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Young leader talks at the Federal Senate about Police violence in Brazil

Enderson Araújo is the founder of the Mídia Periférica group that work in the favela of Sussuarana in Salvador, Brazil.  Last  thursday  (11/10) he spoke for the Brazilian Federal Senate about violence agains the Black youth in Brazil.


Good morning everybody. First, I want to thank the Human Rights Commission for the invitation and Ana, from Cojuve. I would also like to salute Fernanda Papa, senator Lídice, Gog, that had to leave, Professor Mario Nelson, that is here somewhere, everyone here on the table and people here today.

I will begin my speech talking about the Mídia Periférica history for a bit; a summary of its history; and then I will enter the “violence against the black youth” theme. In 2010, I finished an educational program at the Promoting Youth Rights, which was installed in my community, a project of the People of the United Nations Fund in partnership with other institutions. Among the workshops, there were “The Human Right to Communication” and “Audiovisual Production”; organized by the Instituto de Mídia Étnica. There were other workshops, like “Relationship Management”, “Sexual and Reproductive Rights”; all the rights that we, young people, had; but these rights couldn’t reach people who lived in poor areas. It couldn’t reach us and still can’t. So, after I finished the course, I quit my old job to continue going to the project; and then I began looking for another job after I completed the program.

The man who was interviewing me liked my résumé a lot; and then, at the end of the interview he asked “Where do you live?”, and I answered “I live in the Sussuarana community”. He then told me “I see, Sussuarana. Things are pretty rough there, I always hear about this place in the news”. I don’t need to say which TV program I’m talking about because everybody knows; it airs in all states. Then he said “Well, maybe next time”. I went back home thinking, trying to put the pieces together. So the man told me I couldn’t work for his company because a certain TV program said my community deals with lots of crime; so the media has such a strong influence that we, from black communities, don’t have access to new jobs and many other things. So I started thinking about the information from the “The Human Right to Communication” workshop, from Mídia Étnica institute.

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So what can I do to change that, to show how my community really is; to show that we have there young people with a lot of potential? I began doing PowerPoint presentations about my community; showing positive things: children playing soccer in the afternoon, the elderly knitting or playing domino, the sunset – as you all can see it in our postcards, one of our projects with 16 postcards; we asked for pictures in social medias, from friends, and it was a huge success. It didn’t stay just on Facebook, but it was mentioned in 14 newspapers in Holland, one in India, on a flight company magazine, among others. So we began presenting our community in a different way in 2010. We didn’t have a name; we put videos on YouTube, but we didn’t have a specific name. Then we felt the need to show that someone was doing that, and then the name Mídia Periférica (Peripheral Media) came. I just talked about all these things to show how important social projects inside communities are; how important the program Alive Youth is and how it’s being implemented in many other states. From what I know about the program, some states are finding some difficulties to implement it, by funding issues. So bringing Peripheral Media is nice to show other people that it is possible to change when you show other perspectives to the youth. And the most important thing Fernanda, is that when these projects are implemented, the Alive Youth program was installed in communities; accompanying all the youth is very important, with all the young people that are there, and it’s important to make sure that they have opportunities. With me, after the project, I have a very crazy schedule. Peripheral Media is only 3 years old; but one day I’m in Salvador, the other day I’m in Brasília, São Paulo, or inside the airplane organizing my lectures. So I want that for my friends too, I want other young people to have that. I want them to see that there is more than just the home-school, home-work route; and there is that guy selling drugs, so that’s my only chance. I want them to see there is another way.

When we talk about the media sensationalism is because we, youth that live in communities, we have as our mentor the media. They show us the famous soccer player, the celebrities; and then boys and girls want to be like them; but this is a very surreal thing. Surreal because I can accept that Fernanda is a role model for me, because I know her and we talk a lot, she can give me any kind of advice. But a soccer player, how far is he from me? How could he help me?

