2006 Hall of Fame Inductees
was born on June 18, 1924 In Providence, Rhode Island to Amalia
DaGraca and Antonio Sebastiao Braz. With siblings Anna Spencer,
Albert and Joseph Braz, and Margaret Valles, she grew up on
Woodward Avenue in East Providence. A dedicated student, she
graduated with honors from East Providence High School in
1942 and received a certificate in stenography from Johnson
& Wales College in 1947 and a certificate in shorthand
from Bryant College in 1960. Immediately after high school,
she worked in Washington, D.C. for the Department of Inter-American
Affairs as a stenographer. During World War II she worked
at Quonset Point, and later for two law firms. For forty-five
years, she worked for the State of Rhode Island beginning
as a Senior Clerk and retiring in 1993 as an Engineering Technician
III for the Department of Transportation.
her lifetime, Aliz served her community and honored her Cape
Verdean heritage by serving on several committees in leadership
positions. As a young woman, she worked with a committed group
of women as their translator, secretary, and legal clerk I
the incorporation of the Cape Verdean Women’s American
Progressive Club in 1944, Six years later they were given
a plot of land and eventually became the Cape Verdean Progressive
the professional organizations Aliz was involved in were the
International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers,
Local 400,where she served as Corresponding Secretary; Department
of Transportation Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Board,
Secretary; Consultant to Portuguese Program Coordinator, National
Materials Development Center in Bedford New Hampshire.
the President and devoted member of the Cape Verdean Progressive
Center, Women’s Guild; President of the East Providence
Traditional Girls’ Club; Secretary, Committee Chair and
Board of Governors of the Cape Verdean Progressive Center;
Secretary and Member of the Board of Directors of the Cape
Verdean American Federation and a member of the Cape Verdean
Sub-committee of the Rhode Island Heritage Commission.
passion for music was evident in all that she did. Seldom
was her home without the sound of her piano and the sounds
of her beloved Cape Verde Islands. In 1950, she organized
a Creole band, the Junior Verdeans, and performed with the
group around several cities in Southern New England.
by ship she was among the first American born Cape Verdeans
to visit the islands in 1951. It was during this six-month
visit that she began to gather information in her quest to
write her family history. Although she had no children of
her own, she had 47 godchildren.
Captain Antone Coelho
in 1842 on the island of Brava, Cape Verde, Antone Coelho
immigrated to the United States on a sailing ship. His family
settled in Rhode Island.
Captain Coelho purchased a vessel, the Nellie May, a 64 ton
fishing schooner, with the intention of making regular trips
between Cape Verde and the United States, carrying passengers,
freight and mail. He was the first Cape Verdean American to
obtain a vessel to engage in the Packet Trade. In 1892 he
sailed from Providence for Brava with fifty passengers and
returned in 1893 with 117 passengers and crew. A subsequent
voyage ran into trouble resulting in the Nellie May being
beached by Coelho’s captain and declared salvage. Antone
Coelho appealed to the State Department in Washington, D.C.
and wrote to two presidents, Cleveland and McKinley, to secure
the return of his ship. This correspondence lasted for 23
years, until 1915, with no results.
returned to Rhode Island, Antone Coelho devoted much of his
time to his fellow Cape Verdeans, helping them to locate housing
and employment. He served as an interpreter during naturalization
procedures and other official functions. He had political
connections with Rhode Island Governor Norman S. Case and
worked with a few lawyers. He was praised for his good deeds.
a reporter from the Providence Journal visited Captain Coelho
at his home on 31 Sheldon St. in Providence’s Fox Point.
One of the packet ships was about to embark on a trip for
Cape Verde and the reporter came to interview Captain Coelho.
With great eloquence she described how he looked that day,
sitting in his favorite chair by the kitchen window, with
a breeze from the water coming in on him, decked out in his
favorite white captain’s cap, one that he practically
slept in, smoking his pipe. Coelho told the reporter that
he wanted to sail on this ship to Cape Verde, “Once I
get back to sea, I will be young again.” Captain Antone
Coelho was 96 years old at this time: he died the following
of the “Coming to Rhode Island” display in the Providence
Children’s Museum, a story gallery with a replica of
the Nellie May tells Antone’s story and is being shared
with children of all backgrounds and their families.
Honorable Peter J.
Coelho was born in 1921 in East Providence to Cape Verdean
immigrants. He lived his entire life in that city, residing
at the same address for 76 years. He enlisted in the United
States Army and was a veteran of the Army Air Forces of WWII,
working in an administrative capacity for the Tuskegee Army
Air Force. After the service Peter became a painting contractor
from 1946-1965 during which time he also became a special
agent for the New York Life Insurance Company until retiring
joined with a group of Cape Verdean women who had land in
East Providence which had been donated to them for the purpose
of erecting a building. Peter was in possession of a liquor
license, which had previously been held by the Royal Cape
Verdean Brotherhood. The Brotherhood had been established
so the Cape Verdean men would have a place of their own to
meet and socialize. It was in the difficult process of obtaining
this license that Peter Coelho realized the need for Cape
Verdean representation in the political arena. When the organization
folded, Peter assumed its debt to hold the rights to the liquor
license. The women appointed him Building Committee Chairman.
