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The Murder of an Important Afro-Brazilian Cultural Figure Has Brazilians Reeling in Run-Up to Vote

Mestre Moa de Katendê—a capoeira master and advocate for Afro-Brazilians—was killed after saying he would not support hard-right candidate for president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Reginaldo Rosário da Costa, 63, entered his neighborhood bar last Sunday night to celebrate. His preferred candidate for President of Brazil, the center-left Fernando Haddad, had avoided a first-round defeat by the neo-fascist Jair Bolsonaro.

Locals knew Rosário as Mestre Moa de Katendê in his Salvador neighborhood. He was a capoeira master and he traveled around the world promoting Afro-Brazilian culture.

But not everyone was happy.


Paulo Sergio Ferreira de Santana, 36, arrived at the bar around 10:30 pm, clearly agitated. Ferreira initiated a tense political debate with Moa, arguing for Jair Bolsonaro to be the change that Brazil needs. Moa cautioned the younger man to consider black Brazilians' long struggle for freedom. Patrons in the bar cautioned the black barber to regard the elder Moa's historical perspective, causing him to storm out. The bar's crowd had returned to its jovial mood when Ferreira crept back with a knife and suddenly stabbed Moa 12 times in the back. Moa bled to death.

With those 12 blows, the petite Afro-Brazilian pioneer was killed by a political fanatic.

"Moa was an incredible artist, a talent recognized throughout the world. He played capoeira, danced and composed. It's an immense loss for the culture of Bahia and of Brazil," said Antônio Carlos dos Santos from Vovô do Ilê Aiyê, the largest Afro-bloco in Bahia, said to the BBC.

Mestre Moa is the first murder victim of an extreme right mentality which has exploded in Brazil in recent years thanks to Bolsonaro. Many Afro-Brazilians expect violence to increase if Bolsonaro is elected in the second round on October 28.

Bolsonaro, a congressman from Rio de Janeiro, has promoted fascist and racist ideas for the last 27 years. He said that Afro-Brazilians in quilombos, black rural communities that have had limited contact with cities, don't contribute to Brazil. Africans, he says, fled to Brazil to escape slavery, claiming that the Portuguese never set foot in Africa. He yearns for the return of Brazil's military dictatorship and denigrates women and LGBTQ people.

Bolsonaro's popularity exploded in the last two years, with him amassing a loyal fan base of more than 7 million social media followers. In the days following Mestre Moa's death, WhatsApp groups in support of Bolsonaro shared a photo of Moa sprawled on the floor of the bar in a pool of blood. The cornerstone of Bolsonaro's presidential campaign is zero tolerance for crime, yet when asked about Moa's death, Bolsonaro responded that while he felt sorry, he could not control his followers.

Moa grew up in Dique Pequeno in Salvador, and as a young kid, he studied capoeira with Mestre Beto Gogó. At the age of eight, he was initiated into his aunt's Candomblé worship center—Ilê Axé Omin Bain. As he grew older, he became a capoeira teacher for young kids and even participated in a folk dance troupe. Mestre Moa accompanied the explosion of Afro-Blocos in Salvador in the 70s. During carnival, Afro-Blocos bolster Afro-Brazilian heritage through their music and dance. In 1977, Mestre Moa won Ilê Aiyê's songwriting contest with the song Badauê. Even after 40 years, Badauê is still one of Ilê Aiyê's most popular songs. Afoxé groups, which have an even longer history in Salvador, express the Candomblé religion on the street during carnival. In 1994 Moa launched the Amigos do Katendê Afoxé group, igniting the renaissance of Afoxê groups in the 90s.

"His importance is indescribable because, in addition to sharing capoeira and Afro-Brazilian music with the world, he taught his own community about the importance of Afro-Blocos and Afoxés for black empowerment in Brazil," Jean Nogueira, a former capoeira student of Moa's told OkayAfrica. "He will always be remembered here."

Nogueira attended Mestre Moa's interment in Salvador and shared a video of it on social media.

Brazilian musical legend Caetano Veloso paid homage to him Facebook.

