Note from BW of Brazil: Continuing with an ongoing campaign to bring more visibility and representation to black Brazilian women, today the blog features the accomplishments and battle that one woman in southern Brazil is waging to tell the story of black people in her region of the country; an area that is traditionally thought of as the “European part of Brazil.”
Marcilene Garcia de Souza (Lena) is the first black woman graduate in the area of Social Sciences to become a PhD in Sociology in the city of Curitiba (state of Paraná). Nationally recognized for her activism in the Movimento Negro (Black Movement), Lena was one of the women honored on Friday, March 11 (2011), in a solemn session of the City Council of Curitiba – in Tribute to International Women’s Day.
The honoree is Director of the Research Nucleus of the IDDEHA – Institute of the Defense of Human Rights and Director of the IPAD Brasil – Instituto de Pesquisa da Afrodescendência (Research Institute African Descendants). She was nominated for the honor by Councilor Professor Josete (Josete Dubiaski da Silva of the PT or Workers’ Party). The session took place in the Auditorium of the City Council of Curitiba, Annex II, and opened at 8pm.
Marcilene Garcia de Souza’s trajectory of action in research and fostering debate on race relations began even before her entry into the university. Her family helped found the Movimento Negro in Curitiba. In 1994, at 17 years of age, despite being the youngest of a family of 9 brothers and sisters, she was the first to go to college, in the area of Social Sciences at UFPR (Federal University of Paraná), after attending a pre-university course in 1993 that issued scholarships to black students.
At that time, in Curitiba, as there were few black activists getting degrees and realizing that there were few opportunities for anti-racist training in town, Lena opted for research on race relations in Curitiba and in Paraná in graduation, with a specialization and Master’s in Sociology (UFPR). She was responsible for promoting a series of debates on race relations both in the academy and in social spaces. In 2004 Lena was invited to join the committee for social and racial inclusion promoting the implementation of the quota system at UFPR. She saw through a series of projects that impacted society, like the Adebori project which promoted actions to monitor and keep black students in the university, fighting the high dropout rates that were occurring.
In 2007, Garcia de Souza Marcilene was approved for a doctoral program and selected in one of the biggest affirmative action programs in Post-Graduate studies in the country: the International Fellowships Program in Post-Graduation of the Ford Foundation.
In December of 2011, Marcilene presented her work A África Está Em Nós: Africanidades Paranaenses (Africa is in Us: Africanities in Paraná) that emphasizes the contributions of African peoples and their descendants in the formation of the population and culture of the State of Paraná. She said the work, which also includes short biographies of black personalities of the state, contributes to breaking the invisibility that affects the black population in Paraná, which has the largest population of African descent in Southern Brazil and which one imagines is only of European origin (1).
Lena became a PhD in Sociology at the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in 2010. In her resume, she has positions as Coordinator of the Specialization Course in African History, African and Afro-Brazilian Culture, Education, and Affirmative Action at UTP (Universidade Tuiuti do Paraná or Tuiuti University of Paraná) (2006 and 2007); Assistant Professor in the Law Course of Positivo University 2002-2007; Consultant of the Ministry of Education – SECAD (Secretaria de Educação Continuada, Educação e Diversidade or Secretariat of Continuing Education, Education and Diversity) – Diversity Program at the University from 2004 to 2006 on issues related to public policies for young black men and women in education; Scholarship recipient of the IV Negro and Education of Ação Educativa (Educational Action), ANPED and the Ford Foundation from 2006 to 2007, Professor in the discipline of “Formulation and Analysis of Public Policy”, in the Post-Graduate course in Public Administration in Facudade Bagozzi (College), 2005. She has experience in the area of Sociology, Anthropology, with an emphasis in Sociology, Political Sociology, and Sociology of the Law. She is a researcher on Race Relations in Brazil, in the area of Affirmative Action in Education and the Labor Market; Youth (emphasizing Black Youth Education, Labor and Violence and the Hip-Hop Movement). She has published several articles on the topics and acts as a Consultant in Diversity Programs in Private and Public Companies on Gender and Race.
“What has always moved me in the fight is my commitment to our ancestors who were murdered, tortured and humiliated in this country for over 350 years. Despite the challenges I am always remembering that I am a privileged person in this society for being female and black is not the sum of the statistics on infant mortality, unemployment, lack of access to higher education or other forms of violence that victimize preferentially black women” – Marcilene Garcia de Souza.
1. To understand why Marcilene’s work is so important, one must understand the history of Brazil’s most southern states and their desires to be rec0gnized as the “whitest” states in the country while actively making the history of the Afro-Brazilian population invisible. For a short overview, see here.