Fellow Since 1989
Assessoria para Assuntos da Comunidade Negra
This profile was prepared when Diva Moreira was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Diva believes that by educating blacks of all ages -- children, adults and senior citizens -- these negative tendencies can be combatted. She founded Casa Dandara in the city of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, with the hope that cultural tools might be used to give blacks a sense of identity, pride in their culture, self-esteem, leadership qualities and ultimately, the desire to demand their rights as citizens.Casa Dandara carries out programs that cater to all segments of the black population. Diva now oversees a project with black children and adolescents which aims to teach them about Afro-Brazilian culture and give them pride in their heritage so that they won't internalize racism as many of their parents have.The work with children is carried out on two fronts. First, when classes let out at a school located in one of the city's poorest areas, Casa Dandara monitors help children who are having learning difficulties with their homework. Afterwards, they lead a series of activities displaying Afro-Brazilian traditions through theatre, dance, music and art. The children taking part in the program have already begun to do consistently better in school.The second set of activities takes place at Casa Dandara itself, on Saturdays, when children from Belo Horizonte and neighboring communities come to learn about Afro-Brazilian traditions through participation in music and theatre groups. Diva would also like to begin a choir and art classes.For adults, Casa Dandara organizes monthly study weekends for men and women around themes such as "The Meaning of Abolition," "Pre-Colonial Africa," "The Black Woman," and "Socialization of the Black Child." Two specialists in each field are invited to speak, after which the class breaks up into smaller discussion groups. At lunch time, AFro-Brazilian foods are served, followed by a cultural presentation such as capoeira, theatre, or African dance.Casa Dandara's symbolic importance and approach to education have won it recognition throughout Brazil. The House is beginning to spread its message among black organizations all over the country by, e.g., distributing poster-sized calendars that list important dates in black history nationally and also speaking frequently at meetings and gatherings of the black movement.