I want to congratulate ACPI for their initiative; I saw the edict yesterday; I was on my cellphone and someone send it to me. This is very nice for us too, Peripheral Media doesn’t have any funding as well; we do everything with our own money, so this is an opportunity for us to try something new. And I have a comment to make; I wish that this financing isn’t just for projects that already are communicators; but also for those who mix communication and education, because it’s really important to create new young communicators. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they should only be young communicators, but being able to also do different courses. This is really important and I think communication is the answer for the youth. We have some funding issues, and this is alarming today. All our projects – we made a newspaper in our community and it had just two editions; it was suppose be bi-weekly, but the next edition took more than one month to be released; because we bought the paper, asked for a friend to print it in his printer, we diagramed the newspaper on Word and, the first day we printed it, the printer just stopped working in the middle of the process, and was ready to work again just after 10 days; and then after we could print everything. After the second edition we realized how hard it is to make anewspaper and we decided to look for some partnership. But like Gogue said about other artists, we also have difficulties reading the edict and filling all that paperwork. Other issue that we young people have is – I don’t know if everybody knows Rene Silva, from Rio de Janeiro, that tweeted about the invasion of the Alemão favela and became very famous; we are friends and we want to create a network of favelas and communities of Brazil, and we believe that we have to popularize that. We created a schedule one month ago so we could meet in Rio de Janeiro with other groups of young people from communities and favelas in the beginning of next week. Until this day we couldn’t find a partner to finance our flights to go to this meeting. But that’s okay, we young people have technology on our side and nothing is impossible for us. We just turn Skype on.

In Bahia – and I think there’s other state that has this pact –, they have a thing called “Pact for life”, and I dare to call it “Pact for death”; the little I heard about this pact, it says that they have to promote activities focusing the community where they are located; but what we see are just police cars andarmed policemen; and the community is not violent; the authorities there that are. The police enter the community arbitrarily; attacking the youth – I was attacked once. The Community Safety Bases are installed in the communities in a very disrespectful way; they go to communities – as in the Uruguay community. They came, were installed in a sporting square; a recreational place in the community, and that was it. The community only had safety issues. That’s why sometimes I say that when we say we want safety, we don’t have to explain. We just have to look for the root of that problem. Why is that boy at that point-of-sale for drug users? Why is he stealing? Because he didn’t have opportunities before; because the public policies in our government weren’t effective. So drug traffic is his only choice. So when a boy sings his song, like Gogue said, and has to fill paperwork so he can receive support; when he turns to drug traffic he doesn’t need to fill anything to get a gun, sell drugs and get 600 reais per week. So this is way easier than sing his song and fill some paperwork. Beyond filling this, sending it, getting it back again to finally sending it one more time; the issue is when he is going to get this money from the edict. This is another issue that I see with some friends in Salvador, which presents concerts to the Secretary of Culture. I will give you a good example: there is a Hip Hop Week in Salvador. It was the biggest hip hop event in Brazil. The boys conducted an impeccable lecture. They received only a part of the money on Friday; and the event started on Monday. The event started on Monday and they received a part of the edict money on Friday. And they got the other part of the money a long time later.

So I don’t know if the event is going to happen again this year. So this is also violence against young people; to the black youth. Who is the majority in the hip hop community? The black youth. And when you forbid this kind of activity, you are preventing the youth to discover this path. But samba events in the city receive millions, and they still have an entry fee. And read the lyrics of these songs. But the black youth are also present in these spaces. But there isn’t a discussion on how to use these artists to bring this debate. Why not change the lyrics, trying to be more concise?

We also have difficulties accessing the power that we have. I live in Sussuarana, which is the closest community to the administrative center of Bahia. If you go to Sussuarana, you ask yourself “How a community that is so close to the administrative center is like this?” There was a school in the community called São Daniel Comboni; it still exists and in the end of last year, beginning and middle of this year the government leased this space and the owner of the space was pressuring the school to leave, because the contract had expired. The students would have to leave in the middle of the school year to empty the space. So where would these students go? So the community, united, pushed the authorities and we’ve got the space; and today the school is the owner.

So because of this issue of accessing the power, is very nice for me to be here to talk about my community; but it’s also nice to take to my community – so that’s what we did 15 days ago, when we invited senator Lídice to visit our community to debate with the young people about education, politicsand communication. Then I bring a problem, which is also the limitation and negligence with things that are priority in the community. We of the Peripheral Media organized activities that would take place in a public school on a Saturday afternoon; then on Friday night the school principal called me to say that the event couldn’t take place there. Then I said “But it’s the senator who is coming to talk with the students”, and the principal said “But there’s nothing I can do. We won’t have security working this day; let’s do it some other time”. Like her schedule was simple, like “Tell her to come another day and then she will come”. We thought that activity was extremely important, so we managed to get another space to organize it. We could notify people about the change; the crowd wasn’t big, but we did it.

To end my speech, I leave this question: where is our Amarildos; the Amarildos of Brazil? That wasn’tonly in the Rocinha favela; that was just a fact to show our society other Amarildos that disappears in other communities; that are taken from their home and are exterminated; and most of the time their family can’t find the body. So that was what I wanted to say.

Translated by Gabriela Gusman with support by Mable Ivory

Here you can watch the video in Portuguese (2:06)

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