Truth Commission on Black Slavery in Brazil: Report shows need for urgent reparations for the black population

Commission of Truth - Humberto, Ivone

Note from BW of Brazil: The discussion of the call for reparations has been on the agenda Commission for the Truth of Black Slavery in Brazil, or Cevenb for a number of years now. The group of lawyers has been busy conducting research that proves the case, from the days of slavery to the current social conditions of Brazil’s black population. One relatively recent event that was discussed and highlighted as an example of how poor black communities are dealt with by the State was the 2014 occupation by a faction of the Military Police known as UPP, meaning the Pacifying Police Unit. 

Maré occupation
UPP occupation of Maré starting in 2014

The region of Maré in Rio is composed of 16 favela slums where factions of drug traffickers reign. Due to the lucrative trade, police forces would routinely run operations in the region that led that armed conflicts, aggressive force and casualities. With the regular police presence which many defined as an occupation, some residents began to describe the setting as something similar to Iraq.

In a recent presentation and a viewing of a documentary film, the Truth Commission presented Maré as an example of conditions of the black population that are linked to Brazil’s 350 years of the black enslavement, an institution that ended only 131 years ago

Only April 29th, the Commission was scheduled to hold a public hearing and debate to further the discussion on the need for the Brazilian State to address the issue of reparations that are needed to repair the damages caused by centuries of violence, bondage, murder, a lack of education, exclusion from resources and institutional racism. Below is a brief preview of the showing of the documentary last Monday the 15th and a detailed explanation of the reparations discussion via an interview with Humberto Adami of the Truth Commission on Black Slavery in Brazil. 

Comissão Estadual da Verdade da Escravidão Negra no Brasil

State Commission for the Truth of Black Slavery in Brazil reflects on slaveholding echoes in collective warrant in the community of Maré 

By Clara Passi

The presentation of the documentary Mandado, by João Paulo Reys and Brenda Moraes, was the trigger for the  Comissão Estadual da Verdade da Escravidão Negra no Brasil (State Commission for the Truth of Black Slavery in Brazil) (Cevenb) of OAB/RJ (Brazilian Lawyer’s Guild of Rio) to discuss, on Monday, the 15th, how the criminalization of poverty that affects residents of a favela is an echo of the Brazilian slave-owning past.

The film discusses the collective search and seizure warrant issued by the Rio de Janeiro State Court that authorized the review of the Complexo do Maré in 2014, in the context of the implementation of the Unidades de Polícia Pacificadoras (Pacifying Police Units) (UPPs). Marielle Franco, who acted to ensure the rights of residents were guaranteed during the incursion of security forces, is one of the interviewees of the film. Franco was assassinated in downtown Rio in March of 2018 in a crime that remains unsolved.

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President of Cevenb Humberto Adami with Director of Racial Equality of the Sectional, Ivone Caetano

The legal tool that allowed the Civil Police access to houses of the Nova Holanda and Parque União is considered by specialists as an affront to the constitutional right of the inviolability domicile.

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Director of Racial Equality of the Sectional, Ivone Caetano, with president of Cevenb, Humberto Adami

The masters of ceremony at the event, titled Collective Mandate & Reparation of Slavery, were Cevenb President Humberto Adami and Ivone Caetano, Director of Racial Equality of the Sectional. After the screening, there was a debate with the presence of Reys.

“We must go beyond the discourse of historical debt. We need to recreate the theme constantly,” said Adami, who used the case of the musician Evaldo Rosa’s shooting by the Army to illustrate his thesis. Adami reported on the numerous habeas corpus he filed in the TJ/RJ to try to prevent the use of collective orders by judges.

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Ivone Caetano, Director of Racial Equality of the Sectional

“All social problems in Brazil are remnants of slavery. Blacks don’t know their history, so much so that many are against racial quotas. The extermination of young blacks responds to an old desire for whitening of the population,” said Caetano, the first black appeals court judge in Brazil.

