African Diaspora communities in Brazil, South America
Brazil, as the 2016 hosts of the Olympics and Paralympics, has the largest African Diaspora in the world as a result of the intensive use of African slaves in the production of sugar, gold and coffee from the early years of colonization until the late nineteenth century.
Consequently Brazil now has one of the largest populations of African ancestry outside Africa and a rich cultural heritage left by the millions of people of African descent. Signs of African influence are present in almost every aspect of Brazilian culture and society, from music (samba) and festivities (carnival), to religion and culinary (appetisers sold by baianas on the streets of Salvador).
There are huge economic disparities between people of African and European descent leading to interventions, which amongst other things include quotas. A perhaps little known fact is that the city of São Paulo, Brazil is home to another Diaspora community - Japan This is due to a range of factors including, it is said, the abolition of slavery, a ‘whitening’ strategy and an agreement between Brazil and Japan.
What does this mean for the British Council? Would a strategic approach working with a range of African Diaspora communities in the UK help us deliver our global cultural relations work? If so, how? If you would like to respond to this question please do so via Global EDI Mailing List. It would be great to hear your views.
Little known fact – racism and blood transfusions
On the theme of celebration and contribution here is a perhaps little known fact:
World War Two brought an urgent need for blood transfusions because in 1940 Britain struggled to treat those injured in the Blitz. It was the brilliance of Charles Drew, an African doctor that made a huge difference because of his project ‘Plasma for Britain’. A similar project met with resistance in the USA where there was a demand that blood be segregated.
When Dr Drew was taken to a hospital after a car accident in the USA he died from his injuries. This has been said to be because the hospital he was taken to was segregated and only treated white people.
A BBC Radio 4 Programme explores the segregation and racialisation of blood, and is an example of race discrimination but also an example of positive change. The audio recording of the programme is available via the BBC website in the UK. For colleagues outside the UK if you are interested in receiving an mp3 file please contact Gabriela Weglowska. It’s the sort of material our creative British Council English teachers would sometimes draw on, but outside of this it is interesting, thought provoking and inspiring.
There are many other little known facts of the positive contribution made by people of African descent that children and adults take inspiration from when they are revealed. The problem is that they often remain hidden and this can perpetuate the myth that African people are synonymous with problems and under development.