Note from BW of Brazil: Historical and cultural connections, common slave histories as well as struggles against social exclusion, inequality and racism have just a few of the similarities that have provoked exchanges of dialogue between African descendants in Brazil and the United States. The leading economic and political position of the US in the world has exposed millions of black Brazilians to the history of African-American struggle and increasingly, African-Americans are becoming more aware of this struggle in the Afro-Brazilian population. Various sources show us that this dialogue between Afro-Brazilian and African-American organizations can be traced to at least the 1930s, accelerating in the 1970s with the influence of the Civil Rights/Black Power movements on the Movimento Negro Unificado and up to today with more black Americans visiting Brazil and the ongoing influence of black American culture on black Brazil. There is so much to learn from this exchange of information, dialogue and experience and hopefully in the future, more initiatives such as the one featured in the article will continue to develop.
Brazil and United States promote cultural exchange program between black public school students
With the concept of consolidated affirmative action at different levels of education, project brings together US and Brazil for exchanging social, cultural and political experiences
Courtesy of R7
Young black Brazilian and American students have the opportunity to exchange cultural experiences, learn about History, Arts and Foreign Language. They were selected to participate in “Journey Through the African Diaspora” (Jornada pela Diáspora Africana in Portuguese) project, developed by the Museu Afro Brasil (Afro Brazil Museum) in conjunction with the Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center.
The initiative is part of the “Museums Connect” program, of the US government. For about 20 years, the US State Department has provided financial support to museums in the country that develop international partnerships. The idea is to promote cultural exchanges between museums and communities of different nations, enabling youth empowerment and social inclusion.
The partnership with the Museu Afro Brasil is the third held in the country in “Museums Connect”. Eight students from EMEFM Vereador Antonio Sampaio in São Paulo were chosen to participate in the initiative. In the United States, eight students from Suitland High School in Maryland were chosen to participate in the program. The selection of students, as well as an indication of the participating schools, was the responsibility of the museums.
Since June 2013, the students of the two countries attend classes in History, Arts (in their museums) and Foreign Language (Portuguese and English). As part of the project, American students came to Brazil for the painting of a mural in the Museu Afro Brasil.
The theme portrayed was the trafficking of enslaved Africans to Brazil and the United States and the legacy generated by this forced cultural flow. Finalizing the activities, in May, it will be the turn of the Brazilians going to the US for the painting of a new panel of the same subject.
For the construction of the Brazilian mural, students have studied in art program classes of the work of American artist Chanel Conpton. According to Claudinei Roberto da Silva, artistic coordinator of the project by Museu Afro Brasil, the artistic experience of the students was developed considering the flow of enslaved blacks in Brazil from the slave trade, considered part of the so called African Diaspora (Diáspora Africana).
“In Brazil, unfortunately discussions on the participation of blacks in society are still very incipient. Projects like this encourage the development of the national debate on the subject and should be contemplated by a policy of state beyond the effort of an institution or a specific group.”
Maristela Correa, cultural advisor to the US Consulate in São Paulo, believes that the approach to the subject is part of a mutual interest between Brazil and the US.
“The slavery past and the present existence of afrodescendentes (African descendants) in the US and Brazil makes the two countries have similar histories. Brazil has a population that is 50% black, while in the US this representation corresponds to approximately 20% of the population. In this sense, the achievements of blacks in the United States are of great interest to Brazilians and to organizations and government departments that deal with issues of inclusion of ethnic minorities.”
Naima Shaw, 16, attends Suitland High School in Maryland, in the United States, and reveals how she is participating in the project:
“This experience changed my life. It opened many windows of perception and transformed my impressions about myself and about my culture.”
Alexandra Maria da Silva, 16, is one of eight Brazilians involved in the project and is preparing herself to know the United States, and there, telling American students who have been here her perspective of the experience.
“I had never had a more direct contact with African history, I always learned more about European and realized an approach of devaluation of blacks in some classes in school. Now I have a broad view on culture and history of blacks in Brazil. When we learn about our identity, we find ourselves in the world.”
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