Note from BW of Brazil: Can you think of anything that would be worth celebrating or remembering on May 13th? This year, it fell on a Sunday, just yesterday. Well now, let’s see, yesterday was Mother’s Day in both Brazil and the United States! So, across both countries, women who happened to be mothers were taken to special dinners, received beautiful flowers, rich chocolate candies and were recipients of all sorts of other homages by people who wanted to make sure they knew they were appreciated.
Yesterday, was also the birthday of one of Brazil’s greatest writers, Lima Barreto (born 1881), and one of its greatest singers, Ângela Maria (born 1928). Yesterday also marked the 68th birthday of the great singer/songwriter Stevland Hardaway Morris, better known as Stevie Wonder, who turned 68 yesterday.
Interestingly, yesterday on Globo TV’s variety show Domingão do Faustão, popular singer Mumuzinho was made up to look like Stevie Wonder and sing one of the legend’s greatest hits, “Isn’t She Lovely”.
I have to say, I was amazed! With the makeup, braids and stage mannerisms, I have to say Mumuzinho had Stevie Wonder DOWN!! Although a pretty good singer, Mumu’s version of “Lovely” made me wanna hear the Songs in the Key of Life original! As I didn’t pay attention to the program, I wondered did the host, Faustão, know/mention that Mumuzinho’s impersonation of Wonder fell on the very artist’s birthday! Oh well…
So those were just a few people worth remembering on May 13th. Was there anything falling on that date that we could just as forget or at least not celebrate? Think hard…Time’s up! Yesterday, May 13th, was also the 130th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Brazil. Yes, on this date in 1888, the institution of human bondage was abolished in the country that was the last to do so and also the country that received the most enslaved Africans of all the countries in the Americas. Maybe I’m wrong. Do YOU think it’s a date that should be celebrated? Celebrated? No. But we can reflect upon what this date means for millions of descendants of those enslaved human beings from the African continent. I would say a good idea would be to reflect on the position of Brazil’s current black population 130 years after they were supposedly “liberated”.
In reality, this blog does this almost every day with reports, essays, testimonies, etc. With that said, let’s take a quick look at the situation of black Brazilians 130 years after their ancestors were set free. At least, on paper….
13 decades past the end of slavery, the black population has no rights guaranteed
Activists claim that the Afro Brazilians still suffer with labor market segregation and racism
By Junia Oliveira
77 years of experience, as an observer of the shuttles from history. But a specific point she says she still awaits: the recognition of black people in all their rights and merits. “Abolished, but it didn’t end slavery,” says Lúcia Maria dos Santos on the Lei Áurea (Golden Law), promulgated on May 13, 1888. Just like her, blacks throughout the country call for the denouncement of the commemoration of 130 years of the abolition of slavery. In an act at Praça da Liberdade (Freedom Square), in the mid-south region of Belo Horizonte, yesterday marked the discussions around the theme in the capital. This weekend, other movements promote debates and demonstrations.
In the square, the message was given through the distribution of a manifesto, balloons, concerts, artistic interventions, poetry of denunciation and protests. The goal is to discuss and reflect on an abolition which was not accompanied by a political initiative or legal order that would allow the full inclusion of the população negra (black population) in the project of nation that started from the abolitionist process and the proclamation of the Republic, which occurred in the following year.
Coordinator of the Nzinga collective and an integral part of the Rede de Mulheres Negras de Minas (network of Black Women of Minas), Benilda Brito, recalls aspects of the era that reverberate even today. “Europe invaded the African continent and brought the enslaved negro. Brazil was the last country on the continent to abolish slavery. The least jurisprudence we have is the Lei Áurea, which has two lines. In the first article, it is written that slavery is extinguished; the second repealing provisions to the contrary, without saying what to do with that whole people,” she says.
“Immigrants were encouraged to come, including with land, while o povo negro (the black people) is thrown to their own luck. We say that the May 14th was the longest day of history, because nobody knew what to do. The first Federal Constitution prohibited the vote, legitimating the exclusion of the black population.”
Benilda recalls that the same complaints were made 30 years ago, on the hundredth anniversary of the abolition. “The agenda for vindication is frozen. It is a population that occupies the favelas and have no access to health and education, which cannot enter the into Brazilian economic instrument,” she says.
“30 years ago, we celebrated the democratic institution and the fact that the crime of racism coming to be a non-bailable offense. But, today, we don’t manage to arrest people who commit it. Quilombo lands were also guaranteed by the Constitution. There are not even five kilometers of land titled kept by the federal government. Not even when we manage to enter into the legal issue, do we advance,” she criticizes.
