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By Carmela Zigoni, Inesc + Maria Mello, Intervozes + Naiara Leite, Odara – Instituto da Mulher Negra

Brazil is a country with historical inequalities rooted in colonization it has not yet overcome. The intersection of racism, machismo and concentration of wealth forms the triad that supports the exclusion of the majority and the reproduction of privileges of a minority. In politics, these inequalities are expressed, for example, in a National Congress in which fewer than 12% of representatives are women, fewer than 5% are Black and there is only one Indigenous person, Joenia Wapichana. In contrast, half of the population is women, 52% are Black and about 1 million are Indigenous, belonging to 305 different ethnicities.

Since 2004, one of the main focuses of the Plataforma dos Movimentos Sociais pela Reforma do Sistema Político has been overcoming underrepresentation in politics, through the axes of Democracy – representation, participation and rights – as well as in the debate on democratization of the judicial system and the media. In 2020, this group, made up of over 100 organized civil society organizations, presented a project to the Pulsante Fund, from Fundação Avina, to expand the debate on the issue during the elections. And so was born the I Want to See Myself in Power campaign, coordinated by 18 organizations from the Platform[1].

The 2020 elections – which elected mayors and city councilors for 5,570 municipalities – took place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, in November (and not in October as normally happens), when Brazil celebrates Black Awareness Month. In addition, they were the first elections after the far-right victory for the presidency of the republic, which made analyses very uncertain and the process the target of many expectations.

Our aim was to increase visibility and contribute to changing the imagery about voices and faces that are not in power: Black women, Indigenous women, Quilombola women, groups of African origin (such as Candomblé), LGBTIQ + and young people. These groups, which represent only part of the immense diversity of Brazil, were invited to create the campaign from the inside, bringing their points of view on politics and communication.

A campaign built with many diverse hands

With the aim of brining the theme of representativeness to the campaign-building process, the team was made up of Black, Indigenous and LGBTIQ+ filmmakers, designs and communicators – and partnerships were also made with social movements and digital influencers.  The objective was to create an environment of diversified dialogue among activists during the action, strengthening alliances and expanding the anti-racist debate into the Platform; and to bring the place of speech of these activists to the campaign narratives, seeking to take into account the language and political agendas essential to social movements[2].

The concept of the campaign considered (1) the underrepresentation of discriminated groups – Blacks, Indigenous people, LGBTI, traditional peoples of African origin and Quilombolas, and women and young people from these groups; as well as (2) associated issues that prevent full representativeness of these groups in electoral processes, such as disinformation (fake news) and political violence. In this sense, the mirror perspective in the motto – I Want to See Myself in Power – was incorporated in the visual identity and logo of the campaign: a watchful eye that seeks to understand the distribution of power in society from its place of speech, its identity and its demand for rights. This diverse view creates tension for politics traditionally occupied by heterosexual-presenting white men from the highest social classes.

Resist to exist: the violent context and resonant voices

The course of the I Want to See Myself in Power campaign was permeated by violence resulting from the country’s adverse conditions, but also by the creation of resistance strategies. On October 14, in anticipation of the situation ahead, the Plataforma dos Movimentos Sociais pela Reforma do Sistema Político released a manifest denouncing the spread of “anti-political sentiment” in the 2018 presidential elections – which resulted in low representativeness and the victory of the conservative candidate Jair Bolsonaro – and calling on society to act in defense of democracy in the 2020 election.

The campaign was launched on October 16, through a video that invited the population to elect “diverse people who respect people,” “people who understand the needs of communities,” affirming that “it is possible to change the face of power” through voting. Throughout the month, other videos, cards and texts were released daily as part of the campaign, communication materials able to strengthen and advocate in disputes of narrative during the context of the elections. We empowered the experiences, challenges and agendas of underrepresented groups.

On November 20, Black Awareness Day, the date on which the campaign would launch the mini documentary on the history of Black women, we were hit with the news of the murder of João Alberto Silveira Freitas, the night before, at a Carrefour supermarket. Beto, as he was known, a 40-year-old Black man, was beaten and asphyxiated by employees of the store[3]. With this news, the video was released under the mourning of the Black Brazilian people, and the team was greatly emotionally impacted. We made our solidarity known through the Platform’s networks and continued to support actions on the streets and on the networks[4].

For the second round, 57 cities still had to determine city hall members and the I Want to See Myself in Power campaign continued to guide the debate, presenting data and analyses from the results of the first round. Unfortunately, only one woman was elected mayor among the country’s 27 capital cities, although the proportion of women elected in the first round for all positions was 15.7%, an increase of 2.3% compared to the first round in 2016. Some positive outcomes were achieved, such as the election of 199 Indigenous people, 31 women; half of the legislative houses occupied by Black men and women; Erika Hilton, the first trans woman and most voted city councilor in the country’s largest city (São Paulo), in addition to 80 unapologetically LGBTIQ+ persons elected.

