The Great Revival: CIAD II

CIAD-II
CIAD-II

 

It is the intention of the editor to present a series of texts written by some of the most distinguished African and Brazilian scholars, intellectuals, politicians, artists, and activists involved in the movement to re-construct the interrelationship of Brazil with Africa and other countries in the Diaspora.  The main objective of this series is to provide an opportunity for those that do not speak the Brazilian Portuguese language or do not have the benefit of a translation of these texts to become aware of and, hopefully, engaged in this process.

 

The Great Revival: Gilberto Gil – Part 1

        Throughout the fifty years of struggle against colonialism, for national independence and, at another moment, against the system of apartheid installed in the heart of Africa, Africans and those of African descent were united under the flag of liberation. Today, after so many struggles and wars, it is necessary to reconstruct economies, reaffirm solidarities, consolidate nationalities, and, at the same time, establish a new economic relationship in a worldwide, globalized system.  The very transformation of OAU-Organization for African Unity – into the AU is a sign of these new times of African Renaissance.

      In order to respond to this great contemporary challenge, all of Africa’s offspring are summoned.  From the western side of the Atlantic, those of African descent, from various American and Caribbean countries, answer the call.  All marked by the colonial history of chattel slavery and by the later survival of dehumanizing social and economic systems, they made the birth of struggles for the reparation of losses in the past and the creation of mechanisms of equality that promoted full access to citizenship and well-being possible.  More to the point, set in the given circumstances of their societies, Black freedom – bent activities produced a kaleidoscope of experiences.  And in this way, they constructed new Africas.

     The predominance of these Black worlds of widely diverse projects did not produce a Tower of Babel precisely because European sociology’s idea of materialist logic, whether it be the school of Durkheim or Marx where objective interests motivate the allegiances of a group or class did not prevail.  The cement was different.  I believe that our allegiances were always an expression of our identities that flourished in a global Afro-culture, which is to say, the representations of ourselves that we constructed were stronger than the conditions of exploitation and of poverty to which we were subjected.

     In order for us to better understand this process, it is necessary to historically cross-reference the special characteristics of the African Diaspora that formed the Americas.  Since the fifteenth century, the African Diaspora has become the staging ground for a process of European expansion and the worldwide spreading of Capitalism.  The worldwide process of the accumulation of wealth for Europe required the re-ordering of other populations for productive tasks in the new world, as work force.  However, who were these others? They were precisely those non-Christian and, therefore, non-European others.  They were the heathens, the Muslim infidels, the Indians, the Blacks, and the other barbarians.  Their cultures, their identities were considered irrelevant and judged ripe for eradication by the exercising of powers by conquerors, which my friend Caetano Veloso calls the “putrid powers.”

     The king of Portugal recommended that his governors in Brazil that they “master the heathens” that is, enslave the indigenous villages.  As for the Africans, this lordly power would tear people from their cities, from their forests, from their villages, to bring them by force to the other side of the Atlantic and to use them as cogs in an infernal machine to produce riches.  Thus, in the common language of slave traffic, each person was called a piece or a load, an individual transformed into merchandise.

     This was a process different from other slaveries and diasporas, in which the populations were expelled from their countries in tribes, groups, and families of Jews, Armenians, and other peoples, victims of compulsory dispersal.  Each of the Africans, males and females, natives of various regions, ethnicities and nations, were separated from their group of origin, mixed with a multitude of strangers on salve ships, stored on plantations, in contingents of persons speaking distinct languages, so that they could not plot resistance and rebellion against their captors.

     For the implementation of transcontinental mercantile slavery it was necessary to produce each slave, that is, to transform free persons into captives.  For this, it was necessary to transform each one of the eleven million men and women who came to the Americas into a single person, stranger to everything and to all around him, becoming completely dependent on his owner.  In this perverse process of slave production, the aim was to destroy the entire identity of the captive.  The destruction of the native name, through which each one identified family, lineage, and place as a free person in African society, is an example.  Alien and anonymous, automation productive machines, this was the objective of this genocidal and ethnocidal practice of slavery.

     In order to continue resisting, the Africans who were confined to captivity and their descendents had to revive everything, revive languages, revive family relationships, revive religions, revive encounters and celebrations, revive solidarities, revive cultures.  This was the true Great Revival.  The first step in this monumental process of reinventing humanity was to overcome general alienation.  In contrast to the alien, the other became the malungo (fellow traveler), who came on the same slave ship, a companion from the crossing, a kinsperson.  In my native land, Bahia, a symbolic kinship was forged, not of blood and not of lineage: all those born on the other Atlantic coast came to be treated as kin.  This new identity was so strong that, in the Portuguese they spoke, “kinfolk” was substituted for the personal pronouns which designate the other, the second person you.  In the stories that I heard from my great-aunt, a dialogue between elderly Africans went like this: – Pay attention kinfolk, the overseer is watching kinfolk. – I know kinfolk, and I’m already on the lookout, kinfolk.

     These kinsfolk, truly, recognized each other as “Africans” in Bahia.  This new generic identity did not destroy the native ethnic identities of the myriad of Nagôs (Sudanese descended), Gêges (Dahomey descended), Angolas, Congos, Mozambicans, Bambaras, Mandingas, Fantis, and Ashantes.  On the contrary, it permitted communication, solidarity, and affection among them.

     Others were the cultural constructions in which the captivated Africans recognized each other.  The Brazilian Constitution for the religious system of Candomblé is the best example of this cultural recovery.  Based on each ancestral cult brought from specific cities and regions from the many Africas, altruistic pantheons of mystical ancestors, not bound to space nor place, and yes archetypical, gathered in great national denominations like Nagôs, Gêges, Angolas.

     This inter-African religious system provided the cement and the stone for Black communities, open to the participation of non-Black others, and generated and reproduced the “saint families.” In this way, no one is a stranger in Candomblé.  Everyone is a kin of a saint.

     Also within Catholicism, Africans constructed their own spaces of mutual recognition and of solidarity through Black Brotherhoods, spread throughout Brazil, where black saints like Saint Benedito and Saint Efigenia were worshipped, where King Antonio of the Congo and Queen Nzinga of Matamba are remembered, where Congadas and Mocambiques are danced.

Minister of Culture Brazil-Gilberto Gil

     An identical process was verified in all of the American social entities constructed by the daughters and sons of Africa. We understand that the African dispersal in the Americas was a type of sowing of African cultural diversity that produced forests of hybrids and mutants, true new Black crossbred Africas.

     On the eastern side of the Atlantic, the peoples that continued on the African continent experienced a historical trajectory, under the colonial regime, a form by which the various African countries were integrated into the worldwide dynamic of capitalism.  From that point, the struggle for identity, independence, and development gave birth to a new Africa rocked by continental solidarity represented by the Organization of African Unity.  This was an attempt to go beyond the solidarity of national liberation struggles toward the institutionalization of Pan-African ideas of continental political unity, as a type of United States of Africa.  This process concluded with the victory of the South African revolution which eradicated the last colonialist enclave in Africa.

