Note from BW of Brazil: Over the course of this little blog’s existence, we’ve seen countless projects, organizations, blogs and activists discussing the necessity of promoting and protecting black culture as well as sharing knowledge and helping to develop and strengthen black identity. Along with the rise of black entrepreneurialism, black cinema and black theater, it’s very encouraging to see so many everyday Afro-Brazilians fighting to dismantle the infamous ‘racial democracy’ myth as well as understanding the need to raise the consciousness of a people who have long been deceived into believing that “we are all equal”.
Today we bring you another of these projects from a city that is part of the greater metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro, and a city that has a population of 1 million residents in its own right: São Gonçalo. Scroll down to learn a little about the Projeto Afrontando.
Young people in São Gonçalo mobilize to maintain a cultural agenda in their town
By Ana Paula Blower and Isabella Santos
They do it make it happen for culture in São Gonçalo. They are young people who strive for accomplishment of music events on the streets and mobilize debates on issues important to the population. Etienette Prudencio, Barbara Rodriguez and Rafael Massoto are just some of the names behind the effort to maintain an active cultural scene in the city.
“Our concern is to encourage people the permanence of people here, so that we don’t find ourselves only in Rio or Niterói. The proposal is to maintain a segment that comprises several arts and workshops,” says Barbara, event producer of itinerant music OcupaSound, which takes place every first Sunday of the month.
With the help of friends, Etienette organizes lectures for students of public schools about appreciation of cultura negra (black culture):
“Financially, there is no return. I do it for an ideology. When working the incentive and stimulus to young people, is forming more confident adults.”
But the composer Rafael directs his power to Batias por Minutos (Beats per Minute), or BPM, a music, poetry and visual arts events:
“It’s a chance to bring together people with common interests here.”
In the fight against prejudice
Etienette Prudencio, 39, decided that if no one did anything for the affirmation and black empowerment in São Gonçalo, she would. Created a year ago, Projeto Sociocultural Afrontando (Afrontando Sociocultural Project) takes afro culture to local schools through lectures. Because of the initiative, the gonçalense (resident of São Gonçalo) has participated in debates at universities such as UFF and UERJ.
One of the actions of Projeto Afrontando
“I talk about racism and appreciation of identidade negra (black identity). I debate about self-esteem and my experience, with a language accessible to young people. They see themselves in me, start to identify prejudice and understand that they can’t tolerate it,” she accounts. She also promotes turban and makeup for black skin workshops, poetry, music and dance.
An idea in the head and poetry on the tip of the tongue
Engaged for years with the cultural event in the city, Rafael Masoto, 38, says that his life has changed because of BPM. The event, which he organizes in an artistic collective, has audience participate in the recitation of poetry and musical performances.
“I never understood that having something just for me would make sense. If I have it, I share it. And when I write poetry, I dream of transforming someone’s life with this,” philosophizes Masoto.
After a break of a year, BPM returns in its fifth edition.
“I have respect for all types of culture, and São Gonçalo deserves an event that doesn’t underestimate anyone’s intelligence,” he says.
So beautiful and moving to see these young black people affirming themselves, their looks, their hair, who they are. It isn’t easy, and let’s do everything we can to encourage them and ensure that this continue to spread across Brazil and the Americas. The deep thing is, Brazil has a long history of resistance and self-affirmation in its quilombo history and communities. Connecting that past, and other traditions of resistance, self-empowerment and self-affirmation to the present is so important too.