In 1951 they erected the building and by 1953 the membership
had grown to 340. It was named the Cape Verdean Progressive
Center and Peter was elected the first male president. In
1974 Peter served as Chairman of the first Cape Verdean American
became the first Cape Verdean to be elected to the General
Assembly of Rhode Island and served as State Representative
of District 84, that later became District 83, from 1967 –
1978. He was the Secretary of the Ward 2 Democratic City Committee.
From 1968 – 1972 he was Executive Director of the Home
for Hope Foundation, Catholic Diocese of Providence. He was
a residential housing appraiser for HUD from 1984 – 1992.
He started his own real estate company PETCO, as a licensed
real estate broker.
served as board member to many organizations throughout his
lifetime such as Rhode Island Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, The
Urban League of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Board of
Realtors. He was a member of the East Providence Council,
Knights of Columbus.
and his wife Julia had 5 daughters, 11 grandchildren and 6
Dr. Charles Nicholas
Nicholas Fortes was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts the
oldest of five children of Nicholas Charles and Teolinda Fortes.
His parents were born in Cape Verde. Charlie was a Merchant
Seaman and a member of the National Maritime Union until a
serious heart condition curtailed his career at sea. He was
married to Rose Margaret Oliveira Fortes and the father of
seven children. Returning to Providence in the sixties, Charlie
became an employee of Progress for Providence, a state anti-poverty
agency, as a neighborhood representative in the west end of
Providence. He often applied the lessons he had learned as
a union man to organize and advocate for the people.
Charlie left Progress for Providence and established and served
as the Executive Director of the Providence Corporation, the
largest private anti-poverty agency in the USA at the time,
which employed Cape Verdeans and other minorities. The corporation
operated the largest Volunteers in Service to America Programs
(VISTA) in the nation aimed at eliminating poverty and discrimination.
Charles was instrumental in establishing educational, health
and social organizations that are now an integral part of
Rhode Island society. He proudly displayed his slogan “from
problem to promise” in his office.
man, Charles Fortes always advocated for co-operation between
minority and poor people. A history buff, he collected facts
about Cape Verdeans in history which he passed on with a smile
on his face. He proudly acknowledged and promoted his Cape
Verdean heritage. He was an early supporter of Cape Verdean
nationalism and independence from Portugal.
his many accomplishments on a social level, Charles Fortes
helped to establish and served on the Board of Directors of
the Providence Ambulatory Health Centers, the Urban Education
Center, the Opportunies Industrialization Center, LEAP program
for science students at Brown University and the Rhode Island
Hometown Plan. He promoted the fair housing bill for Rhode
Island, rights and fair treatment of welfare recipients, educational
opportunities for all students and prison reform. Charlie
would buy one stock in a utility company so he could attend
the stockholders meeting and advocate for lower income people.
Fortes, along with three others, founded the Cape Verdean
American Federation to, among other things, acknowledge and
strengthen Cape Verdean identity. He was the first Chairman
of the incorporated non-profit organization. Although established
in Rhode Island, the federation spread to have chapters in
several states. Charles Fortes found funding for the first
annual Cape Verdean American Convention which was held in
Providence in February 1974. Open and free to all this first
convention attracted more than 600 people, almost entirely
Cape Verdean, of diverse backgrounds, immigrants and American
born, young and old, from throughout the United States who
came to proclaim and celebrate their Cape Verdean identity.
Fortes was a member of the group who successfully petitioned
the State of Rhode Island to recognize Cape Verdeans as a
separate ethnic group and to form our own subcommittee of
the Rhode Island Bicentennial Commission. He was appointed
to serve on the first Cape Verdean Heritage Subcommittee in
1975. He considered this a chance of a lifetime to stamp our
heritage on Rhode Island. This committee is still in existence
as part of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage
Fortes was a member of the original group of Cape Verdeans
who advocated for the Schooner Ernestina to be given to the
Island College bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Pedagogy Degree
for Charles Fortes on June 9, 1973. The James P. Adams Library
at Rhode Island College houses the Charles Nicholas Fortes
Room which is used for meetings, conferences and special events.
At its entrance is a framed copy of his honorary degree citation
and inside is a plaque with a 1983 dedication honoring him
as a community leader and founder of the Urban Educational
Fortes Magnet Academy, a public school in the west end of
Providence, is named for Dr. Charles Fortes and is dedicated
to his memory.
Nicholas Fortes was a humble man who only owned one suit.