"Moa was my friend and he was one of the central figures in the growth of Afro-Blocos in Salvador," Veloso said. "I fought for him. As the founder of Badauê, as a song composer and a master of capoeira, Moa lived the real history of this city and of this country."

On Wednesday night Mestre Moa admirers, students, and peers, honored him in Pelourinho with an homage filled with dancing and berimbau music. Moa was a familiar figure in the neighborhood, often strolling the cobblestone streets with his berimbau on his back.

Attacks motivated by political dissonance continue in Brazil. Since October 1 supporters of Bolsonaro have committed more than 50 attacks across the country. Men beat a transsexual woman in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. Students in São Paulo mocked a black professor with racial epithets and drew a swastika on the school. A young woman wearing an #elenão sticker on her backpack reported to the police that she attacked by three strangers who carved a swastika into her stomach.

"Bolsonaro is bringing this terror to Brazil," Nogueira said. "I feel like if he is elected, my life will change."


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The front page of The New York Times on January 16, 2019

Kenyans Are Furious at the New York Times for Posting Photos of Terrorist Victims

After the the deadly attack on Tuesday, many are accusing the American newspaper of having a double standard on which dead bodies they allow into the paper

Is the New York Times guilty of a double standard when it comes to publishing images of dead bodies?

Kenyans, and others fed up with the coverage, took to social media in the hundreds to denounce a Times article that included an image of victims of Tuesday's Nairobi terrorist attack, bloodied from bullets, and lying hunched over their laptops, dead.

It has cause enough debate online to where the Times' incoming East Africa Bureau chief Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura felt the need to explain their photo policy, which is to show the dead only if their faces cannot be seen in the image. The photo in question fits the policy as the faces are facing away from the camera. She would later apologize before posting the official policy to her Twitter account. The photo remains up.

The Times' official response, as those tend to do online, has only created more anger. But unlike many unruly Twitter mobs, those responding to the official statement have a rather coherent message—"you wouldn't do this with photos of the American dead."

Some of the responses to the Times' official statement.

In a response to the controversy from the Poynter Institute, a typically astute observer of journalistic practice in the United States, they run through the typical American journalism school approach to publishing photos that might shock or offend. They write:

Should the Times have run the photo?
There is no easy answer.
The first question any news organization must ask when deciding to publish violent images is: WHY show it?
In other words, what is the news value? Does the public need to see such an image to fully grasp what happened? Does the public need to see such a photo to confirm or disprove the official account of the events?
An argument could be made that a writer's words could accurately describe the scene without being as disturbing as the image. In addition, when it comes to an act of terrorism, might publishing such a photo actually advance the cause of the terrorists, showing the damage they caused, thus fueling dread and panic?
Also this: The photo on the Times website came without warning. As a reader, you didn't know you were going to see a photo of dead people until you actually saw it.
Those are arguments to not run such a photo or, at least, warn readers of its graphic content.

While it's a fine analysis of when to show a violent image, it misses the central issue at play for those aggrieved by the Times' posting—that the American news-gaze values certain lives differently. Black, brown, foreign, poor—American journalism organizations, including the New York Times, cannot escape a base ethnocentrism in their coverage. It's so embedded into how these institutions operate, and the gap in understanding is so wide, that to much of the world, the Times' official response is laughably wrong at first glance.

"We take the same approach wherever in the world something like this happens--balancing the need for sensitivity and respect with our mission of showing the reality of these events"

And while there are examples from the Times that complicate this feeling, like these images of the dead in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, it doesn't discount the wider and correct feeling that the white victims of American mass shootings are treated differently than their African counterparts. And while there are complicated and systematic reasons for this which will always make discussing it difficult, to simply deny that different standards exist, does not increase the Times' credibility with Kenyans or the newspaper's growing online audience which will only become more vocal about how they're portrayed.

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In a speech this morning, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the rescue mission over, stating that there were 700 people rescued and a total of 14 casualties. He also stated that all of the attackers had been killed in the operation, according to Quartz Africa. "Every person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of this heinous act will be relentlessly pursued," added Kenyatta.

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