Nilma Lino Gomes, the first black woman to be dean of a federal university, assumes role of Minister of Racial Equality Polices of Federal Government


Note from BW of Brazil: In the coverage of racial issues in Brazil, the governmental organ known as SEPPIR is bound to come up. It is the official branch of the Brazil’s Federal Government that deals with promoting policies that facilitate racial equality. The very existence of such as organ was a major step a decade ago in a Brazil that for most of the 20th century denied that the nation even had a racial problem. SEPPIR and its current minister, Luiza Bairros, has featured in a number of posts on the blog and we expect that the organ will also be featured as the new minister assumes her new role.

Nilma Lino Gomes, who will take over this great responsibility, is another important name in the dissection of the racial issue and the struggle for racial equality in the past few decades. While she assumed an historic post last year, this writer’s first introduction to Gomes was her groundbreaking works on the connections between black hair, racism and black identity in Brazil. Her 2006 book, Sem perder a raiz: corpo e cabelo como símbolos da identidade negra (Without Losing the Root: body and hair as symbols of black identity), peeled and exposed yet another layer of how racism and blackness function in a country that would have Brazilians and non-Brazilians alike believe that these sorts of problems didn’t exist. It arguably remains the benchmark for the study of black hair and identity almost a decade later. 

Nilma Lino Gomes to become the new minister of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality

Courtesy of G1, UFMG and Afropress

Nilma Lino Gomes
Nilma Lino Gomes

Nilma Lino Gomes, professor at the Faculdade de Educação (FaE or Faculty of Education), was announced by President Dilma Rousseff as the future minister of the Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial (Secretariat of Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality). The announcement was made Tuesday night, December 23rd. At the time, the president announced the names of 12 other ministers.

Since April 2013, Nilma exercised the function of dean at the Universidade da Integração Internacional da Lusofonia Afro-Brasileira (Unilab or University of International Integration of Afro-Brazilian Lusophonia (Unilab), which aims to contribute to the integration of Portuguese-speaking countries. Gomes was the first black woman to hold the rectory of a federal university in the country. The future minister is not affiliated with any political party. Before, the professor had coordinated the Affirmative Action Program of UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais) between 2002 and 2013.

An educator and master in teacher from UFMG, Nilma has a doctorate in social anthropology from USP (University of São Paulo) and a post-doctorate in sociology from the University of Coimbra. In the academia, her research focused on the confluence of topics such as diversity, ethnic-racial relations, education, teacher training, educational policies, social inequality and social movements, with an emphasis on the actions of the Movimento Negro Brasileiro (black Brazilian movement).

Between 2004 and 2006, she presided over the Associação Brasileira de Pesquisadores Negros (ABPN or Brazilian Association of Black Researchers) and since 2010 was part of the Câmara de Educação Básica do Conselho Nacional de Educação (Board of Basic Education of the National Council of Education), where she participated in the national technical commission of diversity for issues related to the education of Afro-Brazilians.


For Nilma, a woman and black, the choice of her name for the post of minister reflected as a “place of representation” of socially marginalized groups in spaces of leadership, a consequence of a process of struggles and battles for democracy and for a committed citizenship with the ethnic diversity of Brazil. The office reiterates its “responsibility as a public servant, and also a political responsibility,” she says.

According to the future minister, Brazilian racism has been in evidence, which has enabled more forceful actions to combat it. In this sense, her role will focus not only on the fight against racial discrimination, but also other forms of discrimination such as gender. “The organ is intended to alert, re-educate society, showing the legal and juridical ways to solve problems of discrimination, in dialogue with the Movimento Negro and other social movements – and with the government,” she emphasizes.

Complex task

Nilma recognizes that the Secretariat of Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality is “a complex task” and that her work “will not be easy.” In this sense, the professor indicates what will be her position at the head of the secretariat at the beginning of her term. “I’ll seek a good liaison with other colleagues of the ministry so we can make an intersectional, transversal policy.  This is one of the Secretariat’s objectives.”