Present and future of I Want to See Myself in Power

The campaign generated engagement on social networks, stories in the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic media and was echoed on the Platform’s Whatsapp group. Some of them spontaneously produced a T-shirt with the campaign logo to wear on election day. The content that brought in the largest audience was the mini documentary on Black women in politics (4.2 thousand unique views); the report Multiplicando Vozes [Multiplying Voices], from one of the young people from the Public Call (59,637 people reached); and the report Violência política contra mulheres negras na internet opera para silenciar vozes [Political violence against Black women online silences voices], also from one of the young people from the Open Call (52,908 people reached)[5].

It is worth noting that the public call directed toward 10 young communicators from Brazil produced by the campaign reflected and revealed places, belonging, dreams and reflections taking into consideration the voices, echoes, paths and narratives of groups historically made invisible by the hegemonic media.  It was a production based on the desire to understand and recognize the crucial role of these groups in strengthening a project of truly democratic society.

Unfortunately, political violence dominated the public arena after the election of Black and trans women: multiple cases were reported between the end of the first round and the time of this article[6]. The situation of political violence was reported by the campaign through a live-streamed discussion, in which social movements offered some proposals to address the problem, such as accountability of political parties and the justice system. We also published Sementes de Marielle [Seeds of Marielle] on confronting political violence, created by Black women. The assessment of the I Want to See Myself in Power campaign carried out with organizations from the Platform led us to understand that the debate at hand is still at the center of the agendas: bodies considered inadequate for spaces of power are under attack; on the other hand, these elected persons have the task of transforming the spaces of power, from institutionality, so they may be truly democratic.  And so, we began 2021 by continuing the action. In January, we released the #IWantToSeeMyselfInPower e-book on the livestream Eleições 2020 e as disputas de narrativas dos grupos sub-representados [2020 Elections and narrative disputes of underrepresented groups].

In February, to discuss the experiences of peripheral candidates in their various contexts, we held the livestream Candidaturas periféricas e os desafios da disputa pelos espaços de poder [Peripheral candidates and challenges of the dispute for spaces of power].

The support of the Pulsante Fund was essential for the I Want to See Myself in Power campaign and the challenge is now to continue promoting this debate in society, in the fight for a truly representative democracy.  The Plataforma dos Movimentos Sociais pela Reforma do Sistema Político will continue to actively participate in the transformation of politics, so that power is shared and held by all groups in Brazilian society.

We want to see ourselves in power!

[1] Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos – Inesc, Odara – Instituto de Mulher Negra, Intervozes, Movimento Nacional de Combate à Corrupção Eleitoral – MCCE, Associação Brasileira de ONGs – Abong, Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs do Brasil – CONIC, Rede Afro LGBT, Fórum Permanente de Igualdade Racial – FOPIR, Coletivo Cordel, Iser Assessoria, Fórum da Amazônia Oriental – FAOR, Central de Movimentos Populares – CMP Rio de Janeiro, Fórum Brasileiro de Economia Solidária – FBES, Articulação Nacional de Jovens Negras Feministas – ANJF, SOS Corpo, Pastoral da Juventude do Meio Popular – PJMP, Centro Nacional de Africanidade e Resistência Afro-Brasileira – CENARAB, Articulação Justiça e Direitos Humanos – JusDH.

[2] We had the collaboration of Miguel Oliveira (Rede Afro LGBT), Priscila Tapajoara (filmmaker and member of Mídia Índia); Poliana Silva (Black designer); Larissa Fulana de Tal (filmmaker and member of the APAN – Associação dos Profissionais do Audiovisual Negro) and Elisângela Araújo (activist graphic designer from Mães pela Diversidade). Contributions were also made by Prof. Onésio Munduruku, who translated materials to the indigenous Munduruku language, and journalist Paulo Victor Melo, of the Dandara Sector of Intervozes – Coletivo Brasil de Comunicação Social, who produced reports on collective applications and on political violence.

Finally, the campaign received the participation of influencers Preta Rara (@pretararaoficial), rapper, historian, writer; Winnie Bueno (@winniebueno), creator of Tinder dos Livros, entrepreneur; Gabriela Loran (@gabrielaloran), transfeminist and psychologist; Kae Guajajara (@kaeguajajara), singer, songwriter, arts educator and writer, founder of @azuruhu, an online Indigenous art shop and Nailah Veleci (@pretaijimú), political scientist and UN Youth Ambassador.

[3] https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2020/12/ministerio-publico-denuncia-seis-pessoas-por-morte-de-beto-freitas-no-carrefour.shtml

[4] https://www.facebook.com/plataformareformapolitica/videos/2133307283459636/

[5] Data from November 2020.

[6] https://g1.globo.com/sc/santa-catarina/eleicoes/2020/noticia/2020/11/18/primeira-vereadora-negra-eleita-em-joinville-e-vitima-de-racismo-e-ameacas.ghtml