     On this road of struggles, various nationalities were forged on the battlefields diversifying, interests and potentialities.  Support for Africa was even stirred up in the present process called globalization.  We come to hear, insistently, the thesis of African impracticality.  The resulting problems of the selfsame colonial occupation came to be demonstrated as intrinsic to Africa: the wars, the epidemics, and the poverty.

     The African reaction was exemplary.  The quest for a new agreement of economic cooperation for development embodied in the African Union replaced the dream of political unity embodied in the Organization of African Unity.

     Today, who are we the diverse offspring of Africa in the twenty-first century? What can we do? What do we want?  These are the questions that the parameters of the worldwide contemporary moment have imposed on us.  And, the quest for these answers brought heads of state, intellectuals, and activists for ethnic causes to the city of Salvador on the All Saints Bay, reunited in the second Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and its Diaspora (CIADD II).

     In the ominous times of chattel slavery and slave traffic, many of the four million Africans, men and women, who came to build Brazil, came through the city of Salvador, hundreds of crossroads between Africa and the Americas.  Today, this city continues to be a great crossroads of African, Afro-American, and Afro-Caribbean cultures. For this reason, there was no more perfect scenario, than the most African of African cities outside of Africa, to inspire the search for answers in our journey toward the future.

     In Bahia, Africans and those of African descent from the whole world are at home, sheltered and embraced by their kinfolk and, in this atmosphere of fraternal intimacy, they could expound and debate “in family” the possibilities of exchange and cooperation between the countries of the African continent and the Brazilians and Americans who share this cultural heritage.

     The realization of this conference was the confirmation of the commitment accepted by the government of President Lula and by the Ministry of Culture with the government of Senegal and with the African Union, offering continuity for a process that began in 2004 in the first CIAD in Dakar, for the mobilization of all Africans and their descendents around a new agreement for the development of Africa.  We enthusiastically participated in this transcontinental movement for the constitution of a worldwide network of solidarity, founded on common identities and interests of peace and of prosperity.

     Working for the convergence of the saga of cultural revival, experienced by Blacks in the Diaspora, with the saga of national reconstruction, lived by Blacks on the African continent, should be the first intellectual movement for this, our Afro-world.

     Salvador’s CIAD aided the emergence of directives for the production and diffusion of a contemporary History of Blacks throughout the world.  As such, it is necessary to affectionately weave the network of teaching, research, and outreach institutions, in order to make a permanent system of multilateral, virtual, and physical, exchange possible.

     The creation of a calendar is of equal importance for scheduling cultural exchange events, one that consolidates permanent contacts between artists, writers, thinkers, cultural producers, and guardians of traditional knowledge, as we have done in Salvador, with CIAD Cultural, which took place together with CIAD II.

     Another pressing challenge is the implementation of a worldwide Afro-Diasporic communications network, capable of formulating a public, international, Afro-centric opinion, capable of intervening together with each national government, together with international institutions as an active method of lobbying in favor of the African Renaissance project.

     We believe that from this broad process of mobilization, of full recognition between the old and new Africas, a new inclusive, networked Afro-global identity, beautiful and verdant, will be born, without eliminating regional and national identities, capable of consolidating a universalized Black culture.  This is what we want, this is what we can do, this is what we will do.  Even better: we will revive ourselves.


A Bridge over the Atlantic: Zulu Mendes Araujo – Part 2

      The globalized world of technology that makes instantaneous communication and mass consumption possible also brings to the forefront the paradox of being, a world of exclusion, of individualism among person and peoples, of the scarcity of elemental conditions for the championing of human dignity, and of racism, at the the same time.

      The City of Salvador in Bahia, in July of 2006 was the scene chosen for the creation, in an affirmative manner, of a possibility of breaking the paradox that transforms our planet into two distinct worlds.

      The Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and Diaspora (CIAD) and CIAD Cultural brought to the “Blackest” city on this side of the Atlantic the demonstration of the universality of the two major patrimonies of humanity; culture and thought.

      Indivisible, accumulative patrimonies that can indeed effectively foment a new world order, formulated on the conception that the term globalization should not and can not be restricted to the technological, commercial field, nor that of financial speculation.  It is much more than this: it should obligatorily represent the search for perfect interaction, without interfering in free will, in auto-determination, protecting the free essence of the soul of all peoples.

      Intellectuals, heads of state, artists, and militants from worldwide Black and human rights movements met together, not to lament the past, but rather, to signal the direction of a new future which does not see history as a fatality and which aims to embrace modernity, without hiding or denying cultural inheritance.  Each one brought, from each of their nations, this particular formulation of thoughts in order to seek a definition of this new version of a globalized world together.

      At CIAD, the meetings, the discussions, and the debates demonstrated the vitality of the thought originating from that continent, the root of all of humanity.  And the force of its presence was capable of surprising those who even today, in yet another contemporary paradox, identify Africa and its progeny-nations, spread throughout the world, as is the case of Brazil, as little more than human groupings that remained on the far side of the frontier of development, incapable of contributing toward the enrichment of scientific thought.

      In this respect, Brazil assumes an immense responsibility, whether in order to respond to the event nationally, thereby creating new dialogues with the complex ethnic network of which our society is comprised, or whether it is to multiply internationally, in particular in countries of the Diaspora, this rich experience that we lived and shared together in July in Bahia.

      During CIAD Cultural, music, dance, art, audio-visual exhibits, folk art and literature were living proof that Black culture maintains its roots, but, at the same time, remains in constant evolution.  And, even while the protagonists of what is conventionally called the First World close their eyes and turn up their noses, it is not possible to fail to recognize Black culture as the principle influencing elements of universal modern art.

      All of this is a positive indication that Brazil, is in fact, assuming its status as a nation umbilical tied to Africa.  And, without a doubt, the greatest distinction goes to the foreign policy adopted by the Federal Government.  In this context, the mandate has been very clear: to establish a close relationship, joining hand with the nations of Africa and the Caribbean, without the stigma of domination, the usurpation of riches, and political tutelage.

      It is a new concept, not only in Brazilian politics, but in the foreign affairs between Western nations, that even today in the globalized world (or perhaps, precisely because of this) insist on attempting to maintain a relationship as “colonizer” within the African continent.

      Kudos to the Federal Government for the dedicated participation of our Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil. With the soul of an artist, a cultural agent, and above all, a man who shapes and is involved in the living thought of his time, he was able to see early on, decades ago, the importance of Brazil establishing an imaginary, but solidly built, bridge, uniting both side of the Atlantic.

