José Pereira De Oliveira Júnior

Ashoka Fellow
Brazil,
Fellow Since 1994
Grupo Cultural Afro Reggae

Citation

This profile was prepared when José Pereira De Oliveira Júnior was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
Júnior Oliveira builds self-esteem and provides alternative life prospects for favela youth by working with them to create, produce and market Afro-Brazilian youth culture. In communities where the main alternatives are unemployment and crime, Júnior is tapping a rich vein of cultural creativity and in so doing he is building the economic basis for a favela youth cultural movement. Unlike others working from the perspective of affirming Afro-Brazilian culture, Júnior counters "social apartheid" through courses, publications and cultural events that integrate youth from the favelas with middle-class kids in ways that affirm favela youth. Favela youth, for example, teach courses in martial arts to middle-class kids. His popular monthly publication, Afro Reggae Newsletter-12,000 copies are distributed in eight states in Brazil and nine countries around the world-celebrates youth manifestations of Afro-Brazilian culture to a middle-class audience. His weekly two-hour radio show (in partnership with the University of Rio de Janeiro), on the other hand, speaks directly to favela youth.
In the favelas, Júnior has created two "community culture nuclei" as centers for offering courses and sharing information (in citizenship, Afro-Brazilian culture, theater, martial arts, dance, community health and HIV prevention) and that serve as home base for the creation of music and dance companies, the Afro Reggae Newsletter and the production of community cultural events such as reggae music festivals. He is now expanding into television production in partnership with a private television studio.
All these activities provide favela youth with skills and a positive alternative livelihood while attracting wider commercial media attention. Júnior knows that the commercial media attention brings the partners who can strengthen the resource base of the project. For example, the world-famed Cirque de Soleil has offered to train three youth from Júnior's dance troupe as part of their next Rio tour.
Júnior is now building a communications and media company that can provide continuing training and employment for the favela youth, publicize the work of the project and generate profits to be reinvested in training activities and for geographic expansion.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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