Maria Lúcia da Silva

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2005


This profile was prepared when Maria Lúcia da Silva was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
The central axis of Maria Lúcia’s idea consists of a method that unites the black and white communities in the struggle against racism. Her programs seek to eliminate unequal relationships in Brazilian society by deconstructing the idea of superiority among whites and inferiority among blacks. Maria Lúcia believes that, in order to break free from racist Brazilian traditions, it is necessary to build alliances between blacks and whites through a methodology that seeks to effectively change the relationship and dialogue between the two communities. It is necessary to go beyond the effort of strengthening the identity and self-esteem of black Brazilians.
Maria Lúcia believes it is especially important to transform the Brazilian educational system because it perpetuates racist attitudes that contribute to the social injustice between blacks and whites in the country. Her program has a two-pronged approach, seeking individual change among educators and students, and institutional change within the school itself. Maria Lúcia hopes to replicate her method throughout Brazil’s educational system because she believes in the importance of influencing wide-ranging public policies to eradicate racism in the country.
Maria Lúcia’s approach is different from other methods because it brings out the deeply rooted racism that society fails to acknowledge by exposing blacks and whites together with their prejudices and stereotypes. Only through this effective exposure of the problem is it possible for black individuals to understand to what degree racism influences their self-esteem and negatively affects their opportunities for social and economic growth. This exposure also enables white Brazilians to recognize their part in this historical distortion. By doing so, they are learning effective ways to change their position and to no longer be agents in the problem but partners in eradicating racism. Maria Lúcia wants to develop her method into a widespread practice in several institutions to obtain ample impact and transform the myth of “racial democracy” into reality.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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