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Photo: Kiratiana Freelon

Quilombos are the Living African Communities at the Heart of Brazilian Black Identity

Communities founded by slaves in Brazil keep the spirit of their ancestors alive.

In every image of Preto Velho, he is depicted him as an old white-haired black man sitting down, holding a cane and sometimes smoking a pipe. He looks like a grandfather, full of wisdom from a difficult life. Preto Velho (Old Black Man) isn't a real person, but he represents the spirits of old enslaved Africans and blacks and his presence is felt the strongest in Brazil. Worshipped in the Umbanda religion, Preto Velho is the spirit of the African ancestors who were taken from their homelands and forced to work as slaves in Brazil.

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Image by Govba.

OkayAfrica's Mini-Guide to Salvador

What to see, do and eat in Brazil's blackest city.

Like many travelers before me, I got stuck in Salvador, Brazil. I had only planned to stay two weeks when I arrived for the first time 15 years ago. But I couldn't bear the thought of leaving a Brazilian city where my blackness was normal and celebrated. I also had never felt closer to the continent of Africa, without physically being there. So I ended up staying for four months. During those four months and seven subsequent visits, I have gotten to know Salvador in a way that is limited to locals and people who get "stuck" in the city.

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Photo: Mídia NINJA

A Black Woman in Power

Discussing the legacy of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco with a woman who knew her well

Last week, the charismatic young Afro-Brazilian politician Marielle Franco was assassinated. While motives remain unknown, many fear the beloved Rio de Janeiro councilwoman was targeted for her strong stance against police repression and other injustices. Professor Jaqueline Gomes knew Franco well. Gomes is an Afro-Brazilian trans woman who plans to run for Congress in this year's national elections. She was honored by Franco last year with a special city council award, the Chiquinha Gonzaga medal for her work in human rights and education. Gomes, a professor at a federal institute, became the first black transgender woman to be honored. It was the presence of Franco, a black woman on the city council of Rio de Janeiro, says Gomes, that made it possible for her to receive such an award. Over the next year, she supported Franco in all of her work.

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