Americas Columns

Upside: Honoring Black FilAm achievers

For its second Black History Month commemoration this month, Filipinos in San Mateo, California-based nonprofit organization Peninsula Family Service (PFS) are embracing their Black Filipino American kin.

In its mission to “strengthen children, families, and older adults with the support and tools to realize their full potential and lead healthy, stable lives,” PFS highlights diversity among its agency values.

The DEI team and its D.R.E.A.M Employee Resource group led a grand celebration last week at the Burlingame Community Center with live performances, food, and family-friendly activities.  Last issue Upside featured Black FilAms political and public service icons.  Stars in sports and the arts headline this issue:

Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum made worldwide news while appealing for help to expedite his wife’s spouse visa from the Philippines.  They were reunited when she arrived in the US in November 2023.

Bynum had played college football for the California Golden Bears and was selected by the Vikings in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in business.

Sarina Isabel Calpo Bolden plays forward for A-League Women club Newscastle Jets. Born in Santa Clara, California, she is a member of the Philippine National Women’s Team, for whom she scored their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup goal on July 25, 2023.  She had led her soccer team in Milpitas High School and then at Loyola Marymount University.

Jordan Taylor Clarkson, a Utah Jazz guard, is the son of Mike Clarkson and Annette Tullao Davis. The Florida native also plays for the Philippine National Basketball TeamIn 2015, he and Jeremy Lin became the first Asian American starting back court in NBA history.  In 2021, Clarkson was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Vallejo, California, native Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson is better known as H.E.R. or “Having Everything Revealed.” The R&B singer/songwriter has received an Academy Award, a Children’s and Family Emmy Award, 5 Grammys  and 5 Golden Globes nominations, 3 American Music Award and 4 Billboard Music Awards.

Peylia Marsema Balinton was born in Brooklyn to an African American mother and Filipino father.  She grew up in San Francisco and Etta James was among her childhood friends.  Johnny Otis discovered her in 1955 and named her Sugar Pie de Santo, R&B star

Dominic Fike grabbed attention for his songs on the website SoundCloud.  His debut album for Columbia Records, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong,” made the top 50 in the US, Australia and beyond. In 2022, Fike joined the of the second season of “Euphoria.”

Diamonté Quiava Valentin Harper aka Saweetie began songwriting at 13 in school in Elk Grove, Calif.  After earning a BA-Communication in USC, she focused on her rap career.  She is first cousins with Gabriele Union.  Their grandfather Willie Harper played for the San Francisco 49ers.  MC Hammer is their uncle.

Bataan Nitollano or Joe Bataan, was born in East Harlem, New York, the son of a Filipino father and African American mother.  His named his first band Joe Bataan and the Latin Swingers and in 1973 helped coin the phrase “salsoul,” mixing Latin and afro elements.

Chazwick Bradley “Chaz Bear” Bundick is known professionally as Toro y Moi.  A singer, songwriter, record producer, and graphic designer, he is recognized as a spearhead of the chillwave genre of the 2010s.  Based in the Bay Area, he was honored with the Chaz Bear Day by Berkeley for his contribution to the arts.

Cassie Ventura was born to an African American mother and Filipino father. At 14 she began modeling and co-wrote and recorded “Kiss Me,” a big club hit in Germany.  In 2008 she made her film debut in “Step Up 2,” in which she sang the lead single “Is it You.”  Recently she sued her ex-producer/boyfriend Sean Combs for sexual abuse that was settled out of court.

Black-eyed Peas co-founder Apl.de.ap, Allan Pineda Lindo was born in Angeles City, Philippines, to an African American airman and Filipina mother Cristina Pineda. The Pearl S. Buck Foundation matched him with a sponsor who later adopted him.

Allan came to the US at the age of 11 for treatment of nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes. He befriended William “will.i.am” Adams in school in Los Angeles and they formed the now world-renowned band behind the monster hit “I Gotta Feeling’” and 6 Grammys to date. – Adapted from original reprinted with permission from INQUIRER.NETUSA