Note from BW of Brazil: Let me ask you something. When was the last time you had one of those WTF moments? You what I’m saying…A time when something surprising or even a bit shocking had you scratching your head, like….well…WTF?!?! I have to admit, I had a moment like that a little more than a month ago when the guests and winners of the annual Trófeu Raça Negra (TRN) awards ceremony went down in São Paulo. The event, which literally translates as ‘black race trophy’, has been going strong for nearly two decades and once billed itself as the “Black Oscars”.
In past years, I’ve attended the ceremony four times, dating back to 2008, and for me, the best edition of the show was in 2009. That year seemed to have the largest audience, the most Afro-Brazilian star power and was the year featuring an incredible tribute to Pop icon Michael Jackson, who had died in June of that year. In 2008 and 2009, I had the opportunity to meet, greet and even interview several prominent Afro-Brazilians from the entertainment, political and athletic world. I was there in 2008 edition, just a few weeks after the historic election of American president Barack Obama, and although it happened in the United States, one could feel the energy of the moment in the air among black Brazilians.
I was also there in 2013 when the TRN honored well-known American activist Jesse Jackson with an award statue. I had the opportunity to go this year also, on the Day of Black Consciousness, but scheduling just wouldn’t allow it. Besides that, I was a bit torn on whether to go or not anyway. A group of African-American friends who were all together in São Paulo made my absence a bit disappointing. But there was something that was nagging me about this year’s ceremony. When I mentioned my issue with the 2017 edition, one of my African-American friends asked me, “Why people always gotta be hatin’ when someone’s doing something positive?” My response would be, it really depends on how you look at it. While one may look at my concerns as “hatin'”, another person may analyze the situation and see it as just “telling it like it is.”
Let me explain…
When I attended the ceremony in 2008 and 2009, although it was great to see so many black Brazilians dressed in evening wear and arriving in limos, something struck me as a bit odd in terms of the honorees of the show. You see, the name of the award show translates as ‘black race awards’, but in those two years as well as subsequent years, I noted that non-blacks walked away with about just as many awards as the black winners. I remember sitting in the audience with a friend in 2009 who noted how then Governor of the state of São Paulo José Serra accepted his award in blue jeans, onstage with other guests all dressed to the nines. Of course, the stance of the award creators is that winners are those whose actions contribute to the advancement of Afro-Brazilians in society. And even with past guests such as the previously mentioned Serra and current governor Geraldo Alckmin, one of this year’s winners really took the cake.
Many actions of current São Paulo mayor João Doria have left a bitter taste in the mouths of numerous Afro-Brazilian activists, which will be discussed below.
Comment above (left):
“I think the TRN is a discriminatory, segregating and oppressive event…to get in and be a part of it you have to be from a closed group of celebrities, you have to eat the bread that the devil kneaded, to put on cool clothes (imagine yourself as white man) to enter. I went once because a friend got a staff ticket for me (of those who work at the party), I entered at the side door, watched the awards at the back of the theater. Because the seats are for those invited. Is there a more segregating event? I wouldn’t go to this bullshit not even to receive a trophy. Because if there is one thing I am certain of my work will reverberate in the world…and to those that discriminate against me, you will only have my silence. You not being a black elite you only enter this award licking the soles of the shoe of the family of AfroBras, of Zumbi dos Palmares (UniPalmares).”
Comment above (right): A message to Unipalmares social media
“Is it serious that you all will give a TRN to João Doria?”
“Do you understand that this shouldn’t happen?”
“I understood that it shouldn’t. This mayor extinguished the Municipal Secretary of Racial Equality. Disastrous actions in Cracolândia (see note one) and offers rations to the poor. Why will he receive the award…Certainly I deserve it more than he does. What happened? What’s the reason that he should receive the award? I think you all should explain why he will receive the award.”
One of the gripes of the black community is the fact that the new mayor is a descendant of slave owners. Esquerda Online reminds us that:
“João Dória is a member of the Costa Dória family, formed in the colonial period and composed of masters of sugar mills and slaves. One of its most important characters, Antonio de Sá Dória (1590-1663), possibly the richest of the inhabitants of Salvador (Bahia) in his time, had, in only one of his mills, 40 slaves.