He preferred to be known simply as Charlie. He was a visionary
who wrote to the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations in 1972
to help fund a cultural center for Cape Verdeans in Rhode
Island. He was a dedicated man, never selfish with his time,
who was a mentor to many, and a friend to all. In the Posthumous
Testimonial honoring the late Dr. Charles N. Fortes held at
the Venus De Milo on October 9, 1977, it was said “Charles
Fortes was a Gentleman, Husband, Father, Christian and Friend
to Young and Old, Black and White.”
Anna Cabral Spencer
Cabral Spencer’s home in North Providence, a home she
built with her own wits and hands with the help of friends
and a book, “How to Build My Dream Home”, was not
just a home for herself and her family of sons. It became
a haven for many. The family has lost track of how many people
from the Cape Verde Islands stayed with them. It seemed that
there was always someone living in the house with them. A
relative even came from Holland and stayed until she graduated
until they found employment and a place to live. Sometimes
she sponsored entire families. Anna would make countless trips
to the Cape Verdean Consulate in Boston, fill out papers for
visa renewals, accompany people to attorneys’ offices
and to court. She was a volunteer interpreter for the International
Institute. There were three weddings in that house and as
a result, Anna has over twenty god-children.
she was recognized by the Mayor of the City of Providence
when she received a Citizen Citation for “Contributions
as a Guiding Light in the Dynamic Cape Verdean Communities”.
That same year she received a Po D’Terra Lifetime Achievement
Award from the Rhode Island Cape Verdean Cultural Exchange
& Education Project.
the first woman of color to work as a salesperson in a Boston
department store, Gilchrist Department Store. She attended
school in Boston for nutrition, and later taught knitting
and crochet at the same school. Her education as a nutritionist
led her to the work she did in Rhode Island until retirement
- cooking for children at Head Start and at Tri Town Day Care.
of Alfredo Vieira and Antonia Ramos Vieira of Sao Vicente,
Anna heeded the example of her hardworking, generous parents.
She sends barrels to Cape Verde every year and paid taxes
on land she had never seen so her relatives, whom she had
never met, would not lose their land.
Cabral Spencer has truly embraced life. Her commitment to
her people and their traditions is outstanding. She shares
unselfishly and leads by the power of her unparalleled perseverance.
on their close harmony and the inherited musical talent from
the elders in their family, the group Tavares became known
for their infectious Disco Rhythm and Blues sound. They have
been performing since 1955. The group which includes the Tavares
Brothers, Feliciano "Butch", Antone "Chubby",
Perry Lee "Tiny", Ralph "T", Arthur "Pooch"
and Earl "Victor", was formed in 1964. After going
through several name changes, the group settled on the name
“Tavares” in 1969 during a trip to Italy.
up the group lived in New Bedford and Fox Point in Providence.
They came from humble beginnings and went on to become major
acclaimed singers without the luxury of formal voice lessons.
they signed with Capital Records. Their debut album Check
It Out contained two top ten R & B hits, the first of
many such hit recordings. The Tavares discography includes
more than 25 titles. They recorded several Gold and Platinum
records. Some of their individual hits include, “Heaven
Must Be Missing an Angel”, “More Than a Woman”,
“That’s the Sound That Lonely Makes” and “Don’t
Take Away the Music”.
became full fledged dance music superstars. They toured constantly
throughout the United States and in Europe and made regular
appearances on major U. S. television shows such as Johnny
Carson’s Tonight Show and Dick Clark’s American
Bandstand. The BeeGees wrote “More Than a Woman”
for Tavares to record, and the group performed the song for
the soundtrack to the movie Saturday Night Fever. The album
quickly became the biggest selling album in history at that
time. They received a Grammy for their work on the famous
soundtrack. Their music has also been featured in commercials
and the movies “Charlie’s Angels” and “Down
has continued to record throughout the years, including a
number of compilation albums, some recorded live. The brothers’
talent and love of music has been passed on to their children
and grandchildren who will be the next generations in this
musical Cape Verdean family.
Feliciano Vierra Tavares
Vierra Tavares, known as “Flash” came from a family
of 10 siblings, 8 girls and 2 boys. His father was born in
Santiago and his mother on Sao Nicolau in the Cape Verde Islands.
