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article imageA social media network mobilizing black voters ahead of Brazil elections

By Daniele BELMIRO (AFP)     Sep 23, 2018 in Internet

As Brazil's general elections approach, a new social network is gaining traction aimed at giving greater visibility to black candidates while highlighting anti-racism initiatives in the country tainted by racial prejudice.

Black & Black, which has 100,000 users -- in a population of more than 200 million -- aims to "connect the demands and narratives of the world's black population" and to ensure that "black people get the prominence they deserve."

Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery in 1888, and after centuries of racial mixing in Brazil, 55 percent of Brazil's population is either black or mixed race, according to the IBGE institute of statistics.

But the black community has historically lacked a uniting factor, according to Luana Genot, executive director at ID_BR, a charity that helps black people find work.

"The situation is different in the United States, for example, where the legal separation of races contributed to uniting the black community," said Genot.

Enter Black & Black, which allows the black community to share news, job offers, cultural activities and services.

"Black movements, women who talk about black beauty, black dances, afro religion... We can have different interests, but there's one thing that unites us: the feeling of being black," Celso Athayde, the network's creator, told AFP.

Crucially, it's also a space to get stuck into politics, facilitating exchanges with black candidates for October's legislative and gubernatorial elections.

Under the government of now-jailed socialist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from 2003-10, quota measures were introduced to increase the numbers of black people attending university or working in the public sector.

Those measures were criticized by conservatives, and notably right-wing presidential front-runner Jair Bolsonaro.

- Under-representation -

Under the government of now-jailed socialist icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from 2003-10  quota meas...
Under the government of now-jailed socialist icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from 2003-10, quota measures were introduced to increase the numbers of black people attending university or working in the public sector
Nelson ALMEIDA, AFP/File

Still, black or mixed race people make up only 20 percent of representatives in the lower chamber of Congress -- although 46 percent of candidates are black or mixed race in the campaign for October's legislative, gubernatorial and state assembly elections being.

That doesn't mean they will win a seat, Athayde says.

"Blacks are not elected because you need financial resources for that and they don't have them because they're not employers," he said.

He added the under-representation of blacks in Congress is due to a lack of policies favoring the community.

"If you only have white men (in Congress), they will only think about what interests themselves," he said.

The problems aren't confined to politics: of business management positions, non-whites make up just five percent.

Athayde says businesses in general are missing an opportunity to tap into a market that offers huge commercial possibilities.

According to the Locomotiva Institute pollster, black consumption in 2017 was worth 1.6 trillion reals ($336 billion), around 20 percent of GDP.

On Black & Black, businesses selling products specifically for black people can communicate directly with their target market.

Athayde hopes to use the platform to mobilize black people to boycott businesses they consider racist.

"Right now, no-one's afraid of us. We need to strike a bit of fear and I think this platform is starting to enable us to do that. If blacks unite, things will start to change."

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