Afro-betization and education: Teaching children the beauty of blackness and African culture


“Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to….? you should ask yourself who taught you to hate being what God made you.” – Malcolm X

Note from BW of Brazil: Racism in Brazil is the perfect crime. The pervasive sentiments of anti-blackness was spread so well over the centuries that direct racism of the white population is not even necessary anymore (although it clearly exists) as it is so deeply ingrained in the black population that black people themselves have accepted and help to spread this ideology. Thus the system teaches the African descendants to hate themselves, does nothing to correct this sort of thinking and then stands back, watches the population self-destruct and asks, “what’s wrong with those people?” “Black people are racist against themselves!” We cannot deny that we do in fact see evidence of this type of mentality, but the question is, as Malcolm X so eloquently put it more than 50 years ago, where did this behavior come from?

With no orientation on  the beauty of blackness, Black History and Culture at home or in the schools, black children grow up to be black men and women that carry and pass on these negative thoughts about themselves and those who look like them. Fortunately, over the years, a number of groups, books and organizations have appeared to address these issues and the vicious cycle of self-hatred that has gripped Brazil’s black communities for centuries. Below is yet another project that is doing its part to reverse the damage created over the course of hundreds of years. 

By Vanessa Cancian, of Namu

On the morro (hill) of Cantagalo, in Rio de Janeiro, the psychologist Vanessa Andrade frequently heard: “There’s the aunt with the cabelo feio (ugly hair)” or “tia bruxa” (witch aunt). This was the reaction of the children when she walked through the streets with her cabelo afro (afro-textured hair). According to Andrade, this occurred because these children were unaccustomed to seeing beauty present in the black way of being. “This hurt me a lot, but at the same time convinced me for a bigger mission of trying to change the thought of these children,” says the psychologist and coordinator of the Afrobetizar project.

When dealing with identity, Brazilian schools are monochromatic in the books and in history. Our education doesn’t make possible that black students find their path and know the true side of life and African culture present in an intense way in Brazil. With the objective of showing that another pedagogy is possible, Andrade started an intense work of social transformation in Cantagalo.

Gessica Justinoand two girls of the Afrobetizar project
Gessica Justinoand two girls of the Afrobetizar project

“Afrobetizar came about from the necessity of working with a different pedagogy that would make the children discover their own bodies through recognizing the beauty of being black,” said the psychologist. According to her, the idea that places black teachers that are taking courses or are in college, realizing projects of success in life, has as its intent to work with black protagonism and inverting the historic process that always placed blacks as the inferior being in relation to whites.

Our body is our territory

Teachers of the Afrobetizar project
Teachers of the Afrobetizar project

“With time we had the idea of taking continuous actions with the children of the community,” reveals Andrade, who at the side of Gessica Justino and Aruanã Garcia, form the team of teachers that organize weekly workshops with children in search of de-constructing prejudices and strengthening the wisdom that doesn’t come to the little ones by means of conventional schooling.

“I always believed that it’s no use to keep on with this bla bla bla, it’s necessary to provoke the child with sensations and with body,” says the psychologist. Vanessa Andrade points out that this is a project that works corporeidade (things of the body), but not that that runs out in the dance movements or capoeira but with the the capacity of having consciousness and access to the bodily possibilities. This helps children to assume spaces in which they weren’t traditionally inserted.

Teaching beyond the books

The 10.639 law of 2003 established that Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous History and Culture be inserted into the education of the country. Even so, books that carry the information about others fundamental personalities to history and formation of Brazilian identity take slow steps in the schools of Brazil. For Andrade, there is an effort so that this law is respected but it lacks the potential to discover methodologies to apply it.

“It’s not enough to say to the children that it’s lindo ser negro (beautiful to be black). Tell (them) who Zumbiand Maria Carolina were. These children to experience a positive experimentation so that they interiorize this feeling of appreciating the culture itself,” she reveals. The psychologist recognizes the importance of transformation present in the law, however, she also sees the necessity of works that truly affect the children and young people.

“The feeling that I have in relation to this law is that there is a race so that it be applied through books but if there’s no work beyond the paper, it’s no use,” says Andrade. For her, the “bodily literacy” that contemplates the sensorial field and within the world of each child is fundamental.

Project in the Museu de Favela

The project is carried out in the administrative headquarters of the Museu de Favela – MUF. The location was created by residents of Cantagalo and tells the history of the origin of the favela through graffiti art on the walls of the people that live there. In the space ceded to Afrobetizar, there are around 30 children that frequently participate.

Afrobetizar children
Afrobetizar children

“MUF is the first museum in the open air created in a favela,” says Andrade. According to her, the paintings were made to protect the residents of this place that suffered with the threat of being removed from their homes. Located in the south zone of Rio de Janeiro, the threat of real estate speculation made the population unite and utilize the museum strategy as survival strategy in this region.

With the passing of time, MUF became a reference in graffiti and went on to become a part of one of the tourist points of the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (“Wonderful City”, Rio). The popular initiative is recognized as the first live and territorial museum about memories and the cultural heritage of a favela in the world.

The photos of the report were taken by the Coletivo Baobá team, a communication project that also works in partnership with Afrobetizar.

Source: Negro Belchior

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

1 Comment

  1. our colors are beautiful and we must continue this dialog even when others disagree ..Thank you for always sharing …peace

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