Note from BW of Brazil: The momentum for the development of the Afro-Brazilian community continues to grow as major players step forward to pledge their support. Although statistics and reports show how the Afro-Brazilian population is treated differently, stereotyped or excluded altogether, without support to provoke change there is no progress. Over the past decade, the system of affirmative action has changed the lives of thousands of black Brazilians by opening the door to access higher education. And as the discussion of the need for quotas in other areas continues, one of the world’s largest companies, Coca-Cola, recently stepped forward and made a commitment of support for the development of a community that has been long ignored.
Although they may not be household names, two African-Americans were very instrumental in helping to bring the refreshment giant and Brazil’s black community together. Joe Beasley, president of the Joe Beasley Foundation, has been a civil rights activist and humanitarian leader for more than 50 years. Beasley also has a previous history with Coca-Cola having spearheaded a class-action lawsuit against the company for racial discrimination in the treatment of its African-American workers in terms of salary, promotions, performance evaluations and dismissals. The suit involved 1,500 employees that had worked for the company since 1995.
Having visited Brazil’s poor communities several times over the past decade, New York-based Mable Ivory, a global strategist, manager and consultant, was also a key figure in bringing Coke and noteworthy Afro-Brazilian organizations together as she worked to change the global perception of Brazil. With Coke investments in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics estimated to be about US$1 billion, Ivory insisted that it was only fair that the company give something back to the community that needed their support the most. Back in July of last year, Ivory shared her thoughts on some of the ways Coke has contributed to social development during the World Cup in other countries with Ebony magazine.
Ivory and Beasley are not the only African-Americans who have taken an interest in Brazil or specifically Afro-Brazilians in the past year. As covered here on several posts, filmmaker Spike Lee has been traveling back and forth from the US to Brazil recording his documentary Go, Brazil, Go. Actress Tichina Arnold, whose TV program Every Hates Chris (Todo Mundo Odeia o Chris) is immensely popular in Brazil, participated in last year’s Carnaval, as did actor Will Smith, rapper Kanye West. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, was also in Brazil to receive a special award at last November’s Troféu Raça Negra awards ceremony. This list also includes entertainers such as Beyonce, Diana Ross, Esperanza Spalding and others who were main attractions in concerts last years. With any luck, fruitful relations between these African-descendant communities will continue. With a new website dedicated to ethnic tourism to Bahia and the recent Coca-Cola announcement, more collaboration is sure to come!
Coca-Cola announces investment of US$2.1 million into Afro-Brazilian social organizations
Courtesy of courtesy of EFE and PR Newswire
Rio de Janeiro – July 14 – American activist against racial discrimination Joe Beasley said on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro that Brazil still needs many changes in order to not differentiate people by skin color and that “there is still much to be done” in the country.
Beasley acknowledged that “significant progress has already been made in changing laws” and said it is “the responsibility of blacks themselves to enforce those laws.”
The activist was speaking at a promotional act of Coca-Cola, which also saw the participation of Lázaro Cunha, president of the Instituto Steve Biko, an organization fighting for racial equality in Brazil.
Cunha requested the promotion of “life, equality and solidarity to take blacks out of situations of exclusion in which they find themselves.”
He also referred to blacks as “a value and not as a problem or a burden” for a country like Brazil, where half the population is negra (black) or parda (brown), according to the 2010 census.
“A growing country must fight this enemy which is discrimination, to be able to change the situation,” summoned the Brazilian activist.
Coca-Cola, which organized the event, announced an investment of R$5 million in initiatives that aim to combat racial discrimination in Brazil, especially in poorer regions of the country.
Coca-Cola Brazil and the Coca-Cola Foundation, the social arm of Coca-Cola, jointly announced the investment of R$ 5 million (US$ 2.1 million) in projects of social and economic inclusion of Afro-Brazilians. With this contribution, the company’s actions involving the Afro-descendant population will directly impact approximately 100,000 people in the next three years. The investment will focus on education, culture and community.
Among the initiatives is the creation of the Coletivo Conexão (Collective Connection), a new kind of Coletivo Coca-Cola (Coca Cola Collective) platform that will develop audiovisual skills and foster new forms of communication in low-income communities. Since 2009, the Coca- Cola Collective has positively impacted the income generation and enhancement of self-esteem from technical training, community empowerment and market access. With over 550 units deployed from urban centers to the Amazon Rainforest in seven different modes, the Coca-Cola Collective uses the value network of the company to generate large-scale social impacts for communities in need. According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), 68 % of the population of these communities is comprised of pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns).
“It is inspiring to know that we can use our business to improve the lives of thousands of Brazilians. Until today, the Collective has enabled the development of opportunities for more than 70 thousand people. With this new investment, we will expand our reach and partnerships in communities. This is a path to making a difference in the proportion required for a country with the size and importance of Brazil,” says Xiemar Zarazúa, president of Coca-Cola Brazil.
“Brazil is one of the most racially mixed nations, yet there are profound disparities in income, education and employment,” said Lisa M. Borders, president of the Coca-Cola Foundation. “We believe that our funding will help change the economic fate of hundreds, if not thousands, of Afro-Brazilian students who seek a better education.”
Coca-Cola Brasil has a long history of support for the Movimento Negro (black movement) in the country. Since 2005, for example, the company has supported Afrobras, an organization working for the socio-economic, cultural and educational development of young black Brazilians. Afrobras maintains the Faculdade Zumbi dos Palmares (Zumbi of Palmares College), only black university in Latin America and also puts on the Troféu Raça Negra (Black Race Trophy), and Afro-Brazilian award show and icon of identity.
In addition to continuing this partnership, the company will expand its initiatives allocating resources to entities such as the Instituto Cultural Steve Biko (Steve Biko Cultural Institute) in Salvador, Bahia). With a focus on access to higher education for students from public schools, the institution will significantly expand its vacancies in college preparatory courses and English and also improve its infrastructure. The community newspaper Voz das Comunidades (Voice of the Communities), headquartered in the Complexo do Alemão in Rio de Janeiro, will use the funds to rebuild the newsroom destroyed by a fire last year. Instituto Feira Preta of São Paulo, Instituto Mídia Étnica of Salvador, Bahia and the NGO Ser –Alzira de Aleluia, of the Vidigal community in Rio de Janeiro are some of the other projects that will benefit from the investment. More partnerships will emerge from the creation of a fund, which is in development and will be the subject of an edict, dedicated to the cultural advancement of the Afro-Brazilian population.
For Beasley, who acted in the selection of the beneficiary institutions, the initiative is innovative. “Hopefully, in the near future, other companies will be inspired to get involved in supporting programs benefiting African descendants in the country,” he said, by means of the foundation that bears his name, contributing to projects of socioeconomic inclusion of blacks worldwide.