OAB/RJ to host public hearing on slavery reparation

The State Commission for the Truth of Black Slavery in Brazil (Cevenb) will hold a public hearing on slavery reparation on April 29 at the OAB/RJ. The program of the meeting foresees two thematic tables, starting at 9am, besides a debate on the subject, starting at 4pm. The OAB/RJ is located at Avenida Marechal Câmara, 150, in downtown Rio.

Truth Commission on Black Slavery in Brazil: Unpublished partial report will show need for urgent reparations to the black population

Date: 06/23/2015

With the support of sub-commissions, universities and social movements, the document will be delivered in December with the objective of intensifying the adoption of public policies

“When you look for the remnants of slavery, the so-called incomplete and unfinished abolition, you are fighting the racism that persists to this day” Dr. Humberto Adami – National President of CVSENB

 by Claudia Alexandre

The National Commission responsible for mobilizing and sensitizing the country to the work of the Comissão da Verdade Sobre a Escravidão Negra no Brasil (Truth Commission on Black Slavery in Brazil or CNVENB), presided by Humberto Adami, made up of the Federal Council of the OAB (Brazilian Bar Association), has the challenge of delivering by December, a partial report on the broad investigation that intends to reveal the real conditions of a period of more than 300 years, when the greatest regime of slavery and trafficking of Africans of the Americas occurred.

According to Adami, it is not a matter of seeking financial reparations at this time, but rather of starting a work that, in addition to revealing acts of violation against human rights, also seeking the reconstruction of a new nation. “We will be bringing to the general knowledge, both in the 2015 report and in the final report of 2016, a Brazil that is not known to most Brazilians. A Brazil that was hidden in the dungeons of the senzalas (slave quarters). A Brazil that does not recognize in those who came from Africa and its descendants, the same value, whose remnants of this slavery persist to this day. It is the hope of one day having the same standard of citizenship that non-blacks have in Brazil today,” he said.

The work of the National Commission has used technical cooperation agreements to expand research. Among the fundamental supports is the participation of universities, which through research and academic theses on the subject, have collaborated so that the recuperation of the memory, of important events in the period of slavery, is included in the report. “In the end, we’ll have a new nation. A Brazil that will have the opportunity to combat the remnants of slavery, which persists until today in our country, and which has in its main modality institutional racism, in that collective memory that makes the country have two categories of citizens. Citizen of first category of civil rights and citizen of second category of civil rights. There is in the country, at the moment, a category of citizens who do not have civil rights of the first category,” says Adami.

Important examples of partnership are in the agreements signed with Universidade Zumbi dos Palmares (Zumbi dos Palmares University) (in São Paulo), the Laboratory of History of the Universidade Federal Fluminense (in Rio) and the Federal Institute of Pará that will produce reports that will be included in the partial document. In the political sphere, the National Commission also has the Special Truth Commission on Black Slavery in Brazil, formed by the City Council of Rio de Janeiro, which will work with a municipal focus.

The surveys begin to reveal historical data that the large portion of the population does not have access to, but are key to recovering the memory of a past that has been erased from history. One of the theses reveals facts about slavery in the city of Nova Friburgo (Rio de Janeiro state). “The work of historians uncovered the myth of the Swiss Brazilian city, discovering that before that there was an extensive foundation of slavery, especially citing the case of the Baron of Nova Friburgo, who promoted more than five or six trips of shipments of Africans in navios tumbeiros (slave ships), each with more than 400 Africans,” he said.

It is possible to follow the work of the National Commission of the Truth of Black Slavery in Brazil through the exclusive page on Facebook, where everyone can have access to the national survey. A technical cooperation draft is also available and can be sent to the OAB Council so that institutions and organizations can develop their own research.

In an exclusive interview with Áfricas – Agência de Notícias, the president of the National Commission of the Truth About Black Slavery in Brazil, Humberto Adami, explains the objectives of the work and takes stock of this first stage of production of the report.

