What a gift to know a giant among humans.
Esmerlada— our dear sister and friend; our Elder and teacher has passed on. We know that she can rest now, and no longer will feel pain. For that, we are thankful. We are thinking of her husband Waldaba, her daughter Zulane and all her close family and friends all over the world who are mourning her passing.
Esmeralda was a woman of African descent from Panama and she was so proud of her people. She dedicated her life to peoples of African descent and Indigenous Peoples. If you knew her, you know she was an amazing storyteller, always captivating the room with her stories. Esmeralda was incredibly elegant in her style and her way of being. She had a smile that lit up any room. Esmeralda was altruistic, always serving others and assisting in any way she could.
We know the work that Esmeralda devoted her life to—the empowerment of peoples of African descent, the Global South and Indigenous Peoples—continues. We know our movements have been left much stronger due to Esmeralda’s work. She advanced our work at all levels— locally, regionally and globally. Her work with the Southern Diaspora Research & Development Center was deeply impactful, especially in communities of African descent in Central America. She was one of the founding mothers of the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus and Global Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus.
Esmeralda was always building relationships between Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island/Abya Yala and peoples of African descent. She always honored the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and proudly said that the Onondaga Nation chiefs were her chiefs, too.
For generations to come, we know our work builds upon her foundation and our work is an unbroken continuation of her work, across generations, places and Peoples.
We will miss her so much. We know that Aunt Tonya and Ingrid greeted her. And we know they must be having a wonderful time together.
Thank you for everything Esmeralda. We love you.
~ Betty Lyons, President, American Indian Law Alliance
~ Roger Drew, friend of American Indian Law Alliance