VT Interfaith Power & Light Event & Religious Racism
VT Interfaith Power & Light hosted a virtual screening and discussion event on February 23 including panelists: Rt. Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont (the first Black Bishop of Vermont), Rev. Dr. Nancy Wright of Ascension Lutheran Church, and Rev. Rachel Field of Mission Farm. But it was a special guest who focused our discussion on a serious issue that needs more attention.
Dr. Danielle Boaz, a lawyer and Prof. of Africana Studies at University of North Carolina, is an expert in religious intolerance and violence in Brazil which she prefers to call religious racism. Dr. Boaz has worked on intolerance against African Diasporic religions for over a decade, focusing in recent years on Brazil because, “things have gotten so bad there.” Most of this violence takes place in the State of Rio de Janeiro vs. Bahia where the film was made, but this grave injustice also exists in Bahia.
Bishop Shannon pondered a connection between intolerance/violence targeting Candomblé and the fact that many of the religious communities are women-led. Pr. Nancy commented on the common plight of women and nature as cited by eco-feminists (Candomblé is often called the religion of nature), especially in a patriarchal culture like Brazil with the Amazon rainforest being decimated with little to no protection by the current federal government. Rev. Rachel spoke of her interest in becoming more indigenous to a place; she was particularly inspired by the knowledge of plants demonstrated by Makota Valdina Pinto, the late Candomblé leader who is a strong voice in the film.
When asked how we can support work to transform the unthinkable violence against practitioners of traditional African religions, Dr. Boaz said, “the most important thing to do at this time is to raise awareness about what is happening. The Brazilian government needs to feel the pressure to do something about this violence; so far, there is not enough outrage from outside Brazil….” Dr. Boaz also believes this film provides “a powerful opportunity to help" raise awareness.
Dr. Boaz's project website: https://www.religiousracism.org/brazil
Facebook page: International Commission to Combat Religious Racism: https://m.facebook.com/africanareligiousfreedom
Dr. Boaz has an article on religious intolerance in Brazil coming out this summer in the Journal of Africana Religions. Her book, Banning Black Gods, is newly available in hardcover. Please follow her work on Facebook and share with friends who may also care.Thanks! Obrigada!
(The film’s director Donna Roberts works p.t. as Coordinator of VTIPL.)