Black Consciousness Day is held every 20 November to honour Brazil’s large population of Afro-Brazilians. The holiday is also known as Black Awareness Day.
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Note: Black Consciousness Day holiday is observed in Rio de Janeiro only.
Black Consciousness Day is celebrated on 20 November, but the entire celebratory month is known as Black November. This is the most important holiday for the black community in Brazil. While Black Consciousness Day is recognised nationally, it is most celebrated by people in Rio de Janeiro, San Paulo, Campinas, Maraba, and Vilhena.
Black Consciousness Day brings awareness to the black struggle in Brazil. Ever since colonial times, the people of Brazil’s black communities have been subjected to severe racism and inequality. This holiday allows people from Brazil’s black communities to stand up for their rights, culture, and independence. Black Consciousness Day also allows people to honour the unique aspects of Afro-Brazilian culture.
History of Black Consciousness Day
When the Portuguese trading companies first arrived in Brazil, surveyors noticed that the area had rich land that was ideal for the mass production of cash crops. To maximise their productivity, the Portuguese opportunists purchased large quantities of African slaves from Sierra Leone and other areas of West Africa. These Africans were dehumanised, and they were treated harshly.
In the late 17th century, an African man named Zumbi decided that he would not allow his Portuguese owner to harm him any longer. Zumbi escaped the plantation where he worked, and he formed the Palmares. The Palmares became a community of self-liberated slaves. This community gave hope to the enslaved people of Brazil.
Zumbi’s actions sparked a spirit of resistance among Afro-Brazilians and the Portuguese military placed a bounty on his head. In 1695, Zumbi was betrayed by a friend. Portuguese soldiers captured and executed Zumbi on November 20, 1695. This transformed Zumbi into a martyr; instead of disheartening the enslaved Africans, Zumbi’s death inspired them to resist at all costs.
Black Consciousness Day became an official holiday in 2003 after the approval of law 10.639. The holiday is observed on November 20 to honour the sacrifice of Zumbi for his people. Black Consciousness Day is now celebrated in 5,561 Brazilian cities. Since over half of Brazilians have African lineages, the holiday is expected to grow in the future.
Many Afro-Brazilians take to the streets on November 20 to participate in the Freedom Walk. These parades are large cultural events that exhibit the sheer size and importance of the black communities in Brazil. Political themes are common during these processions.
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