Nair Antonio Núñez Pérez is a Barranquillero, a social and cultural leader of the Afro-Palenquera community in Colombia. He is the creator of the Afro-Colombian Cultural Foundation, Fuerza Negra. Núñez has been exalted as an outstanding young man from Colombia through the TOYP Colombia in 2019, an organization that highlights 10 Jóvenes Sobresalientes de Colombia. Fuerza Negra has participated in celebratory events promoted by the national program of cultural coordination of the Ministry of Culture 2020 in Colombia.
Through his Foundation, Núñez carries out artistic, social and rescue interventions of youth populations of vulnerable communities in neighborhoods of Afro descent in the southwestern district of Barranquilla. Fuerza Negra has won numerous awards and recognitions, among which are the Congo de Oro award as the best dance group at the Barranquilla Carnival in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
With the dance activities carried out around the different genres typical of the Afro culture, coupé, décalé, don bolo and souk, mapalé, champeta, Afro dance, the leader has brought young people together to train, consolidate, and protect the traditional principles of Afro-Colombian culture by developing a love for art, dance and ancestral knowledge for the new generations.
Nair Antonio Núñez Pérez has a degree in Spanish and Literature from the Universidad del Atlántico. He is a technician in Performing Arts and Choreography from the Escuela Distrital de Arte. He studies arte dramático and has been recognized as a social and cultural leader of the Afro-Palenquera community.
In an interview with Amanda Parra of El Heraldo, Colombia, Nair Núñez explained that the dancers of Fuerza Negra come from neighborhoods of Mequejo and La Manga and join the dance company to overcome social problems through dance.
“In most of the neighborhoods of the Southwest of Barranquilla there are different problems such as micro-trafficking, violence and early pregnancy. Many of the dancers who are part of Fuerza Negra previously did not speak to each other because they belonged to different groups. This was one of the things that motivated me to create the group. I saw that youth was being lost,” said the director of Fuerza Negra.
In this way, Nair Núñez rescues children and young people and empowers them as agents of change. In her interview, Parra adds that more young people have joined this cultural project from the Bajo Valle and Por Fin, as an escape from what they live in their homes.
Damianis Melissa Herrera, one of the oldest members of the group, faced difficult experiences that took her away from the parades and presentations for a while.
“Fuerza Negra has changed my life a lot, because two inconveniences happened to me. Five years ago, I received a bullet attack in my right leg and I was incapacitated for a year. I went into depression and many people told me that I could no longer dance, so I became self-conscious and did not come back, but with time and thanks to the therapies I was able to return,” affirmed the dancer to El Heraldo.
After overcoming this chapter on a physical and psychological level, the young woman became pregnant in the midst of a complex reality, scarce resources and family problems.
“The following year I got pregnant, my skin changed, my body too, cellulite, stretch marks, fat and so on, as everything felt bad, uncomfortable, because I could no longer wear the costumes, but my friends from the group and my director, they motivated me to keep going because I have a lot of talent,” said Damianis.
Amanda Parra describes how Núñez became a father to the boys in his group: “He has been called a psychologist, psychiatrist, doctor and counselor.” He has also had to work with the parents of the dancers. Many of them did not believe in cultural and artistic expressions and the choreographer had to go door to door to talk to each one.
“The parents are not involved in the subject of culture and many of them have not had the opportunity to go to a college or university and they always opposed the pelaos being part of the group. It was also a battle with them to educate them and they did not understand. I organized a workshop for parents and they did not come. I had to go directly to their homes and talk to them, make them see that I was doing good for their children,” said the Barranquilla leader to Parra.
Núñez told Parra that some parents came to think that he was profiting at the expense of their children, but that perspective changed when they first saw them dancing on a stage.
As the creator of the Afro-Colombian Cultural Foundation, Fuerza Negra, Nair Núñez designed this initiative as a form of social intervention to rescue the youth in vulnerable neighborhoods of Afro descent in the southwestern district of Barranquilla. Dancing has become a way of neutralizing the complex situations in the youth’s environment.
Reicker Reales, a 17-year-old dancer with Fuerza Negra, also shared his personal progress as a member of the group. The young man hopes to be admitted into the Faculty of Medicine at the Universidad del Norte and merge science with carnival dance as his way of life, he told Parra.
“My life here in the group has had a great transition in terms of me as a person, as an artist, since Nair instills in us, in addition to artistic and dance expressions, values, knowledge about the Afro culture that make us rise within a holistic formation,” he specified to El Heraldo.
In an interview with JCI, a Colombian news source that highlights the work of exceptional young people, Núñez shared the story of his youth and his dreams for Fuerza Negra.
“I grew up in Barranquilla. I was born in the Me Quejo neighborhood. Growing up, I had a very beautiful childhood surrounded by friends from the neighborhood without distractions from technology. We use to share and tell stories sitting outside our homes, on our porches. I am a young dreamer who continues to fight to achieve his goal. My goal is to leave a cultural legacy for the city of Barranquilla, and for Fuerza Negra to be recognized nationally and internationally.”
The foundation was born 7 years ago from a need. Young people in the neighborhood did not have healthy outlets to invest their free time. There was no space to play or to make art.
“I wondered how I could contribute to my community and centered around the theme of dance, I started with a small group of ten girls. As we grew, more children joined us. Today, we have a population of 140 young people who are part of our foundation. We not only work on the subject of dance but also the subject of identity, their individual life projects, environmental issues surrounding a park we now have and our spaces,” he told JCI.
Since the pandemic, Fuerza Negra has appeared in virtual festivals highlighting Afro-Colombian dances and dances of African descent.
Núñez believes that art can transform people and spaces. His foundation was born to help youth escape the contamination of gangs and crime.
“I’m decontaminating other kids. Now when we participate in parades I look and see 140, 160 dancers, dressed up, made up and sometimes tears come to my eyes. They are tears of happiness and pride seeing all that we have achieved. I see my dancers already for the university, studying. I see now that the seeds I planted are bearing fruit. The neighborhood’s aura has changed. It is a different environment. I want them to understand that they were born for great things. Our goal now is to play for an international stage.”
To learn more:
Nair Antonio Núñez Pérez: Facebook Page.
The work of photographer, Hansel Vásquez: Instagram Page: @hanselvas
Journalist, Amanda Parra for El Heraldo: Instagram Page: @amandaparrad
Soledad is the founder of Latina Republic and is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Soledad lived the immigrant experience in the US, which shaped her as an advocate for immigrant rights. Her passion for the immigrant experience in the U.S. led her to pursue a PhD in US immigration history. She enjoyed over a decade of her professional career in academia, but was pulled in a new direction when she learned about Friends of OC Detainees through a student. She was immediately inspired to volunteer and visit women held in detention in Orange County. By learning about their struggles and the motives for leaving their home countries in Central and South America, Soledad saw a need to understand and communicate the regional causes that pushed migrants outside their homes. By staying in touch with women who were deported to Central America, Soledad gained insight into local problems and encountered leaders and organizations in Central America that were dedicated to making their communities stronger, safer, and self-reliant. What started as a forum for storytelling in an effort to destroy stereotypes that depict migrants in an inaccurate light, turned into a nonprofit formed to help support courageous leaders and organizations that work hard every day to improve their countries. The study of migrants fleeing to the US, led Soledad to develop an equal passion for advancing the rights of Latinx families in Southern California where the stigma of public charge and a pattern of immigrant single-headed households necessitates action steps, information and local partnership. Soledad is an oral historian with a passion for human rights.