The wealth of the candidate for mayor who, according to a UOL report, exceeds R$ 170 million, was not achieved with the sweat of his work, but with the sweat of the work of the 5.5 million black men and women enslaved in Brazil. This inheritance has been passed on and accumulated for generations until it reaches his bank account, which will have as its heir João Doria Neto, his son.”
With this in mind, I was a bit perplexed and wondered what this man has contributed to the black race, whose exploitation contributed mightily to the mayor’s inheritance. To consider this question more, consider a research study.
“Between November 17 and 27, 1,067 black voters from the city of São Paulo answered several questions about their political profile. Public opinion research explored candidates, ranks, and parties that were most aligned and rejected by the black population. The afrodescendentes (African descendants) and Politics initiative is the first public opinion poll launched by B4B – BAP for Business, a consultant on marketing studies of the BAP Panel. The study reveals that 30% of the black population does not identify with any candidate, staff or political representative of the present time. Among the candidates most rejected by the participants are federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro (PSC) with 75.5%, current São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) with 71% and São Paulo mayor João Dória (PSDB) with 69.3%.”
The black population went still further in its assessment of the current mayor.
“Mayor João Dória was also evaluated. According to 58% of respondents, his mandate is rated as poor. Another 14% rate it as bad.”
So there you have it; the black community clearly has very little love for the current mayor, nor the current governor, so what gives with a black awards ceremony honoring such a mayor? OK, let me clarify, an awards ceremony that honors blacks and non-blacks who have helped advance the black cause. Whatever. What is that warrants the current mayor receiving such an honor? I’ll let the material below go further into why so many people don’t like Doria, but the story that infuriated me most was back in July when homeless people sleeping in the streets were blasted with cold streams of water wetting them and their belongings on the coldest day of the year. Because Brazil is located below the equator, July is winter time and on that particular morning, it was 7.9 degrees Celsius, which is about 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do you need another reason for why I ask this question? Well, how about the fact that on the very day of the annual Day of Black Consciousness March in SP, the city tried to impede the march from taking place? According to the Esquerda Diário website:
“Doria’s police attempted to prevent black men and women from demonstrating this afternoon of the 20th (November), holding the 14th Day of Black Consciousness March. For 14 years, collectives and organizations have come together to carry out this demonstration. At the request of Doria and the Traffic Engineering Company (CET), a strong police apparatus appeared, in order to prevent the act from being carried out. Demonstrators were threatened with a fine of more than R$6,000 reais.”
Now let that sink in for a minute. Even after he tried to shut down the annual march celebrating black consciousness and the need to continue the struggle, the mayor could have still shown up later that night to pick up a trophy from the BLACK Race Trophy award ceremony. Sounds like a really bad joke, right? Nope. So what’s the deal?
If one were to think of the creators of the TRN as being a legitimate representation of the black race in an award ceremony, there would be a few things you would first need to consider as to why someone such as the mayor should receive an award he clearly doesn’t deserve. First, consider that TRN doesn’t claim that the ceremony represents only black people. The second point, which affects the global black community, is an even better reason. Consider that the man behind the TRN as well Brazil’s first and only black college, José Vicente, needed investments to be able to create both. And in a Brazil in which the black community has very few resources as a group (regardless of its buying power), the only way to be able to get the funding needed for such endeavors would be to go big banks and other non-black owned large financial institutions. Similar to other black communities around the world, to make anything happen that requires more than a few thousand dollars, we remain in a situation in which we cannot count on our people for such endeavors. And to secure such funding, building good relationships outside of the community is necessary.
One need only take a glance at some of the funding sources of TRN over the years to come to a conclusion about why we see so many non-black faces at this award ceremony every year. Inviting and/or honoring white elites are a sure way to make sure those relationships stay intact. As such, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that these elites could treat the black community with total disregard and still be able to count on would be black elites to have their back. We saw other examples of this in recent years when well-known Afro-Brazilian entertainment figures came to the rescue of producer/director Miguel Falabella when he created the controversial series Sexo e as Negas, a program laden with stereotypes about the black community, and offered their support. The precarious position of the Afro-Brazilian community was also pointed out when there was talk of African-Americans boycotting the 2016 Oscars due to a lack of black representation. Now let me be clear on this. In reality, the lack of power in the African-American community also makes any real threat to the American entertainment machine almost impossible as well.
