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Today Brazil Celebrates a Day of Black Consciouseness

November 20th, 2009
President Lula announces his attendance at the UN climate conference.

President Lula announces his attendance at the UN climate conference.

Today over 750 Councils in Brazil will celebrate a Day of Black Consciousness, an annual event to stimulate reflection on the past slavery days of the black population and hail black citizens’ contribution to the country nowadays.

To mark this year’s event, Brazilian President Lula will sign decrees granting the possession of the Quilombolands, on which the country’s fugitive slaves settled in the 17th and 18th century, to the descendants of the original inhabitants.

The government will also launch a special seal to identify the handicraft products made by Quilombo inhabitants.

The Day of Black Consciousness was first celebrated in 1978 to commemorate Zumbi dos Palmares, a black Brazilian who led a group of runaway slaves in Brazil, known as the Quilombo dos Palmares, to fight against the then Portuguese colonizers in the 17th century and was killed in an ambush on Nov. 20, 1695.

Most descendants of runaway slaves, known as Quilombos, have disappeared after Brazil abolished slavery in 1888, and the social gap between the black and white citizens has been narrowed drastically since then. However, certain inequalities and old prejudices still remain.

According to a study released on Wednesday by the country’s Inter-union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies (DIEESE), although the jobless rate among Brazil’s black citizens dropped sharply from 22.5 to 16 percent in the 2004-2008 period, the figure remains higher than that among the non-blacks, which was 11.9 percent in 2008.

Meanwhile, still much fewer black citizens worked in management positions in the period compared with their non-black counterparts.

Edson Santos, an official from the Special Secretariat of Racial Equality, also noted the small number of black politicians in Brazil’s House of Representatives and the inadequate quotas given to black students in public universities as signs of discrimination in present Brazil.

There is still much to be done to build a more socially and economically equal country, Santos said.

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