Activist and Physician, Andréia Beatriz Joins Atlantic Archives to Discuss Her Role As a Black Doctor in Brazil

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Atlantic Archives:  First of all congratulations on your recent humanitarian award. You are speaking with us during the middle of your trip to Madrid to accept the award. But before we get to that, let’s introduce you to our readers. How would you describe yourself, your identity, and the work that you do?

Andreia Beatriz: Hello, I’m Andréia Beatriz, I’m a Black, African woman, born in Brazil. I was born in Rio Grande do Sul, in the south of the country, where the racial distribution of the population takes place in a composition where we, Black people, are the minority. I was born and raised in a family of Black people with dark skin. It was in this space of Black love and the strengthening of African roots and the bonds of black love that I was raised. 

I am a militant of the political organization Reaja ou Seria Morta/Die! Killed” which is an organization that fights against anti-Black racial hatred, that fights against genocide, and for the renewal of the history of our people. I am Onirê’s mother and I’m a family doctor.

I believe that a lot of my identity has to do with my family’s history. I am the result of a meeting between two Black people who knew, lived, and faced racial oppression, the remnants of a disadvantaged situation that we have always lived in, we black people in the world. My father and mother met at the age of 14 and planned to start a family.

In 1966, my father wrote a love letter to my mother, talking about this love and that he didn’t want his children to go through what they went through. So, my identity is formed on a solid foundation of Black love, of planning, of a Black project from my parents and that has obviously been nurtured over time. And my identity is constantly reinforced by these bonds of Black love, understanding the fundamental role that each Black person has in this struggle and in this reconstruction of our history. 

My work emerges within this context, as a continuity of expanding these bonds that strengthen our lives, the rescue of our dignity and strength. My choice to take care of people’s health, to work mostly with black people who are the majority of people who are deprived of their liberty, has an intimate relationship with my racial identity, with my African belonging and with all the black love that I learned and received from my family.  I have learned that this work is one of the main paths for our future.

AA: You are being honored by the International Panafrican Garvyite Institute(?)  with the Emilio Castelar Award for Defending Freedom and Progress. Congratulations! How do you feel about receiving this award? 

AB: This human rights award was given to me by a very important Pan-Africanist organization, very active in Madrid, the Life Foundation. For me, it is a reflection of the practice of a collective organization. It isn’t something individual, it is impossible to exist alone and to act alone in the face of all the reality in which we live. So, this award is actually a recognition of people like me, who understand that it’s necessary to have an organized fight. This award also recognizes the organization that I belong to, Reaja (React), for this ethical, political and also community work. So, this award is very important. It reaffirms the African collective principles of existence. It’s a pan-Africanist practice of Black love, the essence of Black love that makes me work in a way that also restructures myself together with my Black brothers and sisters in the world.

AA: Your work is expansive. You are a medical physician at a federal prison, You teach medical students.

AB: Yes, in addition to being a family and community doctor in a prison health team, promoting care, prevention activities, disease prevention and promoting the health of people deprived of their liberty, I also teach medical courses at two universities and also a preceptor of the family and community medicine residency program that teaches the medical specialty to doctors who want to specialize in my field, in the area of ​​family and community medicine.

AA: This must be a heavy responsibility. What motivates you to work on both of these fronts?

AB: These two roles manage to bring together two important things. On one end, I work as a doctor for a prison health team in a context where the state denies adequate and qualified care for people. In the prison space, I have the possibility of expanding this care. As a Black woman, I can recognize the peculiarities of how race, skin color, and African identity can determine outcomes in the health and illness process. So, within the prison space, I have the possibility to expand this view of care and use health care as part of the renewal, the restructuring of people’s lives. I work to make health a starting point for people’s life projects, with a very critical view on racial identity.

As a medical professor in the graduate program, I can explore through teaching, discussion, and through daily reflections on care. Teaching gives me the possibility to train professionals to deliver qualified care to people of all backgrounds, especially Black people who suffer under racist systems of oppression.

B: Your political education emerged alongside your medical education? How did this shape your career? 

“Reaja” appeared in 2005, when I was already a doctor in this context. But I certainly believe that my medical practice contributed to the strengthening of militancy and militancy contributed a lot to my view of quality healthcare.  All of this was happening under state negligence. I am convinced today, looking at it all, that militancy contributed to the type of care that I offer to people- mainly to people deprived of their liberty. Everything I learned in terms of care, improving people’s health and quality of life, was influenced by the political and community understanding of what the process of suffering and illness means to Black people.

At the same time, political work doesn’t end. Just like the medical field, we study daily, we learn daily, and there are advances that also demand that we observe the world. We must seek out, learn from and establish connections globally.

Part two of the interview will continue next week.

Translation services are provided by Dante Freire.

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