[blank_spacer height=”30px” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”] [spb_text_block pb_margin_bottom=”no” pb_border_bottom=”no” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]
Trip to Brazil
July 29 – August 11, 2014
[/spb_text_block] [blank_spacer height=”30px” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”] [spb_text_block pb_margin_bottom=”no” pb_border_bottom=”no” width=”1/2″ el_position=”first”]
With the horrible killings of black men and boys almost every week by wayward police in the U.S., we might be tempted to think that this is solely an American travesty. But believe me it is happening in other parts of the globe where there are high concentrations of poor black people. In August 2014 I was in Brazil to speak at a conference in the Northwest town of Belém and then on to Salvador, Bahia, where Gene and I love to go and commune with the Afro-Brazilian population. In Belém, I was one of three scholars American scholars invited to speak at the 8th Congresso Brasileiro de Pesquisadores (as) Negros (as) – The 8th Congress of Black Brazilian Researchers (COPENE). At the conference all the scholars were discussing the miserable conditions of black Brazilians regarding poverty, lack of education, poor health, and police brutality. Brazil promoted an atmosphere of “racial democracy” (democracia racial) for a century, but today Brazilians have woken up to the systemic racism in the country that includes blatant police killings in the poor hill areas, called favelas, of the major cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador.
The multi-media talk that I have at the COPENE conference was called “Keeping it Real: Race, Class, and Youth Connections Through Hip-Hop in the U.S. & Brazil.” I had it translated into Portuguese thanks to Google Translator and Professor Monica do Amaral at the University of São Paulo, the person who arranged for me to be at the conference. I spoke in English and the professional Interpreter translated it into Portuguese for the conference attendees with headphones. I basically said, “We are going through the same things as black people in our respective countries, and many of our youths are using hip-hop to represent our issues of race and class through rap, graffiti, dance, and deejaying. I discussed the raps of Rio de Janeiro emcee MV Bill and São Paulo rap group Racionais MCs. One track by the Racionais MCs is called “Qual Mentira Vou Acreditar” or “Which Lie Should I Believe.” I compare some their verses to the classic 1986 “Six in the Morning” by Ice-T, when he was still a street hustler and before he started playing a cop on TV. I ended the presentation by saying Brazilian emcees are still critiquing their social and racial situation, while many American rappers have been lulled to sleep by capitalism. But from Ferguson to Rio the situation is the same and global hip-hop is trying to represent that reality.
[/spb_text_block] [spb_text_block pb_margin_bottom=”no” pb_border_bottom=”no” width=”1/2″ el_position=”last”]
When Gene and I went to Salvador, the Afro-Brazilian part of the country and the first capital of Brazil during the slave trade, I was able to give the same presentation at a community center in a favela called Plataforma. Besides community folks, many young practicing hip-hoppers came to hear my presentation and to represent. When I stopped in the middle of my presentation to ask whether they understood what I was saying about racism and social inequality, one of the brothers, basically said, “Are you kidding, we live that reality everyday.” And if you know anything about Brazilian life, the police can come in and raid their poor communities, kill a few drug dealers, and it rarely even make the news. I am including some of the photos I took at Plataforma of the graffiti artists and the rappers, and breakers. It was a wonderful experience to share my message with the brothers and sisters in the community, and to let them know that their voices and reality are being spread across the globe. See photos take at the presentation at Plataforma Cultural Center.