Fellow Since 2002
Centro de Cultura Negra do Maranhão
This profile was prepared when Socorro Guterres was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Socorro is implementing a teacher-focused movement for advancing Afro-Brazilian people and culture. Her idea is to break the cycle of racist attitudes perpetuated through the public education system by teaching methods that reject cultural and ethnic discrimination, particularly concerning the black population in Brazil. Socorro works with teachers in the rural black communities of Maranhão, many of them descended from runaway slave settlements, to help them understand and respect the ethnic diversity and cultural history of their students. To do so, she makes them researchers of the cultural history of the communities, transforming them into agents for recovering and perpetuating the identity of the community. With this knowledge, Socorro builds their capacity to create new teaching materials, modify curriculum, and adapt teaching methods to incorporate this value for ethnic diversity within the classroom. By creating more open and accepting environments for learning, Socorro's work strengthens the self-esteem of black students and reduces the dropout rates, course repetition, and failure that contribute to social and economic marginalization. Socorro expects that her work will help transform schools into institutions that value diversity and instill in students a critical awareness of themselves and their peers, making them capable of exercising their rights as citizens.