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Black Women against the Land Grab

Black Women against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Black Women against the Land Grab
    Book Description:

    In Brazil and throughout the African diaspora, black women, especially poor black women, are rarely considered leaders of social movements let alone political theorists. But in the northeastern city of Salvador, Brazil, it is these very women who determine how urban policies are established. Focusing on the Gamboa de Baixo neighborhood in Salvador's city center,Black Women against the Land Grabexplores how black women's views on development have radicalized local communities to demand justice and social change.

    InBlack Women against the Land Grab, Keisha-Khan Y. Perry describes the key role of local women activists in the citywide movement for land and housing rights. She reveals the importance of geographic location for understanding the gendered aspects of urban renewal and the formation of black women-led social movements. How have black women shaped the politics of urban redevelopment, Perry asks, and what does this kind of political intervention tell us about black women's agency? Her work uncovers the ways in which political labor at the neighborhood level is central to the mass mobilization of black people against institutional racism and for citizenship rights and resources in Brazil.

    Highlighting the political life of black communities, specifically those in urban contexts often represented as socially pathological and politically bankrupt,Black Women against the Land Graboffers a valuable corrective to how we think about politics and about black women, particularly poor black women, as a political force.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8797-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xxii)

    One afternoon in August 2000, during a short research visit to Salvador, I accompanied my friends Ana Cristina and Luciana to the Bank of Brazil in Salvador’s commercial center. In Salvador to get beyond the ATM lobby and access the tellers, you must first pass through a security door and be scanned by a metal detector. Ana Cristina and Luciana—black women considerably lighter skinned than I—passed through the door. When I attempted to pass, the door locked, and the armed security guard asked me to remove all metal objects from my bag. I removed an umbrella and a...

    (pp. 1-26)

    On Saturday, May 3, 2003, the front cover of the Brazilian newspaperA Tardeshowed a photo of fifty-three-year-old Amilton dos Santos sitting on top of a yellow bulldozer. His left hand covered his face, which was hidden by a blue Firestone baseball cap that matched his uniform, and Senhor Amilton was crying. The headline read, “Um Homem” (One Man), and the accompanying caption described the dramatic scene as follows: “The screams of revolt and pain were stronger than the 20 policemen armed even with rifles.”

    The day before, in Palestina, a predominantly poor black neighborhood located on the periphery...

    (pp. 27-54)

    In December 2002 I joined activists of the Articulação por Moradia on a tour of the city of Salvador to seecomo Salvador se faz(how Salvador is made), the title of the document they produced a few months later at the forum described in the previous chapter. The group was primarily made up of community leaders belonging to a newly formed citywide coalition of neighborhood associations. This was no ordinary tour: their neighborhoods—Ribeira, Mangueira da Ribeira, Marechal Rondon, Dique do Cabrito, São Marcos, Pau da Lima, Gamboa de Baixo, and Alto de Ondina (Map 3)—are not included...

    (pp. 55-86)

    On March 20, 1997, the women of Gamboa de Baixo prepared in the darkness and silence of early morning. Late the night before, residents had received the shocking news that fourteen-year-old Cristiane Conceição Santos had died from head injuries after being struck by a car on her way to school. The fatal accident was one of three violent incidents at the beginning of that year alone involving Gamboa residents crossing busy Contorno Avenue. One person had died, and another was paralyzed. The week before, women from the neighborhood association, Associação Amigos de Gegê Dos Moradores da Gamboa de Baixo (Gamboa...

    (pp. 87-116)

    “O muro,” a 1982 poem by Afro-Brazilian poet-activist Oliveira Silveira, embodies various meanings for the black majority in Brazil, who confront multiple social and economic barriers to their survival and advancement. The termmuromay allude to the thick glass ceiling in the job market, university entrance exams, police barricades, gated communities, or even the guard with the metal detector at the bank. The wall is a metaphor for understanding the gendered racial and class inequality that governs Brazilian cities—for example, the fact that black women represent the largest segment of unemployed workers (Rezende and Lima 2004; Wilding 2012)....

  8. 5 “PICKING UP THE PIECES”: Everyday Violence and Community
    (pp. 117-138)

    Six years before the January 2008 police operation, on Saturday, September 21, 2002, at about midday, residents of the Gamboa de Baixo neighborhood were terrorized by yet another extraordinary police invasion that has marked the Gamboa de Baixo community as well as political history. Caravans of fully armed military and civil police descended on the community searching for drug dealers, beating everyone in their path. Women abandoned their wash pans and rushed with their children into their homes, and young men with identity cards in hand were violently pushed against the wall and searched. The police pressed guns close to...

    (pp. 139-168)

    “Vamos pra reunião!” (Let’s go to the meeting!), Ana Cristina shouts. She clutches her purple notebook as she passes Rita’s house on her way to the weekly Tuesday night board meeting of the neighborhood association.

    Rita opens her front door and responds, “In a little while. I’m washing clothes.”

    Ana Cristina presses her to hurry; they have important business to discuss and it’s essential that the meeting start on time.

    It is 2004 and the citywide network of neighborhood activists has become influential. The Odebrecht building is under way, and the Gamboa de Baixo association has initiated negotiations with them...

  10. Conclusion ABOVE THE ASPHALT: From the Margins to the Center of Black Diaspora Politics
    (pp. 169-178)

    On August 4, 2007, at an official ceremony in the open space of the historic São Paulo Fort in Gamboa de Baixo, community leaders celebrated what they thought was the landmark agreement that would eventually lead to the possession of land for local families. The agreement was between the state navy and the mayor’s office to transfer the land to the city government. This political act was the result of decades of struggle over land tenure that promised to benefit residents who had been living on and using the land since the colonial period. The municipality would then have the...