Note from BW of Brazil: On March 21st, which was the International Day Against Racial Discrimination, a group of friends in Rio de Janeiro decided to organize a silent protest against the invisibility of black consumers in middle-upper class shopping malls. As was highlighted in several articles in January, young people began organizing massive get-togethers in upper crust malls throughout the country as a means of showing that black Brazilians also have the right to frequent such areas. In Portuguese, the term “rolé” means to “hang out”, thus the get-togethers were called “rolezinhos”, meaning “little get togethers”, although each should actually be referred to as a “rolezão” as they often involved enormous groups of teenagers. The “rolezinhos” were met with fierce resistance on the part of authorities and mall security that created a near “check point” type atmosphere, harassing and arresting teenagers at mall entrances and inside the malls.
In the March 21st “rolezão”, the tickets were purchased in advance and in the group ended up occupying 100 of 140 seats in the showroom. According to the organizer of the event, Marcello Dughetto: “It’s symbolic that we visit on a day like today, a place that blacks don’t attend in big numbers. In fact, we are not even a minority. We are usually the only ones.”
The idea of organizing the rolé, came about in debate about the invisibility of the city’s periphery population, sponsored by the collective Visão Suburbana (Suburban Vision) at UERJ, the State University of Rio de Janeiro. One of the men who attended the March 21st role revealed that he was the only black person watching the film 12 Years a Slave by British filmmaker Steve McQueen at a movie theater in the south zone, the high income area of Rio de Janeiro. As he watched the film, he heard the whispers of another spectator seated behind him saying: “It came out in 3D.”
“The reflection started there. There is prejudice even when a black person decides to watch a film about slavery?” he asked.
The showing of the film also speaks to the situation of Afro-Brazilian participation in the mass media. Afro-Brazilian presence in television remains limited and extremely stereotyped. This also applies to their presence in films and even more so when speaking of control behind the camera. Although Brazilian movie theatres rarely show films by black directors or with predominantly black casts, when these films are shown, they are ALWAYS by foreign filmmakers. The documentary Raça, meaning “race”, by Afro-Brazilian filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo was a rare exception to the rule last year.
According to Marcello, there would be no speeches or protests at the mall. Although most would not consider the act an official “protest”, when black presence in such areas is usually near nothing, the presence of 100 black folks can be seen as a sort of silent protest putting other viewers and shoppers on notice that black Brazilians have the right to frequent any area of the city and also have money to spend in the city’s ritzier areas. (Text incorporated article by Flávia Oliveira in O Globo)
Group organizes rolezão against racial discrimination in luxury shopping in Rio
by Nina Ramos, all photos by Nina Ramos
About 100 people, all black, gathered to watch the movie 12 Years a Slave and to discuss veiled racism that still exists in Brazil
“The good thing is that here we have private security, right? At least I want to believe that it’s this.” This phrase, this quip made in conjunction with a knowing smile, out of the mouth of Evandro Lima, 38, a journalist and resident of the Cidade de Deus area of Rio de Janeiro. He was one of the people who participated in the Friday (21) night rolezão organized by Marcelo Ferreira da Silva, known as Marcelo Dughettu (meaning “of the ghetto”) in an upscale shopping mall in Rio de Janeiro. More than 100 guests, all black, were on site to watch the Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave on the International Day Against Racial Discrimination. The result of the get together? An already expected silent discomfort.
The idea of Marcelo – who is rapper, activist (or “artivist” as he jokes) and president of the Instituto de Articulação Urbana (Institute of Urban Articulation) connected to the office of the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes – came up a few days ago and the mobilization was quick. The objective was to promote discussion, the discomfort, the inclusion. “To bring together a group to invade a mall that is traditionally elitist, where when we enter it is also the exception, is a cool thing. It’s an important experience in this shift of consciousness of the new generation. The kids of 14 or 15 need to have a stimulus like this. I tried to make of this a simple attitude to show that individual gestures and positive energy can reverberate very big changes,” he said.
“The film, in reality, was only the motive. More than the movie, it’s where the movie is happening. We have a difference, for example, from the cinemas of the south zone to the northern and western zones, where movies are dubbed and not subtitled. Who says the group from there doesn’t speak English? Something is inconsistent. You enter social spaces where traditionally you are a minority, it’s activism. I usually say it’s ‘artivism’. It is using art for something that has a greater cause. It’s having a little ego. The fact that I have lit the match does not mean that I am the face of the fire. The fire was only because the guys fell on the pile,” added the 35 year old carioca (Rio-born), born in Guadelupe, a neighborhood in the north zone.
