Note from BW of Brazil: Religious intolerance has been an issue in Brazil for about as long as enslaved Africans have existed in the nation. Due to stereotypes and negative connotations associated with African-oriented religions, Afro-Brazilians often face discrimination based on their affiliation with one of the religions whether or not they actually are a follower, as we recently saw in the case of a black child who was harassed by her teacher in a school. Mãe Gilda was a symbol of this struggle and she will receive a very important recognition in honor of her cultural importance the battle for the respect of her religious practice.
Black Personalities – Mãe Gilda
by Juliana Silva
In 1988, Iyalorixá Gildásia dos Santos e Santos, better known as Mãe Gilda de Ogum, founded Ilê Axé Abassá de Ogum, a Terreiro of Candomblé located near the Lagoa do Abaeté, in the Itapuã neighborhood of Salvador, Bahia.
She was initiated in Candomblé in 1976 in the Terreiro of Oya, and at completing seven years initiated in the religion she received the title of yalorixá (Afro-Brazilian religious high priestess) and on October 6, 1988, registered her terreiro of Candomblé, the Axé Abassá de Ogum, of the Ketu nation in the Ketu na Federação do Culto Afro (Federation of African Cults). Mãe Gilda was a social activist and stood was known for her strong personality and great participation in actions to improve the Nova Brasília neighborhood of Itapuã.
With her health weakened due to emotional aggressions caused by religious intolerance, Mãe Gilda died on January 21, 2000, leaving her legacy to her daughter Jaciara Ribeiro dos Santos, who filed a lawsuit against the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God) for moral damages and misuse of her image.
In a form of recognition, the federal government instituted in 2007, January 21st as the Dia de luta contra a intolerância religiosa (day of struggle against religious intolerance). The date in which people of different faiths, races, ethnicities and gender celebrate another step in favor of human dignity to share ways that make religious intolerance possible.
Mother Gilda will be honored with bust by Gregorio de Matos Foundation
The president of Fundação Gregório de Mattos (FGM or Gregório de Mattos Foundation), an organ connected to the Secretaria Municipal do Desenvolvimento, Turismo e Cultura (Municipal Secretariat of Development, Tourism and Culture (Headquarters), and the managing of culture in the capital, Fernando Guerrero, will sign, on Tuesday (January 21), at 9am, along with the president of the Fundação Cultural Palmares (Palmares Cultural Foundation), Hilton Cobra, the letter of intent to install a bust in honor of yalorixá Gildásia dos Santos, better known as Mãe Gilda.
The award was conceived by the biological daughter of Mãe Gilda, yalorixá Jaciara dos Santos. According to her, the piece intends to mark the life story of her mother and not let the manifestation of religious intolerance which resulted in her death be forgotten. Mãe Jaciara want the bust “to be a milestone in the fight against religious intolerance.”
The signing of the document held in the Main Hall of the Rectory of Universidade Federal da Bahia, in Canela, during the realization of the Cultural Act of Celebration of January 21s – the Dia Nacional de Combate à Intolerância Religiosa (National Day of Combat Against Religious Intolerance). The event, sponsored by União de Negros pela Igualdade (Unegro or Union of Black Equality), marks the passage of ten years of the enactment of Law 6.464/04, authored by then councilor Olívia Santana (PC do B party), that created the Dia Municipal de Combate à Intolerância Religiosa in Salvador.
Mãe Gilda, as yalorixá Gildásia dos Santos was known, died in 2000, a victim of a series of complications she suffered after being attacked by the newspaper Folha Universal, of the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), in 1999. The newspaper featured on its cover a photo of the yalorixá with a black stripe on her face with the title: “Macumbeiros e charlatões lesam a vida e bolso de clientes (Macumbeiros – loosely meaning ‘voodoo worshippers’, charlatans harm life and pockets of customers.)
After the incident, the victim’s family, with the support of the Movimento Negro (black movement), took on a legal battle seeking punishment for the guilty, attaining success and experiencing some setbacks, such as reducing the amount originally fixed for compensation. The case has become an emblem of the struggle against religious intolerance in the country.
The Municipal Day Against Religious Intolerance, established in 2004, on the initiative of the then councilor Olívia Santana (PC do B), served as inspiration for the Law 11.635/07, authored by Federal Deputy (Congressman) Daniel Almeida (PC do B of Bahia). After the sanction of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, January 21 became the National Day Against Religious Intolerance and the date was included in the Civic Calendar of the Union for official commemoration.