Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Our Heroes

Yesterday, we met Claudete Alves. During our time with her, she brought up many American figures including Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. While Obama has been discussed often as a sign of hope, several people have cited King and Malcolm X as heroes and inspirations to the black movements in Brazil. Inspirational figures have not only been American but from several countries, including Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela from South Africa and Che Guevara from Argentina. Aside from our discussions, I have seen their images on walls, t-shirts, and even tattooed on somebody’s back.

The importance of the importation of their ideas cannot be understated. What is interesting is how Brazil gained exposure to some of these individuals. Similar to hip-hop, the media played an instrumental role in exporting these figures and what they represent. While we were still in Salvador, we met with CEAFRO, an Afro-Brazilian Community-Based Educational Initiative. The meeting comprised of several groups under the CEAFRO umbrella, including the Cultural Institute of Steve Biko. After the meeting, I asked its representative the impact Steve Biko, famous for spearheading the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa until Apartheid prison guards beat him to death in 1977, had on the black movement and how well known he was throughout Brazil. He told me that the movie Cry Freedom, starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline and based on Donald Woods’ biography of Biko, introduced Brazil to Biko. After seeing the movie, they read his speeches and essays and noticed that Black Consciousness fit into the Brazilian context.

It is clear that all people and groups across the globe in the struggle for human rights have much to gain from each other and can better achieve their goals through cooperation. Our heroes may easily become the heroes of some other country, just as their history may serve to inspire us for something greater. Activists need to share their experiences with one another; even though occurrences in one context may not transfer neatly to another, they may still serve as useful illustrations. I think that this is what GAAPP aims to do, to serve as a vehicle to initiate and maintain the communication necessary to collaborate. As this project is only in its second year, there is not telling what contribution it can make to this movement.

1 comment:

Priscilla said...

Shahram, I think your observation regarding the transnational aspects of Black movements is a critical one. One of the things that struck me as a student of both Black studies and CRT was just how much strides in a particular domestic context crossed international boundaries. One need only look at the links between movements like the Harlem Renaissance and Negritude movement, the African liberation and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Indeed, I think these struggles, although often separated by vast geographies are connected by common experiences of subordination and the intense desire for freedom. So, I think that you are right regarding the impact of developments in one context for another. Keep up the good work on keeping this transnational movement moving!