I only know that I’m doing my part

This seed is from José Júnior, a social entrepreneur from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Translated from Portuguese by Taiga Gomes. The featured image is from J.R. Duran.

From one favela to the world

In 1993, I created AfroReggae, inspired by the initiative of a group of friends who promoted Reggae parties in Rio de Janeiro. The great success of the events launched the creation of AfroReggae News – an informative newspaper that promoted the black culture and the favela’s way of life. It was the beginning of AfroReggae Cultural Group.

When I first had the idea, I was already thinking about offering art and culture as a life alternative to the population of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. In 1994, we founded in Vigário Geral our first workshops. They offered classes of percussion, african dance and garbage recycling.

The acceptance of the favela as constitutive part of the city, side by side with the asphalt, was essential for me since the beginning. Our work and the results we achieved made room for partnerships that were built in the private and public spheres. Chiefs of state, businessmen and artists from different parts of the world received me to get to know a little more about our social technology.

Today, our team has more than 30 projects and spaces directed to the cultural and artistic development of more than 11.000 young people from poor communities in Rio. We are also working in São Paulo, taking there projects like the Second Chance, the first Brazilian agency to work with the reintegration of ex-convicts, created by ex-convicts.

During all those years, I usually say that I feel privileged to be alive and running AfroReggae. I lost all my childhood friends, most of them on account of violence. When I say that I long for the day when the institutions like ours will not be necessary anymore, some people don’t understand.  I long for it because then, the political policies will actually be working.

I increasingly believe in the uprising of what we call NGI – Non Governmental Individuals, who are going to replace in a short period of time the NGOs. Herbert de Souza, or Betinho, the Brazilian sociologist and activist who is one of my biggest inspirations used to say: when the Hummingbird who tried to extinguish the fire by himself was questioned if he would be successful, he answered: I don’t know, I only know that I am doing my part!

José Júnior, 47 years old, is Executive Coordinator and Founder of the Cultural Group Afro Reggae.

AfroReggae official website (in Portuguese)

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