The activist says that the survival of this population depended on its own luck. If there is a culture and religiosity, it was also on its own merits, as compared to a racism seen daily and coping with everyday life. In the opinion of the coordinator of Nzinga, the fundamental step for change in a mixed country is an education of respect for differences and diversity. “In Brazil, who matters is the white, Catholic and heterosexual man. A model that society and school legitimizes and that only excludes. A more inclusive education coincides with all kinds of people, without denial and without exclusion. It’s a long battle. And yet we are dealing with a silence of public power.”
A long battle is what Lúcia also thinks is ahead. Matriarch of the house of Casa do Divino Espírito Santo das Almas (Divine Holy Spirit of the Souls House), in São Geraldo, in the Eastern Region of BH, it’s with persistence that she maintains the traditions, the religiosity and the Afro-Brazilian culture by means of umbanda, with the obligation of never giving up. To her, they are everyday situations, sometimes subtle, that reveal the true face of the problem. Such as the time in which she was in a store being helped by an acquaintance, when she witnessed a black man come in and being ignored by another clerk. Or being in a restaurant with friends and seeing all customers who arrived after them having their orders taken and resorting to the manager to remind him that they were also there.
“Everything for black people is a difficulty, be it on the day to day basis, study or work. In an employment vacancy, the candidate may have all the qualities which, if it he/she white, loses the vacancy. He/she always in second, even having value. And if you are not going to school, it’s worse still,” she says. “I assert myself. I don’t humiliate myself at all. We are in the battle. And we will win.”
The people speak
Party or mobilization time?
“It’s a moment of denouncement. Abolition didn’t free us. It threw us in the gutter and said: ‘Turn around and go, because now we can no longer exploit your labor.'”
“There can be a celebration and there can be a denouncement, since it is clear that abolition wasn’t given to us. It happened at a time when the economy was poor and the blacks were making a revolution.”
“Celebrate what? If I were freed, in fact, I could let my children go where they want without fear of being arrested due to the color of their skin. I think it is a struggle that will be perpetuated for many years in this country with various prejudices.”
“I am sure that it’s a false liberation date. Until today, we, blacks were not liberated in anything. We are trapped in the prejudice and in several stigmas in that society has placed us since the 16th century. It is a moment of consciousness raising”
Word of specialist
Aline Neves R. Alves, a teacher-researcher of Affirmative Action Program at UFMG
‘Abolition is an unfinished process’
“We were the last country to abolish slavery on the American continent. Under internal pressure of different groups, but especially by virtue of international capital. After all, the greater interest was in forging of salaried labor for the consumer market. However, the black population is subtracted from the new jobs marked by the growth of industries, trade, development and construction of cities. We left from slave labor to the informal, and poorly paid, at the expense of investments for migration of European and Asian groups at the beginning of the 20th century. And the late 20th century belatedly extended the universalization of basic education, it is known that ex-slaves were forbidden to be in classrooms, prevented in practice and symbolically, by the force of racism, of holding currencies and being in positions of leadership or representation in politics. And this has occurred until the present day, we have advanced very little. The black population is the mark of resistance in this country, especially black women, because in times of crisis it was them, often times, who managed to provide for their homes from their work as maids. But we are still experiencing the marks of enslavement and we regret that the black women today are the ones that most suffer with domestic violence, with the lowest wages, obstetric violence and low schooling. What we have seen of improvement is in the area of education, with temporary affirmative policies. On the other hand, there is the risk of these advances stagnating, for example with the freezing of investments in education for 20 long years. It doesn’t just punish the popular classes, but especially the black population that might not even in fact experience full citizenship. The struggle continues, and May 13 may not be full of celebration, but to appeal to the rulers and, consequently, to confronting institutional racism.”
The Diário Oficial Minas Gerais today brings the decree signed by Governor Fernando Pimentel (PT) that creates the Superintendency of Collective Territories, linked to the Department of Agrarian Development. The announcement was made yesterday, during the signing of the decree that destines 1,119 hectares of land to approximately 50 quilombola families in Minas Novas in the Alto Jequitinhonha. The titration will be on behalf of the Associação Quilombo de Quilombo (Quilombo Association of Quilombo, with free character, inalienable, collective and for an indefinite period. In his speech, Fernando Pimentel claimed that the measure demonstrates a recognition and inclusion of these communities with dignity, size and importance that they have.