In the Brazilian situation, Vicente, TRN and Unipalmares have made it clear over the years that they are clear adherents to the legendary Martin Luther King’s philosophy. In numerous editions of the Afirmativa magazine, as well as articles appearing on the college and TRN websites, we find countless references to MLK, photos and quotes. In 2012 edition of the award ceremony, MLK’s daughter Bernice came to SP to personally accept a TRN award. And with such adoration of MLK’s legacy, perhaps studying one of MLK’s speeches would give us insight into why someone such as João Doria could be given such an award when the community in question has shown that it doesn’t appreciate his leadership. Consider this MLK quote from December of 1967:
“I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens’ councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate it too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country, and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, and we’ll still love you.”
In a modern context, it seems that Mayor Doria could spray down the homeless with jets of water on a freezing day, try to cancel the black community’s annual march and numerous other things, and the TRN “will still love him”. For me, in reference to both MLK and TRN, there ain’t dat much love in the world! And before anyone comes up asking me “why you hatin’?”, allow me to respond, I’m actually not hatin’. I am simply pointing out the pitiful position that black people are in on a global level. Whether we are talking about MLK’s movement, the NAACP, the TRN or nearly any other black endeavor that takes investment, you will find some of the same sources. Think I’m exaggerating? Do the research. It’s a fact.
What I’m actually saying here is not so much a blast at Vicente or the TRN as much as it is a simple acknowledgment of the global situation of Africa and its people on a global level. I mean, how else can you explain the fact that Africa is the richest continent on the planet in terms of natural resources but has some of the poorest people on the planet? The fact is, if TRN wants to continue producing these award ceremonies every year, it must maintain certain relationships with the power structure. As such, in the manner that perhaps comedian Chris Rock would have put it, I’m not happy that the TRN was willing to give an award to Mayor Doria with so many reasons demonstrating that he was a poor choice, but I understand.
Troféu Raça Negra 2017 Honors Zezé Motta
Courtesy of AfroBrasileiros.com
The award began with a show of reverence made by José Vicente, dean of the Faculty of Zumbi dos Palmares or UniPalmares, to the patron of the Day of Black Consciousness. Soon after, initial greetings from Secretary of Culture José Luiz Pena, Minister of Education Maria Helena Guimarães and the representative of the presidency of Bradesco André Cano claimed the importance of celebration initiatives such as the Troféu. The moment was ended with the solemnity of the execution of the national anthem.
Another great salute was that of Cape Verdean President Jorge Carlos Fonseca, who in addition to giving thanks for the invitation to participate in the event, also made a historical rescue of Brazil’s relations with his country, of the struggle for democracy, and of how the Cape Verdeans like Brazil. On the issue of combating racism and discrimination he valued those who fight for democracy, equality, respect. “Democracy does not rhyme with racism, it does not rhyme with gender inequality.” He ended by denouncing the case that he considers unacceptable in the case of trafficking of people in Libya and in solidarity with the anti-racism struggle, “Our fight is yours!”
Artistic interventions were recurrent throughout the ceremony. The actor Deo Garcez, who plays Luiz Gama in a theater piece, recited a poem that spoke about respect for religion, against all religious intolerance, and was succeeded by a presentation of Ilú Obá de Min who took the orixás and the colors of African ancestry to the stage of the Sala de São Paulo.
Delivered by Josemara Tsuruoka, a representative of EMS, one of the companies sponsoring the event, the first statues went to:
Zica Assis, founder of Beleza Natural
Dr. Karen Eloise de Andrade Firne (first student at the Department of Medicine of Jundiaí)
Major Helena dos Santos Reis (First black secretary of the Casa Militar and State Coordinator of Civil Defense of the state of São Paulo)
Paulo Rogério Nunes (Publicity)
Floriano Pesaro (representative of the Jewish community)
Marco Pellegrini (National Secretary for the disabled)
Ivan Renato de Lima (regional mayor of the neighborhood of Pirituba)
Another performance, which celebrated the friendship between Zezé Motta and singer/musician Luiz Melodia, was made by the singer Xênia França and Mahal, son of the singer, who took to the stage the song “Magrelinha”. Soon after, the singer’s family, who died in August of this year, received the Troféu as a posthumous tribute of the Faculdade Zumbi dos Palmares and Afrobras Institute.
