.  In his closing remarks, he appealed to attendees as a unified people, not just as an African American or Latin American. He encouraged everyone to embrace their shared history and destiny, to build bridges across communities, and to create a society that values diversity and inclusivity.

We celebrated the unique and diverse heritage of the Afro-Latino community in Houston while emphasizing the importance of unity and progress.  Shahid's dedication to bringing people together and promoting positive change was truly inspiring, and the event served as a vibrant reflection of her leadership and vision.

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