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Monday, October 18, 2021

It’s Time to Listen to Black Brazilians

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Sed Mileshttp://www.sedmiles.com
An expat now living in Northeast Brazil, Sed Miles works hand in hand with working-class, Afro-Brazilian artists, activists and intellectuals fighting against Brazil’s systematic racial and class barriers using a Pan-African, intersectional pedagogy. Each week they will present dispatches from the archives that will bridge communities and be a resource for the future. The mission of the Archives is to help unite the Black diaspora through documenting, preserving, and sharing stories that represent the shared themes and experiences of working class Black people. The series will focus on Brazil and the United States, societies built and held together by generations of Africa’s unshakable children.

Afro Brazilian history and culture is so long and complex, like Black people in the United States, our southern cousins share an uncanny ability to survive and resist in a nation built around their labor and perpetual subjugation. 

The photos I enjoy the most from my archives are the ones like the main photo where there are no distinguishable markers to identify where the Black people are. Instead, they represent the universal experience of Black people in the diaspora. They shine like babygirl’s golden hater-blockers, evidence and inspiration of how we will continue into the future. We simply can not be defeated. 

Continuing from last week’s note which raised the question of why Brazil, with the second largest Black population, is underrepresented in the collective global resistance to authoritarian, genocidal, and white supremacist states. This year saw the savvy use of social media to educate and build solidarity by connecting the ongoing popular struggles to far-right global agendas. 

These calls for solidarity in the wake of massive state violence against civilians occurred during the same week of the unlawful police raids in a Black neighborhoods in Rio which resulted in 24 people being killed by Brazilian police

This week marks the beginning of a third Covid-19 wave in Brazil accounting for one in three deaths this year. These deaths are disproportionately Black and Indigenous and increasingly children and infants.   

One reason for the absence of Brazil from these conversations on collective solidarity, is simply the public ignorance about modern Brazil. What most Americans know about Brazil falls under primary stereotypes: Afro-Brazilians men are ultra violent and the women are hyper-sexual, making the country a dangerous sexual playground and enticing many unscrupulous tourists. 

These stereotypes align with stereotypes about Black Americans people during the turn of the century to justify second class citizen status. Brazil’s long campaign to stifle discussions on race while strengthening systems of oppression based on white supremacy- was arguably more effective outside of the country itself. 

Afro Brazilians have been resistant for generations. The last nation in the developing world and also one of the last to become a democracy. During the late 80s and early 90s Brazil transitioned into a democracy from a military dictatorship, which was backed and orchestrated with the United States government including the CIA. 

Poder (Power) by photographer Carlos Vergara on display at The São Paulo Museum of Art.

Another reason is the nearly nonexistent cultural and intellectual information pipeline. Brazilians, like other nations, consume a lot of American media. The reverse is not the case.

UFC fighter, Anderson Silva, may be the most well known Afro Brazilian, replacing Pelé from a generation before. Like many other nations knowledgeable about United States history and social condition, Brazil doesn’t benefit mutually. Brazil news and information does not travel up to the States and is not widely distributed; reserved for academics studying Brazil and DJs playing hip Tropicalia and Bossa Nova music sets. 

I asked professor Luciana Brito at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB), about the information imbalance. Brito is a prominent scholar of Brazilian and United States history and has also worked and studied in the States. 

“All traditional forms of Brazilian media has historically been monopolized by one group of families dating back to Portuguse colonial dynasties.”

According to Reporters without Borders, a media watchgroup, Brazilian media monopolies result in dangerously high risk to media pluralism (freedom of information). 

Meanwhile, Brazilians benefit from a relatively diverse American media landscape, relying heavily on online media for African American stories where they find familiar and empowering themes rarely found in the elite-run Brazilian media. 

Scholars and activists in Brazil take it many steps farther. Also at UFRB is Coletivo Angela Davis (the Angela Davis Collective.) The Activist group was designed to research Gender, Race and Subalternities and is named after the Alabama born political activist, humanitarian, and scholar. 

Angela Davis Greeted by students in Bahia Brazil. The Atlantic Archives

Afro Brazilian educator, Bárbara Carine agrees with the media imbalance.

“I think that the media has a fundamental role in this empathic departure of the Brazilian population in relation to the rest of the world”.

Carine is the founder of The Maria Felipa School, a primary school with a decolonial and African centered praxis. She adds:

“I think that the continental dimension of Brazil has developed in us an idea that the many problems we have here are too much to try and cope with.”

What can we do to help?

1. Educate yourself on Afro Brazil. A great place to start is the American run site Black Women of Brazil. But don’t stop here. 

2. Install translator plugins for your internet browsers and visit Brazilian websites and social media. Here are some of my favorites along with the previously mentioned:

@BSI_Updates
@citeblackwomen
@mariellefranco
@escolinhamariafelipa
@mariellefranco
@BrasilWire
@kilombacollective
@saudementalpopnegra
@afrodialogos
@programaacordabahia
@negrasmahin

3. Follow and include these hashtags when you repost about solidarity issues:

#marielleviva
#mariellefranco
#vidasnegrasimportam 
#todoscontraoracismo
#forabolsonaro
#feminismo
#SomosFeitosDeLuta
#diganaoaoracismo
#empoderamentonegro
#racistanaopassarao
#fogonosracistas 
#noticiapreta
#consciencianegra
#combateaoracismo
#racismoestrutural

3. Invite Black Brazilians scholars, artists, community workers..etc to your virtual events.

4. Follow my Atlantic Archives series for more updates.

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