      In terms of the Brazilian Black Movement which contributed directly and indirectly to the success of this enterprise, it has in its hands today one of the historical opportunities of making it possible for Brazil to transform itself, for once and for all, into a major, worldwide reference point of modern and advanced thought, politically as well as culturally, in the quest for equality, solidarity, and respect of differences, in whatever form they may be.

      We must, then, necessarily reflect on this new role that the Brazilian Black Movement will have to undertake from this moment on, in order for us to advance the internal struggle of our country in the direction of a true racial democracy and, at the same time, for us to be part and parcel of the world wide anti-racist movement in our quest for a better world for all.

      Finally, we will have to construct a bridge in order to serve yet another paradox of the globalized world: that of fulfilling the prophecy stated by the best poet from one of the nations that contributed to the Diaspora, The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, who in his poem Mensagem (Message) proclaimed:

God wanted the entire earth to be one,
That the seas should join
And nevermore separate.

      For this very reason, we can affirm, without the fear of erring, that CIAD and CIAD Cultural were not merely events, with a beginning and an end, but rather a foundation for this imaginary bridge over the sea, in a journey (this time not in the holds of slave ships), that will always have new beginnings because, as our African ancestors knew long ago, thousands of years before Western civilization, the world is round and spins everlastingly.


Reflection on the Future: Marcelo O. Dantas – Part 3

The Second Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and its Diaspora – CIAD II – which took place in Salvador, July 12-14, 2006, constituted one of the major encounters of academics, political leaders, and representatives of social movements ever held in Brazil.  The force of the reflection, centered on the theme “The Diaspora and African Renaissance,” permitted Brazilian society to consolidate its strategic partnership with the African continent, at the same time that it conferred more legitimacy to the force of establishing affirmative action policies in Brazil in favor of Afro-descendents.

The preparations for CIAD II, coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were careful and enriching.  They involved negotiations with the Commission of the African Union; contacts with intellectuals from Africa and countries in the Diaspora; the coordination of support with international organisms; the constitution of an Inter-governmental Working Group; a preparatory meeting of an International Scientific Committee; and, exhaustive consultation with national intellectuals and entities dedicated to African and Afro-Brazilian themes.  In the process, the channels of communication that already exist between Brazil and Africa were deepened and new lines of dialogue between the government and civil society were opened.

For the staging of the Conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, with the Palmares Cultural Foundation as intermediary, detailed working teams and mobilized budgetary resources.  The initiative also enjoyed the support of the Government of Bahia, the Municipality of Salvador, the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), the State University of Bahia (UNEB), and the Brazilian Air Force.  Among the international organisms, beyond the partnership with the Commission of the African Union, the support received from UNESCO, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, and the International Francophone Organization deserves mention.

The opening session of CIAD II took place on the morning of July 12, in the Yemanja Auditorium of the Convention Center of Salvador, under the command of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.  In attendance were Heads of State from Botswana, Cape Verde, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, and Senegal, as well as the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Vice-President of Tanzania, and the President of the Commission of the African Union.  Ministerial delegations were sent by the governments of Angola, Algeria, Ethiopia, and Morocco.  Other African countries were represent by their ambassadors posted in Brasilia.  At the end of the session, deserved honor was paid to Senator Abdias Nascimento, historic leader of the Black Movement in Brazil.

In the three days of meetings, co-presided over by Minister Gilberto Gil and Speaker of the South African Assembly (1994 – 2004) Frene Ginwala, three round tables, twenty-five thematic discussion groups, and three plenary sessions took place.  The exercise permitted the conference participants to tackle a number of themes related to the African Renaissance and the appreciation of populations in the Diaspora, including among others, the areas of education, science and technology, health, economics, history, human rights, literature, philosophy, religion, art, cinema, multi-lateral cooperation, social policies, youth, and new cultural expressions.

A parallel cultural program accompanied the Conference with film showings, expositions of art and photography, musical performances, and workshops for students. Additionally, the Palmares Cultural Foundation, with the aid of SEPPIR, organized, on July 15th and 16th, in the Vice-Chancellor’s Auditorium at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) and in the Caetano Veloso Auditorium at the State University of Bahia (UNEB), the social forum of CIAD II, uniting representatives of the Black Movement and Brazilian and foreign intellectuals for discussion about issues such as the prison problem in Brazil, the situation of women, and the need for closer contact between African-descended communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A total of two hundred sixty panelists, coming from fifty-three countries, participated in CIAD II. Besides these, various intellectuals, artists, and foreign students, many of whom had never been to Brazil, were in Salvador.  It is estimated that the plenary events were attended by a public numbering eight hundred persons per session, while the Thematic Groups attracted nearly two thousand participants.  In the parallel cultural activities, which took place from July 11th – 15th, the public exceeded, approximately, thirty thousand a day.

At the end of the sessions, the Salvador Declaration was approved.  Among the themes included in the document, the following deserve special applause by the public in attendance:

(a) The support of affirmative action policies and the adoption of quotas in the universities for students of African descent;
(b) The plea for the adoption of specific policies for the bettering of the condition of women.

