Nydia Edgecombe and Elba Cabrera at the Evelina 100 Kickoff
Bronx community leaders gathered at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College on Wednesday, September 28 to honor Dr. Evelina Antonetty, one of the most important figures of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States, to announce plans for Evelina 100, a centennial symposium celebrating the Puerto Rican community activist and founder of United Bronx Parents.

Hosted by Evelina 100 chair Dr. Nydia Edgecombe, the kickoff event included touching testimonies from Dr. Antonetty’s family, friends, community members and scholars about the late community activist’s enduring legacy and her many contributions to their lives, communities, and beyond.

In his remarks, guest speaker Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. spoke passionately of Antonetty’s political and cultural influence, as well as of her work championing quality education in the Bronx. “Evelina Antonetty had an idea, a thought, that it does matter what zip code you live in, or what your native tongue is, that every child deserves a quality education,” he said. “That every parent has the right to dream that their children will do something great.”

He went on to urge others to keep her legacy alive. “When we finish the centennial next year, let’s come [up] with some tangible ways to show the world that Evelina Antonetty’s idea has become a clearer goal for all of us collectively,” he concluded.

Hostos President Daisy Cocco De Filippis presented a framed copy of Joy Harjo’s poem “Creation Story” to the honorable Bronx Borough President and, echoing his remarks, reflected on Antonetty’s incredible legacy.
“As a civil rights activist, a union organizer, and the founder of United Bronx Parents, Dr. Antonetty fought for the working men and women of the South Bronx,” she said. “A tireless advocate for social justice and educational reform, she changed lives and inspired others to do the same.”

President Cocco De Filippis also thanked Antonetty “for the gift of your passionate belief in the citizens of the South Bronx.”

Antonetty’s sister Elba Cabrera, who serves as an Honorary Chair on the Evelina 100 Planning Committee and is a distinguished member of the Hostos Community College Foundation, was among the honored guests in attendance. In her remarks, Cabrera expressed her love for her late sister and gratitude for the upcoming Evelina 100 celebration and all who have kept her memory alive, saying she felt her sister’s spirit in the room.

Attendees also heard from Iris Rodríguez-Rosa, Bronx Parks Commissioner/New York City Parks, who spoke of the “honor and privilege” of spearheading the effort to name a newly renovated park for Antonetty in her beloved South Bronx Community, and Fernando “Ponce” Laspina, Director of Centro Cultural Y Educativo “El Maestro” and Antonetty’s godson.

Then it came time for the big reveal, carried out by Evelina 100 Cultural Program Chair Elena Martínez, Co-Director, Bronx Music Heritage Center. Noting Antonetty’s practice of incorporating arts and culture into all aspects of her community work, she shared Evelina 100 celebration will be a year-long collaborative effort between institutions, organizations, and artists, marking the 100-year anniversary of Antonetty’s birth.

“This coming year, organizations like Hostos and the Bronx Music Heritage Center — and we hope to include other ones like El Maestro and other organizations throughout the Bronx and the city, as well as major artists like Antonio Martorell and Nitza Tufiño — will be creating programs and the artists will be making commissioned art work in honor of Evelina and her legacy, which will be featured through this upcoming year and then culminating in a week of performances and programs a year from now, in September of 2022.”

Evelina 100 Academic Program Chair Dr. Laura Kaplan, Assistant Professor at Pace University, concluded the event with a reading of a poem written for Dr. Antonetty by Hostos Professor Sonia Maldonado and her students in 2019, titled “Evelina Was Your Name.”