The center of São Paulo. Hundreds of people occupying spaces on a public square. Among them, a table with people who represent different kinds of minorities: afro-descendants, indigenous and LGBT communities.
In early May I witnessed (and participated) in a brilliant idea of protest, the rescue of what truly means “take the public spaces” in the best way I’ve ever seen: people gathered for a healthy discussion about our country situation regarding human rights.
The step taken by the social organizations Existe Amor em SP (There’s love in São Paulo), Pedra no Sapato (Thorn in one’s side) and Conectas. The reunion was called “Extraordinary Commission of Human Rights and Minorities” and happened at the Praça Rosa (Pink Square).
The President of the Extraordinary Commission was the cartoonist Laerte, who consider himself transgender. According to the artist, “the Commission (of Human Rights and Minorities of the lower house of Brazil’s Congress) was kidnapped by the fundamentalist conservative. Here, we are exercising the democracy in a public square.”
Congressman Jean Wyllys, the first politician in Brazil to openly defend LGBT causes, believes the idea had perfect timing and most of all, it was creative and had a good sense of humor. He also defended the possibility to spread it to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. “Here we have real social movements, they are alive and untrained,” he said.
The choice to do the commission at that specific square wasn’t random. The place has been an historical territory for the fight for rights in São Paulo. It was there that the organization Existe Amor em São Paulo was born in October 2012.
The event was a beautiful example of how we can practice our citizenship in a healthy and maybe more effective way. The people who were watching could subscribe themselves to speak up for everybody to hear their thoughts and beliefs.
“Every one of us can do something, all of us. This isn’t a story of only one,” journalist and director of the non-governmental organization Oboré, (also a personal friend of Laerte) Sergio Gomes, said. He also pointed out the fact that São Paulo is a city of diversity of people and the role of each one of us in making change.
Additionally, Gomes proposed to change the ending point of the Pride parade. He said, “in one month or so the Gay Pride will happen, that is usually made at Paulista Avenue. Instead of making it as an out-of-season Carnival, and a lot of people participate with that thought and have no idea of the real meaning of the parade, we shall start it at Paulista Av and end it here, at the Pink Square. And, from now on, we shall also start to transform the parade in a march for the LGBT rights. That can be the biggest manifestation of affirmation of all we are discussing here today.”
The rally also presented an opportunity to discuss other minorities of Brazil.
Unfortunately, Brazilian indigenous people still suffer a lot of discrimination. Sany Kalapalo, a young woman who was representing the organization Movimento Indígenas em Ação (Indigenous in Action Movement), pointed the situation of her people being massacred, their lands being reappropriated by the government to the landowners, and sex trafficking. And that’s only the beginning of it. Recently, an indigenous tribe was expelled from a land they were occupying for over six years due to the renovation of the Maracanã Stadium for the 2014 World Cup.
Additionally, the position of the women in our society was also a topic of discussion. The main focus was on the business market and the recent request from some Brazilians to reduce the legal age. Also, the President of the Movimento Negro Unificado (Unified Black Movement), Milton Barbosa, defended the need to have quotas for black people at public universities as a way to payback years of slavery.