Slavery, Race Ideologies and the Black Movement: Discovering the Power Behind Brazil's Black Consciousness Movement
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Over the past four years, I have developed an intense interest in the African Diaspora in Latin America. It started during my high school Spanish class and continued throughout my college years. As the only African-American student studying Spanish in the upper advanced courses, I always wondered why we never discussed or learned about the African-descent Latin Americans. This is not to say that I was aware of the immense cultural legacy of Afro-Latinos in Latin America, but I had known Blacks from Panama and the Dominican Republic. My Spanish teacher never addressed or dedicated a lesson to the AfroLatinos in my class but spoke of them briefly when we reached the period of slavery. I understood that Africans living in the Americas could not be discussed without introducing the subject of slavery. However, I hungered to hear more about Blacks just like me living in Latin America. As a college freshman, I attempted to further my studies in Spanish and when unable opted to study another language, Portuguese. My advisor realized that I was interested in pursuing Latin American studies and suggested that I take a course in Portuguese. I agreed and became introduced to another culture and language that I loved as much as Spanish. My professor was a Brazilian woman from southern Brazil and spoke three additional languages. It was this course, which allowed me to pursue my interest in the African Diaspora. I learned that there were more Africans living in Brazil than any other country outside of Africa. From that moment on, I focused on Afro-Brazilians for all of my projects and research papers. I began to meet other students that were interested in Latin America and the African Diaspora. When I decided to transfer to Kalamazoo College as a sophomore, I worried that I would be unable to pursue my interest in Brazil or the African Diaspora. However, I was blessed to meet Dr. Marigene Arnold who would tum out to be my advisor in Anthropology. Although, she did not specialize in the area of Brazil or the Diaspora, she was eager to help me pursue my academic interest. I was fortunate to continue my Portuguese language study and met some awesome people that wanted to assist me. While, I did not have the opportunity to study or visit Brazil in the wake of this research project, I did have the opportunity to work with an NGO called the Organizations of Afpcans in the Americas (OAA), which concentrated on AfroLatina organizations in Latin America. As a result, I spent the summer of my senior year working in Washington DC with a fledging organization bringing about issues pertinent to Afro-Latinos. I chose to work with the OAA because I was interested in learning more about Afro-Latino concerns and gain more information about the Black movement in Brazil. While, I was interning with OAA I organized and went to an international conference held in Barlovento, Venezuela focusing on Afro-Latino issues. This sealed my dedication toward learning more about Afro-Latinos from Venezuela to Brazil to Peru. When, I returned I began to research and investigate my research topic, the Black Consciousness Movement in Brazil. The Black Consciousness Movement in Brazil is composed of various political and cultural organizations that act as cultural carriers. The movement's primary goals are to diminish racial discrimination, deconstruct the existing racial/social hierarchy and affirm the Afro-Brazilian's African roots. However, there appears to be two strains of ideological paradigms in place. One paradigm devotes its attention toward a transformation of Brazilian institutions through political activities. This would consist of groups that actively fight against racial discrimination cases in the media and in courts. The second ideological approach focuses heavily on the preservation and re-identification of African or Afro-Brazilian culture through the mediums of music, dance and oral traditions. This ideological division causes a split within the movement's organizational power. In addition, there are some Afro-Brazilians that identify with the collective identity of the Black Consciousness Movement but do not feel connected to the motives and goals of the Black organizations. Therefore, the Black Consciousness movement fights against external opposition and also internal conflict due to a lack of collective identity and solidarity by the Afro-Brazilian community. Thus, in this paper I will evaluate Brazil's Black organizations function within the movement by analyzing their ideologies, construct of a collective identity, the member's solidarity, tactics and leadership present in the Black Consciousness Movement. In addition, I contend that the reason for a lack of participation and political success for the movement has to do with the undeveloped collective identity, insufficient strong leadership and passive tactics, which continues to deter the Black movement from attaining their goals. Terminology One quick note on terminology that I will used to describe the various actors in the African Diaspora and Brazil. I will reserve the term African-American for those blacks living in the United States. This does not include blacks in Canada or any other part of North America, only the United States. Secondly, the term Afro-American signifies the black population living in the Americas in general. I felt that this term should be used to distinguish blacks from the United States with other parts of the Diaspora. In addition, I use the term Afro-Brazilian to discuss the population, which identifies itself as being black, this may include light and dark colored Brazilians, but they all self-identified themselves as blacks. Those that identified themselves as of mixed heritage I will use the terms, mulato or pardo, for individuals of European and African ancestry. Oftentimes, I will simply indicate in detail what racial categorization should be assigned to the individual in question. Terminology is important in identifying the population at hand and I want to emphasize the distinction when discussing various black groups from throughout the Americas that have different histories and linguistic backgrounds.
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