WIth support from Imaginable Futures (IF) and Lemann Foundation, Baobá Fund recently launched
Education and Black Identities: Policies for Racial Equity
, a R$2.5 million initiative that will fund 10 Brazilian Black-led organizations focused on furthering racial equity in education.
We’re proud to support this effort, as our work in Brazil is grounded in the acknowledgement that racism is a complex problem that requires coordinated action and regular reflection. We see this project as an important commitment towards realizing our fundamental values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI). By supporting organizations central to the Black movement in Brazil, this work is part of a series of initiatives and learning experiences developed with our partners including CEERT, Geledés Institute and IBEAC.
IF’s Fabio Tran spoke with Baobá Fund’s Wagner Prado on why we invested in this initiative. The following excerpt is an English translation. Read the full original conversation in Portuguese, which includes insights from Deloise de Jesus of the Lemann Foundation.
How is this initiative a way to bridge the gap that exists in Brazil's formal education system?
Fabio Tran (FT): In all Brazilian states, the difference between the percentage of Black and white students with adequate levels of learning is significant, even within the same socioeconomic level. We know that racial inequality impacts the right to learn; and for various reasons, Black students have not had the same access to learning. Structural racism subjects them to prejudice on a daily basis, directly affecting their self-esteem, sense of belonging, and their academic performance.
In order to understand this complex problem and act on it more effectively, we conducted a listening and co-creating process in 2021 with more than 50 Black educators and activists. We came up with three main areas of opportunity where more investment could lead to a reality free of structural racism. The first area, which is why we are doing this call for proposals, is to ensure the implementation of education policies that value Black, Indigenous and quilombola identities and cultures, increasing the visibility and success of these groups within the educational system.
The other two areas we identified were: (a) raising the level of understanding about racial/ethnic issues among Black, white and Indigenous communities, ensuring that policies and practices are not designed in a race-blind way, and (b) elevating Black, Indigenous, and quilombola voices through access to and representation in leadership positions, ensuring that these leaders have in-depth knowledge about racial equity and are given the necessary supports needed to maintain their mental and physical health.
What educational initiatives can contribute to fighting racism?
FT: Besides the direct work to combat racism carried out by several organizations, such as Baobá Fund, CEERT, Geledés, IBEAC, among many others, we must also consider the influence of public policies in maintaining or dismantling racist structures. Public education policies today are predominantly race-blind, which disregard the extremely unequal experiences of Black and white students. One way to fight structural racism is to ensure, in the decision-making of education policies, that these differences and inequalities are recognized and that those making policies understand that equity does not necessarily mean equality. The Quotas Law and Law 10639 are excellent examples of how to break racist education structures. And we hope that the work supported by this initiative will allow us to identify new ways to address racism and structural racism.
How has your organization, internally and externally, been addressing racism? Are there actions aimed at employees and the different communities in which you work?
FT: As a private social investment organization, we understand our responsibility, given our position of privilege in a system founded on white supremacy and other forms of injustice. Racial equity is at the core of Imaginable Futures' programmatic strategy. We have worked towards this directly with community organizations, through the liberating education practices of the organizations we support, and through policy recommendations to support antiracist practices, among other initiatives. We also understand that combating racism also involves transforming ourselves and how we work internally, so since 2019, we have worked to improve the racial literacy of the team, while prioritizing racial equity in hiring, including our service providers and consultants. We understand that as an organization we are only at the beginning of these efforts. Today, we are an international organization and the majority of our employees do not identify as white. Finally, as individuals, we have worked to change our own mindsets, behaviors and approaches. And despite all of this, we still have a long way to go.
In terms of public policy, how do you see this initiative generating ideas or solutions that can be officially adopted (by the government) or improve education policy in Brazil?
FT: Grounding policy in Black and quilombola identities and cultures has been a focus of Black-led organizations in Brazil for a long time. This initiative is a recognition of the historical struggle of these groups for their rights. We expect that, based on projects funded through this initiative, we can shed more light on the work of these organizations so that they can continue to guide the development of equitable public policies, both inside and outside the formal education environment.
Grounding policy in Black and quilombola identities and cultures has been a focus of Black-led organizations in Brazil for a long time. This initiative is a recognition of the historical struggle of these groups for their rights.