Note from BW of Brazil: The world owes an enormous debt to the continent of Africa. From its vast amounts of resources that are vital parts of so many aspects of technology, to its wide variety of crops to its oil and precious metals, the world simply would not be the place it is without the acknowledged birthplace of humanity. But the Mother Continent has been widely disrespected, negatively stereotyped and savagely exploited for so many centuries that many of her descendants around the world don’t want to be associated with what has been labeled the “dark continent”. Brazil and South America as a whole have benefited greatly from the Motherland. Brazil was the greatest recipient of Africa’s children, having received up to 40% of approximately 12 million Africans shipped to the Americas during the brutal Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Brazil received 9 times more African slaves than the United States and today the country is home to between 16 million blacks (pretos) or 101 million (pretos/blacks + pardos/browns= negros) or anywhere in between depending on one’s definition of blackness.
As race has always been more fluid in Latin American country than say the United States, in some ways, it is not always clear to define just how many black people live in the region as millions of people define themselves with a plethora of color-coded terms that both acknowledge endless racial mixtures as well as a desire to escape the stigma associated with blackness. In 2010, many Latin American nations took part on a region wide effort to recognize this Africanity in their census numbers with a campaign to encourage more persons of visible African ancestry to identify themselves as black on census forms. Brazil, like other Latin American countries, is in many ways an extension of Africa in the New World via its culture, history and people and with links to the 50+ nation African Union and a recent seminar, these connections are being further explored with hopes of creating even stronger ties through the demystification of the image of Africa as well as the recognition of Brazil’s historic debt and ancestral links throughout the country. Learn more about this recent seminar below.
The “Are we Africans? New strategies for African Ancestry in Brazil and Latin America” seminar was held in Salvador, Bahia.
The opening included the important presence of Elias Sampaio (state secretary of Racial Equality), Zulu Araújo (president of the Mário Gusmão Center for Studies), Camilo Afonso (President of the House of Angola in Bahia), Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro (Sub-Secretary General of Affairs of Africa and the Middle East at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and ambassador Manuel Tomás Lubisse (Embassy of Mozambique and the African Union representative).
According to ambassador Lubisse, “the African Union is the highest expression of Pan-Africanism, as its creation was the result of a dense democratic debate. Now, Africa has an organization that has 53 members, in and its relationship with the world, it wants to be treated as a partner and not beggar. We want respect and dignity,” said Lubisse.
Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro said during the seminar that “our duty is to study Africa, to erase our own ignorance of the continent, which has a rich culture and sophisticated societies.” For Jaime Sodré, the timing is extremely useful for the seminar. “In fact they are public lectures of which everyone should participate. First to demystify ludic, romantic Africa because many people still have a vision of a continent with the myth of the wild without knowledge or civilization, the result of a vision by past colonizers,” evaluated Sodré.
The director of CEMAG and event coordinator, Zulu Araújo said that public participation during the discussions was significant. “We conclude with a fairly positive assessment, being by the welcoming of the participants, by the strong presence of youth or by the innovative proposals such as the creation of social networks for entrepreneurs of black culture, the multiplication of the event in this format for the rest of the country, and unanimous recognition that the existing organizational models today are exhausted,” he concluded. Mauricio Pestana, executive director of the Raça Brasil magazine, was one of the panelists of the event. Raça Brasil is the only Brazilian magazine targeted at the Afro-Brazilian population.
Note from BW of Brazil: The following article was how the seminar was promoted on the Instituto de Radiodifusão Educativa da Bahia website in the days leading up to the event.
Seminar discusses new strategies for African ancestry in Brazil and Latin America
Strengthening relations between Latin America and African countries in order to accelerate the process of including the Latin America African descendant community, will be the main focus of the International Seminar “Are We Africans? New strategies for African Ancestry in Brazil and Latin America”, an event that will begin on Wednesday, October 4th, continuing through the 6th, in the Katia Matoso Auditorium of the Public Library of Bahia, in the neighborhood of Barris. The seminar, sponsored by the Federal Government, opens the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the União Africana (African Union UA or AU) and with the participation of the minister of the Secretaria Especial de Políticas Públicas da Igualdade Racial (Secretariat of Public Policies for Racial Equality) – SEPPIR Luiza Bairros.
Created with the objective of promoting the unity of the continent and defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its members, the African Union, according to Zulu Araújo, event organizer and coordinator of the Centro de Pesquisa Mario Gusmão – CENAG or the Mario Gusmão Centre for Research, has sought throughout its 50 years, to respond to the challenge that still persists in the African reality. “How to overcome hunger, poverty, wars and violent exploitation of which the main victim is its people,” he adds.
It is estimated that only in Latin America and the Caribbean, live 153 million people of African descent, which represents approximately 23% of the population in Latin America, with Brazil accounting for more than half of this total (92 million, 101 million according to the IBGE). The seminar will be an opportunity to articulate with other Latin American countries, proposals and joint actions that appreciate African ancestry, Brazil’s contribution to the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), as well as promote and give visibility to its rich cultural heritage.
The opening ceremony of the event will take place at 6 pm, and besides Minister Luiza Barros, will have the participation of Ambassador Manuel Tomás Lubisse , African Union representative in Brazil. Until Friday, the workshop will bring together names such as Isaac Murade Muragy, Executive Secretary of the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries) or CPLP, economist Mário Theodoro, PhD in Economics from the University of Paris, Professor Júlio Cesar Tavares, Ph.D. in Anthropology, among other specialists. In addition to the conference, during the event, artists and intellectuals, such as the theater director Fernanda Júlia, rapper and writer Gog, the filmmaker Jeferson D, journalist Maurício Pestana and actor/artist Antonio Pompêo will head working groups that will discuss Visual Arts, Dance, Afro-Brazilian Cinema and Theatre, and the market challenges for these languages.