Could Salvador, Bahia aka “Black Rome” soon have its first elected black mayor?With debate heating up, a record number of black candidates are entering the race

Seminar of Black Candidates in Salavdor

Note from BW of Brazil: Well, if you haven’t noticed, demands of black Brazilians are heating up all over Brazil and in almost every area. For decades (well in reality, centuries, if you think about it), black Brazilians have been accustomed to simply accepting the ‘place’ that they have been given to occupy in Brazilian society while their white countrymen have dominated every influential position in the nation. White domination is pretty much the rule no matter what area you research. Government, media, finance…you name it, and black folks have very little say so in these areas. Well, “what about sports and entertainment?”, one might ask.

Well, sports and entertainment don’t really change the world. In fact, these genres keep people occupied and interested in frivolous things that assure their attention is not where it should be. But let’s discuss this anyway.

In terms of entertainment, black actors are always a minority in TV programs and films, black film directors still have trouble getting funding and widespread distribution of their work, even being recognized in national and international film festivals, this without mentioning having no control over main TV and film studios. Of course, you’ll find many black musicians within the samba/pagode category, but this representation shrinks when we get into the more lucrative MPB, or Brazilian Popular Music genre, as I’ve documented in relation to Afro-Brazilian female singers. I will explore this topic more in an upcoming post.

In terms of sports, black Brazilians futebol players are among some of the highest paid in the world, but very few end up making it to this plateau. According to one 2015 report by the CBF, of the more 30,000 professional players in the country, 82% earn up to two minimum salaries per month. In 2019 two minimum salaries is about BRL $2,000, which is currently worth a little less than US$500….PER MONTH. An older study revealed a racial element to the study.

Analyzing 17 futebol teams in Rio de Janeiro, while only 26.6% of white players earned up to one minimum salary, for black players that percentage was 48.1%. On the higher salary scale, 24.8% of white players earned up to 20 minimum salaries per month whole for black players, the percentage was 14.8%. In other words, a miniscule amount of kids who dream of getting rich on the futebol field will ever make it to the status of a Neymar, who currently earns about 91.5 million Euros per year, worth 100.3 million US Dollars or 414 million Brazilian Reais. In other words, Neymar is earning about US$274 thousand PER DAY!! In terms of leadership, black coaches still have a difficult time earning head coach positions on Brazil’s top futebol teams. Not opinion. FACT!

But anyway, that’s not the discussion here, which is, why is it that a city that is considered a black majority such as Salvador, Bahia, known as “Black Rome” has never had a black man or woman elected mayor? In fact, this discussion of black representation in politics applies to the entire political realm and not just one city. I’d say it’s a fair question, wouldn’t you?

Well, nowadays, the black movement in Brazil is also asking this question. And for 2020, it’s looking like there may be more black candidates running for mayor of Salvador than any other period in history.

Silvio Humberto (PSB)
Salvador Councilman Silvio Humberto

Councilman Silvio Humberto demands coherence on the left so that Salvador have a black mayor

Councilman Silvio Humberto (PSB) said that the leftists need to be consistent so that it is possible for a black candidate run for the city of Salvador in the 2020 elections. He stressed that the discourse of social justice preached by some entities should not be “just in conversation”.

“If you say you fight for racial equality and at the time of practicing it, you go back to rhetoric, saying somos todos iguais (we are all the equal), why say that you care?” he asks. And he continues: “What moves this city are the black people, but in the spaces of power we are not. Something is wrong,” said Silvio, according to information from Varela Notícias.

For him, waging a struggle for racial equality is a way of breaking the “vicious cycle of poverty in the city,” and that proposing real racial policies is a “historic necessity” in the blackest capital of the three Americas.

Apparently, the typical Brazilian response to racial inequalities and racism is the same as what we always hear: “We are all equal”, except for the fact that socioeconomically and in terms of a racial hierarchy/apartheid, we are clearly not. This issue of the lack of black folks in influential positions has brought up on the right as well as the left political spectrum, where the PT (Workers’ Party) is believed to be the party that most represents the wishes of the black community although they are also severely lacking in black faces in the most influential positions of the party.

Behind the scenes, there is information that the president of Esporte Clube Bahia, Guilherme Bellintani, will be the candidate to run for office at the Palácio Thomé de Souza next year, by the PSB party itself. On the part of DEM party, the current deputy mayor and secretary of Infrastructure and Public Works, Bruno Reis, should be the go-to the candidate of the ruling base for the succession of current mayor, ACM Neto.