To unite, at one time, Heads of State, intellectuals, militant representatives of the most diverse segments of the community for a collective meditation on the future of so many nations and their peoples, with their peculiarities and differences, in search of a common path, could not have been a task to be concluded in only a few days.  CIAD II continues to occupy the minds of all the continents, eager to construct that future.  As a natural outcome of the discussions, enriching proposals reached the Brazilian government and the Commission of the African Union which then resulted in the Salvador Declaration.  A movement that will continue and that, without any doubt, will nourish, in a positive way, CIAD III in 2008, in Dakar.  They are proposals that underscore the need to:
-create institutional mechanisms that reinforce solidarity between Africa and the countries of the Diaspora;
-increase student exchange between these countries;
-undertake studies about the role of women in African societies;
implement awareness-raising programs on citizenship for women;
-institute programs that disseminate to children basic values and principles such as dignity, resistance to oppression, democracy, and the importance of work to children;
-develop a Pan-African network of intellectuals;
-adopt means for better international awareness-raising about the problems of racism and the exclusion of those of African descent;
-endeavor, along with Africa – Diaspora, to systemize historic and economic facts, aiming for their inclusion in school curriculums;
-promote the access of women to basic social necessities, such as health, education, and culture;
-institutionalize perspectives of gender and equity in the universities;
-assure greater participation by women in decisive governmental issues and the implementation of such decisions;
guarantee the adequate administration of natural resources, shared equitably, through “participatory governance”;
-promote better integration of the excluded sectors of the population as a way of combating the potential sources of social conflicts, and threats of terrorism and organized crime;
-increase democratic space, through the recognition of diversity and plurality;
-provide incentives for the increase of activities that facilitate artistic and intellectually mutual understanding and exchange between Africa and its Diaspora;
-increase the means of communication between Africa and her Diaspora, by means of better investments in the areas of transportation, radio, television, telephone, and digital inclusion;
-establish a political agreement between Africa and its Diaspora, devoted to the promotion of development, citizenship, and the well-being of their peoples;
-promote security, having in mind human rights, adequate education, and a healthy environment, among other basic items of survival;
-secure resources that assure international collective action, adequate for the solution of conflicts;
-recognize the role of intellectuals and provide incentives for them to participate in decision-making in the governmental sphere;
deepen good governing, transparency, and respect for human rights, as indispensable factors for assuring sustainable economic development;
-study means of reparation for those of African descent whose ancestors were victims of the confiscation of liberty and submitted to slavery;
-monitor the implementation of recommendations of the Durban Conference;
-provide incentives for better coordination between tradition and modernity, devoted to the demonstration of the compatibility between the universal values of liberty and equality and the particular institutions in each locality;
-guarantee the expansion and bettering of education at the primary and secondary levels, as well as in technical schools and universities;
-demand the establishment of a true democratic system, on the international level, with the reform of the system of the United Nations and of the Security Council;
-provide incentives for exchange in areas of knowledge, such as history, culture, and economic development;
-consider respect to cultural diversity as a fundamental value of philosophical knowledge in the Diaspora and on the African continent;
-recognize, in the social sciences, the importance of traditional values, without making them something turned over to conservatism, but rather to the affirmation of identity;
-consider a quota system not solely as a state policy meant to resolve inequalities, but also as a method of promoting and making the production of a knowledge proffered by the leadership of the Black population viable;
-move towards a common root, functional multi-lingual system in which the “mother languages” of African peoples have precedence, but without abandoning the knowledge of a second language, that permits communication with the world;
-decolonialize history by means of an unflinching assessment of the driving ideas that guide historical awareness in Africa and in the Diaspora, that is, the relations between Africans and their descendents, and together with the rest of the world;
-go in the direction of a non-territorial history of Brazil that extends itself across the south Atlantic and considers African influences;
-make the teaching of African culture mandatory, with the aim of combating the roots of racism in the educational system;
-value African-rooted religions, languages, and cultural expressions, on both sides of the Atlantic, without which there could be no African Renaissance, neither in Africa nor in the Diaspora;
-protect and insure the permanence of religious traditions and divinities (orishas, voduns, and inquices) in Africa and its Diaspora;
-combat religious intolerance, putting an end to the persecutions and the demonization of traditional divinities and ancestral spirits;
-build cooperative polices between African intellectuals and researchers in the Diaspora and Africa;
-provide incentive for the construction of new cooperative programs for the exchange of scientific production on Africa;
-prioritize the relationship between African and Diaspora universities, providing incentives for exchanges among undergraduate, graduate, and research programs;
-increase cooperation in the fight against endemics and the policies and programs of basic health;
-encourage the production and exchange of science and technology in areas such as transportation, civil construction, electronics, micro-Biology, agricultural productivity, and energy;
-include civil society organized in diverse sphere of cooperation, going beyond the governmental sphere;
-promote South-South scientific and technological cooperation;
-increase the number of research institutes and financial resources dedicated to research;
-insure adequate conditions for work, career, and the production of knowledge for African intellectuals and Black intellectuals in the Diaspora;
-provide incentives for editorial policies that make the circulation of knowledge produced in Africa and its Diaspora possible;
-facilitate the movement of intellectuals and artists between Africa and its Diaspora, especially in terms of visas and work permits;
-continue struggling against poverty and bettering social indicators, in African and Diaspora countries, with special attention to anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action policies;
-consolidate the five regions of the African continent, marking the Diaspora as the sixth African region.

Its a movement!

It deals with, as one can see, an ambitious plan that requires the construction and implementation of solid policies, devoted to the long haul. The government of President Lula stands ready, seeking to anticipate many of these demands, promoting pioneering initiatives on the national as well as international scene. It is, however, necessary to emphasize the participation of intellectuals, students, and the representatives of civil society who took part in CIAD II for having produced, in their reflective task, a platform capable of projecting Brazil and its partners in Africa and the Diaspora in the direction of a more just and dynamic future.


The New Trojan Horse: José Carlos Capinan – Part 4

The second Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and its Diaspora, which took place in Salvador, Bahia, July 11-14, 2006, left a powerful appeal to the millions of Afro-descendants who, for many reasons, remained dispossessed at the end of the century, after the great political movement for colonial liberation that was undertaken on the African continent, flags fusing the sentiment that ran through all who felt the lack of an identity capable of unifying not only their voices but the spirit that carries them on the quest to ultimately re-conquer that which was taken from them when they were dispersed as slaves throughout the world.

CIAD had to take place in Bahia, where the knowledge of the African ancestors is still found alive and cultivated.

The awakening of this sentiment that was not forgotten during the war of liberation in Angola, Mozambique, and the other European colonies on the African continent, a point well made in the verses of the immortal poet Agostinho Neto, a revolutionary leader in the anti-colonial struggle in Angola.  I feel that Agostinho, Senghor, Amílcar Cabral, and the poets of the war for liberation were present at this CIAD II.

The recent history of the post-liberation, colonial black persons is dramatic because it transformed them into solitary individuals, depersonalized and without tracks to retrace the route, blocked from their view and understanding, that dispersed them around the planet, destroying their formidable political and cultural inheritance.  This solitude produced a depersonalizing effect, robbing the self-esteem of agents largely responsible for the reproduction of purloined cultures, renewing and allowing them to come into the contemporary age with the power that they had attained, using knowledge, feelings, and ways of doing things seized from Black slaves,  beyond the natural resources pillaged from their territories.

Agostinho Neto and the poets who sang the moment of rebirth in Africa, snatching their independence from the European empire, perceived, as the poem Epigrafe (Epigraph) says so well, that Africa was a human territory greater than the limits of the continent.  The same vision that motivates the Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and its Diaspora to include the vast territory outside of Africa, no longer like a scattered legacy, but rather as a powerful political and cultural movement, that can be brought together to set the stage for a new African revolution once again.

A revolution for the return of those whose hearts and minds can be touched by this appeal for the inclusion of an Africa that desires unification and rebirth, not in the way that aid movements seek to offer them an Africa that, after secular and merciless looting, is the specter of rich nations, shown today as victims of hunger and of AIDS.  The African Renaissance does not call for the pity or the guilt of those who robbed them of their riches and destroyed the cultural wellsprings of their ancestry.

And the dramaturgy for this renaissance again encounters, in the concept of the Diaspora, a vigorous manner of cementing the pollen that was dispersed by the slave ships onto diverse continents and cultures, to wherever the Black was carried to plant, build, to create works of art, do domestic service, mine, and produce the wealth of the rich countries.

Treated as objects that were obliged to forget that they had a name, a native culture, and their own imaginary, not to mention knowledge and techniques, without which the imperialist slavetocracies of the developed world could have attained the present-day status of power-brokers of the new world order.

