Cabo Verde ‘40 under 40’ awardees are spreading respect for their culture

Duke University starting point guard Taina Mair, 20, said she was honored to be part of the inaugural Cabo Verde ‘40 under 40’ honorees. Mair started all 34 games for Duke this past season and was named to the All-ACC Academic team. Photo courtesy Duke Athletics

Valduvino Goncalves has become a standout guidance counselor in the Boston Public Schools – graduating from and now working at the John D. O’Bryant High School.

For many Bostonians of Cape Verdean descent, a common refrain in carrying the banner for their culture has been explaining what it means to be Cape Verdean. For several of the recipients of this year’s first-ever ‘Cabo Verde 40 under 40’ awards, particularly those who have ventured out of Dorchester and Roxbury, being Cape Verdean has included breaking out a map and pointing.

“When I got to college [at Northeastern], no one had ever heard of Cape Verde and I had to educate them,” said Valduvino Goncalves, a guidance counselor at John D. O’Bryant High School and an inaugural ‘40 under 40’ honoree. “Because Cape Verde is in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s actually in the crevice of the history and geography books. Even if you love geography, you can’t see it because it’s in the crevice.”

Added Duke University varsity basketball standout Taina Mair, another ‘40 under 40’ honoree: “I had to get out a map when I came to Duke and show people where it’s at. It’s crazy.”

There’ll be no geography lessons needed this week as the community gathers to celebrate Cape Verde’s 49th Independence Day on July 5.
The ‘40 under 40’ leaders’ event, organized by the Cape Verdean Association of Boston, took place on Tuesday at the Westin Boston Seaport hotel.

Paulo Debarros, director of the association, conceived of the event from his Bowdoin Street office. He noted that Cape Verdean talent in education, healthcare, government, and athletics often flies under the radar.

Two of the awardees are Manny Andrade and Nilton De Andrade – brothers who grew up and still live in Dorchester. This past spring, they represented the United States on the US National Futsol (indoor soccer) team – just missing qualifying for the World Cup at a Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) tournament in Nicaragua.

Manny Andrade and Nilton De Andrade represented the United States and Cape Verdean American community on the US National Team for Futsol (indoor soccer) last April at the CONCACAF tournament in Nicaragua. Photo by Lauren Stefl/US Soccer

Manny, 30, a six-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, and Nilton, 27, a professional star in the Major Arena Soccer League’s (MASL) Utica City FC team who was a two-time All-America at UMass Boston, are deeply rooted in Dorchester’s soccer community.

Manny, after graduating from Charlestown High School, played for Division 1 Providence College, which made it to the Final Four and won the Big East tournament during his career there.

But it was representing the United States as Cape Verdean Americans on the National team last April that meant the most for the brothers.

“That is one of the most important things that has happened to me in soccer – to be able to represent my country on the world stage and at that level,” said Nilton, who tied a record for most goals scored by a US player in CONCACAF competition. “I had a chance to shine for my country and community.”

Added Manny: “Being a role model to the community is important to us. When we were there, we got a lot of text messages from the Cape Verdean community excited for us representing the United States and the Cape Verdean community…We knew we were representing a lot of people back home, not just us, but a lot of people behind us.”

That is the same feeling for Mair, who early on watched her sister excel in basketball for Boston English High School. Later, the family moved to Dorchester and Mair’s basketball prowess also grew. She got her first college scholarship offer – from George Washington University – before she was in high school while playing for Tony Richards’s ‘No Books, No Ball’ and AAU teams.

“I knew then I would be able to go to college for free on my basketball talent and that was something that was going to help my mom, who was a single mother with kids,” said Mair, now 20 and a standout point guard for the Duke University women’s basketball team that made an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance this past March after upsetting a talented Ohio State team.

She attended Mozart Elementary in Roslindale and then Roxbury Prep Charter School in Dorchester from grades 5-8 before settling in at the Brooks School in North Andover for high school, where she was a star on the team.

