Jess Évora is the founder and executive director of Ranja CV. Ranja means in the Kriolu language, the native language spoken in Cape Verde, to prepare. The CV is the abbreviation for Cape Verde.
Ranja CV is a nonprofit organization that was founded in April 2019. RANJA CV is both a community and a digital platform for Cape Verdeans and is dedicated to empowering, uniting, and preparing a multi-generational force of Cape Verdean leaders to make a positive impact within the Cape Verdean community.
We had the distinct honor of interviewing Jess Évora:
Tell us a little about you, Jess Évora.
I am a proud Cabo Verdean woman, and I am a first-generation American, descendant of Cape Verdean parents. My mother is from the Cape Verdean island of Santo Antão and my father is from the Cape Verdean island of Santiago. I was born and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
I’ve lived in California for the past 7 years. I am an active member of NextGen Kriolus (formerly called CV Millennials of Northern California). I am also the Director of Content for Poderoza: International Conference on Cabo Verdean Women (PoderozaConference.com).
Can you briefly tell us about Ranja CV?
I founded Ranja CV in 2019. Ranja CV is a nonprofit organization and a digital platform for Cabo Verdeans. We are dedicated to empowering, uniting, and preparing the next generation of Cabo Verdeans to make a positive impact in the CV community. We create opportunities for networking, collaboration, and mentorship. You can learn more at RanjaCV.org.
Our Board consists of young Cabo Verdeans from all over the world who are passionate about contributing to the advancement of CV people. You can review our Board members.
Ranja CV was created because I noticed that when you do a search on Cabo Verde, for the most part, all you find is photos of European tourists on our beautiful islands, and sexualized photos of our women and men. You don’t find a lot of conversations about our accomplishments outside of our beauty. You also don’t find a lot of conversations about the real issues that need to be addressed within the Cape Verdean Diaspora. Ranja CV aims to fill that gap.
What are some of you concerns about contemporary Cape Verde? For example on Ranja CV Instagram page you write of concerns of “continued foreign developments.”
I am very concerned about all these foreign investors buying up the land on our coasts, wiping out entire blocks, like the one across the street from Laginha in Sao Vicente, the coming Chinese casino on Gamboa in Praia, and the foreign ownership of the land surrounding the salt flats in Sal. I fear that pretty soon CV will have no land to call our own. This is truly heartbreaking.
I am also concerned about how heavily we rely on tourism, an industry we don’t even own. We must do more to support Cape Verdean owned businesses, entrepreneurs, and make sure that when a student graduates from university, they have actual job opportunities in Cabo Verde. Otherwise they will have to leave to Europe or the U.S. to utilize their talents, as countless Cape Verdeans have had to do.
My parents had to leave for better opportunities outside of Cabo Verde, which is why I grew up in the United States and not in Cabo Verde. I think our government needs to do more to help and protect Cape Verdeans. I believe Cape Verdeans should be outraged and irate with the current government policies. The entire Diaspora should be loud about our anger, so the government in Cabo Verde knows we are serious.
What can be done to bring more American born Cape Verdean’s to come and visit, explore and know Cape Verde?
I think we need to create an intentional and welcoming environment throughout the Diaspora, free of judgment, regarding who is “Cape Verdean enough.” Many Cabo Verdeans outside of Cape Verde feel that they are shamed for not having been born in Cabo Verde or not speaking the language. I myself have experienced it.
Cape Verdeans have told me I’m not really Cape Verdean because I wasn’t born in Cape Verde. They also say that me I’m not really Cape Verdean because my Kriolu, the native language spoken in Cape Verde, needs a lot of work (which it does, but it gets better every day). If you’re judged in this way by other Cape Verdeans in the Unites States you begin to wonder how much you’ll be judged by Cape Verdeans in Cabo Verde. This is what made me very anxious visiting Cape Verde for the first time when I was sixteen.
I’m old enough now to not care about these judgments. I go to Cabo Verde every year now. I speak my broken Kriolu and I don’t let anyone shame me. I tell my cousins to just correct me so I can continue to learn. This is why Ranja CV tries to spread the message that if you are even one drop Cape Verdean, and you are proud, then Cape Verde is your home and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Also, we need to get rid of the tension between islands and the rivalry between Sampadjudo (Cape Verdeans from the northern islands of Cape Verde) versus Badiu (generally Cape Verdeans from the southern islands of Cape Verde). It seems this rivalry is increasing in Cabo Verde recently. I believe if we get rid of these divides and the judgment, then all Cape Verdeans in the United States and across the Diaspora will feel welcome and excited to visit their home country.
And as always we like to close with a saying, quote or adage and today’s is themed on writing: MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA OF WHAT AND WHERE CABO VERDE IS. SO I DEFINETELY WANT TO MAKE PEOPLE AWARE OF OUR CULTURE.
Now, go forth and change the game!