The dramaturgy of calling together peoples of African descent is as clever as was Black resistance during the slave regime, thanks to syncretism.  To give Blacks in the Diaspora the status of African territories outside of Africa is a great insight, which gives to each Black a new citizenship in a world that insists on denying them the status of humanity.

It is a new Trojan Horse, inside the extra-African territories, a gift of new African intelligence to the contemporary world.

Oh, Black from Harlem and from all the places in the world, wherever their hearts ad minds may be, there is our lost continent, the selfsame planet that you initially populated, giving it homo-sapiens.  Where is your religious community, your church, your song, the foot that just scored a goal in Brazil, the hand that beats a drum in Cuba, or the effort that wins a marathon in the last Olympic Games?

It is in the perfumed essence that a savory moqueca stew or a fried acarajé that wets the appetite of the city of Salvador.  It is in the voice of Harlem, in the streets of Paris, in the schools and in the universities.  Ceaselessly pulsating with the origin and the force of ancestors, it gushes non-stop, disseminating the force that identifies the presence of Blacks with life in the contemporary world.

And the river, on which they brought us, bound, should now be the great  river of thought and desire, the return, on boundless seas, full of self-esteem, knowledge, and victorious histories, to the place from which we set out, not only to participate in the inevitable African Renaissance, but also to contemplate the world.  And, to propose to humanity a true encounter with peace and development based on a new state, free from prejudice, that could give humanity the missing reason for acknowledging another’s humanity: the recognition of differences, so that we may all be equal.


Brazil on the Route of Pan-Africanism: Carlos Alberto Medeiros – Part 5

In its contemporary version, the idea of Pan-Africanism consists in the existence of common ties of cultural and historical order between African peoples and those of African descent, and these ties necessarily serve as the basis for the construction of common strategies for confronting the multiple problems set in motion by chattel slavery, colonialism, and racism.  In contrast to the distorted interpretation of those who intend to associate this idea, of progressive or libertarian character, to a racial “essentialism” that foments hatred and division, the Pan-African ideal, as expressed a little less than a century ago by the great Afro-American thinker, W.E.B. DuBois, who emphasized the solidarity of peoples of African origin, not in order to segregate themselves from the greater human community, but rather with the objective of better integrating themselves into that community, recognizing and appreciating their characteristics and contributions to the common patrimony of all human beings, and at the same time, guaranteeing their equalitarian participation in sharing this patrimony.

Pan-Africanism is a key-idea in the conception of an event such as the Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and its Diaspora – CIAD, whose second meeting took place in the city of Salvador, Bahia between July 12-14, 2006.  Under the banner of African Renaissance – a movement born in South Africa in the 1990s with the aim of stimulating African peoples and those of African descent to collectively seek effective solutions to the problems that affect them, historians, writers, economists, social scientists, politicians, and activists from countries in Africa, the Americas, and Europe gathered to share their visions about general and specific issues and also to share their proposals for overcoming the difficulties confronted by their national communities.

From the point of view of Brazil, it is worth underscoring two important and interrelated aspects.  One of these was the support of the federal government, through Itamaraty and the Ministry of Culture, which made the realization of this event possible.  We can see in this an important landmark in a country that, despite flaunting the stamp of African origin, not only in culture, but in the phenotype of a large number of its inhabitants, always looked in askance, at least in official circles, at the realization of events of this type, fearing that they might unmask the discriminatory practices that continue to characterize our daily existence.  Abdias Nascimento shows very well how this functioned in his cutting book Sitiado em Lagos (Besieged in Lagos) where he narrates the ups and downs he experienced in the Nigerian capital during the first International Festival of Black Art and Culture.

The second important aspect, intimately related to the first, is the opportunity of realizing an event of this type in Brazil at a time when our country seems to be waking from a century-long inertia that has impeded the recognition of the existence and the importance of the racial issue and, concomitantly, the ratification of solutions capable of lightening the existential burden of Afro-Brazilians and to promise them a perspective of redemption.  In this sense, the fact that a few days before the opening of CIAD two petitions were delivered to the presidents of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, one against, the other in favor of proposals for a law that would establish the Statute of Racial Equality and the adoption of quotas for Blacks in all public federal universities which contributed to highlight the event, lending it a dimension that, without this, it certainly would not have had.  From this point of view, the protest of the Black youth, at the closing ceremony of CIAD, singing the hymn of the National African Congress, mixed with shouts of “quotas now” represented the key moment of the event, broadening its ramifications beyond those predicted.

Finally, it is worth underscoring the importance of CIAD Cultural which provided additional moments for the exchange of ideas and experiences between us Brazilians and our African and diasporic brothers and sisters.  There, we were able to establish closer contact with people responsible for actions, projects, and programs almost always very close to those in which we are involved, establishing ties that go beyond, fundamental but insufficient, intergovernmental or inter-institutional relations, in order to, on the interpersonal level, cement ties whose importance cannot be underestimated.


The Need for a Political Agreement Between Africa and the Diaspora: Edna Maria Santos Roland – Part 6

The United Nations hosted the third meeting of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, in Durbin, South Africa, from August 31 – September 8, 2001, after a series of preparatory events over a period of approximately two years.

The Conference ended a day later than planned, after a long and tense process, during which the United States and Israel left the negotiating table, alleging that the Conference harbored anti-Semitic points of view.  Three days later, the twin (World Trade Center) towers in New York City collapsed as the result of a terrorist attack, initially leading some of us in Durbin to suspect a relationship between the two events.

The earlier facts demonstrated that, without a doubt, there is a relationship between the Conference and the attack on 9/11.  Not so much a direct and mechanical relationship as was suspected, but rather, from the viewpoint that the very organization of the conference was determined by the growing number of tensions resulting from ethnic and racial conflicts in all most regions of the globe, conflicts that likely were the reason behind the terrorist attack.

On September 8, 2001, the international community, gathered in the symbolic city of Durbin, South Africa, concluded the process of negotiation, signing the Durbin Declaration and Plan of Action which was the result of the third meeting of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

Many were the benefits, as far as they went, despite everything, of signing this historic document: the debate about chattel slavery and the traffic of slaves and their consequences – the discussion of reparations; the debate about the conflict in the Middle East; the debate about which conditions within the international community would determine our perception of racial discrimination and which conditions, combined with racial discrimination, would be seen as responsible for what we conventionally call grievous discrimination.

The four points of divergence that blocked consensus reflect in some way some of the challenges raised by the issue of the need for an agreement between African and Diaspora for peace, democracy, and development.

The Durbin Declaration recognizes the consequences of past and present forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance as serious challenges to worldwide peace and security, to human dignity, to the realization of human rights, and to the fundamental liberties of many people in all parts of the world, in particular, of Africans, Afro-descendents, of peoples of Asiatic origin and Native Americans.