Black power of respect
Gradually, all the guests invited by Marcelo were arriving. 8:50 pm. “Let’s go to the movie room, people?” Come on. The group moves forward and curiosity increases. A clerk pulls out a cell phone and calls her colleague to see the “movement” (of people). Meanwhile, the concern was to buying popcorn, soda and getting seated without missing the trailer. “Today the black power (afro) girls black aren’t listening to complaints,” joked Marcelo. “Ih, I already came out with popcorn in my hair, ‘my daughter’,” said Fraulem Damasio, 25, to a reporter. Stylist Ligia Parreira, 32, continued the hair talk: “Every day I hear something. I have a rat in my hair, that I don’t comb it…Now, in the cinema, I think I have a face of a barraqueira (1) so no one sits behind me anymore.”
“Imagine…The majority of Brazil’s population is black and people still demonstrate this estrangement. It seems that most of Brazil is hidden. This kind of action is important to take up space. This space is rightfully ours, but we end up missing out because of the fear of the strange, discriminating looks. People are not used to us,” said Ligia, who is a resident of Rio’s Méier neighborhood.
9pm. The rolezão continues. Now, everyone prepares for the shock of the film, directed by Steve McQueen, which tells the story of Solomon Northup, a freed man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. While the lights are on, Marcelo draws a parallel with the rolezinhos, the youth movement that began in São Paulo and spread to several cities across the country earlier this year.
“This is good. The rolé (zão), actually came from a sense of social integration, not protest. It’s because the guy has money to buy gyms shoes that he is here, but when he comes to buying the shoes here he is chased by security. So, beautiful. If you chase one, try to chase me with 100 people. Living with this kind of situation is the daily life of people. We just had a month ago that the actor was arrested being confused with an assailant. We just saw the woman being dragged by Military Police. Not that it has a connection, but everything ends up colliding into a racial situation,” he said.
“It’s not Hollywood, it’s real life”
Impossible to control the emotions and reactions (the most varied) during the movie, when it reached the end, friends embraced, some wept, and the subject continued outside of the theater. Juliana Luna, 27, accurately described her feeling. The whippings distributed in the film continue around here – only without the physical reaction. “Each look with prejudice, each comment about my hair, each question of ‘why are you here’ (2), everything of this kind hurts as much a whipping. So I was so touched with the movie,” she told an iG journalist, still drying tears.
The designer João Batista, 23, also was taken by history. “It’s not Hollywood, you know? It’s real life. The director knew how transmit very well everything that people went through at that time. He didn’t leave the negro the ‘poor, little thing’, but as a human being. If we complain about how it is today, imagine back then…” he said. “It’s not something you can say that remains in the past. As much as this is real life, it’s something that serves as a motivation to face the day to day. If today we are in this condition, it’s because someone fought for it,” pointed out the young man.
Marcelo weighed in: “There is the subconscious assumption that blacks have a different treatment. We can’t deny it, we are in a city that’s like that. I think the big mistake is that people keep saying that this is a racial democracy. If I got to park my car in a valet service in the south zone, the guy will tell me the price. Hey, if I’m parking my car in the valet is because I can afford it. He didn’t need to tell me the price.”
“The balance I take from this is that everything is possible. If you have an idea, an initiative, a thought, you can turn that into action since you believe that that is genuine. At this moment the country and the world are so complex, we must all contribute to a change and to influence people in a positive way. I think that in this generation in which the internet and all the means of communication can become too invasive for people, we can leave from the click (computer) and go to the touch (real life). Sometimes you create an audience on the web that does not turn into real action. We end up staying in that superficial environment when what you’ll face in everyday life is not the web. It’s the street, the embarrassment, the positive things, the negative things. You experience the web to disseminate the experience we have in the real world,” concluded Marcelo.
1. “Barraqueira” is taken from the term “barraco” which literally means “hole”, referring to a “hole in the wall” or a “little shack”. Thus, a barraqueira refers to a poor person and poor persons often carry the stereotype of also being troublemakers.
2. This question of “why are you here” refers to the question of “race” and keeping black Brazilians “in their place” and strongly or subtly rejecting their presence when they are deemed to be outside of social areas normally “reserved” for them. See various articles on this social ideology here.