After more elements about the fifty-year career of the honoree being revealed by the presenters, as part of the trajectory in the theater, the actress Maria Gal with a poem by Aline Djokic, brought the theme of acceptance of the black aesthetic, and the painful attempt to fit into a standard. Then the choir of the Faculdade Zumbi dos Palmares, interpreted the “Hino à igualdade” (“Hymn to equality”)
In another block of deliveries of the awards, this time made by the writer Paulo Lins, honorees were:
João Saad, president of the Bandeirantes group
Ícaro Silva Silva, actor
Marcelo Knobel, dean of Unicamp (university)
Marco Antônio Zago, dean of USP
Maurício de Sousa, cartoonist
A presentation with the song “Pérola Negra” by Luiz Melodia, done by Bahias and Cozinha Mineira, preceded the awarding of other notables and left the message regarding discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. The winners this time were:
Dandara Mariana, actress and dancer
Rachel Maia, CEO of Pandora Brasil
Ismael Ivo, Head of the ballet of the Municipal Theater of São Paulo
Maria Helena Guimarães, of the Ministry of Education
Jorge Carlos Fonseca, President of Cape Verde.
At the end of the ceremony, the actress Maria Ceiça, who also recited a poem about being a black woman, preceded the great homage of the night, the actress Zezé Motta who proclaimed how excited she was about the award. For her, “A prize of like this is an incentive of the size of the world so that people never give up fighting.” The closure was made by the presentation of the singer/rapper Criolo, who also recited a poetry on inequality, and against discrimination.
Having a straight face and handing over a Trófeu Raça Negra to Mayor João Doria
Doria, the modern slave-owning mayor wins the Trófeu Raça Negra
Courtesy of Causa Operária
On the 20th, on Dia de Luta do Povo Negro (Day of the Struggle of Black People), there was another awards ceremony held annually at the Zumbi dos Palmares University, which awards black and non-black personalities for having played an important role in promoting action, gestures and policies in valorization of the rights of the black people. This year, the curiosity of the moment was due to the award received by the PSDB (party) Mayor João Doria. He received the Troféu Raça Negra award on Monday.
The college had previously awarded Governor Geraldo Alckmin with the Afro-Brazilian Civic Order Award of Merit, in other words, this is not the first time that the NGO organizer of the Afrobras event has committed “misunderstandings” when it comes to who it selects for the award which has been given since 2000. But what exactly needs to be clarified is why Doria was awarded such a trophy, when in fact his policy does not benefit the poorest population and most of which are black.
The examples of his slaveholding measures are diverse, João Doria is the mayor who throws cold water on homeless people during the winter, and increasingly imposes his hygienic actions on the city of São Paulo, as in the case of the repression against Cracolândia and the persecution of the people present there, which is mostly black. And it did not stop there, the demolition of buildings with people inside is also one of the mayor’s attacks. The most recent measure taken by him was to want to give leftover food to the public school children, this is the policy of the cushioned mayor: to the rich everything, to the poor nothing.
It is also worth noting that one of the first measures taken by the playboy mayor as he took over the city hall was to extinguish the Racial Equality Promotion Secretariat, so João Doria represents the worst for the black population in all spheres, being his enemy number one. An example of this is the fact that on the 20th, when the mayor wanted to prevent and fine (and effectively fined) the organizations present in the march made annually for the Day of Struggle of the Black People.
Slav-o-crat Mayor slave refuses to receive Troféu Raça Negra
Courtesy of Causa Operária
On the day of the black people’s struggle (November 20), the little-known mayor, João Doria, was honored with the Troféu Raça Negra. It is the height of the absurd. On a day that should serve to commemorate black people’s struggle against racism and highlight the great names and heroes of the black people, a fascist mayor is honored with a trophy that supposedly would be given to someone beneficial to the struggle of this highly marginalized people in the country and the world.
This homage is a total affront to the country’s black population. Doria is having one of the worst – if not the worst – administrations of the city of São Paulo. His prefecture is doing everything to attack the people, and especially the black people.
Since the beginning of his term, Doria has amply attacked the culture of the Brazilian people, mostly black. Attacked the samba, the Carnival and the street arts. In addition, he is constantly attacking the poor, treating the homeless and the most marginalized sectors as human waste, lowering them to a lower level than the animals (wanting to give the poor food made from spoiled food to the poor).
