Bafo Afro: Teacher in Southern Brazil Creates Card Game For Students
Why was that? I have to admit that, as a child, it never even occurred to me to ask. After all, all of the American media had basically made me accustomed to seeing predominantly white faces in prominent roles, both real and fictional. Thinking back, and I have mentioned this before, my first introduction of anything historical that addressed people who looked like me, my family or people in my neighborhood, was the ABC TV series Roots. The images were rather shocking for a young mind.The scenes from that series that most stuck out in my mind were:
1) when the character known as (a young) Kunta Kunte, played by actor Levar Burton, was being brutally whipped on a post so that he would accept the name his white master chose for him, Toby.
3) When the character Kizzy, the daughter of Toby/Kunta Kinte, was sold and separated from her family despite the desperate pleas by her parents.
There were several other scenes I remember, but those are the three that immediately come to mind when I think of that television series.
Why was this my first experience of black history? Why was there no film or mini-series about the Haitian Revolution? Why wasn’t my introduction to Mansa Musa, the richest man in world history? Or what about the Dogon people of Mali and their great knowledge of astronomy? Or the great cities constructed in 12th century Zimbabwe and Mozambique? There are simply too many great accomplishments, technological advancements and important people to mention here, but the question remains, why wasn’t I introduced to any of this history?
The very simple answer is that if the minds of a colonized people remain colonized, they will most likely never become a threat to the system that depends upon a process of indoctrination of inferiority to maintain control over them.
Even as an adult when I went to a small, majority black community college and started learning about people like Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks, it would be years later before I came to understand that there was an entire history of a continent that had been effectively ignored to reduce the African experience to the enslavement of African peoples and their struggles to gain true emancipation since that period.
From what I1ve seen from my studies of the race issue and the invisibility of black people in Brazil’s history and that of África and its Diaspora, it’s even worse in Brazil. Afro-Brazilian judge Fábio Esteves, who works in the capital city of Brasília, for example, said he spent five years in law school and had never heard of Luís Gama during the entire period of his university education. Gama is one of the most important black men in Brazil’s history, securing the freedom of 500 black slaves through the courts even though he was denied an official law school education because he was black.
The invisibility of África and its people is so blatant that it was necessary to create a law that made it mandatory to teach African and Afro-Brazilian history in the school system. To this day, for the most part, teachers don’t comply with this law, having neither the desire nor materials to introduce this topic to students. But in the last decade, there has been an incredible surge in Afro-Brazilians wanting to learn their history and pass it on to future generations. And increasingly, Afro-Brazilians are understanding that if they don’t take the initiative to teach their young people this history, no one else is going to do it.
I wouldn’t consider the idea that one young teacher came up with recently to share some of this history as a watershed moment or a groundbreaking idea, but it is creative and a good start for young people who have most likely been taught nothing about anything in their history. Good job Perla Santos!
Every child’s play has a great pedagogical potential. If the kids still love to play with cards, from Super Trunfo, to Magic, to Pokémon cards, bringing comic or movie theater characters as “heroes” to compete for strength and so many other features, it was observing such potential that teacher Perla Santos decided to transform true heroes and heroines of black Brazilian culture into card characters – to teach history to kids as fun as it is instructive.