Note from BW of Brazil: When you analyze the everyday stories that come out of Brazil, it’s really not hard to understand why many children grow up not wanting to be associated with their African ancestry or anything associated with Africa or blackness. The country is totally committed to a European representation of intelligence, knowledge, beauty, wealth and humanity itself. Realistically, it’s not even possible for one little blog to cover every incident of anti-blackness that happens across the country on a daily basis, but rest assured, for every story that actually makes headlines, there are probably hundreds that are never featured on websites, blogs and in newspapers. Some months ago, I covered a piece on black college students coming forward and revealing racist incidents involving their teachers or professors throughout their educational history.
Now just imagine, many black students only manage to identify existing racism in their everyday lives after becoming conscious of what racism actually is later on in their school years, often only when they enter college. Think of the everyday manifestations of racist, Eurocentric thought that gets passed on to children and young adults everyday without them even perceiving that certain comments, behavioral patterns and exclusionary practices constitute a maintenance of white supremacy.
Back in March and again this month, we saw two clear examples of this in the school system, with both happening in cities located in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The first, in the city of Volta Redonda back in March, and this month in the city of Macaé. The thing that I find utterly laughable, contradictory, yet sad at the same time, is that Brazil is a HUGE consumer of American film (see note one) with all of its blood, gore, murder, sex scenes, explosions and lack of moral integrity, but all of that’s OK for Brazilian children to consume, not to mention all of the super realistic shoot ’em up video games that so many children are hopelessly addicted to. Brazil, a vastly Christian country, be they of the Catholic or Evangelical variety, and every week they poor their money into one of the thousands of churches located across the country to support a so-called holy book that is full of fairy tales, mythologies borrowed from other countries and literally hundreds of contradictions, but still have the nerve to say, “don’t teach my kids about that black/African stuff.”
Keep in mind that for 15 years now there has been a law that schools are to present material that cover aspects of African and Afro-Brazilian culture and history, a law that has been routinely ignored and never fully implemented. In the stories below, one of the reasons for the difficulty of fully complying with this law is so difficult.
Teacher is ‘denounced’ by student’s father for showing film about black culture
By Bruno Alfano
A teacher from Macaé (city in Rio de Janeiro state) was denounced at the town hall’s ombudsman office for showing a film that deals with cultura negra (black culture). Sabrina Luz, of the municipal school Professor Elza Ibrahim, in the Ajuda de Baixo neighborhood, exhibited the work in the Geography class for 6th grade students, who have an average of 12 years of age. The complaint, made at the end of May, came from a student’s father who didn’t identify himself.
“I was informed by my director that I would respond to a lawsuit. I got a lot of support from the teachers and students at my school. This is the first time there was an anonymous denouncement about my class,” says the teacher.
The work was the movie Besouro, which tells the life of Besouro Mangangá, played by Ailton Carmo, a Brazilian capoeira artist of the 1920s. According to Sabrina, the work is based on real facts about an uprising in the Bahian Recôncavo region led by the capoeira artist.
The film was directed by Beiler Mangangá, played by Ailton Carmo, a Brazilian capoeirista of the 1920s. The content of the complaint was also not revealed by the city, but the teacher believes that the problem is the fact that the work addresses Afro-Brazilian religions.
“The film is the target of religious intolerance, because it shows the orixás. Our struggle is constant in the defense of the secular school and of the school as a space of science. At the beginning of the year I already explain what a secular school is and I separate the space from religion, home and family with that of science in school. Every year I feel it’s getting harder,” she says.
The teacher revealed the complaint in a video on social networks that has already reached 47 thousand views. From this, a mobilization of educators was born to defend the fulfillment of the law that makes the teaching of Afro and Indian history and culture in Brazil that promoted a meeting on the exhibition of the film Besouro itself, held by the Núcleo de Estudos Afro-Brasileiro e Indígena (Nucleus of Afro- Brazilian and Indigenous Studies) of the Cidade Universitária of Macaé.
The Municipality of Macaé has stated that it will not open a lawsuit against the teacher. In a note, it reported that the Education Department “complies with Law 10.639/2003 dealing with Afro-Brazilian Culture and 11.645/2008 which deals with the history and culture of indigenous peoples, as well as maintaining the Coordination of Diversity, ensuring inclusion in the official curriculum of the network and execution of Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Culture program. “The directory also claims that “it is the duty of the secretariat to also respond to the questions that are sent to it by citizens, through the Ombudsman’s Office, regarding pedagogical practices, content adequacy, among other things.”
Note from BW of Brazil: Below, is a story that made headlines back in March for basically the same reason. Again, what would be the message here? “We are all equal, but just make sure my kids are taught from the purely Eurocentric perspective.”
Black mother prevents censuring of the book of African culture in Sesi
Sesi had succumbed to pressure from parents and censored book ‘Omo-Oba’ about African princesses. The complaint of a mother and the support of the black community made the school retreat
By Bruno Farias
Black mother prevents censuring of the book based on African culture in Sesi
The mother and teacher of history Juliana Pereira experienced highs and lows in the last Friday. First, she felt hope when she attended, with hundreds of people, a protest that charged clarification for the deaths of Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes, held in Volta Redonda, in the interior of Rio de Janeiro. Moments later, the teacher felt disappointment returning home and receiving a statement from the hands of her son, a pupil of Sesi (see note two) in Volta Redonda. The text from the school reported that, due to “questioning of some parents in relation to the content,” the book Omo-Oba: Histórias de Princesas (Stories of Princesses) (Mazza, 2009 Edition), by Kiusam de Oliveira, had been excluded from the grid of textbooks.