“It was a completely new environment for me, especially being a city kid, but it built independence in me,” she said.

Mair had a promising year at Boston College as a freshman year, then transferred to Duke last year. It has been a great decision, she said; Duke is “a whole different world of networking, basketball, and academics.”

She said being named a ‘40 under 40’ honoree came out of the blue.

“I appreciate the honor and it means a lot to me and my family,” she said. “I’m only 20 so it says a lot for what I’ve done so far…I do a lot of volunteer work at basketball events or with boys and girls, and I want to give back even more as I get older.”

Goncalves, 35, he has spent most of his life along the strip of Dudley Street and Malcolm X Boulevard from Uphams Corner to Northeastern University – with a part of that stretch he described as “Cape Verdean-ville” that was a tough environment when he was coming of age.

He attended the former Emerson School, went to high school at O’Bryant, and then to Northeastern University. He also married to his wife, Arlene Sanchez, along that stretch, at St. Patrick’s Church – a bulwark of his family and faith – and now owns a home there as well.

“I am very honored to get this award and wasn’t sure it was real at first,” he said. “It allows us to spread the culture and language and let other people know we’re not Latinos, Dominicans, or Puerto Ricans. Many don’t know Cape Verde. I’m excited to be part of the first 40 and I think it’s a beautiful event.”

Goncalves noted that his father, Manuel, who recently wrote the first Cape Verdean Criolo dictionary in his retirement, was a long-time guidance counselor at Madison Park, and that his mother, Albina, always stressed education. Though starting in a bilingual program, he was promoted to the “English classroom” in third grade and excelled. His calling was education, but not in the classroom. Rather, it was guiding young people.

“If you’re going to teach math, you have to love math, and I didn’t love math,” he said. “I loved working with the kids and guiding them. I’m at O’Bryant, the very school I went to, and I tell my kids there I see myself in all of them…I had a professor of mine remark that I was still only a school counselor. I felt disrespected by that…Right now, I don’t need a fancy title to know the impact I’m having on the kids and giving back to the community I grew up in every day.”

Cabo Verde Boston 40 under 40 Gala honorees:
•Joao Dos Santos – Non-profit/community service
•Leah Tavares - non-profit/Other 1's
•Cristine Brandao – City of Boston
•Denise Dos Santos – City of Boston
•Valdimar Alves – Boston Public Schools
•Chantal Lima Barbosa – Boston School Committee member
•Valduvino Goncalves – John D. O’Bryant High School, guidance counselor
•Joshua Jorge Timas Fidalgo - education
•Antonio Centeio – Non-profit/human services
•Titciana Barros - Education
•Jolivia Barros – City of Boston
•Alize Correia Cabral – city government/agency
•Rachelle Centeio - politics
•Tyler Santos – film industry
•Jeffrey Lopes – law enforcement/education
•Estevao Gomes – education/sports
•Nilton Andrade – professional sports
•Manny Andrade – Boston Police/sports
•Armani Brandao – entrepreneur/DJ
•Jose Luis Martins – activism/non-profit
•Melissa Martins - education
•Vanilda Sequeira – business, 24 Pizza owner
•Manuel Ivanilson da Rosa – business/entrepreneur
•Piter Brandao – entrepreneurship/non-profit
•Taina Mair – college sports
•Joceline Fidalgo - consultant
•Steve "Nugget" DoSouto – non-profit/sports
•Amarildo "Lilu" Barbosa – higher education
•Camila Pontes - education
•Kevin De Pina – business marketing
•Shantel "Stax" Teixeira - music industry/entrepreneurship
•Jessica Correia - politics
•Edvaldo Ferreira – non-profit
•Lucas Medina – non-profit
•Irlando Goncalves - education
•Tiago "MC Bife" Miranda – music industry/entrepreneurship
•Skylar Cruz – social justice
•Lea-Antoinette Serena - education
•Anastasia Walker - tourism and hospitality/entrepreneurship
•Josefa Da Silva - fashion

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