June 13, 2001
Conference Explores Black
Politics in the Americas
Political scientists and others will
gather this year at California State University, Sacramento
for an unusual international conference on blacks and politics.
"Race and Democracy in the Americas" will focus
on the challenges facing the black communities in the United
States and Brazil, and offer workshop sessions on political
analysis and comparisons. The July 7 conference is a follow-up
to a highly successful meeting held last summer in Brazil.
Most of the research papers and projects to be presented were
conceived and carried out by international teams.
"A big part of this conference is bringing together scholars
and activists so they can develop both new projects and political
initiatives," says David Covin, a CSUS professor of government
and ethnic studies who helped organize the conference. The
event is supported by the Ford Foundation.
Presentations will be on civil rights laws, underground economies,
elected representatives and more. There will also be talks
by prominent black elected officials and political activists.
Featured guests will include Jose Augusto Lindgren Alves,
the Brazilian consul general; Luiza Barrios, the first national
coordinator of the United Black Movement in Brazil; Robert
Chrisman, editor and publisher of The Black Scholar; Grantland
Johnson, secretary of California's Health and Human Services
Agency; Kevin Johnson of the Kevin Johnson Foundation; Maulana
Karenga; creator of Kwanzaa; Bill Lee, publisher of the Sacramento
Observer; Jose Raymundo Martins Romeo, chair of the Latin
American Council of the International Association of University
Presidents; and Ivete Leal do Sacramento, president of State
University of Bahia and the first and only black president
of a Brazilian university.
Brazil is of particular interest to black political scientists
in the United States because it is second only to Nigeria
in the number of its citizens descended from Africa. It is
also the second largest nation in the Western hemisphere,
with about 150 million people, and is seen as an increasingly
important political and economic power by many U.S. policymakers.
Brazil's black community also faces many of the same problems
as the black community in the United States - such as racism
and poverty. But the differences are striking.
Blacks are generally considered a majority of the Brazilian
population, at least outside Brazil. The United Nations has
estimated blacks make up as much as 73 percent of the population,
compared to 12 percent in the United States. Brazil's official
census, though, shows the black population at about 44 percent,
a sign that Brazil's leadership and population place a premium
on "whiteness," according to Covin.
"On questions of race, Brazil is enigmatic," Covin
says. "Brazil sees itself as a racial democracy, with
opportunity for everyone. Yet the country portrays itself
as white, and the bulk of the population of people of African
descent is marginalized - socially, politically and economically."
Even the concept of "race" is much different in
Brazil than in the United States. Racial identity in Brazil
is determined more often by skin tone or facial features than
by heritage. Children of the same two parents can be seen
as different races. And most people label themselves as close
to white European as possible.
Covin says Brazilian media includes blacks even less than
U.S. media, and when it does it is usually as criminals, servants
More information is available by contacting the CSUS ethnic
studies department at (916) 278-6645 or the public affairs
office at (916) 278-6156.
further information send E-Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or
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