News Brief

Ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics—Black Lives Matter Activists March in Solidarity with Brazil

Activists from Boston met with mothers of police brutality victims for a march and ceremony held in central Rio de Janeiro.

It’s becoming quite apparent that black lives are being snuffed out by police globally (see Canada and France).

Since 2009, police in Rio de Janeiro have killed 2,500 people, according to the AJ+ video below. And between 2013 and 2015 police killings of black people, particularly young black men, in Brazil’s favela (slums) surged 54 percent with a total of 645 people’s lives, mostly young black men, cut short in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games host city alone, according to an Amnesty International report. And as of June 2016, police in Rio have already killed 100 people.

Preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics have meant a greater police presence in the favelas—65,000 police officers and 20,000 soldiers have been deployed for the latter—and as their presence have increased so have the deaths among Brazil’s black population that have been confined there disproportionately.

It’s for these reasons that Black Lives Matter activists from Boston traveled to Brazil a little more than a week ago, drawing parallels surrounding racial profiling, and unwarranted police brutality between the two countries. They met with the mothers who have lost sons in police shootings such as Ana Paula Oliviera whose son Johnatha was gunned down by police in 2014.

“When this movement comes from another country with the same reality, it gives us more visibility and our voice,” Oliviera tells AJ+. “They bring their voice to Brazil and at the same time, our voice here in Brazil is able to reach the rest of the world.”

The group of six American activists marched in solidarity with more than 200 Brazilians through central Rio de Janeiro on July 24, holding a ceremony at Candelária Cathedral, where in 1993 eight street children among seventy were massacred by a group of hooded men that included several off-duty cops (sounds much like the KKK) while they slept on the church’s steps—in what was “lawful” retaliation for some kids throwing rocks at police cars earlier that day. The incident was widely publicized throughout Brazil, but resulted in only two convictions of the perpetrators.

“It’s been heartbreaking, it’s been infuriating, and also realizing that me, being here, I’m a target. I’m a black person, and anywhere I move in the globe, white supremacy is operating,” Daunasia Yancey, founder of BLM Boston, says according to AJ+. “I hope the impact will be international outrage and that every story about the Olympics runs side by side with a story about police homicide.”

For the full story, watch the AJ+ video below.

Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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