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From top left, clockwise: Hilton Coelho (PSOL), Moisés Rocha (PT), Raimundo Calixto (PSOL), Vilma Reis (PT), Vovô do Ilê (PDT), Silvio Humberto (PSB), Valmir Assunção (PT) and Olivia Santana (PCdoB)

After Movimento Negro (black movement) causes public debate, Salvador already has eight black pre-candidates for mayor

The dispute for the command of the Palacio Thomé de Souza, headquarters of the Salvador City Hall, will only take place in October 2020, a year and two months from now, but at least eight black candidates have already presented themselves as alternatives to occupy the most important position of the Bahian capital.

The ebullition of pre-candidatures of black movement leaders takes place in the midst of mobilizations and public debates promoted in the Bahian capital, such as the launching of public campaigns to encourage the launching of candidacies to the Executive and the municipal legislature.

The mobilizations are a response to the fact that the city, which has an 85% black population and is the blackest city outside the African continent, has never been able to elect a black mayor by popular vote.

Only jurist Edvaldo Brito, now city councilor, was mayor of Salvador, but he was appointed by then-governor Roberto Santos during the military dictatorship and for a period of just eight months.

In addition to the ‘Eu Quero Ela – Salvador Cidade Negra’ (I Want It – Salvador Black City) movement, which eventually gained the leading role in the actions, the ‘Agora é ela, Bicão na Diagonal’ articulations, which come together around the Marielles Forum, and ‘Plataforma Salvador Negra 2020’ (Black Salvador Plataform 2020).

After the movements, which included a seminar with possible candidates, pre-candidates from the main parties of the Rui Costa (PT/Workers’ Party) government base launched candidates. In the PT alone, three names are officially placed in the race. The sociologist and militant of the black women’s movement Vilma Reis, Councilman Moisés Rocha and Federal Deputy Valmir Assunção are candidates for the post of mayor.

Besides them, we also see the names of well-known bloco afro Ilê Aiyê Antônio Carlos dos Santos, aka Vovô of Ilê (PDT), Salvador’s councilman and PSB municipal president Silvio Humberto, state representative Olívia Santana (PCdoB), and two PSOL staff (state deputy Hilton Coelho and trade unionist Raimundo Calixto).

Councilman Edvaldo Brito (PSD) may also be a candidate, according to behind-the-scenes comments, but this has yet to be confirmed with him nor his adviser as to whether the information is correct. If confirmed, the number of black candidates goes up to nine.

Also, out of the black pre-candidacy account is the deputado federal (federal representative) Pastor Sargento Isidório (Avante), who, despite being in the base of the Rui Costa government, has no identification with the black movement.

If his name were counted and Edvaldo Brito’s was confirmed, the number of black candidates would reach 10, a record high. Never before has Salvador had so many pre-candidates with this classification.

The right

In the field of the right, the racial issue is considered “outdated”. At the base of Salvador’s mayor, ACM Neto (DEM), the issue is seen as something to be disregarded in next year’s election, according to sources. Top blacks in the group, former federal deputy Tia Eron and federal deputy Márcio Marinho, both of the PRB da Igreja Universal (Republican Party of the Universal Church), are out of contention.

The issue was overcome, for the Neto’s base, with the election of Célia Sacramento (then in the PV, now in the Rede Sustentabilidade or Sustainability Network) as vice-mayor in 2012 – which then ended in public fights, accusations of corruption and a traumatic political breakup.

Tia Eron e Márcio Marinho, dupla do PRB da Igreja Universal
Tia Eron and Márcio Marinho, PRB duo of the Universal Church

Intriguing that the party of current mayor would define the issue of race in the mayoral race as something “outdated” or “something to be disregarded”. If my memory serves me correctly, ACM Neto and a few other candidates who I would never consider black (in this case meaning preto/black or pardo/brown) classified themselves as pardos/brown/mixed as calls for black political representation in black majority Salvador got louder. This was clearly the reason that so many white main candidates chose black running mates.

Within the PRB itself, at best, Márcio Marinho, who is the state president of the party, can take the position of vice-chairman on the slate headed by federal deputy João Roma, who is white.

The candidacy, however, would only have the function of ‘complying with the slate’ in electoral chess in the face of the extinction of the coalitions – if the candidacy does indeed exist.

