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Afro-Brazilians expressed cautious optimism as the New year saw the celebration of great political strides but also critical social challenges. This was evident by the appointment and inaugurations of Anielle Franco and Sonia Guajajara as ministers of Racial Equality and Indigenous Rights.
A historic ceremony at the Presidential Palace, in Brasília (DF), on the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 11, marked the inauguration of Sônia Guajajara and Anielle Franco as the ministries of Indigenous Peoples and Racial Equality, respectively. The ceremony, which was scheduled for Monday, Jan. 9, was postponed after the terrorist attacks on the Three Powers Square on Sunday, Jan. 8. Anielle Franco and Sônia Guajajara were the last two ministers to take office in the new government. The other 35 ministers have already been sworn in.
The indigenous leadership celebrated the arrival of the two to the federal government: “The black and indigenous people’s resistance takes possession here”.
Presented by Congresswoman Célia Xakriabá (PSOL-MG), who called her “Sônia, the biome woman”, Guajajara was the first to speak and thanked President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), who created the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples.
“Lula, I congratulate you for recognizing the protagonism and strength of Indigenous peoples in the face of the challenge of preserving the environment in the midst of the climate crisis, creating this ministry unprecedented in the history of Brazil. Indigenous peoples who have resisted for more than 500 years to daily cowardly and violent attacks, as shocking and terrifying as we saw.
“Destroying the structure of the Supreme Court, the National Congress and the Presidential Palace will not destroy our democracy. Here, we summon all the women in Brazil to say together that we will never allow other coups in the country again,” warned the indigenous woman.
Guajajara spoke about the problems faced by the Indigenous peoples. “The cases of poisoning caused by the mercury from mining, by pesticides in large agricultural crops; invasions in our territories; degrading health and sanitation conditions; the increase in food insecurity that has even resulted in the death of numerous indigenous children and elderly and the lack of protection of the territories where isolated indigenous peoples live.”
Finally, the Indigenous leader expressed to the president the desire to use the new congress to overcome the causes of the ills of the indigenous people. “Lula, I venture to say, without exaggeration, that many indigenous peoples are experiencing a real humanitarian crisis in our country and now I am here to work together, to end the normalization of this unconstitutional state that has worsened in recent years.”
The Terena people executed the Dance of the Ema in the possession of Minister Sônia Guajajara
Minister Anielle Franco began her speech by remembering her sister, former councilwoman Marielle Franco, brutally murdered in Rio de Janeiro in one of the most consequential political crimes in Brazilian history.
“Since March 14, 2018, the day they took Marielle from my family and Brazilian society, I have been dedicating every minute of my life to fighting for justice, defending memory, multiplying the legacy and watering my sister’s seeds,” he said.
Franco recalled that “we can no longer ignore or underestimate the fact that race and ethnicity are determinants for the inequality of opportunities in Brazil in all areas of life. Black people are underrepresented in the spaces of power and, on the other hand, we are the ones who are the most in the spaces of stigmatization and vulnerability”.
The minister reflected on the condition of Afro-Brazilians. “Although the majority of the Brazilian population declares itself black, it is possible to observe that whites occupy most of the managerial positions, formal jobs and elective positions. On the other hand, the black population is at the top of the rates of unemployment, underemployment and informal occupations, in addition to receiving the lowest wages.”The non-Black Brazilians, especially Lula’s government team, received a special request from the minister. “We hope to be able to count on you in this task of reconstruction in favor of respect, citizenship, dignity and equal opportunities. And, I address especially to the other ministers and ministers whose portfolios could not work without a punctual and transversal cutout on racism and raciality in Brazil. And, also for this reason, the Ministry of Racial Equality is at its disposal to rebuild this The commitment to Racial Equality in Brazil cannot be the commitment of this Ministry alone.”