Disturbed by the Sesi decision to replace material that deals with themes of Afro-Brazilian culture, the mother, published on Sunday (18), a text on Facebook in which she denounced the censorship of the book and criticized the school for succumbing to the pressures of parents. “I speak not only for my children filhos negros (black children), but beyond the immediate need of afro-descendente (African-descendant) visibility, we need to educate people to sensitize themselves and seek a more just society,” she wrote. The post had more than 10 thousand shares.
The author of the book, Kiusam de Oliveira, professor at the Federal University of Espírito Santo, also reacted. “We are now in the era of hunting publications that deal with Afro-Brazilian culture”, she wrote, in a post in which she revealed that she was an early childhood education teacher for 23 years and decided to write a book with “stories of rainhas negras (black queens) that are part of the history, culture and humanity” after witnessing several situations of confrontation of black students with the absence of princes and princesses like them in literature for children and youth in Brazil. “It may appear to be something small, but in a racist Eurocentric country like Brazil, such princesses have been the defense of black children in the fight against their invisibility, racial discrimination and racism. Sesi, which adopted the book, congratulations, but the same Sesi that changed in the moment of counter-demonstrations without having effectively exercised an educator and transformer role I say, I’m very sorry.”
More people supported the mother and the writer. “See as well the school itself, a school such as Sesi, embracing the angry stupidity that disguises itself as faith and religiosity is depressing”, criticized the writer Allan de Rosa. “A true disregard of law 10.639/03 which obliges the teaching of the history of Africa and the Afro-Brazilian cultures in schools,” said Agência Solano Trindade (agency).
After the criticism, Sesi manifested itself recognizing the error “The public institution comes to the public to recognize the mistake in the treatment of the subject and inform that an additional book [in place of Omo-Oba: Histórias de Princesas], will no longer be adopted,” read a statement. “To ensure that misunderstandings as the incident will not be repeated, Sesi will conduct a recycling with all its pedagogical team,” it added. The institution also warned that it intends to bring the matter to the community, promising, “soon”, a meeting “to debate community diversity and multiculturalism with the school.”
The directors of Sesi of Volta Redonda had a meeting of parents, on the same day, to deal with the issue. At the meeting, another mother said that she had also denounced the school on social networks, although without the same repercussion.
Juliana said that the problem of prejudice goes beyond the Sesi, and that “it’s a national issue”. For her, the debates about diversity in Brazil is still very “poor” and people need to “instrumentalize” themselves more to address the issue.
Approved on December 20th of last year, the National Base Common Curriculum (BNCC) aligns itself with Law 11.645/08 which establishes the obligation of the theme Afro-brazilian and indigenous history and culture in the curriculum of the schools.
The National Basis also determines that the school institutions should “require a clear commitment to reversing the historical situation that marginalizes groups.” According to the new curriculum of teaching, there is a function of the schools “to appreciate and enjoy the various artistic and cultural expressions.”
The other side*
The Firjan System (Federation of Industries of the State of Rio de Janeiro), which comprises 5 organizations, among them Sesi, sent an e-mail requesting the correction of the report because it claims that “the book was not banned from school, at any moment this was said,” but admits that it committed a mistake in announcing an optional book to Omo-oba – Histórias de Princesas by Kiusam de Oliveira.
Check the note in full:
The Sesi school of Volta Redonda erred in announcing an optional book to Omo-oba – Histórias de Princesas , by author Kiusam de Oliveira, for students whose parents have questioned its use in history classes.
The public institution comes to recognize the mistake in the treatment of the subject and inform that an additional book will no longer be adopted.
In addition to complying with the Law of Guidelines and Bases of education and it complementations, which has required the study of Afro-Brazilian and indigenous history and culture, Sesi Rio is committed and engaged to the issue of cultural diversity, both adopted in all its schools to the referred work as paradidactic work in the discipline of History. Before the questioning of some parents is precipitated, erroneously, allowing the exchange of the work for those interested, a procedure that was revised.
Sesi has already contacted the mother who felt offended with the promise of an option book to apologize and explain what happened. In addition, on March 19th a meeting with parents and guardians was held to also address the issue.
To ensure that misunderstandings as the incident will not be repeated, Sesi will conduct a recycling with all its pedagogical team. The Sesi school of Volta Redonda will also promote, briefly, a meeting to debate diversity and multiculturalism with the school community .
Approved on December 20th of last year, the National Curriculum Common Base (BNCC) aligns itself with Law 11.645/08 which establishes the obligation of the theme of history and Afro-Brazilian and indigenous culture in the curriculum of the schools.
The National Base also determines that the school institutions should “require a clear commitment to reverse the historical situation that marginalizes groups.” According to the new curriculum of teaching, it is still a function of the schools “to appreciate and enjoy the various artistic and cultural events.”
- This not even considering how Afro-Brazilian filmmakers are all but shut out of access to the Brazilian movie industry. See here, here and here, for examples.
- Serviço Social da Indústria (Social Service of Industry or SESI) is a network of Brazilian state-owned institutions operating nationally. It was created on July 1, 1946 with the purpose of promoting social welfare, cultural development and improvement of the quality of life of the workers who work in the industries, their family and the community in which they are inserted, generally. Source