Cultural Conferences Return to Brazil Without Fear of Repression

Cultural conferences have returned to Brazil without fear of repression and many organizers across the country are celebrating. The victory of current President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva over Jair Messias Bolsonaro in the last presidential elections marked the end of a turbulent period in which Brazil was led by an extreme right-wing government with racist, sexist, homophobic and denialist tendencies.

Conferences provide “an extremely important space” for “sharing and exchanging knowledge,” said Abellhão, who works with youth and is an educator, poet, and artist. With the return of conferences and debates, organizers say a healthier political population has already appeared. Organizers say these spaces play an important role in promoting democratic dialogue, expressing identities and defending human rights.

Among the many notable conferences recently held was the Viana Municipal Culture Conference in Viana, Espírito Santo. Themed “Democracy and the Right to Culture.” The conference was was held on August 5 and was attended by young people as well as local authorities from the city of 80,000 people.

Participants discussed public cultural policies implemented in the city and proposed strategies to strengthen and contribute to the preparation of the Municipal Culture Plan, which they collectively created:

  • Institutionalization, Legal Frameworks and National Culture System
  • Democratization of Access to Culture and Social Participation
  • Identity, Heritage and Memory
  • Cultural Diversity and Transversality of Gender, Race and Accessibility in Cultural Policy
  • Creative Economy, Work, Income and Sustainability
  • Right to Arts and Digital Languages

The Viana Culture Incentive Law, which has invested more than R$310 thousand reais to promote artistic and cultural production in the city, was celebrated. And three delegates were chosen, one from public authorities and two from civil society, to represent the municipality’s demands at the state conference.

“This is an extremely important space for construction, sharing and exchanging knowledge, where we go together with the kids, thinking about all the actions that young people take […] it is very important for us to talk about what needs to be done for us.”

Abellhão, Rap MC, Poet and Social Educator

Another conference of note in Espírito Santo was a youth conference in Serra named “Reconstructing the present, Building the future: Development, Rights, Participation and Good Living.” The conference was part of a nationwide day of conferences across many Brazilian cities on September 30.

Young people aged between 15 and 29 years old, and professionals who work on youth, met to discuss important topics for the country’s youth related mainly to public security and territoriality. At the state level, the debate went beyond youth policies and included such things as the need to maintain Youth Reference Centers (CRJs).

During the previous government these events faced significant challenges, including threats of violence, political rhetoric that often devalued and weakened Brazilian social movements and the restriction of spaces for discussions.

With the return of the left to power with Lula as president, organizers say it not only brings hope of more inclusive policies, but also the hope for a restoration of fundamental democratic values.

The participation and active voice of citizens, especially young people, are extremely important for the reconstruction of the country. This open and inclusive dialogue, say organizers, can serve as a device of affirmation and hope for a future where diversity is celebrated and human rights are respected.

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