Agencia Áfricas – What is the work strategy of the National Commission to develop the partial report that will be delivered later this year?

Humberto Adami – The report of the National Commission intends to answer three questions according to the methodology regarding the crime of slavery against the população negra (black population). Considering that the crime of slavery is a crime against humanity, it is indefeasible, and it appears in the international treaties of the species. The methodology aims to answer three questions: What were the crimes practiced, how were they practiced and by whom were they practiced. The answers to these three questions will lead to condemnation of the Brazilian state, the person responsible for the crime of slavery, against the black population that was enslaved for more than 350 years. This is because with the Brazilian state once held accountable, it will lead to the possibility of implementing public policies that are acceptable, more easily, by the population that still resists the implementation of reparatory policies.  The Commission is working on a partial report for December 2015. It is establishing in addition to the National Commission, State Commissions, where Commissions have already been registered in Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Belém do Pará, Espirito Santo, São Paulo and Piauí. Other commissions should be installed in the next days in all sections of the OAB. Marcos Vinicius Furtado, the president of the Federal Council, has been directing the report to be our focus. The Commission is working on this, and we will soon have a preview of the partial report working with the contribution of the sections, as well as other sub-sections are installing their subcommittees, and has the agreement of Technical Cooperation with universities, social movement entities and quilombola groups.

Agencia Áfricas – What activities and research are being carried out in this first phase?

Humberto Adami – The first activities are the technical cooperation agreements that are absolutely important to take advantage of the research that already existed in many university circles, especially on the history of slavery in researches and theses that were placed in their university banks and had not arrived to general knowledge. This material is being collected by the universities and we have had, as a result of the creation of the Commission in the Federal Council, the emergence of stories in the news about the history of slavery.  This, to the detriment of the subjects that until last year, arose exclusively about racial quotas in the universities and quotas in public employment.  We also have public hearings, meetings, public acts, investigations, for example in Pará, that are going to the field and have obtained two criminal experts, to produce proof of the crime of slavery in the State. They have records of bolas de ferro (iron balls), where the slaves were chained. (The state of) Minas Gerais (MG) inaugurated the president and will soon hold the first meeting. Many plantations in MG bear the marks and remnants of slavery.

It should be remembered that the Commission’s proposal was made by the National Commission on Racial Equality at the 22nd. The OAB national conference in October in Rio de Janeiro, in a panel called Reparação da Escravidão Negra no Brasil (Reparation of Black Slavery in Brazil), 2014. And that then proposed the creation, in the same way as the Truth of Torture Commission, of that NVENB Commission, to the Federal Council and the President of the Council, Marcos Vinicius Furtado, who immediately welcomed the proposal and led to its approval in November 2014.  The Council unanimously approved and sent the official letter to the President of the Republic to create a Commission similar to the Torture Commission, in the same way, which has not happened so far. On February 6, the Commission took possession of 50 members – 12 lawyers, 35 consulting members and guests of the judiciary and public prosecutors.

Agência Africas  – What does it mean for the black population in Brazil to establish this Commission? What is the biggest challenge?

Humberto Adami – This work is showing us that this is the greatest initiative in this field and the most unprecedented since the abolition of slavery. The realization of this investigation is in the same mold of the Truth Commission on the Dictatorship. There has been nothing similar since the abolition of slavery and must bring a Brazil that was unknown to most people. This practically refounds the nation, Brazil, refounds the republic. “We will be bringing to the general knowledge, both in the 2015 report and in the final report of 2016, a Brazil that is not known to most Brazilians. It is the hope that one day we will have the same standard of citizenship that non-blacks have in Brazil today. Violence against black youth in this country has grown in alarming numbers. It has grown by 82 per cent in the past 12 years, in the violent death of 16-24 year olds. While among young whites this number has decreased. For the black population and for Brazil, the work of this Commission that is struggling with few resources, with difficulty, with the work of several fronts for a true crusade, is to have a new Republic. First, the condemnation of the Brazilian State as responsible for the crime of slavery. And we will have the implementation of public reparatory policies, which can gain importance, with less resistance on the part of the population, that before the racial quotas, develops an unjustified resistance, and at the same time bring to the knowledge of the population one of its foundations that is the history of the Africans who came here enslaved. We can also include the indigenous history that has been far removed from the general knowledge; and also has the implementation of the Law of Afro-Brazilian and African History and Culture, in all 5,483 municipalities as a product of this initiative.

