Black men and women: Elections 2012
In the upcoming October elections, Brazilians will go to the polls to vote for mayors and city council members in more than 5,500 cities and municipalities throughout Brazil. With a number of specific issues affecting the Afro-Brazilian population, black leaders want candidates to propose and push agendas that benefit this often ignored population.
High mortality of young blacks, specific diseases and signs of historical inequality are weaknesses pointed out by organizations
By Jephthah Amorim of NE10; Illustration by Keziah Costa/NE10
Often targets of debates and controversies, such as the issue of racial quotas rekindled with the sanction of the so-called law called Quotas Law (focusing on reserve places for students from public schools), black men and women in the country are part of groups seeking specific public policies. With less than 30 days remaining for city elections, this social segment with a long history of inequality, has also shared its agendas for mayoral and municipal governmental candidates.
The topics of demands are nothing new, and are increasingly present in discussions of ethnic equality worldwide. “They aren’t recent necessities. The problem is that many of the laws and agreements are only on paper and have not become practical,” said the lawyer and coordinator of the Black Observatory of the city of Recife, Ana Paula Maravalho. For her, many advances have been achieved in the political discussions on the subject, but there is a lack of effort and mechanisms to ensure the implementation of the proposals.
As an example, Ana Paula focuses on the National Plan for the Promotion of Racial Equality (PLANAPIR), which emerged from a national conference held in 2005. In the document, several guidelines are listed, but few have been implemented, in fact. “Security is one of the priority issues to be observed, and mayoral candidates here have a great challenge because Pernambuco (northeast Brazil) is the state that kills the most young blacks in Brazil,” says Maravalho , who has been the head of the Black Observatory for six years.
Activism: Ana Paula Maravalho specializes in securing rights of black people and participates in events of national and international organs.
Asked what the Black Observatory expects of policies from the municipal government, she is quick to respond. “We want the proposals that have already been agreed upon by Brazil with international and national law and that the national legislation is incorporated by the city,” she argues. For her, besides the security situation, the next politician to assume the mayor’s office should mark as high priority the implementation of projects that take care of specific areas, such as the health and education of the black population and the teaching of Afro-Brazilian History in primary and secondary schools.
“Health is a priority on the agenda for the black population. Besides the violence, health issues contribute much to the high mortality rate,” the lawyer emphasizes. Among the principle weaknesses of specific health care issues, is the treatment of sickle cell anemia, which, according to research from the Ministry of Health, is the most common genetic disease in the country, killing up to 25% of its patients before the age of five.
Axis 11: III – Provide technical guidance to municipalities to include urban and rural areas in their territorial planning, quilombo*territories and areas destined for the worship of religions of African origin. (PLANAPIR – Plano Nacional de Promoção da Igualdade Racial or National Plan of Promotion of Racial Equality)
In relation to Law No. 10.639/2003, which regulates the teaching of Afro-Brazilian History and Culture, Maravalho recalls the responsibility of the municipal legislature to accomplish this task. “It is necessary that the aldermen propose projects committed to compliance with laws and contribute to the effectiveness of teaching in public schools,” she points out. She concludes: “In my personal view, we don’t have candidates with a strong position on the eradication of racism and social inequality, but I hope that whoever fills these positions fulfills their roles as representatives of the population.”
* – Quilombos were the self-governing communities populated by slaves escaping from slavery in Brazil. According to reports, there are still between 750-1,200 of these societies still in existence today.