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| | |-+  Brazil's 'Quilombo' Movement May Be The World's Largest Slavery Reparations Prog
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Author Topic: Brazil's 'Quilombo' Movement May Be The World's Largest Slavery Reparations Prog  (Read 8244 times)
Nakandi
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Posts: 533


« on: December 07, 2014, 04:02:49 PM »

"When Luiz Pinto was growing up, his parents wouldn't let the family talk about slavery. The issue raised ugly memories.

Pinto’s grandmother was born into slavery. She threw herself into a river before Pinto was born, taking her own life after the son of a wealthy, white landowner raped her. The subjects of slavery and racism became taboo in the Pinto household, a sprawling set of orange brick homes perched on a hilltop where Rio de Janeiro’s famed statue of Christ the Redeemer is visible in the distance through the trees.

“I only knew her from photographs,” says Pinto, a 72-year-old samba musician.

These days, Brazil’s legacy of slavery takes up much of Pinto’s time. He travels across the state of Rio de Janeiro and back and forth to the capital in Brasília, more than 700 miles away, to lobby for the land rights of people who live in communities said to be founded by runaway slaves. Such communities are known in Portuguese as “quilombos.” According to Brazilian law, residents of quilombos have a constitutional right to land settled by their ancestors -- and that right, though rarely fulfilled, is quietly revolutionizing the country’s race relations.

In the past year, as all eyes turned toward Brazil in anticipation of the World Cup, international media offered ample coverage of the country’s staggering inequality. Reports have highlighted the stark contrast between Brazil’s hardscrabble slums and its glittering soccer stadiums. What has received less attention is the civil rights movement gradually gaining momentum throughout the country.

Brazil imported more slaves from Africa between the 16th and 19th centuries than any other country in the Americas. In 1889, it became the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the institution. Today, more people of African descent live in Brazil than in any country in the world besides Nigeria. People of color make up 51 percent of Brazil’s population, according to the most recent census.

By and large, black Brazilians live in the worst housing and attend the poorest schools. They work the lowest-paid jobs, and they disproportionately fill the jail cells of the world’s fourth largest prison system. This lopsided state of affairs, Afro-Brazilian intellectuals and the country’s social scientists largely agree, is a result of racial discrimination with roots in the country’s history of slavery.

Brazil has never experienced anything akin to the U.S. civil rights movement or South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. But the quilombo movement, while still in its infancy, is challenging Brazil’s deeply ingrained racial inequality. Ratified in 1988 after a two-decade-long military dictatorship, Brazil’s constitution states that residents of quilombos are entitled to a permanent, non-transferable title to the land they occupy -- something analogous to the United States’ Native American reservations, minus the self-government.

Now, more than 1 million black Brazilians are calling upon the government to honor their constitutional right to land. Among them are Luiz Pinto and his family, who have fended off decades of eviction attempts and managed to remain ensconced in their quilombo, known as Sacopã, in a neighborhood gentrified long ago by wealthier, whiter Brazilians.

The situation in Brazil stands in stark contrast to that of the United States, where, as the author Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out in a widely read cover story for The Atlantic this May, Congress has repeatedly refused to pass a bill calling for a simple public study on the impact reparations would have on the descendants of slaves. The idea that the U.S. government would even consider handing thousands of tracts of land to black communities is unthinkable.

Few Brazilian conservatives find the idea appealing, either. Many of them have scorned the quilombo movement as an affront to property rights and have tried to overturn the law in court. And despite drafting the quilombo law in the first place, the Brazilian government has been so slow to hand over land titles to the communities in question that many applicants wonder if they’ll ever receive them.

Though they face an uncertain future, Brazil’s quilombos nevertheless contain the seeds of what may well become the most ambitious slavery reparations program ever attempted."

Full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/10/brazil-quilombos_n_5572236.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000047&ir=Black+Voices
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