Durbin establishes a clear relationship between democracy and the realization of the right to not be a victim of discrimination.  The respect for human rights and fundamental liberties is only possible with the vigilance of the State of rights, with the exercise of democracy, through transparent and participative governments, that respond to the needs and aspirations of the population, without which the prevention and the elimination of racism are not possible.

Consequently, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance are incompatible with democracy, in such a way that we can affirm that the continuation of racial discrimination and racism in any given society can be a good indication of the degree to which democracy exists, democracy understood as something that reflects, the every day reality of citizens and not only a formal democracy in the workings of governments.

The same factors that impede the enjoyment of fundamental rights by citizens, male and female, in the national context, when set in the international arena, are the reason for inequalities, instability, and threats to peace.

In July 2006, in Brazil, CIAD – Conference of Intellectuals from African and its Diaspora – not only widened the analytic vision and understanding of the need to establish a global inter-relationship with respect to ethnic differences, but effectively sought to establish a process of political unity between countries of Africa and those of the Diaspora.  A route which, as it was effectively proved, necessarily passes through Brazil.

The nearly four million Africans who were brought to Brazil during three and a half centuries of slave traffic then represent the fundamental link uniting the destinies of our country and those of the African continent. Not only by the processes of identity and identification that developed between Africans and those of African descent from one or the other side of the Atlantic, but rather because there are common factors that lead to processes of exclusion just as much of the African continent in international relations as of African-descended populations in the multi-racial countries of the Americas.

Those of African descent in Latin American and Caribbean countries are potentially the principle allies of African interests and their process of empowerment on the national level, and will positively echo in the relations of their governments with African nations. On the other hand, the strengthening of Africa, advances in developmental processes, the increase in the ability to confront problems of governance, the combat of epidemics that cause great loss of human life, and an increase in the technological capacity of African countries should echo positively in the expectations and the images of the particular capabilities of Afro-descendents here in the Americas.

As President Lula stated in a press conference opening CIAD: “The Atlantic unites us, it does not separate us.” The search for a plan of development based on more balanced relationships in the international arena is of interest as much to Brazil and our Latin American partners as it is to African countries.

The discriminatory practices confronted by African countries, in particular, and developing countries, in general, are a part of the same system/logic that hierarchizes groups and individuals internally, within each country, along the lines of color, race, ethnicity, combined with other factors such as gender, language, religion, etc.

It is, therefore, necessary, according to what was declared by the Durbin Plan of Action and reasserted in Brazil at the conclusion of CIAD, to adopt and to implement, on both the national and international levels, anti-discriminatory measures and politices that recognize, respect, and maximize the benefits of diversity within and between all nations, in a combined effort to promote justice, equality, and democracy in each country, and at the same time to promote peace and development in the international arena. In this sense, quality public information and democratized educational systems play a fundamental role and they promote an increased awareness of the benefits of cultural diversity, within and among all nations.


Brazil-Africa Relations in the Realm of African Literatures: Maria da Costa Amâncio – Part 7

One of the itineraries that can be followed when researching the relationship between Brazil and the African continent has been that of literary dialogues, parallel to historical, cultural and socioeconomic interactions. The reading of African texts written in Portuguese, for example, corresponds to a voyage of differences: during the trajectory, imaginary scenes have been set and struck in little-navigated poetic and fictional spaces.  This is because, in dealing with African references, the scenarios commonly configured for/by us Brazilians, are principally those of misery and illiteracy, the exoticism of colorful clothing, drumming, and swaying movements, or in other words: an imaginary that does not presuppose intellectual proclivities and the production of literature.

For this reason, bringing to Brazil the real “protagonists” of this literary journey was similar to opening the curtain on the real scenario that inspires their productions, representing an important step in the deepening of our literary dialogue and our political understanding of the African continent.  Writers, well-honored, like the Egyptian Mahfouz Naguib (Nobel Prize in Literature), permit us, with their presence at the Second Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and its Diaspora (CIAD) and at CIAD Cultural, to visualize similarities and differences between our literary writing as an extension of our socio-political-economic realities.

It is a process that covers a centuries-old journey and, in this overview, I will underscore some of the many existing convergences between Brazilian literary writing and the productions of emergent African literatures in Portuguese.  In this context, not only do the poets Manuel Bandeira, Jorge de Lima, Carlos Drummond de Andrade and João Cabral de Melo Neto stand out, but also prose fiction writers such as Jorge Amado, Guimarães Rosa, José Lins do Rego, and Graciliano Ramos, among others.

<em>During the period of resistance to Portuguese colonialism and the consequent struggles for national liberation (1940s to 1970s), the literary scenes made the ambiguities of the colonizer/colonized relationship explicit, as well as the distinct local realities, principally regarding racist Portuguese practices and the attempts to silence African cultural expression by the political system under Portuguese dictator Salazar.

The literature of Cape Verde, for example, reveals, among other aspects, colonial oppression, the punishing West Wind blowing off the Sahara, and the strong tension experienced by Cape Verdeans as a result of their insular condition.  The sea, the constant ebb and flow of the sea, a geographic choreography parodically in dialogue with Manuel Bandeira, as when Ovidio Martins says:

I will ask
I will plead
I will cry out
I’m not going to Pasárgada!

For their part, texts from Guinea Bissau register the linguistic strength of Guinean-creole and the political power of Amilcar Cabral, intellectual, poet, and revolutionary leader of two countries at the same time, representing the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and a profound socio-cultural concern.

>From Sao Tome and Principe, the echoes of racial mixture, problematized in the Negritude poetry of Francisco José Tenreiro are heard along the journey.  While Angolan literature charges headlong into the fray of intellectual production during the epoch against Portuguese colonialization, likewise did the poetic potential of António Jacinto, Viriato da Cruz, Alda Lara and Agostinho Neto. The latter is spokesperson and the political-ideological discourse of hope and for the Black Diaspora.  Here, literature as a weapon fueled the combat against the Portuguese colonial system, which culminated in national independence.

From Mozambique to the world, Noémia de Sousa echoes in Africa with the sounds of Afro-American jazz and blues, and also denounces the oppression and the cruelty of Portuguese colonial racism. At the same time, José Craveirinha imbeds the African cultural matriz in his poetry, restaging scenarios of Mozambican realities, such as oral tradition and resistance to colonial oppression:

Oh ancient God of men
Let me be a drum
Simply a drum

In this brief overview, reflecting the literary productions of the period of struggles for independence, some of the specificities of Portuguese-speaking African countries can be seen.  This allows confirmation that the reading of African literatures in Portuguese, on the one hand, helps to disrupt the misguided notion that, in Africa, everything is equal or that the African did not exhibit formal resistance to the colonizing process./span>

It also helps highlight an aesthetic-ideological mode of creation that realizes itself in written form, which might seem a novelty for those who still believe that the African does not write or lacks intellectual production.  At the same time, such poetic and fictional texts reveal the direct relationship between intellectuals from the former Portuguese colonies./span>

The reception of the diverse works of African literatures leads to an awareness of the existence of a rich linguistic-cultural universe, and then to the understanding that a literary canon of this production exists and that there is a strong dynamism in the processes of each country, given that, recently, new aesthetic-discursive directions are being consolidated, articulating culture, eroticism, globalization, and other themes, beyond the libertarian anti-colonial discourse./span>

Still, although the richness and the importance of reading such texts is beyond question, a practical question emerges: how to process this journey, if access to the African text continues to be rare and expensive, and the Brazilian editorial market does not meaningfully invest in the potential of these  foreign literatures from Black Africa?