Marinho was even a running mate for ACM Neto in 2008, when they were defeated by Mayor João Henrique, who was re-elected.

2012 was the best year for blacks in the Executive race so far

It was precisely in 2012, when Célia Sacramento was elected deputy mayor of Salvador, the best performance of black leaders in the municipal elections of the Bahian capital for Executive office.

At that time, besides Célia herself, practically all the candidates for vice mayor were a black man or black woman. This was the case of Olívia Santana herself, who at that time ran as deputy on the slate of PT candidate Nelson Pelegrino, being defeated in the second round by ACM Neto.

Márcio Marinho was also a candidate at the time for the PRB. The candidate Mário Kertész (at the time with the PDMB) also had a black man, Nestor Neto, as a running mate. In addition to the black candidacy of the PSOL party for the City Hall, with the figure of Hamiton Assisi.

Davidson Magalhães, of the Communist Party of Brazil
Davidson Magalhães, of the Communist Party of Brazil

President of Bahia’s Communist Party says a black candidate in 2020 is not a priority

Amid movements such as “Eu quero ela – Salvador cidade negra”, which propose black candidacies for the election of the mayor of the Bahian capital in 2020, the statement by Bahian PCdoB (Brazilian Communist Party) President Davidson Magalhães, on Friday, September 13, sounded to some like an inappropriate comment.

According to the Bahia Black website, Magalhães stated, during the 7th Meeting of Bahia Mayors, held by the Union of Municipalities of Bahia (UPB), that the decisive factor for choosing the name for the PCdoB in Salvador will be a candidacy committed to the city that has a history of struggle linked to social movements and the general line promoted by the current state government, of development and investment.

“Look, I think it’s no use having a black or a white who is not committed to the causes. We have to have people committed to the causes,” said Magalhães.

It is known that the two names considered so far within the party are those of Santana and Alice Portugal, who ran for office in 2016. The information was provided by Olívia herself during an interview with Rádio Metrópole on August 23.

At the time, representative Santana criticized the lack of black candidacies in the parties. “There is no opportunity to become a candidate. Which party launched a candidacy for real? Did the PT put one out? Did the DEM? Did my party the PCdoB? Never. Give us an opportunity to solve this standstill,” she provoked. Santana also praised the political debate promoted by the local black movement. “A black name needs to be treated as naturally as a white candidacy,” she said.

Sought for a comment on the statement by her party leader, Olívia Santana has not responded thus far.

Racial Debate

Affiliated to the PT and a member of the Unified Black Movement (MNU), Raimundo Bujão interprets Magalhães’s statements as inappropriate given the current political debate in the Bahian capital.

“A party like the PCdoB, which has a black base, and he says something like that!? When he says this, he is disregarding slavery, saying that it didn’t matter. It’s unfortunate for him to say that,” said Bujão in an interview, adding that the field of the left is intrinsically linked to racial issues.

Like Olívia Santana, he believes that the lack of racial debate in choosing names for the executive is a problem for local parties in general. For the militant, statements such as that of Magalhães are a reflection of the current political debate provoked by the black movement in Salvador, since the custom of the parties, until then, was to choose their candidates without paying attention to public opinion.

Indeed, these are some interesting times in the fact that Brazil’s white political base continues to deal with its black population as if it there simply to serve. But, as I stated before, no matter how you slice, I see black Bahians having a difficult time changing anything in Bahia even if they manage to get an Afro-Brazilian elected mayor. You see, Bahia is the perfect example of Brazil’s racial apartheid. It is a state with millions of black folks dominated by white political and economic power. If anything, in this scenario, we should learn from the black political experiment in the United States where we have seen thousands of black city councilors, mayors, governors and even a president. But there, in the richest nation in the world, black people own about 2% of the nation’s wealth.

So, in the end, while people make a big deal out of seeing the possibility of a black mayor in Salvador, I’ll make this point. Without the economic force, political power doesn’t necessarily equate to any significant change. And in Salvador, that economic force is still in the hands of white folks.

With information from Mídia 4P

About Marques Travae 3238 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

2 Comments

  1. I really wish Black Brazilians wouldn’t get caught up into “first black” symbolism like Black Americans did with Obama. Being the “first Black person” doesn’t mean anything if that Black person isn’t going to create positive change for Black people.

  2. When are you going to write an article about the areas of economic activity where black people can focus and begin to penetrate in order to improve their economic prospects.

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