Solidarity: Black men raise $25000 for champion gymnast fired due to racism
By Marques Travae with info courtesy of Ceará Crioulo and Observatório da Discriminação Racial no Futebol
Solidarity. If we don’t have each other’s back, who will? A simple concept, but still one that we as black people don’t always put into practice. In the US, there is long history of activism connected to athletics. This is due to racism in sports or society in general and the black athlete’s reaction to it. This struggle, both on and off the field, is shaping up to becoming a major issue in Brazil now. It’s not a coincidence. In my years covering issues of race in Brazil, I’ve seen a great evolution in terms of solidarity among blacks.
I remember seven years ago, when I learned of the story of numerous black women coming together to shut down what they deemed a racist campaign by a certain hair product. There were the voices of dissent that sent a strong message to the nation’s top television network, Globo, that the image of the black Brazilian woman is no longer there to be hyper-sexualized on the small screen. Due to this strong reaction, any talk of a second season of the highly-criticized Sexo e as Negas TV program was put to rest.
I’ve seen numerous protests over the murders of innocent young, black people by security and police forces. These same voices have taken to the streets countless times calling for the end of an apparent extermination of black youth agenda being carried out agents of the Military Police. There are several other examples of this racial solidarity that I could mention here, but my point is simply that, in the past few decades, specifically the last decade, I’ve witnessed a great awakening of black Brazilians that didn’t seem to exist as recently as the 1990s.
In recent weeks, I became aware of yet another show of solidarity.
When it was discovered that the talented, medal-winning young gymnast Ângelo Assumpção hadn’t had a training club for nearly a year, black Brazilians again banded together. Making the public aware of Ângelo’s situation, a group of black male actvists, public figures, lawyers, etc. started a campaign to raise funds for one of the country’s most promising gymnasts who had been unemployed, in his words, because he chose to speak out on the racist treatment he had been enduring at the training facility.
Since being fired, it appears that Ângelo has been effectively blacklisted from being able to join another training club. His name now sullied, word on the street is that no other club wants to open their doors to him. As we all know, training and perfecting a craft in any genre can be quite costly depending on the area one decides to take up. The sports club to which Ângelo belonged generally attracts athletes from the elite classes.
As such, given the association Brazil has made of black people to menial labor, if a young black male has an association with one of these clubs, he could be mistaken for a member of the clean up crew or a ball boy. That’s what happened earlier this year when a Globo journalist assumed a young black male wearing a Pinheiros club t-shirt must have been a ball boy. As it turned out, the young man was a water polo athlete. Pinheiros is the same sports club Ângelo attended to hone his skills as a gymnast.
In a related incident, five years after making headlines because of his racist offenses against Assumpção, former teammate Arthur Nory posted a video on his social networks claiming to regret the fact that occurred in 2015. The 2016 bronze medalist’s behavior divided opinions with several black men deciding to express themselves collectively.
Figures such comedian Hélio de la Peña, activist Roger Cipó, digital marketing specialist AD Júnior, journalist Marcos Luca Valentim, actor/journalist Ernesto Xavier and many others – came together to produce a video in a manifest format, where they demanded from athletes and clubs a firm position for Ângelo to be contracted.
At the age of 24, Ângelo, a São Paulo native, one of the greatest talents that Brazilian gymnastics has produced in recent times, faced a series of racist episodes – and the most recent culminated in his dismissal from the Pinheiros athletic club, where he had been training since he was 8 years old. That is, for ten months, Angelo Assumpção, who was part of the Brazilian team until 2015, has nowhere to train.
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In a recent television interview, Ângelo said he believed his dismissal from the 2016 Games was due to structural racism. In that interivew, he reported some cases he experienced at Pinheiros. He took the accusations to the board of directors and, in response, was suspended for 30 days for indiscipline. As soon as he returned from his suspension, he was fired.
“When I began to wear braids, I heard comments that it was hindering my performance. My braids were interfering with my performance. I heard it inside Pinheiros. It’s very complicated that you’re connecting, that you understand who you are, and you get this. There was a situation where I was (wearing) all black lycra and white shorts, and eventually someone said I was just wearing shorts, you know? These are situations that for people are unpretentious, they don’t see evil, but for people who experience this every day, who understand what a structural racism is, we get hurt too much,” he said.