This is one of the questions that CIAD left for us to delve, which will be one more contribution not only to the internal Brazilian process of bettering the quality of ethno-racial relations, but also to the strengthening of relations between Africans and the Portuguese-speaking Black Diaspora.


The Diaspora and the African Renaissance: João Jorge Santos Rodrigues – Part 8

The Conference, which first met in Dakar, Senegal in October 2004, proposed to bring together intellectuals, representatives of civil society, and decision-makers in serious discussions about issues of interest to Africa and the Diaspora.  From my point of view, this conference allowed something unheard of in the history of relations between Africa and Brazil: a meeting of generations, of possibilities, and agreements about shifts in the explanatory models that have defined the bilaterial relations between the African continent and Brazilian foreign affairs.  Therefore, the major victory of CIAD II was that of opening doors to a new people-to-people relationship.

I traveled with the group Olodum in Europe during the 2006 World Cup, and in the European universe I thought quite a bit about what something as important as our common struggle for rights means to Africans, Brazilians, whites, for those of African descent and what it means to deal with pressing issues – as much for Africa as for Brazil – such as the youth, cultural policies, political participation, Black women, the economy, and digital inclusion.

In particular, how do we move beyond the attachment that certain sectors of the Black community in Brazil have with the false idea that there is only one Africa, limited to the countries of Nigeria and Benin? That everything in Africa is revolutionary, and that all Blacks in Brazil come from a single city? That all the Africans who come to our country practice Condomblé, members of a political collective loyalty to African matrices in music, sports, and systems of thinking? I did not find an easy answer to these questions.  Even so, I prepared myself to speak provocatively about the African world and its global Diaspora, based on a Salvadoran, Bahian, Brazilian perspective.

Upon arriving in Brazil and having participated this important conference, I could see that it would be necessary to increase the dialogue between young people in Africa and Brazil; to increase the exchanges between the African continent and Brazilians in a number of areas.

The attempt to place the discussion of Afro-Bahian and Brazilian problems in the international context of the African Diaspora surprised me.  Many young people present at the conference, because of ignorance, only wanted to know what the singer Toni Garrido did for Blacks or how Olodum used its resources.  In relation to the magnitude of the conference and its objectives, these inquiries were inappropriate, but nonetheless revealing in terms of the lack of awareness of the greatness of Africa and its Diaspora.  And the worst: a complete lack of knowledge of the struggles for African liberation and of the victories of the Black Movement in Brazil in the areas of public policies over the last thirty years.

However, despite the difficulty of finding the right tone, the right direction, CIAD II was a happy and opportune conference, an overture from Brazil to Africa, from Africa to Brazil, well-organized by the African Union, the Brazilian government, with special mention of Sepir, Palmares Cultural Foundation, and Itamaraty.

I spoke about cultural policies, as always, comparing the policies to promote racial equality in Brazil with the international public policies practiced in relation to Africa and its descendents in Europe, the Americas, and in the Caribbean.

I emphasized public policies in culture and in education, underscoring the example of Olodum and the Black Bahian entities that form part of the Forum of Black Entities of Bahia which, after a protracted struggle, managed to see written into a Brazilian state constitution in 1989 the first affirmative action statute, regarding Afro-Brazilians in social communication and, recently, the creation of governmental branches (secretariats) for reparations and for the promotion of racial equality in the city of Salvador and in the state of Bahia.

It was exactly this African Renaissance in Bahia in the 1970s that permitted an important revolution in emotion, attitudes, and self-esteem of Afro-Brazilians in Bahia and a fusion foreseen by Amilcar Cabral, the leader of Guinea Bissau, in his writings: the unity of politics and culture, with the understanding that popular culture can indeed be a tool of liberation for a people and for a nation.  In the Bahian case, the fusing of culture and politics, our movement intellectually linked to Samara Machel, Agostinho Neto, Amilcar Cabral, Nkrumanh, Julius Nyerere, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, but with strong roots in the history of Quilombos (maroon settlements), the Buzios and Males rebellions, moves us to promote strong changes in Bahian society, especially in the combat against racism and intolerence.

The result of all of this Afro-Bahian unrest in the international context of African and Diasporic intellectuals will have to be well researched, analyzed, without biases and with the object of integrating the insights gained from the Black movement in Brazil into the policies of Africa and its Diaspora as contributor to the quest for human rights, cultural plurality, and human diversity.

The history of Africans in this part of the world, in Brazil, is one of humanity’s most important heritages, dealing with the full spectrum of struggles for equality and recognition.

In this case, we must keep in mind that the African Diaspora which exists in the capital and in the interior of the state of Bahia is the result of the arrival of forty-two percent of all of the Africans brought from the original continent and who, during more than three hundred years, came to Brazil where they were enslaved and that, over time, they came to represent seventy-seven percent of the sate of Bahia and eighty-two per cent of the inhabitants of Salvador who, despite the harsh realities of a brutal caste system marked by racial and religious intolerance, were the settlers and producers of a cordial and affectionate civility.

We are contributing to the rebirth of an almost prophetic ancient idea of liberty, equality, (and) brotherhood solemnly affirmed by the members of the revolutionary movement of the Búzios Revolt in 1798.  The time must come for our liberty, the moment in which we will all be brothers.  In this sense, CIAD II was a part of this moment of encounter of the past with the present and the encounter of the joys and pains with the liberty and the equality that we have so wanted to see happen in Africa and in Brazil.


The Myth Lives On: Jocélio Teles dos Santos – Part 9

The realization of the Second International Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and its Diaspora reflects a truly unique set of circumstances.  And, I will underscore two points: first, the decision by the federal government to host the Conference under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture reveals re-readings and reinterpretations about the relations of Brazil with African and diasporic countries.  And, I think that Brazilian foreign politics, in the last few years, is a type of revival of the independent foreign politics elaborated by the government of Janio Quardros.  In that period, the perception that Brazilian political relations with African countries was something of a primary resource for racial conviviality is sufficiently evident, that is to say, a system of values based on the interpretation of an ethno-genesis of cultural miscegenation which took in Brazil.  This was the tone of independent foreign politics in the 1970s which indicated an international articulation in an atmosphere marked by tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union, as well as revealing yet another project of nationalist stirrings.

