Brazilians look to Mandela in fight against racism
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
A small bunch of roses marked the signage on Nelson Mandela Street in the Brazilian city Rio de Janeiro where locals this weekend reflected on the world leader’s fight against racism.
The street is about 500 metres in length and has a park, train station, bus stop, a few restaurants, banks, a pharmacy, clothing stores as well as offices.
In the busy street of passersby retired Oswaldo Da Motta remembered Mandela as “a big man”.
“He fought against apartheid and he traveled all over the world,” said Da Motta.
Mariana Goulart said: “He was amazing. He did so much for the world.”
“We learned about him in school, about what he did and how he fought for equality for everybody. In Brazil, we are very mixed. It helps to see that everybody is equal and we shouldn’t differentiate,” said Goulart.
“The message that we should not have racism is important in any country. It’s time that people realised we are all the same.”
Sergio Andrade who teaches dance and philosophy at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro said Mandela’s non-racialism message could do Brazil good.
“Brazil has a history of discrimination and racism. Everybody will say there is no racism in Brazil but it exists,” said Andrade.
“To have a street named after Mandela is to remember him. Everyday when we pass on the street and see his name we can remember his history.”
Andrade added: “His name is everywhere today in Brazil because he died. But on other days, nobody speaks about him.
“Many people know his name but many don’t know about his work and who he really was. His work was very important for questions about race. I have deep admiration for him and his life story.”
Cultural activist Daiane Ramos said Mandela “brought light with his actions and thoughts”.
“He taught society how to think about everybody as human, before we are black, white, red or yellow. When discovering myself as someone being black I identified very much with Nelson Mandela. He informed my self-construction,” said Ramos.
“Everybody resolved their differences with war. Mandela brings this idea that the way to resolve conflict is not war. We can have a conversation.”
In mid-November, the Back2Black festival in Rio de Janeiro celebrated the life and work of another anti-apartheid activist, Miriam Makeba.
American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson was a guest speaker at the event. Jackson had campaigned for sanctions against apartheid South Africa and Mandela’s release from prison.