Once again in the above comments we see the Brazilian aversion to afro textutred hair. Although it’s been black women have been the most vocal about the way Brazilian society treats people with kinky curly hair, the truth is that it also affects many black men, who for decades, to avoidsuch cruel comments, simply shaved their heads as close as possible. Ângelo, like many other black Brazilian men these days, has taken pride in rockin’ braids or a ‘fro in spite of the derogatory comments he’s likely to hear.
Then, if you didn’t get it, there’s another little “joke” that’s quite common in Brazil. With Ângelo’s body covered in all black but with white shorts over it, the joke is that, because of his skin color, people could only see the color of his shorts. I’m sure somebody found that funny, I’m just not the one…
The Esporte Espetacular report also heard the Pinheiros club version of the story. In a note, the institution attributed the athlete’s dismissal to other factors.
“All athletes go through periodic evaluations of technical and behavioral performance. In the case of Ângelo, there are documental records of constant practice of indiscipline, such as delays in training and other activities, insubordination with the coaching team and friction with other team members, initially leading to verbal warnings that culminated in the suspension of the athlete, in the form of his sports contract, then in force” – stated the club, in a note. The report, however, asked for these records, but the club refused to present them. Ângelo strongly denies the accusations of misconduct.
In response, the gymnast’s family began a campaign to raise money. The goal was to raise BRL $15,000 to pay for Angelo’s basic needs. The campaign quickly surpassed the initial goal by 40% and reached BRL $21,000. By September 8, just five days after the campaign started, the funds raised had already reached near BRL $25,000.
In the beginning, the campaign quickly gained 195 supporters. Since then, it has been increasingly visible on social networks because artists also demand justice for the case. Ângelo is one of the greatest athletes in the country, with awards in the main competitions in the world.
On social media, he commented on the mobilization. “I learned a little while ago that my friends/family created a kitty in order to help me and I appreciate the initiative. I’ve always tried to solve everything myself and it doesn’t always have to be this way. I had a conversation with my psychologist about it, as I think it is normal to help and I have difficulty being helped. I’m still learning to deal with this. I thank everyone for sharing and helping in some way.”
The campaign will remain open until the end of September and has generated negative reactions to the club that fired him. “Trying to mitigate the effects of a racist and unequal society. Good luck to the athlete, and may a dignified club that recognizes his value appear as soon as possible,” wrote Musbah Koleilat Câmara, one of fundraisers supporters.
Ângelo continues thinking of his goal of an Olympic dream.(Black men raise $25000)
“They understand the importance of us debating this issue, which is not only about blacks but about society. We need to remove this structural racism from the structure of society. It’s good for all of us. We need to walk to the right place, a more egalitarian place. A place where we all have opportunities to be who we are,” declared Ângelo.
MAIN TITLES OF ÂNGELO
- Gold at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup 2015
- Bronze at the Junior International Championship, in Yokohama, Japan
- Brazilian Champion 2012
- 2010 South American Champion
- 3 times South American champion
- 6 times Brazilian Champion
- 6 times team champion
The group of black men produced a video in support of Ângelo, including the post below.
“The resumé of the gymnast @angelo_assumpcao is enviable: – Champion of the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup – 3 times South American champion – 6 times Brazilian champion – 6 times Brazilian team champion, but, at 24, Angelo is unemployed. A giant talent has no contract due to racism. As long as they preach anti-racism only as an apology and post with a black screen, episodes such as that of our gymnast’s will continue to exist.
Where are the athletes to support Ângelo and demand his contracting? Where are the clubs to contract him? Supporting the protests is important, but even more is putting what is said into practice. Anti-racism is also ensuring that one of the greatest talents that Brazil has ever produced has a place to train. It’s the minimum of the minimum. So… Where are you?
I am going to appoint two people here to help me ask the sports world. Why did racism take away from Ângelo the possibility of doing his job in a dignified way? My friends @fabialvim and @flaviocanto, shall we go for it? And whoever wants to support this movement, mark in the comments other people, clubs and brands that can help Ângelo.”
Participating in the video: @ tommendes7 @tiojoaobigon @djeffamadeus @rogercipo @yjalade @ fbarcellos9 @marcoslucavalentim @fernandosantos_adv @adjunior_real @lapena @ mmcarvalho8 @cridemaraquino @ernestoxavier @ Jorge.Pretto @tkacelo #Catem
A post shared by Marcos Luca Valentim (@marcoslucavalentim) on Sep 3, 2020 at 8:29 am PDT