I was born and raised in favelas. In these spaces I learned to value the few resources, both natural and financial, and to survive the issues that I noticed by, as a child, could not yet resolve. Even so, I knew that violence against children and women was not normal behavior, I suffered with what I saw, I felt in my own body those beatings.
At first, I confronted the fury of my father, but later realized that I could deal with my wounds without questioning or arguing with my father. I did this by learning to read, to write, to communicate.
After this learning period, I came to recognize communication as a key to my liberation, to my way of guaranteeing my rights and strengthen my responsibilities.
I was raised working, and at age 16 became a pre-school teacher at the Chisto Rei Kindergarten in the City of God, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This school was part of the Anglican church. The children with whom I worked today are 40 years old and I stay in touch with some through Facebook. But more importantly, many of these are now strong women and two have followed in my footsteps as an educator and three others in my more recent function as a communicator.
I believe that my great achievement was discovering that to be silences was to imprison my pain. In order to become liberated from oppression it is necessary to speak about harm; the more people who know your truth the greater your chances of discovering a solution.
I decided to do what I most love: write.
Poetry has had a very important role in my life. I have been able to participate in meetings with various communities reciting my poems whose primary theme is the social situation experienced by poor communities in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil in general.
In these meetings, I always bring my largest tool, the Newspaper that we founded in 2011, “Newspaper the News for who Lives.” It is a newspaper that tackles important questions and that values the community. We do not need and do not even want to use our newspaper to speak about what traditional media already does, misrepresenting the facts. We write about the facts in the way that we feel, valuing people in this community, questioning issues of the local social order and of rights, we bring the community to reflect about each of our stories. We are a group of 10 women and one man, we have become a site of research by local graduate students studying Social Communication and Journalism and by academic places such as the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the State University of Rio de Janeiro, and Pontifical Catholic University. It has been the subject of Masters and Doctoral Theses.
What is behind our work? The desire and the certainty that we are contributing to local development. We are helping the community reflect on their own value as people within a context in which they live and valuing actions that help and strengthen this development.
I know this choice is a collective commitment. It is not possible to have community communication without the participation of the group, but I also know that prioritizing one person’s voice is not part of our responsibility. Each participant leaves behind a little of themselves to be taken up by others, to contribute to the community. We are all volunteers with multiple tasks for the well-being of the newspaper.
The City of God has, according to the Demographic Data from the Institute Pereira Passos, based in IBGE (the national census bureau) Demographic Census (2010) 14,742 residences and a population of 47,795. http://www.riomaissocial.org/territorios/cidade-de-deus/
It is for this population that we write, although we know that we are far from reaching 10% of the population, first because of the geographic size of the community and the limitations in printing the newspaper.
Our newspaper has a bimonthly circulation of 3000 copies and all our publications can be found on the site http://www.cidadededeus.org.br:8080/cdd
The Newspaper the News for who Lives was borne out of an extension course offered in 2010 by the Technical Solidarity Nucleus (SOLTEC/UFRJ) in the City of God: the course “Critical Analysis of Means of Communication.” The idea of the course came up during a meeting from the Community Portal, in which the institutions present highlighted the challenge of producing materials for the Portal, due to the lack of time and the habit of writing. For this reason, we thought about organizing a course open to residents of CDD, to think together about the actual community residents. In addition to this, the idea was to have more residents submitting pieces to the Portal of CDD, which was open to contributions from the community.
In this way, we were able to discuss the kinds of communication we wanted in the City of God. We reflected on how the traditional media has a prejudiced view of poor communities and how they do not truly understand what happens inside these communities (or try to understand). For this reason, they only write stories of bad things, the violence, the problems.
We also use our meetings as forums for debates of topics related to the community and offer to the community workshops on photography and writing in partnership with UFRJ. We have been working to increase our partnerships, we conducted a campaign on the internet, as well as in community events and raffles to afford to maintain the newspaper. In this way we have managed to maintain our efforts in community communication in the City of God.
For these reasons, we decided to prioritize in our newspaper the good things about the City of God, while still presenting some of our problems, but based on the perspective of our own residents, for discussion CDD is to discuss Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.
I have participated for four years writing articles for various editions of the newspaper. I conduct interviews, write stories, collaborate writing about issues related to the community with the objective of bringing to light the local culture, of registering the cultural memory of the community and provide them necessary information.
Translation from Portuguese to English by: Anjuli Ferreira Fahlberg