Nilma also states that she will seek to get familiar, along with the current Minister Luiza Helena Bairros, with the current projects of the Secretariat. Bairros has been in office since the start of President Dilma Rousseff’s first term in 2011. “I need to know the main challenges of the folder and only then draw new paths and at the same time, give continuity to the policies that are working,” she says.

The new minister of the Secretariat of Policies to Promote Racial Equality takes office on January 1. The Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality Policy was established on March 21, 2003, in the first term of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The date in which it was instituted marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, established by the United Nations (UN).

The date recalls the massacre at Sharpeville, which occurred on March 21, 1960, when 20,000 blacks protested in Johannesburg, South Africa, against the Pass law, which obliged them to carry ID cards, specifying the places where they could circulate. This happened. On that day, the South African army fired on the crowd, leaving 69 dead and 186 injured.

Nilma Lino in SEPPIR meets expectations of black movement, says Hélio Santos

Professor Hélio Santos supports the selection of Gomes
Professor Hélio Santos supports the selection of Gomes

Professor Hélio Santos, one of the intellectual and activists of most prestige of the Movimento Negro, said that the choice of professor Nilma Lino Gomes by President Dilma Rousseff, to replace the sociologist Luiza Bairros in SEPPIR, “fully met the expectation of the independent Movimento Negro.”

“My position was exactly that. President Dilma responded in an absolutely correct way. Disrespectful would be for her to put SEPPIR into this partisan fury that has been the dispute of positions and occupation of the ministries,” he said.

Gomes will replace outgoing Minister Luia Bairros on January 1, 2015
Gomes will replace outgoing Minister Luia Bairros on January 1, 2015

Santos, one of the activists having closer proximity to the PSDB leaders such as former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and the former governor and current senator from São Paulo, José Serra, had said in an interview with Afropress, that the non maintenance of Luiza Bairros, in the office, would mean a “disrespect of the president to the black population.” During the election campaign, contrary to expectations, he declared his vote for the PT (Workers Party) in the race against PSDB Senator Aécio Neves.


He said he saw in the choice of the current dean of UNILAB, much consistency on the part of the president. “Both are women, both are academics, they are portraits of the Movimento Negro. Both are doctors in their areas, Nilma in Pedagogy, and Luiza in Anthropology. They are known and recognized. President Dilma did what I expected. I said that there were diverse men and women. I am very satisfied. That optimism of mine continues. President Dilma did what she should have done: respected the black community,” he added.

Hélio highlighted the fact that the new minister doesn’t come from the dimension of any segment, except the black segment. “She doesn’t come from the party context. In the case of the black population, I can’t say that the option is technical, but political, and of the best quality. The partisan Movimento Negro stayed out of this history. The choice of President Dilma, frees us of the partisan fury for positions, respects us and more than that (because respect is an obligation) it values us,” he said.

Lines of action

Considering speculation that his name would be among the first in the first step of the new Minister’s team (“This idea hasn’t the slightest grounding. It has great chance at being a rumor, aiming at bad faith”), Hélio Santos, said that the action the new minister, in his opinion, should be directed to three major fronts: strengthening the quota policy on access to higher education; induction to the states and municipalities to adopt affirmative action policies in the public service, as occurred in São Paulo by the City government and the State Government; and funding of initiatives, not only business, but institutional, in the field of media, for example.

“We all have a thousand ideas: I think there are many things that we don’t consolidate: we must consolidate affirmative action in the universities. The universities of Maranhão and Bahia, in neither of the two are there a precise monitoring of cotistas (quota students). At the Federal University of Paraná, just over half of the vacancies are occupied. Most of the vacancies go to the social segment. The role that SEPPIR still can’t do is inducing public policies,” he said.

Know how

On the initiatives of the Governments of São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad (PT), São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB), he considered that quotas in public service were born from “on its own initiative”. “SEPPIR has to offer a know-how; induce large municipalities and states to develop public policies,” he added.

“This third front it’s already passed a little, I believed that the minister Luiza Bairros would get into this, but there is still time. In other words, money, capital, investment in black initiatives, I think of radio stations, I think a lot in the media; I think they are natural areas,” he finalized.

Source: G1, UFMG, Afropress


About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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