The Situation of the Negro in Brazil II

Zombie, show your face!

Now, at the end of its quarter century, the country is undergoing profound changes. In the early 1900s, representatives of the state and the leading sectors promised that this would be a white country in a hundred years, as a way of ensuring respectable presence in international conclaves. The projections for the V Centenary, the scenarios designed for the beginning of the next millennium, show, however, that diversity and Afro-Brazilian expression add value to Brazil on the world stage.

But, what cultural processes will allow the immense human possibilities to value their differences? What processes will transform the social imaginary that perversely manifests ashamed racism, and is justified by the statement that racism is not practiced here like there …?

New references are being built so that cultural policy includes the material and immaterial wealth generated by Africans and their Brazilian descendants.

Black producers and creators, intellectuals, militant movements, all have an important role in this process, and have been considered. However, it is still not possible to be sure of the real image of Zumbi dos Palmares (while there are several drawings depicting Domingos Jorge Velho) so that, in addition to occupying the heroes’ gallery, we can have his photo printed on national coins. Or go beyond the caricatures of Anastácia and Chica da Silva and discover the true story of the end of Luiza Mahin, the mother of Luiz Gama. Only State guidelines and political investment have been able to interfere in the dynamic cultural structure and to create distributive mechanisms to compensate for historical inequalities. This is so that the changes are not cosmetic.

Fulfilling the overdue schedule

The year 1995, the three-year anniversary of the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, the last leader of the Republic of Palmares, quilombo raised in Alagoas, which lasted about one hundred years and was destroyed in 1694, was a milestone in the black relationship between the State and the culture of the State in relation to the black.

To the sound of the drums, which on November 20 were protesting against what has been defined as apartheid without laws, and responding to the criticisms and proposals of the black social movement, the President of the Republic, in an act at the Planalto Palace, spoke openly about racism, created the Working Group for the Valorization of the Black Population and elected culture, namely the Palmares Cultural Foundation, as one of the areas of immediate investment to start the transformations.

It took the personal commitment of the head of state to break the inertia and the tendency towards political disqualification for the Negro. The sociologist Fernando Henrique Cardoso knows that by decree the social context is not changed, but that the vicious circle needed to be broken and that budgets, laws and programs reflect cultural concepts. He did not yet appoint reliable spokespersons there, intermediaries as usual – he did create spaces of power for the elaboration of proposals and execution, which, although still limited, represented a point of strength in the structure of the government.

Culture has always been a possible space for the exercise of black sensibility, although this participation did not change the social place of its directors. Especially before the industry took over the sector, talent was limited by living conditions. In addition to the Brazilian cultural matrix, the imaginary and the worldview are profound expressions of Africanity recreated here, expression through the arts is fundamental, even if decontextualized.

Programs, projects, agreements, review of concepts and their materialization in support and budgets are being carried out in order to create an environment that allows the structural changes projected by the abolitionists to be carried out, appropriate for this end of the millennium.

The rural black communities organized in quilombos, important cultural granaries for their history, with collective practice of diversified production, harmonious relationship with the environment, were identified. Their lands are being demarcated and they are receiving their title deeds. They are cultural territories, they are territories inhabited by the same families sometimes for more than three hundred years, vulnerable due to the absence, until then, of their inclusion in the government’s land projects. Their populations are being trained to enhance the resources and specific pilot programs for education and health are being carried out.

Programs to support the development of an Afro-Brazilian dramaturgy and training for the proper representation of this human group are being carried out across the country. Communication technicians, screenwriters, actors, directors, graphic artists are re-qualified through various types of agreements.

Invisibility, or the disqualified exposure of blacks and their culture, was a reason for low self-esteem, both for this population and for Brazilians in general, the vast majority of whom are Afro-descendants.

The Situation of the Negro in Brazil 2