Note from BW of Brazil: For many decades, the Federative Republic of Brazil was a country that steadfastly denied racist treatment of its African descendant population. Not only did it go as far as promoting itself as a “racial democracy” in the face of blatant racism, at one point during its m0st recently experience of a military dictatorship, it even outlawed the discussion or denouncement of the existence of racism in the country. Although cracks in the system eventually allowed that the Movimento Negro as a whole organized resistance against the system, it has only been after the years of the “political opening” that organizations have been able to fully push for racial equality throughout the nation. One of the leading organizations in the fight for racial equality after the return to democracy in 1985 has been UNEGRO, which began its operations in a key year, 1988, a year in which 100 years of the abolition of slavery was celebrated. The organization recently celebrated 26 years of its existence and below is brief article about its activism over the past few decades.
UNEGRO completes 26 years of struggle for a society free of racism
The organization União nos Negros pela Igualdade, Union of Blacks for Equality or simply UNEGRO, completed 26 years on Monday (14). Rádio Vermelho spoke with the president of UNEGRO, Edson França, and he spoke a little about the history of the organization and operations in Brazil. Currently UNEGRO is present in 24 Brazilian states and is headquartered in São Paulo.
By Mariana Serafini and Ramon de Castro, for Rádio Vermelho and UNEGRO
The organization founded in Salvador, Bahia, in 1988 was born in the process of democratization of the country and sought to combat racism and all forms of discrimination and social oppression. 1988 was also the year of the centenary of the abolition of slavery, and the exercise of criticism was the mark of the founding militancy of the organization, which, together with other black organizations throughout the country, put down the false idea of the Brazilian racial democracy, and terminate the gulf that separated, and still persists, between blacks and whites in the economic structure and social structure. The trajectory of UNEGRO therefore has roots in a deep desire for social justice that took them to the streets and participating in building large demonstrations initiated by all the Movimento Negro and the various social movements on the local and national level, always waving the flag of equality and overcoming racism.
Edson spoke about the important achievements of UNEGRO over these 26 years and emphasized the inclusion of black youth in university education. He compared the presence of blacks in the Congresses of the UNE 26 years ago and now, that, due to social programs, increased considerably. “Including the black population is to include the population in the nation,” he said.
In 26 years, the organization has participated the most important agendas of combatting racism in the country, notably the meetings, conferences and regional and national seminars of black men and women, from the large marches in memory of the immortalityof Zumbi and in defense of life to Brasília, in 1995 and in 2005, the creation of the Fórum Nacional de Mulheres Negras (National Forum of Black Women), of the foundation and sustenance for many years CONEN- Coordenação Nacional de Entidades Negras (National Coordination of Black Entities). UNEGRO went to Durban, South Africa for the Third World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. There they asserted their voices in open plenary of the United Nations denouncing Brazilian styled racism and presenting alternatives to overcome it. UNEGRO is also in the fight in the Combat against Religious Intolerance, making a great contribution to the ideological struggle to overcome the ignorance and the appreciation of Candomblé in their different nations.
UNEGRO, alongside other organizations, in the last ten years has composed efforts to develop equality policies in the phase of the implementation by initiatives in the areas of federal, state and local governments; fought for the enactment of Law 10.639/06, the Law of Quotas and the Estatuto da Igualdade Racial (Statute of Racial Equality) transforming the social demands of the black population of the state. UNEGRO defends the popular culture of African origin such as samba, frevo, maracatu, drumming and other traditions that enrich the national culture. For the organization, the Brazilian Movimento Negro in this quarter of the century succeeded in important achievements, the support of 64% of the population for quotas for black and poor people in the universities and the outcome of the trial on quotas in the Supreme Court, winning unanimous approval of the quota system, are indicators of the success of the political struggle of the Brazilian Movimento Negro.
In the meantime, França maintains, there is still much to advance as a result of grievances of racism, the black population accumulates economic, political and social disadvantages, so the main challenge will be to take from the paper the conquests established by law and agreed upon in the processes of dialogue between government and civil society; for this great union of the black movement around the struggle for greater presence of black people in positions of power will be needed.
According to Edson, the key to the struggle is “understandings of how domination is structured”.” Moreover, Edson reminds us that the search is for the consciousness that “class struggle and the fight against gender domination compose the triple emancipatory struggle of the black population and the Brazilian people.”
Besides the youth, UNEGRO already has a series of battles won in the war against everyday racism. The organization played an important role in the construction of the I Encontro Nacional de Entidades Negras (First National Conference of Black Entities); in the Congresso Continental dos Povos Negros das Américas (Continental Congress of Black Peoples of the Americas), national black women’s meetings, workers and anti-racism union members of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT or Central Workers Union) and the Central dos Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras do Brasil (Central Union of Workers of Brazil or CTB), among other initiatives.
Edson also emphasizes class struggle as one of the central points of UNEGRO’s fight against racism. For him, the bias is directly connected to the current capitalist system that is oppressive and exclusionary. He points out that despite being in line with the Movimento Negro (black movement) in general, UNEGRO stands for not leaving aside the question of class struggle.
On occasion, Edson also talked about the political situation in Brazil, the social progress achieved in the last 12 years, the governments of former President Lula da Silva, current President Dilma Rousseff and the presidential campaign (of 2014) that has already begun.
Source: Vermelho 1, 2