Most remarkable of all is that Doria did not even bother to do his usual demagoguery and get the prize. Underscoring his slave-owning past, the slave-owning mayor did not attend the award ceremony, demonstrating that he really has no desire to be associated with Brazil’s black population. In fact, it was to be expected of a mayor who extinguished the Racial Equality Promotion Secretariat, attacked popular culture and the poor on several occasions. Doria is a fascist and golpista (coup supporter), one of the main enemies of the black people – the main one, in the city of São Paulo.
The Troféu Raça Negra for Doria was so misplaced that even he did not show up.
By Mauro Donato
In times of heated discussions about the ‘place of speech’, it is surprising – negatively speaking – that João Doria is honored with the Troféu Raça Negra award.
The mayor, whose administration had done its utmost to hinder the march of the Day of Black Consciousness organized by various social movements and entities of the black movement, which sent an intimidating police apparatus and threatened to fine the groups at R$ 6,000 (each) in case they insisted on leaving with the sound truck, which tried to end the party that traditionally has occurred for 14 years, was honored the same day.
What did Doria do to earn the trophy? DCM (website) forwarded two emails to Afrobras, but received no response until the time of publication of this article.
Afrobras (Afro-Brazilian Society for Socio-Cultural Development) is the Non-Governmental Organization that organizes the awards held since 2000 on the National Day of Black Consciousness whose trophy is awarded to ‘black and non-black personalities and authorities, national and international, for extolling , to promote and publicize the value of initiatives, actions, gestures, attitudes, attitudes, trajectories and achievements that have contributed to deepening and increasing the value of the black race.
The NGO brings together “intellectuals, authorities, personalities, black or not, and aims to work for the socioeconomic, cultural and educational insertion of young black Brazilians” aiming at the valorization of the black race and other actions that defend human rights.
Great. The question continues: What did Doria do to deserve it?
The mayor is the antithesis of these precepts. As soon as he took over the city hall, he extinguished the Secretariat of Promotion of the Racial Equality. And since then what has been seen was an avalanche of measures that affect predominantly the poorest classes (composed mainly by blacks):
To throw water on homeless people in the middle of winter, cut school transportation, cut milk, make a ‘suggestion’ to substitute school meals for something similar to rations, have the tractor knock down first and then check if there are inhabitants in old buildings. The list of hygienists actions is spectacular and leaves no doubt that the mayor does management clearly aimed at the richer strata.
It is unfortunate that Afrobras, which manages the Zumbi dos Palmares College, the country’s first community higher education institution, which has done so much and still does to include blacks in the labor market and higher education, is prepared to make a ‘like these’.
And it’s not even the first slip. A few years ago, Governor Geraldo Alckmin received in the Zumbi dos Palmares the Order of Afro-Brazilian Civic Order of Merit. Something as pertinent as Prince Charles dancing samba with passistas in Rio de Janeiro (see note two).
Justice being done: the award was so misplaced that not even Joao Doria attended to receive it. At least the mayor’s simancol (see note three) is working well.
Source: Alma Preta, Causa Operária, AfroBrasileiros.net, Diário do Centro do Mundo, Desroches, Leonard. Allow the Water: Anger, Fear, Power, Work, Sexuality and Practice of Nonviolence. Trafford, 2014.
- Cracolândia (derived from the words “crack” and “land”) is a popular denomination for an area in the center of the city of São Paulo, near the Duque de Caxias Avenues, Ipiranga, Rio Branco, Cásper Líbero, Rua Mauá, Estação Julio Prestes and the Praça Princess Isabel, where historically it has developed intense traffic of drugs. It is more properly situated in the neighborhood of Santa Efigênia, and coincides partially with the region of Boca do Lixo. Source
- Reference to Britain’s Prince Charles visiting Rio de Janeiro in 1978 and dancing with popular Carnaval personality Pinah. See video here.
- Semancol (sometimes also written simancol) is an imaginary drug recommended to people who don’t “check themselves” or don’t recognize when they are bothering people. It is used in Brazil in an informal and obviously sarcastic way. It derives from the expression se mancar, equally a regionalism of Brazil, with the meaning of perceiving the inconvenience of one’s own attitude.