If you think you don’t know anything about Brazil’s favelas, you’re probably wrong. And if you think that you do know about Brazil’s favelas, well, you’re likely wrong as well – at least to some degree. The story of Brazil’s favelas is as fascinating and inspiring as it is heartbreaking, and it is a story that Goodbye Babylon will continue to write about.
Brazil’s favelas are home to some of the country’s most colorful culture, but this fact has long been overshadowed by the stranglehold that the three major drug gangs – Terceiro Comando, Comando Vermelho, and Amigos dos Amigos – have over the thousands of favela neighborhoods in Brazil’s urban areas. The favelas of Brazil are run – largely without any sort of government interference due to police and government corruption and complicity – by the three gangs. Children patrol the streets with AK-47s and Glock 9mms. Cocaine, marijuana, and weapons are rampant. This has been favela-life for decades.
In Culture is our Weapon, Patrick Neate and Damian Platt chronicle the ways in which AfroReggae is changing how favelas operate. Started in one of the most dangerous favelas in Rio – Vigario Geral – AfroReggae is giving the children of the favelas a choice other than the drug trade and is giving people looking to get out of the trade a new life. They are doing this all by organizing cultural centers in the favelas and teaching courses on music, dance, theater and many other pursuits.
What is most fascinating about AfroReggae’s work is how they are doing it. Neate and Platt immersed themselves in their research by living in the favelas and moving around with AfroReggae’s architect – Jose Junior. They weave history and present day masterfully, presenting a side of Brazil’s culture as true-to-form as one could hope. This is the type of story to which every country’s government needs to pay attention. AfroReggae has been able to do things in Rio de Janeiro that could eventually spark ideas for improving the crime and corruption of cities like L.A.
Culture is our Weapon is equal parts heartbreak and inspiration. It is an important documentation of a movement that rewrites the theories of how to improve life in crime-ridden and impoverished communities the world over. It is also a gleaming representation of the power of music and arts as a force that connects everyone and lends further credit to the theories that the arts are the universal language.
Pick up your copy of Culture is our Weapon here.