Agência Áfricas – In practice how can the results of this committee’s work promote a change in the promotion of equal opportunities for the black population?

Humberto Adami – What will emerge is a new country, a new nation. A Brazil that will have the opportunity to combat the remnants of slavery, which have persisted until today in our country, and which has in its main modality institutional racism, in that collective memory that makes the country have two categories of citizens. Citizen of first category of civil rights and citizen of second category of civil rights. There is in the country, at the moment, a category of citizens who do not have civil rights of the first category. You can’t enter the bank without its alarms ringing; already by several experiments it has been demonstrated that the color of the skin has influence. They have no position in the first tier of heads of enterprises, political parties, in the military, in the first high-ranking command posts; the national congress has a tiny representation of pretos e pardos (blacks and browns). In any aspect of Brazilian society that you decide to examine you will always find the Brazilian citizen, preto or pardo, in an unfavorable position.  I think that in seeking this plunge into black slavery in Brazil, Brazil walks to find its own face in the mirror. The face of Brazil that is not reflected today, for example, on newsstands, where black women, black girls, are not reflected on the cover of a magazine, a face like yours. I think that the implementation of affirmative actions for pretos, pardos and indigenous people will reach a more acceptable, less resistant form for the great majority of the Brazilian population. There are explicit pockets of racism in Brazil and it is necessary to welcome them. And abolition has to come to this part of the population that constitutes in its great majority, in general terms the average of 54%, in Bahia it reaches 84%. It is necessary to promote the re-foundation of the republic.

Agência Áfricas – How will reparation be possible and what kind of reparation can be obtained after more than 120 years of the abolition of slavery?

Humberto Adami – That is a question, which is one of the central points of this discussion. The initiatives for the reparation of slavery that occurred without news with the journalist Fernando Conceição, in the 1980s, with councilwoman Claudete Alves, in the early years of 2000, at the PT in São Paulo, were financial reparations initiatives. There is also a national fund that is being picked up by the member of the Commission Mario Teodoro, former executive secretary of Seppir*, also known for his participation and commitment. As we plunge into this recuperation of the history of slavery for the sake of knowledge and memory. Reparations can take place at various times, in various forms. We can have a multi-geographical repair, where each region, municipality or state can develop a more local reparation, in terms of redemption of memory, through national public policies, reaching all locations in the country, which does not always occur. This form of reparation is yet to come, somewhat distancing the financial reparation for the moment. We will reduce resistance to national public policies, as we have already achieved with quotas in universities, Prouni*, for education. The great reparation is to seek the knowledge, the culture, the history and the construction of part of our cultural, gastronomic and religious heritage, which stopped accompanying the first enslaved Africans, who helped to build the nation, who resisted but were cowardly erased from the history of this country, besides being subjected to violent punishments, humiliations, many punishments that cost them their lives.

When we seek the remnants of slavery, of the so-called incomplete and unfinished abolition, we are fighting the racism that persists to this day. It is a work that is magnifying us, a work of many generations. A work that began with the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) denouncing racism, dismantling Brazil of the myth of racial democracy, dismantling a Brazil where éramos todos iguais (we were all equal), and bringing a country with an extremely slave-o-cratic culture and without all rights for all. We invite everyone to be part of the great reconstruction of the nation.

Source: Geledes, OABRJ

About Marques Travae 3171 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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