It seems to me, therefore, that the cure for Brazilian foreign politics today was one of the guiding elements for the realization of CIAD II; what there is of new in this continuum of perceptions about the relations with African countries, when compared with the 1970s, was the incorporation of countries that inherited traditions of African matrices such as those of the Caribbean and Latin America.  And, I stress, in the context of post-CIAD, the necessity of a greater approximation to the institutions and organizations of these still marginalized countries, considering the number of institutionalized agreements already in force between Brazil and African countries.

Second, something also needs to be said in this national context about the new demands presented in the, strictly speaking, political, academic, and activist atmosphere.  I refer to the resolution of university institutions and of municipal governments to adopt affirmative action, particularly, the quota system.  In recent Brazilian history, the debate about affirmative action provokes as much polarization as it bears witness to the profound change in the perception of racial relations in Brazilian society.  Finally, how does one explain that, according to the Bureau of Statistics (Instituto de Data Folha), sixty-five per cent of the Brazilian population supports quotas for Blacks in the university? If these facts indicate a recognition of inequalities and racism, they also make possible the cursory interpretations of Afro-American or Afro-Brazilian intellectuals and activists. The reiterated argument, even given the context of CIAD, is that the myth of racial democracy is dead.  It is a discourse that more than likely reflects a self-serving rhetoric of political proposals rather than an accurate analysis.

I think that it is necessary to distance ourselves from the infinite intellectual experiments and from common sense which treat jour myth of origin as a simple ideology or false awareness, something common between those influenced by a banal reading of Marxism.  On the other hand, there is the vulgarity of those who use any mythical word in order to glorify some event or individual and/or to inflate something that might be considered false.  Myth is the object of knowledge, and, therefore, it can be applied to that which refers to unequal relations and, at the same time, to the construction of a primordial reference in the “birth” of Brazil.

It is worth remembering that our myth of origin does not include the Black.  It deals with the encounter, in the first decade of the sixteenth century, of the colonizer, represented by Diogo Alvares Correia, and of the colonized, the Indian maiden Paraguaçu.  What the mythic narrative constructs is the institutionalization of the marriage between outcome asymmetric subjects.  It is the nuptial denouncement between modern weaponry and the bucolic atmosphere of nature in the land of Brazil (Terra Brasilis). The sexual relationship between Diogo Alvares, that has attached itself to his name Caramuru, and Catarina Paraguaçu, demonstrates the place reserved in the symbolic construction of the nation.  It is in the corporal, sexual union, consecrated in the Catholic baptism and marriage, where the myth establishes itself: “many children will populate Bahia” says the narrative.  The bodies of the colonized and of the colonizer incarnate the institutionalization of mythic power.  The relations of power between colonizer/colonized demonstrate the disappearance of differences, they do not indicate constant tension, and much less contestation or negotiation.  What this reading of cultural encounters suggests as a prototype, for the “foundation” of Brazil, is the equilibrium of contrary entities.

Therefore, the challenge is to think of how this manner of myth of origin has acquired new contours throughout the centuries, at one point including Blacks, and how the attempt to annex Asians, the so-called Yellow Race happened in the 1970s, in the twentieth century.

What is more provocative in the mythological construction is its transnational ethno-genesis: the ideology of a racial democracy is present in Latin American countries like Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and even Cuba.  It has less to do with local symbolic production and more to do with the transnational, in the context of colonization.

Certainly, the CIAD II had the mandate to bring together distinct and dissonant perspectives, despite the lack of a debate with critics of displaced, impeded or absent Afro-centrism’s in the debates.  At any rate, we hope that the Conference provokes more reflections about racial relations and the possibility of new south-south relations, principally evidenced in Brazilian and Latin American social dynamics.


The Black International in Bahia: Jorge Portugal – Part 10

<em>It had to be this way: in the city of Salvador, under the invisible gaze of the ancestors, with the rhythm and the pulsation of hearts in syncopated beat.

The call of the alabe, echoing over the airways, sent out the invitation.  And everyone made their way here: open smiles, clasped fists, a handful of ideas, theories in-the-flesh, living legends.

In the heart of Black Rome, Blacks from throughout the world gathered and dialogued.  A city invented by Jorge (Armado) and Dorival (Caymmi) opened its arms in welcome Stevie (Wonder), Matide, Gilberto (Gil), Antonios, Vicentes, Joses, and transformed itself into Casa de Farinha with Budiao speaking English, Zé Pinto, French, Julia Dandao, Spanish.

Clearly, many spoke Yoruba, Kiscongo, and Bahian Portuguese, but the general language was the common talk of reparation, of equality, of on-going struggle for dignity and justice.

>At every moment, one encountered in flesh and blood, the words that I wrote to the music of Lazzo Matumbi:

My ebony skin is my bare soul
Scattering the light of the sun, mirroring the light of the moon
It has the plumage of the night and the freedom of the street
My skin is language
And the reading is all yours!

It was good to see all of those people gathered together, to film that inventory of intelligence, to confirm that concepts like peace, citizenship, and ethics were used, necessarily, for the abolition of other words like racism, intolerance, exploitation.  Even better is the fact that all of this was enunciated by Black intellectuals who not only think but rather feel the violent impact of such words.

The CIAD II had the character of a Black International.  A concrete consequence of the growing maturation of world-wide Black movements, it was a call to awareness and to the discussion of everything that has to do with our fundamental issues.  A dialogue of highly positive voices on a planetary scale had the mandate of not limiting itself solely to the academic territory of the Convention Center. It was translated into music, dance, it spread itself, occupying the sprawling body of the city, infecting other segments, stirring imaginations.

Clearly, some events, including the meals, could have occurred in the open air, in large public classrooms where the already-initiated and the practical might have mixed.  Obviously, television, especially the non-cable stations, could have transmitted live, to many more people, the content of the encounters.  Certainly, we could have made our cuisine in the neighborhoods surrounding the Convention Center more available to the participants, spicing the event with the seasoning and the secrets of Dinha, Cira, Alaide, Dada and so many others./span>

But these are missed opportunities that do not subtract from the substantial value of the great event. The major fact is that the city continues to speak, comment, and reflect.  And it is necessary to permanently unleash the energy of the monumental moment and transform it into public policies rooted in reality.  To promote more frequent national encounters, to call for the participation of educational channels, to include the knowledge of the community in the reflection.

CIAD: International Conference of Black Intellectuals in the Diaspora.  Food for the Gods.  The democratization of ideas and struggles.

In spite of so many NOs, so much pain that afflicts us…Live on!

Source: Palamares, F. C. A grande refazenda: África e Diáspora pós II CIAD. Salvador: Edição Fundação Cultural Palamares, 2007.

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