The family lived in the midst of the Cape Verdean community
in Fox Point. Music was an important part of their lives
playing on a homemade ukulele made from a cigar box and four
elastics. He got his idea to make his ukulele from Jaffa’s
second hand store on South Main Street in Providence. He received
his first guitar at the age of seven. It had only two strings
and was donated to him by the Salvation Army, while he was
collecting firewood for his parents to burn at home.
was a self-taught musician by listening to the radio and anything
he could get his hands on. He began playing with a “jump
group” led by Walter Williams and the Hep-cats. After
he left Walter’s band, he started playing with Cape Verdean
Cape Verdean band he played in was led by a stevedore named
Tony. The band changed leaders several times eventually coming
to Flash, who was doing all the lead vocals at the time, often
accompanied by his sister Vickie. Feliciano Vierra Tavares
took “Flash Vierra” as a stage name, dropping the
Tavares. This group toured throughout New England and New
York in the 1940’s.
moved to New Bedford and became a guitar player for the Jimmy
Barros band, which led to a trip to California, where they
visited two cities, Sacramento and San Francisco. At this
time the song “Sacramente” was composed. The song
was written and performed by all of the members of the Jimmy
Barros group, inspired by the reception they received at the
home of a fellow Cape Verdean named Lilly. In California they
appeared at dance halls and VFW’s throughout the Bay
from California Flash returned to Fox Point where he rejoined
the Creole Sextet. He and his sister Vickie continued to be
featured singers with various local Cape Verdean bands. Their
close harmony and phrasing made them well known and popular
in American Cape Verdean music.
has performed for many dances, celebrations and events in
the Cape Verdean community throughout the years, often contributing
his talent for good causes.
Flash Tavares performed with the Cape Verdean American Dance
Band in the Cape Verdean Connection at the Smithsonian’s
Festival of American Folklife. In 1996, he participated in
the So Sabi Festival sponsored by the Boston Center for the
Arts. He is featured on the CD, “So Sabi: Cape Verdean
Music from New England”.
is the father of the members of the Rhythm and Blues group
resides in Hyannis, Massachusetts in semi-retirement with
his wife Grace and still turns out to entertain at the age
Vickie Tavares Vieira
Tavares Vieira was born in Providence, Rhode Island into a
family of 10 siblings, 8 girls and 2 boys. Her parents were
immigrants from Cape Verde, her father from Santiago and her
mother from Sao Nicolau. Vickie grew up in the Fox Point area
of the city in a musical home. She started singing at an early
age and soon became known in the Cape Verdean community for
her beautiful voice and mastery of Cape Verdean music.
a young woman, she was willing and eager to sing at charity
dances given by the women of the community, always properly
chaperoned. At the age of nineteen, she began singing in local
bands with her brother Flash, because that was the only way
she was allowed out of the house to perform. She was only
allowed to sit in with the bands in which her brother played.
the first bands she sang in was led by “Cut” Cardoza,
a fellow Fox Pointer. This band went through several leaders
and finally when her brother Flash took the lead, she became
a permanent member of the band. Flash and Vickie shared in
the lead vocals often doing duets, singing both traditional
Cape Verdean music and American jazz.
never had any formal vocal training. She learned and was influenced
by what she heard on the radio and early television. She was
a huge follower of the female jazz greats such as Lena Horne,
Della Reese, Eartha Kitt and Sarah Vaughn. Vickie and Flash
developed a style of interpreting Cape Verdean music with
a jazz styling which made their music distinctly American
brother Flash went to San Francisco, California, Vickie continued
playing with Cape Verdean bands. Throughout the fifties, she
played up and down the East Coast, from New York to Cape Cod.
Vickie was recognized as the premier female American Cape
Verdean singer at this time.
joined the Skyliners, a big band. She also made a recording
with Phil Barboza’s Orchestra and later sang with the
Duke Oliver Band. After successfully touring with these groups,
she returned to her roots and her Rhode Island and Massachusetts
fans. Flash had returned from California and the popular duo
continued singing together. She most recently has sung with
the Creole Sextet.
Vieira has performed for Cape Verdeans and other audiences
throughout the New England states. Her sunny personality and
fine vocalization have always made her an audience favorite.
Vickie participated in the Festival of American Folklike as
part of the Cape Verdean Connection’s Cape Verdean American
Dance Band. She has been featured in the So Sabi Festivals
and artist in residence programs sponsored by the Boston Center
for the Arts. She sings on the CD “So Sabi: Cape Verdean
Music from New England”, which was recorded at the festival.
She has sung at the Cape Verdean Conference sponsored by The
Bi-lingual Center at Brown University. She has participated
in a program at the Rhode Island Children’s Museum. In
earlier Cape Verdean Independence Day celebrations at India
Point Park, Vickie sang the National Anthem of the United
States. She appears in the film, “Some Kind of Funny
Porto Rican”. When Aristedes Pereira, the first President
of the Republic of Cape Verde, made his first visit to the
United States, Vickie serenaded him and later gave a memorable
performance at his meeting with the community.
to her musical talents, Vickie Vieira has a talent for friendship.
She maintains lasting friendships with many people. There
is a deep spiritual component to her life, evidenced by her
strong faith. She is deeply committed to her religion and
especially devoted to her family.
Vieira makes her home in East Providence, Rhode Island, sharing
her household with her beloved sister Maria. Presently she
is recovering from a mild stroke. Despite this setback, Vickie
promised to return to the stage in the near future.